The Shape of Noise to Come

Prologue: HISTORY
The history of the oppressed in the US is a history of failures to avert the catastrophe of racial order: first as bloody tragedy, then as passive farce. The precondition of US industrial capitalism was slave labor, and the precondition of the trade labor movement was a racial ordering of difference. Any gain made through social struggles thus far has also been a gain made for capital and for the affirmation of the racial ordering of power. Each struggle, locked in a dialectic with the social, empties itself of the power to interrupt the catastrophe because the very concept of the social is paramount in founding the catastrophe of racial order. As an attempt to prevent civil war, racialization, like policing, owes much of its logic to Hobbes. In Hobbes and other enlightenment philosophers, an imaginary boundary separates the civil state and the state of nature: Law. This boundary marks the territory of the social. The racial program positioned “non-white” forms of life outside the care of law. This is how the lives of Africa could be met with despotic rationality. However, like all juridical operations of exclusion, racial order reaches its threshold at its origin. All forms of life reside in “the state of nature,” and the ones that seek to reduce this might just be a particular form of life. Thus Hobbes’ social program was always an imperial enterprise at subjectivation, and the boundaries of the social were flexible and based solely on something exterior to a subject or form of life. The enchantment of race in the US is not mere false consciousness, in which a planter class invents an an ideology which purports to materially benefit a portion of workers (white) while oppressing another portion (black). Rather the racial spell reduces every form of life, attenuates every ethical difference, and comes as part of a process of producing subjects that are governable and without sense. Racial order extracts every form of life from its world—and with it, memory. We forget both the good life and the horror of the past, which yearns for redemption.

Any struggle worth citing always assaults the meaning of the social, always reveals its taste for anarchy, and thus far, has always been brutally defeated. Like the workers who’ve forgotten both the Paris Commune and Chicago 1886, we continue to forget that our history is a history of civil war. And all of it—everything that conspires against us—to this day, prevails. We forget the sad self-defeat of New York 1863, the loss of the American Commune in which race, capital, and the state might have been abolished. And when slave insurrection and Reconstruction are invoked some hundred years later, the self-same failure is repeated. Progress—the narrative of Man’s accomplishments—marches over the past, loosely concealing the need to interrupt the catastrophe—the need for communism.

The Meaning of Wisconsin

Social movements act today as limitations that struggles must outmaneuver or overcome. In Wisconsin, contesting the management of the social worked to neutralize a latent ferocity and render the struggle an accomplice to its own racially coded anxieties. Arguably, the only political act in Wisconsin was recuperation. The Wisconsin struggle, in staking a claim in the social, self-regulated the exclusion and discipline of autonomous content and forms, thereby cutting the sinews of its greatest strength. This process functioned simultaneously to administer racial codes and barriers that all took place in the work of government. A different politico-historical conception of race and a corresponding strategy will arm us against these measures and prepare us for the crises ahead.

It began as a break with the certainty of work. It appeared first as spontaneous marches, walkouts, diffuse wildcat strikes—popular sick-outs complete with complicit doctors’ notes—and finally an occupation of the Capitol building in Madison. At the representative level, Democratic senators fled from sight, stumbling away from their roles. Each act of insubordination revealed the murky line between law and unlawfulness—for a moment, even the senators lost their appearance as politicians and accidentally co-authored a story of resistance to austerity.

A social movement appeared in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, our conditions don’t cohere socially. There is no unity of language, much less practice, and there is certainly no allegiance to what’s left of the institutions. The only unity available to us is that of capital. What should have immediately grown in intensity and frequency as an unpredictable counter-attack lined up behind the sad banner of better management of the social. It was precisely its appearance as a “social movement,” its stability and coherence, its simulacrum of civil rights, that led the Wisconsin struggle to its currently doomed path. The desire for legitimate subjectivity that governed the acts of even the most radical elements restricted the struggle’s ability to form communities and experiment with new languages. Even the anarchists could only be gagged by their image of blue overalls masses marching for the general strike. At each opportunity, they even sang lullabies of solidarity with police, rather than the terrible anti-state howl that only the anarchist can screech. Everyday subjects collectively imagined a struggle in Wisconsin, but not once did that imagination dirty itself with others. The moment that a new sense of community could be felt, those days when thousands of anti-austerity demonstrators faced off against the little Tea Party brown shirts, was the same moment the struggle in Wisconsin retreated to old roles and identities: precisely those granting one friendship with the police, and enemies with disorder.

What happened in Wisconsin in early ‘11 is inspiring on many levels, but nonetheless defensive and limited. In the period of one week the image of labor struggle in Wisconsin altered public discourse to include the scandal of “class.” However, in spite of the initial acts, no one who made their way to Madison, on our side of the barricades, did so in order to act politically. This failure is the terrain of our exploration.

Collective acts of interruption announce the coming of something else. During this moment—which, in the case of Wisconsin, stretched out for weeks—a time of the political is possible. Decision takes on its real power and uncertainty is revealed as potential. In the political moment, gestures that would have been empty at any other time become endowed with meaning. Decisions, ours or theirs, can have the power to smother a struggle or defend its barricades against the armed wing of progressive history. Here the struggle either grows or is added to the history of the vanquished.

