The recent t protests in the United States involve many movements with extremely varied aims, mainly liberal anti-racist and a few overtly anti-capitalist leftist (including anarchist and communist). It seems many protesters are on the streets for the first time and becoming further politicised in the process. But there are also tiny white supremacist groups, buoyed by the White House supremacist in chief, bankrolled by a few millionaires, and magnified by the mainstream press (such as the pandemic-denying, violent, gun-toting protesters in various states pressuring governors to end lockdowns or movement restrictions). A minority of such white supremacists are also likely behind a couple of shooting deaths of protesters over the past few days.
As I understand it, most protesters, alongside now some major firms and prominent athletes, just want racism (including institutional racism) and police brutality to stop and for officers to be finally held legally accountable for their actions. Even police chiefs in some cities are joining protesters, string with Flint, Michigan. Reformist demands may so far prevail, but there are groups openly connecting police brutality and racism to capitalism, via the housing crisis, layoffs, mass incarceration, huge healthcare disparities, and much else that is horrific about life in the largest economy in the world. Among those clamouring for meaningful, lasting change are the movements coalescing about People’s Strike (see Home – People’s Strike), who have been organising monthly actions across the US since May Day of this year.
As protests spread, intensify, and ebb, it must be understood that the US racism problem is the social reference for the Americas and Europe, where racism developed and was forced on the rest of the world. Anti-racism is a way of including many other issues, like historical reparations for slavery and genocide, land theft, wealth concentration, etc. Anti-racism is directly calling into question the very foundations of the US, which is racism, and from that flow also criticisms of economic inequalities (now under neoliberalism), and colonialism, imperialism, and much else that is the trappings of capitalism, not just the United States as a historical polity. Anti-racism is inseparable from other social issues, as the question of racism is a crucial social question to which all else is tied. This, to simplify, is among the great lessons from the many African and African-descendant intellectuals and fighters who have shown how capitalism is founded on racialised and heterosexist oppression (see the works of Angela Davis, Huey Newton, Cedric Robinson, Walter Rodney, Thomas Sankara, and Malcolm X, among other luminaries).
The immediate demands from the People’s Strike movement reflect to a large extent this rich heritage of anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggle, including in the United States. Those demands are listed below. The current revolts have a deep, if checkered background in the United States. There has been a radical left in the US since at least the 1840s, peaking by 1880s-1920s, during which extreme repression was meted out (assassinations, summary executions, internments, deportations, imprisonments, etc). For the most part, with few exceptions like the Industrial Workers of the World, the anti-capitalist left was rather weak on anti-racist and decolonisation and often even racist. The much more overt radical re-awakening of the 1960s-1980s met with another big wave of repression, especially against radical leftist organisations like the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement, and the Young Lords.
Right now, among much other leftist ferment, there is another surge of radical leftist organising, brewing since the 1990s (emerging with such revolts as the Seattle protests in 1999). Among the outcomes so far is the expanded interest in the Democratic Socialists of America, who have made some important inroads within the Democratic Party and with representation in the US Congress, but there are also other socialists who have been gaining a seat at the administrative table, whether at the city or state level, such as in Seattle and in the New York State Senate. This level of formal political representation of the radical left has not happened since the early 1900s, with the peak popularity of forces like the Socialist Party of America. With a younger generation who deem socialism a future to fight for, we should expect another wave of anti-leftist repression, but this time the historical tide may finally turn in favour of the radical left. May the current protests be the initiation of this new tide to an egalitarian, classless, ecologically sane world.
US People’s Strike Demands
Protect All Frontline Workers
in the Hospitals, the Supply Chains, Transportation Workers, and the Farms and Fields to ensure that they have all of the equipment and disinfectant materials that they need to keep themselves and the general public healthy
No return to work or end to Physical Distancing
until health experts determine it is safe.
Protect Vulnerable Communities
particularly Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian communities, the homeless, migrants, refugees, the elderly, and battered women and spouses from discrimination, repression, and physical abuse.
Institute Universal Health Care Now
starting with free COVID-19 testing and treatment for all, and extending to full coverage for all (including abortion), including non-citizens, as a fundamental human right.
Institute Universal Social Services Now
make all fundamental social services, such as access to water, electricity, transportation, and the internet free and universal, as well as childcare, elderly care and disability access based Economic, Social and Cultural Rights guidelines.
Institute the Human Right to Housing
starting with making all the vacant and uninhabited housing stock available to those who need it now, and proceeding to make land once again a public good rather than a commodity and instituting the democratic and social distribution of housing based on need and ecological limitations.
Bailout the People, Not the Corporations and Wall Street
democratize the Finance, Credit and Insurance Industries and turn them into Public Utilities.
Institute Universal Basic Income Now
starting with the distribution of basic income as a fundamental Human Right to everyone, to address social needs not provided by through the distribution of public goods and services or the provision of earned income.
Release prisoners and Detainees
All people imprisoned for non-violent offenses, political prisoners and refugees / asylum seekers. Abolish the system of mass incarceration.
Close the Detention Centers
Reunite the Families, Stop the Raids and Deportations
including rent and utilities; Cancel debt including student loans.
Decarbonize the Economy, End Fossil Fuel and Extractive Industries Now
Institute a Green New Deal based on a program of repairing damages frontline and fenceline lands and communities, the restoration of Indigenous sovereignty and the protection and transitioning of workers in petrochemical, nuclear, and extractive industries.
Institute Food Sovereignty Policies and Practices Now
end the industrial food and animal warehousing conditions that stimulate the germination of viruses like COVID-19, contaminate our water supplies, depleat our soils, and institute local food growing policies based on agroecology or permaculture techniques that perserve and expand biodiversity and soil preservation.
Democratize the Means of Production
Convert the Corporations and Workplaces into Cooperatives to institute democracy in our workplaces, eliminate growing income inequality, insure greater equity in society and job security for workers, and enable the production of what we need and distribute equitably according to need.
Close all of the Overseas Military Bases
Cut the Military (Defense) and Spy (Surveillance) Budgets and Redirect these funds to Health Care, Social Services, Universal Basic Income and Greening Public Infrastructure and the Economy.
End the Sanctions
the sanctions imposed on Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela and several nations have crippled their efforts to combat COVID-19 and resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of people.
* Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro is Professor at the Geography Department of SUNY New Paltz. He teaches courses in physical and people-environments geography and studies and publishes on soil degradation (mainly trace element contamination, acidification, and ideologies about soils), urban soils and urban food production, and socialism. Author of Ecology, Soils, and the Left, he is chief editor of Capitalism Nature Socialism