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leberwurst proletariat

Tag: race

How is capitalism racial? Fanon, critical theory and the fetish of antiblackness (White, 2020)

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by Hylton White (2020), Social Dynamics, 46:1, 22-35.

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ABSTRACT
I outline a proposal for an analysis of antiblackness grounded by the Marxist critique of the fetishistic forms of capitalist society. Traditionally, Marxist accounts of antiblackness turn, not to Marx’s theory of fetishism, but rather to dynamics of class formation under capitalist development, and hence to the ways that class formation motivates types of racism, including antiblackness. But accounts like these do not explain the distinctive features of modern antiblackness. Turning to the Marxist critique of fetishism, I argue for an account of the distinctive features of modern antiblackness, by bringing into conversation: (a) comments by Fanon on negrophobia and the relations between antiblackness and antisemitism; and (b) work by Postone on the fetishistic nature of modern antisemitism. I argue that antisemitism and antiblackness afford a pair of devices for falsely concretising the structure of alienation that produces the apparent opposition of labour and capital. These devices present the pathologies of modernity as stemming not from capitalist social relations but rather from the apparently essential powers of antisocial races: the Jew of antisemitism, caricatured as cunning will without productive bodily expenditure, and the Black of antiblack racism, caricatured as biological energy that lacks self-governing will. READ PDF

Never Again: Refusing Race and Salvaging the Human (Paul Gilroy, 2019)

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In his Holberg Lecture, Paul Gilroy, author of The Black Atlantic (1993), winner of the Holberg Prize for 2019, advocates turning away from the defaulted racial ordering of life in pursuit of a new humanism.

It is commonplace to observe that democracy in Europe has reached a dangerous point. As ailing capitalism emancipates itself from democratic regulation, ultra-nationalism, populism, xenophobia and varieties of neo-fascism have become more visible, more assertive and more corrosive of political culture. The widespread appeal of racialised group identity and racism, often conveyed obliquely with a knowing wink, has been instrumental in delivering us to a situation in which our conceptions of truth, law and government have been placed in jeopardy. In many places, pathological hunger for national rebirth and the restoration of an earlier political time, have combined with resentful, authoritarian and belligerent responses to alterity and the expectation of hospitality.

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How it Might Should be Done

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by Idris Robinson, July 2020

The following is a transcript of a talk delivered in Seattle on July 20, 2020, lightly-edited by the author for readability. A video recording produced by Red May is online here. (Taken from Illwilleditions.org)

* * * * *

I want to begin with a shout-out to what happened here last night, and to the working class of the city of Seattle, to the rebels of the city of Seattle: I really liked what I saw, that’s why I’m here, you know, to feel that vibe. I would also like to send my solidarity to comrades in Greece. It was they who allowed me to experience insurrection for the first time in 2008. The lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I had there have been so valuable this time around, even though we are in a much different social context. Moreover, a comrade was recently killed at the hands of the police there. To the fallen comrade, Vasillis Maggos, I want to say: rest in power.

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Crowned Plague

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by Phil Neel (Brooklyn Rail, Field Notes, July 2020)

(see also: Prelude to a Hot American Summer, Normality is Death)

The Saint of Crowns

In spring the winter weight of snow trickles off the stone steps of the basilica in small, shimmering rivulets, a microcosm of the many streams glittering through the foothills of the unyielding Dolomites, or maybe more a mirror of the intricate alpine network of alte vie and vie ferrate, narrow, high walking and climbing paths hewn into the mountains during the first world war when other routes were made impassable by mines. The winter rarely clears quickly through these foothills where Fèltre and its basilica lie, the town’s most famous rendition given by a few lines from an anonymous Roman author: “Feltria, condemned to the rigor of eternal snows / from me too, who henceforth will scarcely approach you, farewell!”1 The words are often attributed to Caesar himself, though of course this might be apocryphal. But the apocryphal is also somehow natural to this place: the basilica which contains the relics of Saint Corona, whose historical reality is itself an open question.2

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Theses on the George Floyd Rebellion

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by SHEMON AND ARTUROJune 24, 2020 (Illwilleditions.com)

A print version is here.