Communication makes political action possible. The sense of We, as a collective force, is the outcome of a shared language. A struggle is composed of various languages and communities. Eventually the common negative element, not the positive, constitutes the struggle’s sense of we, a party. Even the old workers movement could only be named as such in its negative relation to capital. This is why today struggles function to reveal that there are two parties, the party of order—those who work to avoid the clash, the political moment—and the party of insurrection—those who work to hasten it.

The conditions in Wisconsin, although limited by the defensive nature of the discourse against “Governor Walker’s anti-union bill,” were arguably more favorable than most other struggles in the US in the last decade for such a moment. Judging by one demonstration in Madison alone, more than a hundred thousand people opposed the government’s austerity measures. More people opposed these measures than were at national demonstrations against the Iraq war, much less globalization. The level of spontaneous and grassroots organizing was breathtaking, enough for this nostalgic writer to forget his own cold skepticism for moment. Union halls actually had an interesting use, walls inside and around the capitol were covered in posters, and through various radical and social networking conduits, information spread quickly and appropriately both within and beyond Wisconsin. However, all of these means remained categorically separate from each other. No website, no space, no meeting point—besides the capitol—became a common hub of the struggle. The occupation by the anarchists and students in Milwaukee became a space from which to organize, but never established itself as the convergence point of a series of actions, mostly because there was no such series of actions. Although acting decisively on March 9 to distribute general strike pamphlets, the Industrial Workers of World (IWW) failed to actually develop practical forms of self organization that corresponded to their project. There were no strike committees, no general assemblies discussing the real logistics of a generalized halt of production and reproduction. Perhaps the IWW organization was already the wrong machination for these objectives, given its small membership, lack of funds, and limited network outside itself. Nonetheless, no one was getting organized to collectively provide for themselves once everyone and everything stopped working. Who wants to participate in a myth emptied of its material content? There is no political moment without collective practices that induce collective will.

Wisconsin is significant precisely because of these limits. It could have been the first of many developments in self-organized struggles against austerity, but for the time being, the struggle against austerity is hindered by its failure to initiate such forms and Wisconsin stands as a case study in this failure. The failures of the anarchists and the IWW are the most striking because of their composition and their ability to form an active minority position or communizing current within the struggle. Given the anarchists’ ethico-political imperative against the state, they still have much to contribute to the development of self organized forms. Given the IWW’s, clear anti-capitalist position, they (or something like them) are still positioned best to establish encounters with other organs and disseminate tactical information in situations like Wisconsin, even if their own programs will be a limit to their realization. The lack of self-organized forms can’t, and won’t, be the sole responsibility of the anarchists and the IWW, but such bodies do have an historical task to fulfill in the development and refining of a struggle because of what animates both—an irreconcilable antagonism. The events in Wisconsin prove that we can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on an any phantom of the left to give these antagonisms form. Neither social bodies, nor any other so-called radical actor, materially and substantially gave form to the desire for self-organization from which the initial acts of the struggle were born. Ultimately because of this failure, the thousands of tweets of “General Strike” on March 9 didn’t have the same sway as the prodigal politicians’ return from exile. During the week or so of the occupation and demonstrations the lack of self-organization as a form quickly gave rise to management, and the self-organized content of the struggle (i.e. various rebellious practices, languages, and intimacies) were quieted by the authoritative voice of management, or excluded from participation. This is how everyone went back to work on Thursday.

Wisconsin could have been a festival of disruption collectively authored by hundreds of thousands of people, but as I’ve shown, the process of giving form to the desire for self-organization was routed. The struggle was defeated politically through its own failure to engage in the political, to elaborate hostilities to the point of an intense friend/enemy distinction. The struggle was not only defeated because of its own failures in this regard, but these failures and limits are the outcome of the process that manages the composition, language, desires, demands, tactics, and imagination of a struggle. That is, the work of government. As I will reveal in the next section of this text, the work of government that includes the calculated, decentralized, distribution of subjectivities, endows racial subjects with a particular significance, and this significance has, and continues to have, catastrophic results. What can oppose this work of government from within a struggle? Because government now consists in the management of a dissolving society, and any rupture opens up the potential for new relations, the insurrectional hypothesis becomes the most sensible revolutionary wager. Given the racial implications of governance in the US, the insurrectional hypothesis also becomes the most sensible method through which to avert the racial catastrophe. While Foucault donning the black mask does not a revolution make, the police, middle class, media, and medical industry all acquire a racializing function in the US that only a war with everything as its object can affect.

Someone said race is the linchpin to exploding the social order in the US. I want to revisit this proposition in light of Wisconsin and the discourse of anti-austerity. Not to say that had there been a bunch of guilty-ass-white people trying to make the unions enunciate “privilege,” the outcome and current trajectory of the struggle in Wisconsin would be different. There are many such people already employed by unions after their stints at Common Ground in New Orleans, or after a visit to the Bay to go through a Catalyst Project training. On the contrary, my provocation is thus: The party of capital strategically targeted Wisconsin to make a spectacle of its austerity bill because the racial representation of that public sector labor movement is a better wager than say, Chicago, for things to not get out of hand.

