Concrete, Close and Strategic Dialogue with One Another
31 July 2020 – Matt Meyer
Remarks, July 24 Webinar
Physics teaches us that the concepts of space and time are more mutable, fluid, bendable than we typically understand them to be. As noted astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson challenged US citizens in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Will people listen to science? And as Lenin is famously mis-quoted, “There are decades [when it seems like] nothing happens, and there are weeks [when] decades happen.” Perhaps today, this very Friday, it is important to locate our moment even before we reflect upon what is to be done.
I’ve recently qualified this period in the US as a “Moment at War.” To be sure, it is neither a new war nor a one about to end, but it has entered a new phase—within the backdrop of the dying US empire. The US executive branch has deployed troops against state governments which are perceived as oppositional to the current regime and to long-standing practices of militarized policing. The troops are new; the practices of repressive policing are not. Federal policies relating to health care, especially in response to the pandemic, spotlight an extremely racialized, class-based schism whereby “herd immunity” and the question of “reopening” aspects of society equate to the mass murder of at least tens of thousands of predominately Black, Brown, Indigenous and poor people. The speed and scale of COVID-related death are new. Genocidal policies based on white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism are not. The economic crisis spurred on by this perfect storm of factors has led to a global downturn from which the empire as such cannot recover from. But an end of US ability to fulfill its former imperial dreams does not mean an end to US aggression, externally or internally. The weakening of the US is new; the manner in which the brunt of this collapse will be borne on the backs of predominately Black and Brown women—the center of actual productive work—is not.
Therefore it should be no surprise that we have happily witnessed and been part of Black liberation uprisings marking these last months with mass street actions, cross-generational conversations, and strategic thinking within the US left which had been dormant for decades. Though improperly and inexactly being called a Black Lives Matter movement, the inspiration and solidarity evidenced by these uprisings can be seen as a truly global phenomenon. The triple crisis of COVID-19 pandemic, white supremacist imperial militarism, and barbarous capitalist containment provide opportunities for movement-building as of yet unprecedented in this century. We must be careful not to too-quickly confuse and declare hopeful moments or militant actions with entire movements. And we must understand that this historic moment will require an understanding of the movements of movements, as discussed in the two-book series edited by our dear Jai Sen and on the new website: more than a single united front or political thread. We must understand, for example, that this Moment at War is inextricably intertwined with the global War against Mother Earth which has been waged across ideological lines, by imperialists, the sub-imperial BRICS, and corporate looters everywhere. Countering these assaults is a new First Ecosocialist International, founded in Venezuela; and a burgeoning decolonization movement led by still-occupied and colonized peoples who are most profoundly connecting strategic, tactical, and conceptual issues of human and planetary liberation. In the politically under-developed US left, the new Black-led coalition People’s Strike provides a promising set of possibilities across the lands, peoples, and histories of too-often divided mass campaigns. And even more directly within the Movements of Movements circles, the World Social Movements Discussion group, whose threads can be found archived on the website, looks to shape continuing conversations about how we might “rethink our dance” and build new forms of resistance for lasting, transformative change.
It is not clear whether we can achieve our heady ambitions. It is not clear whether, to paraphrase what Lenin actually said, we can "in the space of a few days" destroy "one of the oldest, most powerful, barbarous and brutal" empires which the world has ever known. Can we use the next months to pass through stages which have before taken decades to resolve? One thing, at least, seems clear, revealed to us by both science and history: We cannot achieve any advances at all unless we are in concrete, close and strategic dialogue with one another.