See also:

* * * * *

“The working class in every country lives its own life, makes its own experiences, seeking always to create forms and realize values which originate directly from its organic opposition to official society.”

—CLR James, Grace Lee Boggs, and Cornelius Castoriadis, “Facing Reality”

1. The George Floyd Rebellion was a Black led multi-racial rebellion. This rebellion cannot be sociologically categorized as exclusively a Black rebellion. Rebels from all racialized groups fought the police, looted and burned property. This included Indigenous people, Latinx people, Asian people, and white people.

2. This uprising was not caused by outside agitators. Initial arrest data shows that most people were from the immediate areas of the rebellions. If there were people driving in from the ‘suburbs,’ this only reveals the sprawling geography of the American metropolis.

3. While many activists and organizers participated, the reality is that this rebellion was not organized by the small revolutionary left, neither by the so-called progressive NGOs. The rebellion was informal and organic, originating directly from working class black people’s frustration with bourgeois society, particularly the police.

4. Not only was the police-state caught off-guard by the scope and intensity of the rebellion, but civil society also hesitated and wavered in the face of this popular revolt, which quickly spread to every corner of the country and left the police afraid and in disarray.

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Ruth Wilson Gilmore in conversation with Paul Gilroy (2020)

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This conversation was recorded on 7th June 2020 – Soundcloud here

(see also: Ruth Wilson Gilmore Makes the Case for Abolition and Prisons and Class Warfare and Is Prison Necessary?)

Paul Gilroy: Well hello, I’m Paul Gilroy, I’m the Director of the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the study of Racism and Racialisation at University College, and today I’m going to be talking to Ruth Wilson Gilmore who is Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. Ruthie is a co-founder of the California Prison Moratorium Project and perhaps most importantly of all, of critical resistance, and she’s the author of the prize-winning book that will be very familiar to you, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. And Ruthie and I have been collaborating, editing, bringing together Stuart Hall’s writings on race which will be published – well I hope soon, given the situation we’re in. Maybe you should correct anything that I haven’t said about you Ruthie that you want to have said, and I want to make a point about Stuart – Stuart’s work.

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To Protect and Serve Themselves: Police in US Politics since the 1960s

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by Stuart Schrader  – Public Culture (2019) 31 (3): 601–623 PDF

The police in the United States were once subject to control by political machines. The professionalization process freed police from this control, but it had an unexpected result. Professionalization meant that police answered primarily to themselves, which enabled them to become self-interested. This process transformed the police into a new type of authoritative political actor. This article examines the history and organizational sociology of the transformation of the police since the 1960s, investigating how, through groups like the International Association of Chiefs of Police, police have advocated on their own behalf and interacted with larger political and economic trends. Separate from their role in crime control, police have become entrepreneurial and resistant to fiscal austerity. This article offers a new characterization of the effects of the “war on crime” and “law and order” politics of the 1960s, while paying attention to the surprising Cold War roots of the political autonomy of police.

 

(see also: Origins of the Police by David Whitehouse; The End of Policing by Alex Vitale)

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We Demand Nothing (2009)

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Minneapolis 2020

by J. Kaspar (‘Fire to the Prisons’ # 7, Autumn 2009) PDF read / print

“I do not demand any right, therefore I need not recognize any either.”
– M. Stirner

On the night of August 8th, 2009, hundreds of inmates at the California Institution for Men in Chino rioted for 11 hours, causing “significant and extensive” damage to the medium-security prison. Two hundred and fifty prisoners were injured, with fifty-five admitted to the hospital.

On Mayday 2009, three blocks of San Francisco’s luxury shopping district were wrecked by a roving mob, leaving glass strewn throughout the sidewalk for the shopkeepers, police and journalists to gawk at the next morning.

On the early morning of April 10th, 2009, nineteen individuals took over and locked down an empty university building the size of a city-block on 5th avenue in Manhattan, draping banners and reading communiqués off the roof. Police and university officials responded by sending helicopters, swat teams, and hundreds of officers to break in and arrest them all.