Wisconsin constitutes one of the most racially segregated states in the US, with Milwaukee as the number one city. The fact that the struggle against austerity took place in Madison, a “white college town” as neutralized as any other (instead of the gritty streets of Milwaukee), is no coincidence. On the terrain of struggle, the GOP, the police, and the unions were in accord, and their shared “political civility” campaign was the icing on the cake. Selling the unions legitimacy in trade for governable demonstrations kept power flowing to the proper conduits. This excluded any belligerent practices from ruining the image of the white middle class demanding that things return to normal. The spectacle of the anti-austerity struggle in Wisconsin worked to administer the framework of who would be predicated as a legitimate opposition to austerity measures and how austerity could be opposed. This process, in which the white bourgeois individual with a strong work ethic becomes the legitimate subject of opposition, and passive and legal means become the only means of opposition, is realized by writing austerity as an attack on the middle class.

Middle class is code for white—never mind that neither category has any substance. When “defend the middle class,” became a common slogan of the struggle, it was already entangled in the process of its own racialization. The struggle in Wisconsin was strategically represented as white. The real composition of ‘who is affected by austerity measures’ will not only be those white people who see pictures of themselves in the media, butit’s not problematic that the composition of demonstrators who are trying to learn how to fight includes people with “white” as a property. The problem is not the real composition of the struggle. Everyone is increasingly proletarianized, and as it grows into insurrection the struggle will call into question every “people,” and every property. The problem is the concrete limit of the representation of the struggle as white and the racial discourse coded into austerity.

A struggle against austerity in the US reflects the loss of faith in the ability of politicians and capitalists to manage social life and regulate the economy. In many ways, the previous contracts that ensured social peace have reached their expiration date. Like capitalists who must imagineer a new bubble to replace the housing market, politicians must scramble to find something resembling stability that workers will invest in. If the discourse of austerity can be written as a fight, with one side against loss of jobs and another in favor of reducing government spending, the image of compromise can successfully placate antagonisms and conceal what (and who) is already excluded. However, if the discourse of austerity is written as a fight between an excess that has to be cut off or transformed and an increasingly limited, if not exterior, zone of work that must find ways to keep its logic the only option, then it becomes clear that self-organization is the hinge on which any future lies. From the position of the party of order, self-organization must come to mean self-management, it must be voluntary austerity; from our position it must come to mean ungovernable.

This process, which transforms self-organizing content into self-regulating subjects, played out perfectly in the Wisconsin, and the racialization of the struggle as white assisted it at every turn. If austerity was denounced on placards, it was enforced in the streets. The capitol in Madison becoming the focal point for struggle reduced the ability of many people to participate simply by locating the struggle geographically distant from the real front lines of the war. Who can make it to Madison to demonstrate when the bus lines don’t even run in your neighborhood? On the other hand, even when the struggle was animated by a more emotive sensibility, the anger was always quieted. The occupied Capitol never once forced out the police, nor did the demonstrators leave their mark with anything besides masking tape and posters. While the participation of a demographic that wasn’t only in its early 20s is inspiring, we still have to realize that an event that can ensure the safety of the family is no event at all. Intensity and police confrontation are frightening but should not be sufficient factors to exclude people older than 22. And every struggle worth mentioning has been composed of a diversity of ages, in spite of police violence. But this little white lie—the hallmark of the managers of revolt ever since the civil rights movement—was effective in Wisconsin. The discourse of privilege was mobilized in order to pacify the unruly elements. The plea to not endanger “women and children” (and sometimes “elders” are given that “innocence” status), despite dripping with patronizing overtones, never ends up actually creating a space in which restraint is demonstrated in order to communicate sensitivity to risk. On the contrary, such measures always end up reducing all sense and communicating nothing to those at-risk subjects who wish to fight. Instead struggles replicate the models of inclusion and representation practiced by democratic governments and businesses, always speaking the same wienery language, and authorized by the same white benevolence. The family-friendly demonstrations, the self-policing, the neutral relation to police and politicians, and the civility afforded to the Tea Party essentially gagged the struggles lips and tied its limbs. In accepting the terms of the politicians, media, police, and unions, the struggle in Wisconsin was represented as white, and geo-socially located in a white territory. This cut off a large portion of the public sector in Milwaukee, and reduced the struggle’s capacity to pose a threat to the normal flows of power. Instead of self-organized forms resonating and reverberating in other forms of self-organization against austerity, the struggle in Wisconsin imposed its own austerity measures—specifically against the excess of non-white political desire.

