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+1 vote
Hi all,

While watching a commentary on current riots in the US, there was a remark that I see all the time, which says that such riots are too disorganized, lack political formulations and "ideology", passive and lacks constitutive aspects - "do not shoot us" hardly points towards a new way of living but instead just a reaction to the current state of things - so in the end they just die off without any considerable impact to the established order and political power usually manages to bring it to its advantage, by consolidating its own popular support for example. Such criticism can be heard in many, many riots and protests that have happened in last decade, perhaps because they share similar characteristics.

So my question is, what do you expect from riots? I personally think that greatest benefit of such riots are a break in the normal and consequent transformations they lead in the individual. But apart from that, i think instead of riots, build-up in "normal" times are much more important for pushing towards social change. Riots are just tactical showdowns to see how successful protestors can be against the police and keep the initiative.
by (910 points)
I haven't been paying too much attention. At best, surface level or shallow appeasement and maybe some politicians will change. Then it'll rinse and repeat in a few years.
I've been kind of asking myself the same thing, and i've started paying a little more attention to the news than i normally do. Maybe this could contribute to a more thorough destruction of institutions and societies, which is something I've kind of been wanting depending on what happens in the long run?

However, i think that despite the appearance, the pandemic and the outpouring of opposition to racism/police brutality are not enough to strongly change the activities of nation states and capitalist societies at least in their current configurations...i think maybe all this 2020 chaos could maybe trigger more events that could lead to that though...the news media kind of has a tendency to make things seem more monumental and serious than they actually are. I unfortunately don't think that any of the recent protests are going to lead to sweeping legal reforms that will lead to less abuses of power. Maybe other types of civil servitude will replace the more old-school police brutality? I'm somehow not feeling terribly optimistic about the events so far though. But lets see: the future is murky and vague at best.
I overestimated what the state I live in was gonna do. I thought they were gonna at least pretend to reform some laws and cops to appease people, but nope I was way off on that one. Instead a few counties in Merryland decided to change street names in the wealthiest areas in all of Merryland that are named after confederate soldiers. The state of Merryland also decided to remove a american civil war plaque. The liberal type people on social media for my area are very pleased and think it's the best thing since sliced bread. They've wanted those street names changed for awhile now. I'm not sure what it has to do with cops killing people, but perhaps I'm too dense and not enlightened enough to understand what these slight cosmetic changes are suppose to do. It seems like a big "fuck you" to the protestors to me. I'll have to go down to inner city Baltimore to ask the people that live there what they think of the street name changes in the wealthy areas.

I've learned some new slogans that aren't clear to me what they're supposed to mean and have learned new acronyms of groups of individuals. Maybe i'll ask a question about the slogan later. I can be pretty dense at times.
tell us what the slogans are? so curious now!
yes, please tell us the slogans!

but i feel you, it seems like the main thing that's been happening is white people are giving black people money. The confederate relics controversy is so popular because activists know they won't have as much success dismantling the police bureaucratically, but i still think that's a better fight: if the police get defunded, then think about all the creative stuff we could do to statues without facing the consequences.
dot & nihilist, one of the slogans that I see again and again by liberal types is "white silence equals white violence." I don't believe I've heard that one until recently. I've found it difficult to get an answer. Afaict my existence apparently makes me complicit in violence against black people unless I do this or that. There are variations of that one. There is another one about empathy but i can't remember the wording of it atm.
thanks. as with many things that become meaningless or terrible, i think there is a kernel in these slogans that is not. people not doing something in the face of bad stuff is complicity, right?

but what we should do and how we define the Bad Stuff are begged questions. in this case, one of the many presumptions is that white people only benefit from racism, which i think is demonstrably not true, as white supremacy makes white people's lives worse as well. people being encouraged to connect with each other across differences doesn't always work, obviously (so many people say "that's never happened to me or anyone i know", even when it has happened to them, but they imagine it differently). but then *nothing* always works so...
but the tendency for activists/leftist/liberals to work the idea that privilege requires sacrifice is very common.

meh.
"....as white supremacy makes white people's lives worse as well."

That to me is a golden point (hehe...) that i wish a lot of people on the left understood better, white supremacist ideology and it's child, eugenics, has strongly warped a lot of people's opinions and flattened the reality we live in. Looking "across the aisle" (LOL) i also get sad thinking of how poor/under-privledged people are treated within capitalism. I also wish that i could continue going to therapy but there are a lot of things that bar my access to that especially right now.

I personally really hate that slogan "white silence is violence" because it has a strong resemblance to christianity's "sin of omission", in other words, "by not trying to actively change what was going on you are complicit in the bad things that other people do". When my friend in 2016 convinced me to go to the trump protests in 2016, i saw someone holding that slogan and standing on the street. I couldn't help but saying "you're being awfully silent!" and they couldn't help but laughing.

The thing i despise so much about activism is that "activism" actually does carry a certain ideology (un-named by academia and all the people who are more important than i am who coin words that states) "you should be active, if you are not active you are part of the problem".