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Suffocation of the Young:

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A Report from Brooklyn on Schooling, Childhood and Mental Illness Today

 Juan Chabrier (Brooklyn Rail, 2019)

At some point during the workday, you may have considered that your role in creating a product or service somehow plays an important part in sustaining the world we live in, even if that world leaves much to be desired. As the Oakland teachers end their strike, quick on the heels of the Denver, Los Angeles county, and red-state revolts, we’re reminded that our daily work not only recreates a world of things but also one of relationships and experiences: in short, all that which determines who we are. As far as contemporary schooling is involved in the production of childhood—a modern process that is clearly in crisis—we have a sense of the great stakes involved as the wave of intransigent education-worker strikes rolls across this country.

Childhood appears today as something uncanny. Social commentators and psychologists draw us to narrow parts of its unsettling presence without offering a substantive pattern or underlying explanation. In the US, an astounding one in five children has an attention or learning disability while parent-reported Autism Spectrum Disorder rates are now at 1 in 40. What’s more, both of these statistics are thought to be an underestimation of the real prevalence.1 Anxiety and depression in youth are reaching alarming levels and steadily rising.2 Sexual activity amongst youth has decreased by over 20% since the 1980s, while new media make pornography more available to the young.3 Most distressingly, that some children decide to pick up weapons and massacre their peers has become an expected occurrence. As teenager Paige Curry commented after the Santa Fe shootings last year, “I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too.”4

Parenthood, in turn, is occupied by guilt and worry, as an industry of advice columnists and child-experts provides a contradictory array of techniques, superstitions, and philosophies to navigate the contemporary situation. US birth and marriage rates across income levels are at historic lows in face of the perilous labyrinth of childhood and economic trepidation.5 Yet the “helicopter parent’s” worries and their accompanying gurus are more than just an automatic reaction. The recent intensification of parenting is but a reflection of prevailing social anxieties.

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W.E.B. Du Bois (Collected Works)

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One might divide those interested in Socialism into two distinct camps: On the one hand, those farsighted thinkers who are seeking to determine from the facts of modern industrial organization just what the outcome is going to be; on the other hand, those who suffer from the present industrial situation and who are anxious that, whatever the broad outcome may be, at any rate the present suffering which they know so well shall be stopped.

It is this second class of social thinkers who are interested particularly in the Negro problem. They are saying that the plight of 10,000,000 human beings in the United States, predominantly of the working class, is so evil that it calls for much attention in any program of future social reform. This paper, however, is addressed not to this class, but rather to the class of theoretical Socialists; and its thesis is: In the Negro problem, as it presents itself in the United States, theoretical Socialism of the twentieth century meets a critical dilemma.

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The Devil in America

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by Kai Ashante Wilson (2014)

for my father

1955

Emmett Till, sure, I remember. Your great grandfather, sitting at the table with the paper spread out, looked up and said something to Grandma. She looked over my way and made me leave the room: Emmett Till. In high school I had a friend everybody called Underdog. One afternoon—1967?—Underdog was standing on some corner and the police came round and beat him with nightsticks. No reason. Underdog thought he might get some respect if he joined up for Vietnam, but a sergeant in basic training was calling him everything but his name—nigger this, nigger that—and Underdog went and complained. Got thrown in the brig, so he ended up going to Vietnam with just a couple weeks’ training. Soon after he came home in a body bag. In Miami a bunch of white cops beat to death a man named Arthur McDuffie with heavy flashlights. You were six or seven: so, 1979. The cops banged up his motorcycle trying to make killing him look like a crash. Acquitted, of course. Then Amadou Diallo, 1999; Sean Bell, 2006. You must know more about all the New York murders than I do. Trayvon, this year. Every year it’s one we hear about and God knows how many just the family mourns.