Both sides of authority in the US need austerity to be a white discourse. They need it be represented as a crisis for whites that only a reconfiguration of whiteness can solve. The left needs to recall the the promise of the middle class, even that of a distorted version of Martin Luther King Jr’s dream, to stake a claim and defend the borders of public sector job-security against the private sector precariousness The right on the other hand, needs to recall the same promises—through some Davey Crockett, rugged individual shit—in order to prepare a majority of the population (who won’t be white, as it happens) to roll up its sleeves, and believe in a future only possible through competition. The left needs its demonstrations to be polite, orderly, and family-oriented in order to maintain public legitimacy and to reveal to the right that it’s willing to bargain. The right needs the same thing, but in order for the struggle to never grow into the no-mans land of a non-white, or anti-social desire—which functionally achieve a similar thing. The irony is that the falling rate of profit resulting in global economic turmoil means neither side can afford to bargain, which is why this is happening in the first place. Put bluntly, they need to recite the promises of whiteness in order to have anything resembling power over an increasingly fucked generation and previous generations that are going to lose every gain they ever had. But who’s going to fall for that trick again? Apparently, most of the activist-left. In Europe the strategic deployment of the discourse of citizenship (civil duty, etc) often takes the place of racial jargon in the US. It’s used to force struggles into passive trajectories that end at the tombstone of compromise. Given the fact that austerity is about forced self-reductions of a population’s access to wealth and services—we could say making the economy even more intertwined through us and at the same time more foreign to us—wouldn’t the deployment of racial codes in order to achieve voluntary reductions and partnerships with the police also follow the same logic? How peculiar that this arrives at the same time when the racial configuration of power that functioned to reproduce white-supremacy in the US for centuries is now having internal errors. The inclusion of whites into the libidinal economy of police bullets1 corresponds to the fact that the Leave it to Beaver-ass-American dream now consists of working in precarious service industry conditions, eternally in debt, with some horrible catastrophe as the only foreseeable future. The struggle in Wisconsin had to be managed from this viewpoint, because Greece ‘08 is just around the corner2.

Given the unique political history of the US, race occupies a special category of inquiry. Both classical politics and modern Marxist political-economic ideology inadequately approach the problem of racial order. Neither hypotheses can reconcile the forms of life that are captured and attenuated as racial subjects with the forms of life’s inclinations to wander. Moreover neither hypothesis has thus far articulated race as an apparatus: a set of practices, bodies of knowledge, measures and techniques aimed at achieving a strategy of governance. Race must be rethought and confronted as an apparatus. No struggle will grow into generalized insurrection insurrection without a decisive assault on the racial apparatus. This is true in Wisconsin and for the burgeoning anti-austerity struggle in the US, as it was true for the former US anti-globalization movement, who retreated to its bedroom once its liberal identity was called into question by 9/11.

  • 1. Since ‘08, murders of whites by police bullets across the US have been higher than any other time since the depression. While there’s thus far very little statistics, a news google search, reveals an upsurge in police-subtraction of whites. Brian Wilkins, a blogger on Operation Nation, complied a list detailing white-death by police from March 09-10 counting 8 bodies eliminated. Add the white president of a UNC fraternity in North Carolina, Courtland Smith (2010), and 21 year old goth in Long Island, Anthony Digerinimo (2011) to Mix. It would be foolish to suggest this means that Obama is reversing the role of police, which is the argument of white-supremacist rhetoric. What this potentially means is that capital needs to overcome the limits of race, in order to be able to restructure the economy with a majority of value extracted from superfluous labor. Not by abolishing racial order, but by democratizing its police-operations. I could go on and on, but I think Giorgio Agamben’s suggestion that Bare Life is the a priori of all subjects reveals the intelligence of this governmental operation.
  • 2. “Fuck 68, fight now!” marked the Greek revolt with a telling contemporary fervor. The Greek rioters rendered rebellion as both really existing and citable. The fact that the media attempted to capture what was enroute as the revolt of the “600 Euro Generation” should not go unnoticed either. While there’s no doubt that it was those precarious surplus laborers who felt immediately attacked by Alexandros Grigoropoulos’s death, it was also Albanian and Turkish immigrants, factory workers, farmers, students, house-wives—a slew of everyday subjectivities. In particular, Greece represented a swerve within the normal flows of struggles we’ve witnessed after anti-globalization. When the anti-CPE struggle emerged in France, invoking that same 600 Euro Generation, it could not communicate in a meaningful way to those in Banlieues who rioted against their conditions only a few months earlier. Instead of the blockades resonating across all French boundaries, they were limited to predictable student protagonists. Greece on the other hand, perhaps in its negativity, born from the annihilation of malfunctioning subjects, grew beyond this little container in Exarchia. For those capitalists shaking in they boots about the tremors of global economic crisis, Greece invokes a specter of inter-ethnic class struggle that doesn’t even want the reforms they could lie about imposing. Given the fact that the Oscar Grant riots in Oakland come immediately afterward in Jan ‘09, we can tip our hat to the capitalist paranoias. However, the self-organized measures that were taken in Greece to learn practical lessons from France’s mistakes are not what we might expect when we think of anti-racist organizing.

