Not in vain

Upon hearing the verdict that Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three charges, I felt some relief and a measure of joy. The world wasn’t righted by any stretch. The structures of racial oppression didn’t melt away. Nor did police shootings and vigilantism suddenly cease, as we were reminded when Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16 year old African American girl, was shot 4 times in the chest in Columbus, Ohio and died, 20 minutes before the verdict was announced. 

And yet, the jury’s quick verdict to convict Chauvin of all charges goes against the grain of past practice where acquittal, regardless of deeply incriminating evidence, was assured. It is also a reminder of the changing landscape in this struggle, and demonstrates the power of popular mass action. Don’t let anyone tell you that the millions of people in the streets didn’t find its way into the courtroom deliberations and the jury’s decision.

Victories always run the danger of creating illusions, but there is little evidence of that here. Rather, for the growing array of drum majors for racial justice, this verdict is proof that their activism is necessary, their cause just, and their mission unfinished. 

George Floyd was killed, assassinated by racists who assumed, with more than ample precedent, that the blue wall and stacked courts would protect them no matter how out of bounds and deadly their actions. But they were wrong. And while nothing can make up for the Floyd family’s sorrow, perhaps the verdict and the well spring of support for George can give them a little comfort that his death, as his brother said at the time, wasn’t in vain; that he didn’t die unknown and unnoticed. 

Indeed, George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland and Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo and Ma’Khia Bryant and so many others) reside in the hearts of tens of millions who feel outraged by their extrajudicial murders at the hands of “upholders” of the law and a judicial system that demonstrates, almost daily, that Black Lives don’t matter. The struggle continues!

Formal vs real democracy

Socialist democracy includes not only the provision of economic and social rights, but also the ability of the governed to actively and democratically intervene and shape their lives in every social setting. The socialist states fulfilled the first provision, albeit not quite as well as the communist movement suggested at the time and subsequently, but scored poorly on the second. This is especially so when we keep in mind the contradiction between the formal structures and mechanisms of socialist democracy and the actual practice and content of that democracy.

Peaceful competition

I recently listened to an Ezra Klein interview of a top advisor in the Biden administration – NYT podcast – discussing the American Rescue Plan. What struck me in his explanation for its size – for going big – was the example of China. The Covid crisis, a turnabout in economic thinking among policy makers, the expectations of millions, and a Democratic Party tacking in a progressive direction didn’t go unmentioned by Klein, but they didn’t preempt mention of China’s role in the administration calculus either. I was initially surprised, but upon thinking about it, it made perfect sense to me. China is the main rival of the U.S. today and its economic successes and growing presence in the global theater can’t be ignored by the Biden administration and Washington.

This competition at the economic and other levels isn’t necessarily a negative thing, as long it is peaceful and includes cooperation as well. What neither country should want is a New Cold War.

The Pro Act and Amazon

Reading some of post mortems on the  Amazon vote in Bessemer makes me wonder if any of the prescriptive advice offered would have made enough of a difference to turn a pronounced defeat into a breakthrough victory. What I don’t wonder about is the imperative of a full mobilization of labor and its allies in support of the Pro Act – the present day equivalent of the Wagner Act.

While it faces a wall of opposition from Congressional Republicans and some temporizing by a handful of Democrats, the urgency of its passage is undeniable. It would not only change the terrain on which organizing drives are fought out and likely expand the labor movement in size and strength, but it would also constitute at once a bulwark of multi-racial democracy and progressive reform, not to mention a powerful barrier to right wing authoritarian rule.

Sheds little light

What lies at the root of the present political divisions in the country, as suggested in this analysis, isn’t political sectarianism on both sides of the political divide, but the rise and further radicalization of right wing authoritarianism to the point where “fascistic” no longer seems like rhetorical hyperbole.

Animated by white supremacy and race panic in the first place, its evolution in recent years has turned it into a clear and present danger to everything that is democratic, decent, egalitarian, and progressive in our culture, political economy, and society. Blaming both sides obscures this reality and misdirects politically. It becomes, in effect, an obstacle to understanding the nature of and solutions to today’s crises and challenges.

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