By Jose Medina
With the 2020 elections being just a few weeks away, racial justice protests continue to be resolute in the face of adversity from both state and non-state actors. And the anti-racist movement must be aware that Trump may not peacefully yield the Presidency even if he loses the election.
That’s the perspective presented at a webinar on white nationalism and its relationships with the state this week, hosted by the National Lawyers Guild – the first racially integrated bar association that provides thousands of legal observers at demonstrations across the U.S.
The speakers were Clare Bayard of the Catalyst Project and Kali Akanu from Cooperation Jackson, who spoke on the current anti-racist movement’s struggles, future, and suggestions on things the movement needs to work on.
In short, the anti-racist movement has a lot of work cut out for them, but if there is one thing it has proven throughout this year, the speakers said, it is that the movement is resolute in pursuing deep systemic change.
Its members know that there are lives on the line, and if they were to give in to the intimidation of right-wing forces, then those lives will be lost. The movement will need to create new and innovative strategies and tactics to continue their fight for racial justice.
As Social Justice protestors continue to mobilize to combat deep systemic racism and state violence, they are constantly met with persistent opposition from both state and non-state actors, they said. Over the past years white nationalism has been on the rise, as seen through their presence in the US government and in the streets.
The rise of white nationalism has led to many instances of cooperation between the state and non-state right wing actors aiming to squander every chance that the anti-racist movement has to influence long-lasting change, the speakers noted.
ASSESSMENT OF THE CURRENT
Clare Bayard of the Catalyst Project spoke mostly about the analysis of the relationship between non-state far right forces and the US’s current far right authoritarian state. Bayard emphasized the importance of knowing these state and non-state forces and their relationship when it comes to the movement’s strategies to mobilize.
Bayard mentioned that “far-right non-state forces are large, varied, and particularly massive, but in this conversation we will focus on white supremacist armed groups and white nationalist groups.” Meaning that there are many groups which the movement must learn to identify while protesting in the streets, to better understand their relationship with the state.
Bayard added that the movement has been dealing with both long-term established militias and armed individuals who are all being invigorated by the Trump administration to come out and protect property from racial justice protestors.
The alliance between the state and these non-state actors can clearly be seen through federal announcements and policies that categorize racial justice protestors as internal threats to the state, Bayard said. Trump has repeatedly encouraged right-wing vigilantes to protect towns against protestors while deploying federal forces.
The state has also demonstrated a hands off approach towards dealing with right wing vigilantes while protestors are actively targeted, the speaker noted, adding there is also a cooperation between state and non-state forces when information on protestors of the left is released to the public so that it can be doxed by the far right.
Bayard advises that the anti-racist movement must improve and refine their safety practices. This is necessary with the rising presence of armed vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The movement must be bolder and smarter when creating strategies to ensure the safety of its members.
KALI AKANU’S TAKE ON THE MOMENT
Kali Akanu is with Cooperation Jackson and has been organizing the People’s Strike. He has also been a part of researching and writing reports on the murder of Black people by police security forces and vigilantes.
Akanu’s sobering analysis on the current political climate of the US and the rise of white nationalism looks towards the role of capitalism in the polarization of the right and left that has led to the rise of white nationalism.
Over the past few years, people under their 30’s have been struggling to achieve the same social upward mobility that their parents and grandparents achieved. They have experienced many economic crises within their lifetime and are now struggling with a pandemic. There is then a division among this group of people under the age of 30, especially among white people.
Akanu said those who have become critical of capitalism and its shortcomings from the economic hardships start to lean toward the left, while those who feel as though they are being displaced from what they feel is their rightful role in society lean more toward the right. These right-leaning people see Trump as their last hope.
Akanu reminds people that Trump has made it clear that he does not want to leave office and has put in place safeguards to preserve his power even if he were to lose the 2020 elections—which is seen with the judges he’s appointed on the Supreme Court and with staunch Trump supporters within Congress.
Top brass military officials have made it clear that they will not remove Trump from office if he were to lose the 2020 elections and refuse to leave office. They have said that they will leave the Supreme Court or the Senate to resolve the dispute of removing Trump from office. Obviously, that will be difficult with the immense influence he has over these two institutions, Akanu said.
Part of Akanu’s work is to monitor right wing conversations online. What he has found is that right wing actors are prepared to launch a low intensity warfare against left wing actors. This can be accredited to Trump actively comparing and contrasting his rule of law to “chaotic” Democratic led states where protests are being held.
Trump has been vocal about “fixing” these Democratic-led states by sending in federal forces and encouraging non-state right wing actors to handle these protests. Right wing actors have a coherent conversation about how they will support federal forces when the order is given
Akanu compared this moment to the rise of Jacksonian democracy in the past and to the set of compromises established during the end of the Reconstruction era. The end of the Reconstruction era was violent and this current moment seems to parallel that era of racial violence.
CRACKS WITHIN THE WHITE NATIONALIST WALL
While these state and non-state right wing actors seem to be an impenetrable force to be reckoned with, there are perceived vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can be boiled down to their differences in ideologies that may sow divisions between state and non-state right wing actors, according to Akanu.