Racial Apparatus and White Supremacy

Race is an apparatus through which power is ordered. The term apparatus is useful because it reveals the essential juridico-politico-theological operation of managing what is separated from the whole. How the life common to all beings (zoe) becomes the life of particular beings (bios). Apparatuses categorize and catalog, transforming difference into distinction. In the regime of law, apparatuses function to take that which is excluded from the law and reintegrate it under the care of the law as unlawful. This is how a body passes from legal subject to criminal subject and still maintains its governability. Apparatuses function to produce governable subjects. White-supremacy is one way to describe the outcome of the racial apparatus in the US, both historically and presently. The operation of the racial apparatus is to create a licit racialized subject (white) and an illicit racialized subject (non-white). In this way the rituals of excess and expenditure can be performed, antagonisms can be directed into competition for recognition, and capital can rely on surplus populations from which to extract value. The racial apparatus serves ideological white-supremacists, but it functions autonomously.

US white-supremacy is a politico-theological program. It grants an imagined community of whites the moral imperative to seize North America for themselves and suppress all other forms of life, which are subjectivized racially (with an emphasis on blackness). Whereas no one would argue the police in the US aren’t structurally racist, they also aren’t as an institution ideologically promiscuous. They serve the concept of the People—which needs its inclusions/exclusions to justify itself—but ultimately must enforce reductions of antagonisms and protect the People’s right to private property. If the police were to trade management of racial and social order for enmity with racialized subjects—if they were to admit that they were a white-party in a war of annihilation against blackness—they would abolish their own legitimate use of force, and thus smash the illusion of their legitimate authorization (of so much black death). The police care about who is criminalized, and thus to be suspected, arrested, incarcerated, and murdered. They are a part of the racial apparatus that reproduces white-supremacy, but they need not be white-supremacist partisans.

Like capitalism, white-supremacy was one among many hypotheses of enlightenment-thought. Like capitalism, it was the concerted effort of a party. Concrete material practices overthrew and defeated other regimes of difference and brought white supremacy into fruition. Finally like capitalism, it has grown free from its hypothetical category and become normal. One only speaks of “the economy,” as one only speaks of “race.”

The discourse of the US anti-austerity struggle, coded in racial-terms and represented as white, is a limit to the struggle’s expansion and development. However, a global anti-austerity struggle has a similar character and potency as did the late anti-globalization struggle, but without the same day dreams of alternatives. The French banlieue Riots in ‘05 then Greece in ‘08, represent this particular overcoming. Strikes, occupations, and riots against austerity in the US would play an important role in figuring anti-austerity as a struggle that can really begin to attack. Because of this, capital sleeps unwell. The negativity of our times suggests that any struggle that can grow will be far more unpredictable and antagonistic than previous “social movements.” However, without the deactivation of racial apparatuses, even a racially diverse struggle in the US will be out-gunned by the armed partisans of white-supremacy and what is not subtracted will continue to be forcibly included into the global multi-cultural petty bourgeoisie.

Strategic and Tactical Considerations for the Deactivation of Racial Apparatuses in the Art of Insurrection

Concepts of anti-racism are themselves increasingly captured by the racial apparatus, but dripping with contradictions. Humanistic strategies can be seen at work with the inclusion of a blackness without content (i.e. blackness stripped of history) into the global multi-cultural petty bourgeoisie. However, the prisons industry still functions as a renaissance in slavery. On the other hand, a discourse of privilege, born out of the struggles of the ‘60s proliferates to the point of normality—complete with reference points on television sitcoms1—but the trainings on white privilege never once articulate the armed antagonism of which it originates. Nor does the privilege discourse account for how the condition of places in the economy that were once coded-non-white, and female are becoming indiscernible from other places in the economy—care, desiring, and other affective labor. All these strategies essentially reduce, conceal, and quiet the intensities of forms of life, rather than mark wayward points for escape. A tenable concept of race in the US, must necessarily take this into consideration and exploit the fractures where various miseries meet.

The weakness of counter-attack in the US is in many ways the poverty of both a politico-historical conception of the racial apparatus and lack of sensitivity to the details of how this apparatus conjoins with others in the work of government. Because the function of apparatuses is to produce subjects, and subjects are predicated juridically by law, any anti-racism or attack on racial the apparatus will take the form of an assault on governance (more so than the character of traditional class-struggle). The failure of the ‘60s-’70s anti-racist discourses (e.g. revolutionary anti-imperialism) and their current trajectory as “whiteness studies” corresponds to this. Whereas, they can argue in broadest sense, that the white worker has more material interests in common with the black or brown worker than those who own the means of production, there is no specific understanding of the processes governing those interests. It might be easy enough to say those dudes are just a bunch of leftists who don’t understand that communism is contingent on the proletarian abolishing itself as a class, but that still misses the mark, and doesn’t reveal how the spread of anarchy2 corresponds to a deactivation of apparatuses. There is an economy at work in the production of racialized subjects, but there is no reconciliation through the channels of economic subjectivity (liberal or revolutionary), because racialized subjects, at their core, are animated by desires for a world without work and without predicates.