And dot, by saying "meh", you seem to be pretending your more aloof to this than you actually are.
i expect exactly nothing. other than maybe some token legislative bs to help quell the rage moving forward.

which is not to say i don't want something to come out of them. i can fantasize all over the place about what might come out of protests/riots. who hasn't thought about bum-rushing the fucking pigs while they slowly killed george floyd?

but 60 years of seeing this shit play out time and time again ... nothing looks that different to me. even the level of authoritarian overreach by trump and the trumpettes does not seem all that different from what has happened during other major "uprisings" in the past century. these dipshits are just more out front and blatant about it.

what i would LIKE to expect from riots:

huge masses of well protected (helmets, masks, shields, body armor, etc) people overwhelming law enforcement cowards with sheer numbers and rage. 150 federales in chicago? 50,000 well prepared protesters surrounding them and pounding them into submission, forcing them into their precious jails and other buildings. every one of them doxed and tatooed with a new scarlet letter on their cheek. let's see, what letter shall it be?

edit to add: of course that rage should be directed at local law enforcement as well. hate to show favorites.
@funky: kinda seems dumb that people are so easily intimidated and controlled, huh? The number of ways that the people in the us could even overwhelm the national guard and the military is tremendous, yet in the end aircrafts and bombs defeat all ground level mobs...the police could very easily be hypothetically defeated if a bunch of people agreed they didn't want them around anymore, also if they were willing to die to get rid of them which is the more troubling aspect to think about.

Too bad being anarchists bars us from being generals i suppose!

1 Answer

+2 votes

For many of the past ten or so years, in two different houses, there has been tacked to a common space wall an odd little puzzle taken from the pages an anarchist publication. It is a word finder game arranged in a pyramid shape. Every single letter and every single word repeat, up, down, and diagonally ALWAYS MORE POLICE STATISM. The player is instructed to find as many iterations of the phrase as they can, but in the end they are reminded that in this game, everyone's a loser.

Your question calls this pessimistic little puzzle to mind. It's a perfectly cruel catchall. What to expect from the election if ____ wins? More police statism. What if _____ wins, he's going to do _____? More police statism. What to expect from prison abolition? Always more police statism. What if we defund the police? More police statism. Remember when everyone was talking just about coronavirus? Many anarchists were expecting the virus to be new justification for always more police statism. Now? There's a process underway for classifying "Antifa" as a "terrorist organization," for their supposed role in the riots, and this is not to mention the tremendous proliferation of less overt forms of always more police statism. So the pithy answer to your question is, well: see how many ways you can find to spell it out.

But this leaves, of course, the other side of the coin. I believe it's not contradictory to expect both more police statism and que viva la anarquía. For that I have a different anecdote. At an anarchist conference, a speaker presented some historical analysis of rioting and violence, all aimed at the conclusion that these kinds of activities give major force to social reform movements. To put it bluntly, the moral-handwringing in the media is a distraction and those in power are quick to give concessions when they are fearful. (Pro-militancy arguments to this effect have always puzzled me when coming from anarchists and pro-revolutionaries. Are we meant to conclude that rioting and militant action are good because they lead to concessions? What happened to total social transformation, not reformation? When I asked as much, the presenter's response was that winning concessions teaches class power that builds toward revolution. Well, can't argue with that I guess???) So HUGE FUCKING QUESTIONS aside, there was something he said in passing that I found really interesting. When he was summarizing the different views on rioting -- pacifist and militant -- he mentioned that there was a third pseudo-position, namely the people who see the value of riots as completely immanent to the experience itself. He ever-so-quickly dismissed this as a kind of spiritualism and moved on. I would like to stop here with this immanence, this pseudo-position that is so easy to wave away in favor of more pragmatic concerns. You acknowledged it in your question: "a break in the normal and consequent transformations they lead in the individual." In this sense, the question of what to expect fades into the background. We can expect a powerful transformation, but it is so hard to put words to what that transformation might be, even if we seem to remember having experienced one ourselves. I believe it's a kind of initiation, in the ancient (i.e. still present) sense -- a transformative passage into a belonging.

Every few years it seems, perhaps competing for some award for the height of unintentional irony, some "riot folk" musician or another publishes a statement against riots (always with the caveat that they were at some riot or other, that they have nothing against riots per se, just certain kinds of riots, yadda yadda). One of the most common words to find in these dismissals is ritual -- as in mere ritual. (Playing folk songs about peace love and anarchy is what exactly?) I say yes, this is one of the anarchist rituals, among others. Whether mere or not -- that is another question.
by (20.0k points)
part of what you are saying illustrates the issue of ideology -- if the concern for anarchists is always that there is more police state repression, then they might as well not even do anything about it.

This is my favorite part of your answer:

" he mentioned that there was a third pseudo-position, namely the people who see the value of riots as completely immanent to the experience itself. He ever-so-quickly dismissed this as a kind of spiritualism and moved on. I would like to stop here with this immanence, this pseudo-position that is so easy to wave away in favor of more pragmatic concerns. "

Riots are exciting, but they are going to hurt people sometimes, they are going to get in the way of those momentarily valuing peace and contentment.

I dispute this idea that it's a "psuedo-position", because riots are riots. I guess one of the things i'm irritated about in terms of "what happened" is that i've seen more anti-black racism and more left-identity politics since then. I was originally happy and a little surprised by the response to the George Floyd's murder. Then when i was talking to some people i knew who i respected who said they didn't like the thought of riots i more or less arrived at the "pseudo-position", where they are just part of what's going on. Maybe all positions are fake, in the same way that identities are fake.

Overall i feel any preference for the future is kind of silly: your feelings about what is to come are not actually going to be the same as if "that thing" happened. This is the classic issue of alienation that occurs in conversations about politics. We have all these ideas about reforms (like de-funding the police) but they are removed from the real political processes which they imply.
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