Just to be 100% clear. I’m not a protester. I don’t belong to a protest organization. Philosophically, I believe the primary problem oppressed people face is we lack power. Plain and simple. As a result, I believe, and my life and work is dedicated to, working with oppressed people to organize ourselves to achieve power. This is a completely different type of organizing work than most people understand today. Since our work is focused on the oppressed people, and not our enemies, we spend all our time talking to our people. For example, we never call the media for any of our work. The job of the capitalist media is to protect the interests of the capitalist system, which is the system that oppresses us. So, how can they provide any support or help to our work? We don’t need them, so we don’t call them. We talk to our people. And, as an extension to that point, since we are working with our people to build capacity to seize power from our enemies, there is never any need for us to go to the power structure we are fighting against to demand anything. To us, our power comes from us gaining capacity to take back what was stolen from us and that doesn’t happen by us demanding anything from the people who took everything from us. Instead, our plan is to get strong enough so that one day, we can just walk right over their chest. Whether you accept it or not, that’s what we believe.
Since those are our beliefs, you will never see us at any city council meetings. We aren’t marching the streets demanding anything from capitalism. We are 100% in support of those who decide to do those things. We support their efforts and have spent considerable amounts of our time and energy protecting those who engage in that work, but its not the focus of our work. Still, we approach liberation work with a mixture of science and emotion, not just emotion. So, our experiences have permitted us to participate in many protests over the years as well. We have attended many city council, state government, national government, and even international non-governmental protests over the years. That’s why even though that work isn’t our work, we have a better analysis about that work than many people who believe they are engaged in it.
That’s true not necessarily due to any shortcomings from the mobilization folks out on the streets. Protests, marches, etc., serve as the entry point for many people into social justice work. This is true because a march, which is a reaction to something unjust that has happened, or is happening, is the most basic level of activism as a strategic way of permitting anyone from any level of consciousness to participate. For example, an African is unjustly killed by the police. A march is called for. Without any previous experience and no real scientific understanding of the forces that oppress us, all you have to do is show up and march. Therefore, marches/protests are great activities and very necessary. For us, its just that we entered through that door almost 40 years ago. We believe that our work since then has shown us a much better ideological, philosophical, and practical approach to addressing our oppression, but we recognize everyone has to travel at their own pace.
So, we write this not to criticize protests. As we have said clearly on many occasions, we wholeheartedly support all aspects of civil disobedience. We support marches. We support taking over meetings. We support shutting down freeways, etc. All of it. In fact, we are writing this to give perspective to protesting because much confusion exists surrounding the purpose of protests, marches, etc.
A very common misconception about protests that shut down streets, freeways, etc., is that the purpose of the action is to gather support from the public. And certainly, any support that evolves from these protests is always welcome, but that’s not really the strategic objective of protests. I always cringe when I hear entitled motorists, delayed due to the protest, harping about how the protestors won’t get support by inconveniencing people. Please talk talking. Its not about you. The purpose of the protest is to highlight the fact that oppressed people are powerless. Most entitled people go through their day each day without ever recognizing the powerlessness of oppression. So, the protestors, realizing this, strategically shut down the street you are depending on to get you where you are going because by doing so, they make you powerless. You are sitting there, stuck in your vehicle, lacking the power to get where you want to go. If you have ever actually participated in a protest and/or supported a protest (and as I’ve said, I have countless times) then you have had the opportunity to observe the people who are being “inconvenienced.” When they have to wait, even for a very short period of time, the people who oppose the protest are never patient. They are never willing to wait. They immediately demand an end to their “suffering” abet all 30 seconds of it. Often, these people quickly want to turn violent against the protestors. The excuse they always use is the protestors are yelling at them while they can’t get where they are going. In Sacramento where I live, these same complainers were completely bent out of shape because they were overwhelmingly and brutally oppressed from being able to enjoy their Kings basketball game. Without question, this violation sits right up there with the most heinous crimes against humanity.
The point is these same types of people never seem to understand why people react emotionally when a Stephon Clark, or anyone anywhere, is killed by state sanctioned terrorism. They cannot understand why people just don’t accept what is happening without reacting? In other words, they are unwilling to sit for 30 seconds behind a protest against state sanctioned killing of African people, yet incredibly, at the same time, these same people will complain because the victims of this state sanctioned murder are not willing to sit and wait for justice. From the perspective of the protestors, their tactic is to teach these entitled people what it feels like to be disrespected. Many will never learn this lesson, but some will.
Something that would help facilitate this even better would be better organization of these protests. Most of the time, the protests are completely spontaneous. No planning. No objective. Just hitting the streets to vent frustration at the injustice. That’s not a bad thing. Its just that we can do so much better. Envision planning a protest? Recruiting people to serve on shifts so that the protest can last so much longer. Targeting an entity so that the protest can be strong and focused enough to inflict damage on that entity e.g. economic suffering. How about having people to coordinate these shifts? Organizing rides so that people who are stuck on public transportation, due to the protests, can still get to their miserable minimum wage jobs? How about having written propaganda and people trained to articulate it, to talk to these people so that they can realize their true frustration isn’t at the protest. Its at the fact they have to go that miserable job in the first place. How about we connect the conditions that produced the need for that miserable job to the state sanctioned oppression that killed the African? Not hard to do. Both result from capitalism. What if we trained people to be able to have those conversations? How about a structured objective from all this work that comes from the movement. Not from bureaucrats and sellouts coming together to undercut the militancy of the movement?
We don’t have any of those things in place today because most of the protestors are far too new to the work to even understand how to go about creating those elements. And then, there are the other undisciplined elements who hit the streets who have absolutely no intention of organizing anything. And they have the arrogance to brag about that. Many of those people aren’t interested in a solution to the oppression. They are just angry. Have mental health issues, are lazy and undisciplined, or any combination of all of those things. These people just want to let off steam. They have no intention of engaging in the work necessary to solve these problems.
Since our politics are revolutionary, we do have the big picture. And although we have no interest in creating conditions for further reform of the capitalist system, we are always willing to help activists who pursue reform learn how to better organize their protests as we have indicated here. Why? Because the better organized people become, the better our work will be. The better our work, the closer we can get to pushing the system to respond to our efforts. The more we push the system, the more the serious activists will realize the system doesn’t have the desire or capacity to address our issues. But, don’t worry, there is never any need for us to push our views on anyone. The more people bump their heads against capitalist bureaucracy, the more they realize on their own that it isn’t about adjusting this system. Its about destroying this system. So, we are just here to help because we, more than many of the people at the protests, are not interested in seeing our people marching and making demands in spontaneous ways 100 years from now. We accept the definition of insanity. Doing something the same way each time and expecting a different result. How about we stop acting like we are insane?