The old hypothesis: Race Traitor. Race is socially constructed, therefore it can be socially deconstructed. Because the signifer of privilege is white skin, a significant portion of the white working class could act in such a way that confused the flows of privilege. In the ‘60s and ‘70s this meant joining with national liberation movements in armed struggle against the state. In many ways David Gilbert, a white combatant of the Weather Underground and Revolutionary Armed Task Force of the Black Liberation Army stands as the best example of this strategy. As the story goes during a Federal Bank truck hold-up, there is a shoot out. Most of his comrades—who are black—are killed, and he is shot, captured, and given 2 life sentences for the murder of an armed guard—of which he is still serving. Suffice to say that even in the tumultuous ‘60s and ‘70s, no more than a few dozen whites ended up picking up the gun in the US in order to join with vanguardist Marxist-Leninist organizations to have an adventure in refusing privilege. Nonetheless, even those who did, did so out of a deep moral guilt, rather than ethico-political penchant—much less out of class interests. The operation of the white race-traitor can only refuse white-privilege; it cannot on its own deactivate the racial apparatus. Failing to understand how the machinations of Spectacle cooperate with racialization, the race-traitor strategy is doomed to merely produce a wounded white subject—a scandal, certainly, but not a rupture. David Gilbert, in being indistinguishable from the black bodies opening fire, loses his white-privilege and his body becomes a magnet for police bullets, however the moment his body is desecrated, the first part of the sacrament is complete, and the processes of resubjectivation in which a white modified by his radicalness is put before the judgment of the law can be carried through. Gilbert’s comrades, on the other hand, are simply erased.

New developments: capitalism is causing a crisis in racial order. Racial codes and symbols will have to be reconfigured. The violence that fetishized the black body for centuries is becoming promiscuous. Like the unsaid demand of labor in the anti-globalization movement for protectionism, resistance to austerity will come from racial anxieties. Whites are terrified of inhabiting a condition of precariousness that was previously reserved for black and immigrant labor. Right-wing grassroots organizations, like the Tea Party and Minute Men, exploit these anxieties to form a citizenist counter-insurgent force that can act metaphorically and literally as capital’s shock troops. Leftist grassroots organizations, like those that shifted discontent into the Obama campaign, form a citizenist counter-insurgent force that exhaust and bore struggle by directing it through the maze of contemporary politics. Both have the same call to arms: “Society must be defended!” On the other hand, the generation aged 35 and below already experience some of the shifts concretely. Already for many of them, the promises of whiteness as echoed by middle-class myths, have already been undermined. This has happened both because the strange flows of the economy have abandoned many college graduates to stand behind bars, take orders, and ask polite questions, and because liberal progressivism has forced the black body into its awkward diverse photo-op. The gang mentality that offered non-white youth meaningful employment/survival will likely spread across racial boundaries. The isolated violence of school shooters is the outcome of those already futureless youth who have not yet figured out how to form gangs—but it’s intensity will not be reduced once they do Given the fact that all employment will become more precarious, white marginally employed, unemployed, and service sector workers will grow, and might begin to form a larger portion of the prison population. Anti-austerity struggle will be an uncertain discourse until these dynamics are worked out. But this uncertainty is precisely what is advantageous. If we can work to overcome the limits placed on us by racial apparatuses, an anti-austerity struggle can form the kernel from which ungovernable forms of life proliferate, encounter each other, and act as a party against capital and the state.

Like the race-traitor strategy, we constitute an active minority. However, unlike them, we should have no illusions of vanguards or humanism. Their previous configuration of racial antagonisms as black vs white has its residue in today’s racial apparatus, but the ideology of white-supremacy vs anti-racism is impotent in the face of imperial operations of capital to overcome race as limit to its expansion and race as an antagonism that interrupts the free flow of capital. Without drawing lines we cannot defend, we must intensify the antagonisms of race strategically. Race war is the unspeakable scandal of black rage, but what is the unspeakable scandal of forms of life?

As an active minority we can have agency from within a struggle. We can set the tone for how a struggle announces itself, and what tactics and operations are sensible. This art is performed through experimenting with resonance. As mentioned before, the police are the living acts of apparatuses; in the US the police play a particular role in racial subjectivation. Any attack against the police reveals their inability to govern and helps to undermine their legitimacy. Because of their role in managing all subjects, police are a strategic absolute enemy. The point however is not to simply cause the police harm, or declare them illegitimate, the gesture must be an attempt to communicate and reverberate existing hostilities. From within the anti-austerity struggle we should be the flash of lightning that adds paranoid sweat to the police slumber, and to others, that which illuminates the night. others.. Either as a gang, or as a party, depending on how many of us can join up, we should anonymously realize the anti-police pole.