—Dad

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#NYCStripperStrike: Race, Class and Women’s Work

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“Honey, I guess you can sum up this business in one sentence,” stripper Bobbie Bruce told reporter Jack Griffin at Minsky’s Rialto Theater, a hub of early-1950s Chicago burlesque. “You grab as much sex as the law is allowing at the time, and throw it across the footlights as hard as you can.”1

In the 1950s, only seven states, including Illinois and New York, permitted striptease performances. Chicago law gave club owners full discretion about just how much strippers could or could not take off.2 Meanwhile in New York, dancers were limited to uncovering a single breast, for eight bars of music at a time.3

Griffin discovered “a stripper’s life is a tough one, made up of long hours. Although she may be on stage only a total of an hour or so, she has to be on call for 10 to 12 hours a day.” Moreover, he learned, “the private life of a strip teaser, one who takes her art seriously, is about as routine as that of a file clerk in a business office–and often duller. A stripper is doing five or six shows a day, seven days a week, isn’t in the mood for much of anything except going home–alone–and going to sleep.”4

In major cities like New York City and Chicago, nascent strip clubs like Minksy’s Rialto offered women better pay than working the counter at Macys or Bloomingdales. As Moira Weigel argues, retail workers were mostly working-class girls who hoped to entice just the right wealthy man and thus escape a life of wage labor drudgery.5 Strip clubs, meanwhile, stimulated desire and seduction in a manner not unlike the courtship of retail customers or the theatrical fantasies window displays brought to life for urban consumers.6 The women who worked in retail and strip clubs symbolized a new worker, proliferated by a mid-twentieth century boom in the US service industry. Feminized service workers relied on guile, cajolery and flirtation to attract customers and clientele to purchase commodities. As a unique form of service work, strippers turned this allure into the commodity itself. But then as now, stripping was nonetheless work, and hard work at that.

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The Aggressiveness of Vulnerability

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by P. Roufos

Trump has been president for over a year now but the arguments over what led to his victory are far from settled. Many sought to explain the surprising results with an age-old idea about a part of America historically resistant to “progress.” The notion that the “white working-class” is responsible for Trump allowed pro-market fanatics like J. D. Vance to gain visibility through his attempt to re-instate the bankrupt American Dream, while also permitting liberals to feel justified in their (also age-old) contempt for the poor. Other commentators put structural issues of the voting system (such as the Electoral College and the popular vote) in the spotlight. A few tried to zero in on the Democratic Party itself, tacitly recognizing the possibility that its failure might have something to do with its own choices and policies. The most comical explanation of all, Russian interference, remains mind-numbingly popular within liberal outlets. But for a certain period, another approach was also captivating those eager to understand the “impossible presidency”. According to this view, Trump’s rise to power was significantly assisted by the emerging alt-Right (“alternative Right”) and its prolific online presence. Angela Nagle’s book, Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right (Zero Books, 2017) was one of the first to attempt to contextualize this approach.

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Which Feminisms?

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Frauenkampftag, Berlin, Mar 8. 2018

By Susan Watkins (New Left Review 109, January-February 2018)

Of all the opposition movements to have erupted since 2008, the rebirth of a militant feminism is perhaps the most surprising—not least because feminism as such had never gone away; women’s empowerment has long been a mantra of the global establishment. Yet there were already signs that something new was stirring in the US and UK student protests of 2010, the 2011 Occupy encampments at Puerta del Sol and Zuccotti Park. In India, mass rallies condemned the gang rape of Jyoti Pandey in 2012 and feminist flash-mobs have disrupted the moral-policing operations of Hindutva fundamentalists. The protests against sexual assault on US campuses blazed across the New York media in 2014. In Brazil, 30,000 black women descended on the capital in 2015 to demonstrate against sexual violence and racism, calling for the ouster of the corrupt head of the National Congress, Eduardo Cunha; earlier that year, the March of Margaridas brought over 50,000 rural women to Brasília. In Argentina, feminist campaigners against domestic violence were at the forefront of protests against Macri’s shock therapy. In China, the arrest in 2015 of five young women preparing to sticker Beijing’s public transport against sexual violence—members of Young Feminist Activism, an online coalition that’s played cat-and-mouse with the authorities—was met with web petitions signed by over 2 million people.

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Not all Politics is Identity Politics

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by Kenan Malik: 

‘All politics is identity politics.’ And ‘Without identity politics there can be no defence of women’s rights or the rights of minority groups.’ So run the two most common contemporary defences of identity politics. As criticism of the politics of identity has become more developed and fierce, so has the defence. So, I want here to begin a critique of the critique, as it were, and in so doing reassert the necessity for challenging identity politics.