There are many perceived tensions among various white nationalist groups. Difference in beliefs can play a role in these tensions. There are instances where Christian white nationalists do not want to organize alongside neo-Nazi groups, who lean toward Nordic and Satanists beliefs.
Differences in political goals also make it difficult for white nationalist groups to collaborate, the speaker said, explaining there are white nationalist groups who seek to destroy the US government, like the Boogaloo boys, while white nationalist groups, like the Tea Party, see the US government as something that needs to be restored.
There is this clear tension among white nationalist groups, Akanu said, adding some would like to do away with the US government while others say that they need to put minorities back in their place and elect people and create policies that will enforce white nationalist ideals.
Akanu suggests that the left movement must be skillful in both monitoring and interjecting against the state and non-state right wing actors. He argues that this can be done by having more racial justice left wing actors to disrupt right wing spaces as safely and anonymously as possible, such as engaging against the right wing actors in the digital and gaming world.
OPPORTUNITIES TO ACTIVELY ENGAGE AGAINST RIGHT WING ELEMENTS
As the US has been in some state of rebellion since May of this year, many state and non-state actors have been actively targeting the most visible leaders and organizations of the fight against deep systemic racism, the speaker said.
Akanu noted there are instances where protesting and rioting have become synonymous within the syntax of law enforcement and militias to mobilize white nationalist vigilante forces to protect property. Akanu addresses the hurdles the movement must overcome to engage against right wing threats.
Akanu acknowledges that the racial justice movement has a few issues. He argues that the movement lacks the necessary mechanisms to engage in coherent dialogue among themselves. Without that mechanism in place, the movement is unable to develop a coherent strategy.
It is important for organized forces within this movement to be in dialogue to make clear what they aim to accomplish, Akanu suggested, adding the movement needs to present their plan of action for long-term protests to foster dialogue among themselves (because) this is an opportunity for people within the movement to add their input to the movement’s objectives.
These deeper dialogues and discussions need to happen constantly so that they may effectively build support from people who cannot make it out to public protests. Movements must not be measured on how many people show up to protests. The conversations should aim to create instructions on how to engage against the right, argued Akanu.
Other points Akanu makes include:
- More conversations also need to happen where they address how the movement can provide mutual aid and legal assistance for participants. That way more people can feel safer when they go out of their way to support the movement.
- The importance for the movement to develop a program of a set of demands that moves beyond just voting out a fascist administration. The movement has proven it can effect change, but it must create a program through the dialogue and struggle of the participants of the movement.
- The movement must also engage in discussions with liberal actors. For the past months liberal actors have been pushing a narrative that the movement engages in what they deem is bad protesting and are constantly disassociating themselves from the movement.
- The movement must defend their right to protest by standing in solidarity with those that are penalized by the state and emphasizing that their actions follow the spirit of resistance that liberal actors tend to promote as good protests.
Akanu reminds the panel that although right wing forces are smaller than the movement, they are more trained than the movement and are deeply connected with the state. To combat right wing elements, the movement needs to have deeper dialogue and organizing among themselves.
DEFENSE FOR THE MOVEMENT
Akanu acknowledges as the movement continues to advance, it must continue to consider ways to defend itself in the face of economic calamity, in the face of a pandemic, and in the face of an administration that faces a crisis of legitimacy.
Akanu answers that mutual aid has proved to be an effective defense mechanism for the movement, and points out that mutual aid is an activity that fosters democratic engagement and direct participation. What people learn from mutual aid are the concrete material and social needs that exist within communities.
People who engage in mutual aid, Akanu said, must then start to build relationships that understand what everyone is good at and what everyone is willing to do in a time of crisis. This relationship then creates a level of solidarity that is vital for the movement’s defense.
It is critical that the movement starts laying a foundation of engaging and serving the people, and each member, in a unilateral democratic way to build up the movement’s defenses, said Akanu, maintaining that the movement must help with stocking up on basic needs for people that might need it in case of an emergency.
The creation of networks and supply lines of support for the people will be the key toward strengthening the movement’s defenses. In order for the movement’s networks to be sustainable the movement must look toward its members’ own realms of productive work and productive capacity.
Akanu stresses that the movement must continue to be in political dialogue when providing mutual aid. That way the movement can address how they will continue to meet the needs of the people and promote the democratization of society. This will in turn strengthen the movement in defending itself from the constant pushback from right wing actors.
STRATEGIES FOR THE WORST ELECTORAL OUTCOME
With all of the state and non-state forces going against the movement and with Trump showing signs of denying the legitimacy of an electoral outcome that is not in his favor, the movement must work to preserve the people’s right to vote, warned Akanu, who called for an active presence during election day to preserve democracy.
Akanu makes it clear that the movement needs to have people go out and protect the people’s right to vote on election day, organize to provide rides to the elderly or people who don’t have transportation to voting polls and providing aid to those who need it to express their right to vote is necessary for promoting democracy. Legal observers, from the movement, will need to go out to monitor polling sites to make sure intimidating forces don’t scare people from voting.
Akanu suggests that election day will be the prelude for what will happen in the coming months after the election. The movement will need to gather steam and mobilize in the event Trump does not accept the electoral outcome.
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