In Jan ‘11 in Milwaukee around 100 youth, mostly black, organized a flash mob and ran riot through the Mayfair Mall. The theoretical role of the active minority should be to articulate how this and events like it relate to the struggle against austerity. For example how black youth, the preferred feast of the prison monstrosity, are refusing to be excluded from racially coded spaces (either by curfew or by geographic barriers) and are using social technologies, to demand nothing intelligible to power, but attack these social spaces. Which is to say, they are refusing to go along with the plan that cuts them out of the happiness preserved for others, and instead are finding different ways to be happy.

In Madison, an active minority could have organized an unruly contingent or called for an autonomous march. It could have made nocturnal attacks on Republican headquarters and developed the tactical sensibility of the struggle. The students that walked out from Rufus King High School and angrily marched for hours more than likely would not be scandalized by such developments. Had elements of the walkouts at the University of Wisconsin (in Madison and Milwaukee) had the strategic foresight, they could have elaborated the antagonisms present by simply having the material capacity (e.g. a mobile sound-system) to transform the pious marches into a disruptive festival, that for whatever reason, tend towards conflict with the police. The next place anti-austerity rears its head we must be prepared to act decisively. However, the total project of deactivating racial apparatuses will not be completed in an instant. Anti-austerity has to come to connote anti-police.

This work is done by developing an anonymous anti-police presence. We must hone in on present tensions, and historical tragedies that pave the architecture of every city. We must practically remember and invoke the ghosts whose labor and deaths are between each brick. Every city has its pogrom, and most don’t tend to hide it too much. Our task will be to reveal the everyday function of the police in the city as camp. Establish territories in the city as communes that feel themselves increasingly exterior and foreign to police orders. The Exarchia neighborhood in Greece and Kreuzberg Berlin in Germany are good examples. Riots against police have become the disposition of their inhabitants. The disposition against the police made the Greece ‘08 revolt an overcoming of the limits (the student-immigrant divide) that were presented by the previous round of struggles. It’s possible a riot in Madison would have ended in a mess, and never spread to Milwaukee, or Green Bay but even if this had been the case there would be no question that some people also don’t want the promise of liberal society. And this would have been a step in undermining the racial apparatuses at work in austerity.

Racial order will not be collapsed simply by riots, but the riot is how the city speaks. The trick of racial apparatuses at work in the city is to imply that the language of those subjectivized racially is incommensurable. The ontological, historical, and social difference of white and non-white bodies is to appear an impasse outside the universal language of capital. Racialized subjects have not shared a common form of life outside of the forms predicated on capital (music, youth subculture, and anti-capitalism). The negative element, the so-called “anti-social”, possesses the greatest possibility of communication. Practically, when we encounter a form of life organized through friendship, when we share a common need for anonymity, looting, improvised activity, when we co-operate across racial barriers, when an ambush of the police is reinforced, when the wealth of a mugged yuppie or a robbed bank is distributed collectively, when we share the space to talk intimately with each other, then we can begin to say we’re fighting racism. But all of this is contingent on attempting to communicate.

Like every struggle before it, the struggle against austerity will grow into an insurrection against the present state of things or it will fade into a reference point for what the next struggle will have to remember and redeem. The global crisis presents the US with a unique possibility. Unlike the previous cycle of struggles from the ‘90s to the early ‘00s, anti-austerity takes place in a environment of extreme social dissolution and disillusionment. The racial catastrophe, which every struggle up till now has failed to avert, still faces us and conjures the image of the camps. On the other side of anti-austerity an armed counter-insurgent force hovers. But, at its fold there lies some something else: redemption. The crisis in racial order will not be completed by a refusal of its privileges, race will brought to its threshold by a letting go, a falling into the forms of life masked by racial subjectivity. This operation will be achieved as it is always achieved through going with the struggle, following its line of power and raising CIVIL WAR to its highest forms. Today, we say: we won’t pay for their crisis, we won’t invest in this society. We want something else, and we need the freedom to experiment with what that might be, but first EVERYTHING—especially the ways we are predicated as citizens, as workers, as subjects, as a governable body—must come to halt.

  • 1. Tina Fay as Liz Lemmon on 30 Rock never misses the opportunity to make ironic reference to her white privilege and white guilt. Some would argue that she, and Dave Chapelle work to undermine racialization by exposing it as absurd and neutralizing its intensities, but I think it just made more bloggers work for the Obama campaign and assume a post-race position that fits nicely with the desire of global multi-cultural pettty bourgeoisie
  • 2. Theorie Communiste might have said “the movement of riots” in referring to the ‘08 Greek revolt in their essay The Glass Floor

Appendix: CIVIL WAR

Civil war abolishes the condition of social peace. It reveals the paradox of sovereignty. It liberates the contingencies of a population’s governability and replaces them with the possibilities of a free play between forms of life. Consequently civil war is what that dick-beard Hobbes was attempting to prevent with his theory of sovereignty and the modern State. civil war is also objectively what was realized by the War of Religions in Europe in the 1540s that only ended with suppression of all the sects by the modern State. civil war is governmental apparatuses’ maximum antagonism.

Slavery was abolished by civil war, not by its historical victors (the union army of the North). The famed Emancipation Proclamation amounted to kind words, as are often given by politicians. The self-organization of slaves in 1863 amounted to a diffuse general strike.