Identities are, of course, of great significance. They give each of us a sense of ourselves, of our grounding in the world and of our relationships to others. At the same time,  politics is a means, or should be a means, or taking us beyond the narrow sense of identity given to each of us by the specific circumstances of our lives and the particularities of personal experiences. As a teenager, I was drawn to politics because of my experience of racism. But if it was racism that drew me to politics, it was politics that made me see beyond the narrow confines of racism. I came to learn that there was more to social justice than challenging the injustices done to me, and that a person’s skin colour, ethnicity or culture provides no guide to the validity of his or her political beliefs. Through politics, I was introduced to the ideas of the Enlightenment, and to the concepts of a common humanity and universal rights. Through politics, too, I discovered the writings of Marx and Mill, Baldwin and Arendt, James and Fanon. Most of all, I discovered that I could often find more solidarity and commonality with those whose ethnicity or culture was different to mine, but who shared my values, than with many with whom I shared a common ethnicity or culture but not the same political vision.

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The Myth of ‘Cultural Appropriation’

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by Walter Benn Michaels

Even our own stories don’t belong to us

Vanessa Place, Kenny Goldsmith, Kelley Walker, Dana Schutz, Sam Durant — these are all white people who in the recent past have made what they intended to be politically transgressive art, and succeeded. But not in the way they were hoping for. Dana Schutz’s painting of the dead Emmett Till was not meant to insult Till’s memory. Sam Durant’s “Scaffold,” a sculpture critiquing the execution by hanging of, among others, 38 Native Americans, was meant as just that — a critique. The point of all these works was resolutely antiracist.

Indeed, if one were to criticize them as political art, it would not be for expressing controversial positions. Just the opposite: Among the visitors to the Whitney Biennial or the Walker Art Center, the antiracism to which all these artists are committed is almost uncontested, and their politics could more plausibly be characterized as anodyne than outrageous.

So what got them in trouble? It wasn’t a belief in white supremacy; it was their embodiment of white privilege, the privilege that enabled them to treat something that didn’t belong to them as if it did. “Not Your Story” read a sign at the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, protesting “Scaffold.” “The subject matter is not Schutz’s,” wrote Hannah Black in her open letter to the curators of the Whitney Biennial. The idea here is that when white artists seek to “imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities,” as Hal Niedzvicki (a former editor of the journal of the Canadian Writers Union) recently urged all writers to do, what they’re really doing is less imagining other cultures than stealing from them. And, as the Equity Task Force of that same union put it in protest of Niedzvicki’s editorial: “The theft of voice, stories, culture, and identity are part of a long-standing settler agenda for cultural genocide and cannot be treated lightly.”

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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

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Adam Shatz reviews:  Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman (2017)

One of the great paradoxes of the Obama era is that it encouraged so many liberals, both black and white, to see the black experience in America not as a slow, arduous struggle for freedom culminating in the election of a black president – Obama’s version, not surprisingly – but as an unending nightmare. Not least among the reasons was that a black man of unerring self-discipline and caution, bipartisan to a fault, should have provoked such ferocious white resistance – fanned by the man who questioned the validity of his birth certificate and then succeeded him as president. This most eloquent champion of ‘post-racialism’ may have been the most powerful man in the world, yet he remained a prisoner of his race, of his ‘black body,’ as Ta-Nehisi Coates put it in Between the World and Me.[1] In the face of repeated police shootings of young black men or atrocities such as the church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, Obama did little more than deliver one of his formidable speeches. And – as he did in Charleston – sing ‘Amazing Grace’, as if only a higher power could cure America of its original sin, and end the nightmare.

The Perils of “Privilege”

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 Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage

Phoebe Maltz Bovy / St. Martin’s Press

INTRODUCTION: THE “PRIVILEGE” TURN

“[A] HORRIBLE PERSON”

In a freezing-cold flat in Berlin, I’m standing under the shower with the water turned up as high and hot as it will go. I’m trying to boil away the shame of having said something stupid on the internet. The shower is the one place it’s still impossible to check Twitter. This is a mercy. For as long as the hot water lasts I won’t be able to read the new accusations of bigotry, racism and unchecked privilege. I didn’t mean it. I don’t understand what I did wrong but I’m trying to understand.

