The False Commitment of the American (Liberal) Left
“Our problem is not how to get into imperial power: our problem is how to withdraw from the imperial system and construct a viable system of our own.” —Ayi Kwei Armah
Five months ago marked the inception of historic international unrest against institutional anti-Black violence. Despite being an especially incendiary moment in the history of the resistance of Black and brown people in America, the fire has been nearly extinguished in the States.
It’s entirely unsurprising due to the strength of the American state. Militarization with aid from white Americans eager to use their fundamental “right” of whiteness was quick to occupy, murder, incarcerate, and surveil resistance.
As for the immediate growth of the anti-racist economy following the unrest, commodification, performativism, and aestheticization swallowed the hope for liberation. Bail funds were replaced by cute infographics and pictures of Nancy Pelosi wearing kente cloth. Mainstream ignition of the ideology of abolition was replaced by the farthest thing from it: the heavily leveraged voting complex.
There is no other way to spell it out: commitment to presidential electoralism, or the political assistance of mainstream American presidential candidates and their backing financial bodies, remains the pesticide for the growth of a populist American left. With a nativist savior of the white working class on one side and a corporate war-hawk champion of white liberals on the other, what remains for the Black and brown people suffering at the hands of electoralism domestically and abroad?
American electoralism is manipulative in its mechanisms of sustenance. As the electoral system in America typically makes clear every four years, the watered-down “liberalization” of concepts originally formed from radical leftist politics serves to provide a relief to voters attempting to vote ideologically “left.” Such is the case with identity politics, co-opted from the late 20th century Black radical feminist group the Combahee River Collective and repackaged in the candidates of the Democratic Party. This is represented in figures such as Kamala Harris, the half-Black, half-Tamilian vice presidential candidate, formerly a state prosecutor involved in scandals of vicious state repression. Identity politics did not originate for the placement of “multiculturalism” at the state’s disposal; instead, it serves as a means towards abolition and creation.
Electoral politics’ manipulation and dilution of originally radical politics always serves to cover up the main foundation of the nation’s inordinate wealth hoarding: war and occupation. American exceptionalism operates under both the DNC and RNC management through the ongoing American imperialist project and bipartisan-supported foreign policy. What is “lesser of two evils” about Joe Biden, a man who, when Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 2002, was a champion of the Iraq War, which left over a million Iraqi citizens dead and an entire region of the world decimated? Even in terms of domestic policy, in the midst of growing popularity for the sentiment of “Defund the Police,” what is “lesser of two evils” about a man who insists that he wants to “add $300 million to their local budgets?” What is “lesser of two evils” about a man who co-authored the largest crime bill in the history of the United States in 1994?
That’s only the tip of the iceberg.
What about recent bipartisan support of violent American foreign policy regarding Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran, Libya, Venezuela, Palestine, Bolivia, and countless other countries? Barack Obama’s extension of the use of drone bombings on foreign civilians when Joe Biden was vice president? To exhaustively discuss bipartisan maintenance of American extractive murder would be beside the point. For voters attempting to adhere to a principle of “anti-racism,” acting as an authority for white supremacist war crimes worthy of being tried at the Hague, as Joe Biden has been, should be an immediate deal-breaker for a presidential election.
Despite the short-lived mainstream attention given to concepts of resistance developed from the Black Radical Tradition, the common discussion seems to have fused into America’s supposed “surge” into fascism as proxied by Donald Trump. The truth of the state and its history, as should be clear to all who use terms such as “systemic,” is that fascistic violence through means of land possession, mass murder, incarceration, privatization, and extractive war is the inherent logic of America and its drive for wealth accumulation. To stand in defense of Joe Biden, or any national-stage American politician, is to reject the nature of this structure. As Frantz Fanon, anti-imperialist and Pan-Africanist psychiatrist and revolutionary, wrote in his essay “Racism and Culture,” “The truth is that the rigor of the system made the daily affirmation of a superiority superfluous.” Or as George Jackson more clearly defined: “understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved…”
There exists an idealistic prediction from American liberals in support of Joe Biden concerning a “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party “pushing Biden to the left” if he were to become president. What is more clear as evidence of this notion’s incredulity than the DNC’s role in manipulating primary elections in favor of the opposing candidate to Bernie Sanders for two successive elections? How about Nancy Pelosi’s corporate fixation or the numerous bipartisan attacks on Ilhan Omar following her criticism of Israeli-American allyship?
The dramatized idolatry of figures of the state, whether it be Barack Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or Hillary Clinton, is both a cognitive relief for whiteness and a general attempt to cling onto empire. Despite what professional diversity and condescension-training specialist Robin DiAngelo will tell you in her recently bestselling book White Fragility, there is no method based in the empire’s politics that will rid the true intention of the government. Voters keen on restoring a “lost democracy” through Joe Biden need to ask themselves—democracy for whom?
So what is the commitment the American left must adhere to?
Kinship must be broken; kinship must be lost. As Professor Christina Sharpe, scholar of Black Studies at York University, explains, “Kinship relations structure the nation” and thus a growing American left must “[r]end the fabric of the kinship narrative.”
This includes kinship to the American empire.
Leave your infographic sharing, RBG tributes, and exultant endorsements behind. The empire’s maintenance results in the subjection of non-white people to the empire’s logic. The preservation of the state—especially through Biden, whose political career has lasted 47 years, all of them spent on furthering the extension of the carceral police state, corporatism, and warmongering—coexists with the maintenance of aggression by America in all forms.
Replace the optics with the only allyship that considerably matters: material support. Sustaining local organizing through mutual aid funds, bail funds, and abolitionist groups is the clearest manner of solidarity. Some groups to consider supporting in the Somerville/Boston area include, but are not limited to: Tufts Mutual Aid, Solidarity Supply Distro, Black and Pink Boston, Mutual Aid Medford & Somerville (MAMAS), Freedom Fighters Coalition, Deeper Than Water, Solidarity Against Hate Boston, Massachusetts Bail Fund, and the Boston Area Liberation Medics.
The commitment of an American left must be to the people—not to politicians, electors, or the countless state apparatuses that sustain the very structural conditions that are assimilated into liberalized rhetoric for the purpose of votes. As writer and prophetess Audre Lorde aptly affirmed, “[T]he master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”