Elaborated by the armed hostilities of the Party of northern capital, the underground railroad, insurrectional murders, and plantation revolts, a Hobbesian nightmare spread across the southern Confederacy, quickly making its territories ungovernable, and shattering social order. Following the surrender of Robert E. Lee, the radical wing of the Republican Party imposed a series of policies on the South which came to be known as the period of Reconstruction. What followed was in many ways the recuperation of the intensity of antagonism that gave birth to the civil war and the self-suppression of autonomous practices that made the Confederacy fall. Sojourner Truth Organization argues that by 1871 in South Carolina, a virtual “dictatorship of the proletariat” convened to write a new state constitution. Half former slaves, the other half so poor that they paid no taxes. Considering the legislation passed by these officials—child labor laws, free public education, women’s property rights, credit structures to enable the poor to obtain land—it wouldn’t have been a far push that a struggle could have emerged that called property itself into question. However, nothing of the sort happened. STO argue that this was a fundamental failure on the part of the white Left and the union movement,

So it was that New York in 1871 witnessed a march of 20,000, demonstrating solidarity with the workers of Paris. 20,000 radicals who were able to took across the ocean to the Paris Commune but were unable to look five hundred miles to the South to the South Carolina commune! (Introduction to the US, Sojourner Truth Organization)

Trapped in the web of bureaucracy, and confronted by the Klu Klux Klan and militant white-supremacist organizing, Reconstruction efforts were soon called off, Northern troops were called back (and redeployed against railroad workers in 1877), and had it not been for W.E.B. Debois, the so-called South Carolina Commune would have been erased from history.

Whereas the official line of Ignatiev and the anti-racist Left would have us believe the decisive moment was in 1871, I can’t help but see the failure already taking place through the programmatic seizure of power. Which is to say the catastrophe, in which a new racial apparatus is born and legal white-supremacy is reconfigured, is the moment the self-organization of slaves and former-slaves is reduced to an ordered hierarchy under the rule of the Party of northern capital.

This is for two reasons. First, the figure of civil war as insurrection never took on its essential political character; the content that made it up was directed toward existing democratic forms subordinated to law and norm, when its content was almost wholly anti-democratic—especially in the south. Struggles that enunciate the grammar of the State (e.g, Law), already dig their own mass-grave, and had white proletarians in the north saw their desire for social equality in that of former slaves, the history books would have been drastically different, but the ultimate racial outcome would have prevailed, because blackness in 1871 as today, is figured outside of enlightenment concepts of the social and Marxist progressive concepts of history and revolutionary subjectivity. Marxist political-economy, and pre-marxist leftism in the US fail to arrive at a theory capable of undermining the force of subjectivation. Economic thought could only position white workers in the US antagonistic to the potential of former-slaves and abolition, and even with a more ambitious strategy of workerism (the self-valorisation of the working class), the proletarian operation (abolishing class society) is limited to be defined by those operations of government that made “worker” a subject valuable enough to exploit—unlike the “slave” who could be erased for pleasure. Through this strategy the former slave could not be approached as a potential comrade in the war against capital—a partisan or similar form of life—only as a competition.

On the other hand, Had white proletarians, refused the economism of their leaders, had the 1863 Draft Riots been directed at white workers condition as proletarians, culminating in occupations of territory and expropriation of wealth, a rupture with racial order could have been precipitated by 1871 because the means with which to speak against capital and the state would have been established. The Maroon Commune, communities of the indigenous and escaped slaves, offer the most provocative example for how race antagonisms in 1863 could have been rethought. Obviously still missing the mark, northern white labor never encountered the Seminole or other Maroon communes as comrades, but Maroon communities offered a swerve in 19th century politics. Had it been possible for white workers, through their own unique Blanquism—if propaganda of the deed and the barricades via radical abolitionism had emerged within the US workers movement in the 19th century—to locate dispositions to resist their subjectivation, their condition as workers, a tigers leap outside the confines of liberal politics might have been possible. And by 1865 a different civil war might have come into play between the capitalist form of life and the communist. Only communes could abolish the property of race. Second, the catastrophic moment was the result of an ontological failure to abolish race. The legal subject of a black-citizen (an African American) provokes a crisis in the previous racial order, but it does not complete the abolition of race as category or a property. On the contrary, the subjectivation of black bodies as citizens produces a paradox in the racial order of power—because the race apparatus must have licit and illicit users—and an ontological impasse for blackness. If to be black, even after the war, means a referent to slavery and capture (and reduction of a previous form of life), then there is no program, even if power is seized, that can liberate the black body from ontological terror of blackness. In a word, the apparatus that subjectivizes the black body—the racial apparatus that attaches itself to police, to medicine, to the state,to publicity, to academia, to entertainment—all must be rendered inoperable. Without the destruction of the world that produced the condition of blackness as slave, and the world that reproduces the condition of blackness as excess, there is no emancipation from slavery. Not in 1863, not in 2011.