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THE ABOVE RECOLLECTIONS, from a 2015 article in the New Statesman by the writer Laurie Penny, are where I wish to begin because they make up the most wrenching, but accurate, description that I’ve come across of what it can feel like to be called out online. The phenomenon she describes—the privilege call-out—is a new, if increasingly familiar, experience. Penny’s reaction—“I’ve spent very dark days, following social media pile-ons, convinced that I was a horrible person who didn’t deserve to draw breath”—may have been extreme, but such interactions aren’t the high point of anyone’s week. While I’ve never experienced quite that spiral, I know what it’s like to see a new blog comment or Twitter notification, and then another … followed, predictably, by the heart-racing realization that the Internet (and it always feels, in the moment, like the entire Internet) has found me out.

The outright hateful comments are, as Penny notes, easier to handle, in a way. As unpleasant as it was the week when neo-Nazi Twitter made me its Jewess-du-jour, and as frightened as I was during the weeks when pro-gun Twitter made it known what it thought about my anti-gun stance, there’s something more viscerally draining about an “unchecked privilege” accusation. What’s so useful about Penny’s description is that she hones in on two of the key reasons why that’s the case. One is, as she spells out, that the accusation manages to tap into the accused’s worst fears about her value as a person. The other, which she does not, is the lack of specificity. Unlike earlier generations of bigotry accusation, the privilege call-out is intentionally vague, while also, at times, hyperspecific. Either your privilege is showing, and you’re not entirely sure which form of privilege (let alone how to appropriately respond), or you’ve suddenly learned that you’re wrong because surely you’ve never worked in food service, something about which your interlocutor, a stranger on the Internet, is remarkably certain.

A privilege accusation prompts the accused to contemplate his or her unearned advantages, and—all too often—to publicly self-flagellate for the same. The less saintly among us, though, will soon remember (and, all too often, reply) that we haven’t had it quite as easy as our accusers imply. And sometimes the specific privilege accusation will have been inaccurate. Regardless of how, exactly, all of this plays out, one thing’s for sure: The conversation will have switched from one about some broader issue to the ultimately trivial question of our privilege.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself. What is this thing, “privilege,” and why is getting accused of possessing it so fraught?

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LA ’92: The context of a proletarian uprising

by Aufheben (1992)

Distorted by the bourgeois press, reduced to a mere ‘race riot’ by many on the left, the L.A. rebellion was the most serious urban uprising this century. This article seeks to grasp the full significance of these events by relating them to their context of class re-composition and capitalist restructuring.


April 29th, 1992, Los Angeles exploded in the most serious urban uprising in America this century. It took the federal army, the national guard and police from throughout the country five days to restore order, by which time residents of L.A. had appropriated millions of dollars worth of goods and destroyed a billion dollars of capitalist property. Most readers will be familiar with many of the details of the rebellion. This article will attempt to make sense of the uprising by putting the events into the context of the present state of class relations in Los Angeles and America in order to see where this new militancy in the class struggle may lead.

Before the rebellion, there were two basic attitudes on the state of class struggle in America. The pessimistic view is that the American working class has been decisively defeated. This view has held that the U.S. is – in terms of the topography of the global class struggle – little more than a desert. The more optimistic view held, that despite the weakness of the traditional working class against the massive cuts in wages, what we see in the domination of the American left by single issue campaigns and “Politically Correct” discourse is actually evidence of the vitality of the autonomous struggles of sections of the working class. The explosion of class struggle in L.A. shows the need to go beyond these one-sided views.

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Anti-identity

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White Purity

Among other things, whiteness is a kind of solipsism. From right to left, whites consistently and successfully reroute every political discussion to their identity…[read more]

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The Safety Pin and the Swastika

If you had read in early 2016 about a National Policy Institute conference on the theme of “Identity Politics,” you might have assumed it was an innocent gathering of progressives. If you had attended, you would have been in for an unpleasant surprise. The National Policy Institute is an organization of white nationalists, overseen by neo-Nazi media darling Richard Spencer…[read more]

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