The sudden ur-revolutionary upsurge, during a pandemic, is remarkable and a mysterious turning point. But a subtle problem lurks in this hopeful development, one clearly foreseen by Martin Luther King: the fight against racism has gone on for nearly forever without a real solution and it seems doubtful if the resolution lies in tinkering with system racism: the problem is connected to a totality of social conditions and the solution to one problem is connected to all the others. It makes one think of the spandrel problem discussed by biologists. You make one change and the whole shebang can collapse. Hoping to simply eliminate racism in the american system is unrealistic, as recurrence of frustration and protest shows: all parties to these protests might stand back and start to think in terms of an overall system change, revolutionary or evolutionary. Blacks have suffered, but so have the multitudes in the working class. They will never get such a protest; the authorities really will bring out the army. The powers that be are looking for a face lift.
The energy to solve only a part of the problem will end up fruitless, if not squandered. Where are all these protests going? They show that the legacy of the racist constitution just might be the root ‘causa ultima’. It could be ‘curtains’ for yankee doodle. The term ‘socialism’ has itself suffered an equal perennial suppression and in its implicit reference to holistic social change tables the question of radical change at the threshold of revolution, the endpoint of King’s pilgrimage of activist protest. The left has often failed to deal rightly with racism. But the fight against racism has often failed to deal rightly with the larger problem.
The powers that be will tolerate these protests, which shows they think they will lead nowhere: they will not lead beyond their given focus to real social change or beyond capitalism.
I will leave off a conclusion and let this simply stand as suggestion, simply noting the path of MLK’s own transformation in the transformation of society that he brought about, albeit incompletely…
President Donald Trump on Monday evening threatened to use the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy the U.S. military to the nation’s city streets if unrest over the killing of George Floyd did not calm.
A live conversation on Monday, June 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Curfews were enacted in more than two dozen cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle, and the National Guard was summoned in several states as protests intensified over George Floyd’s death in police custody.
The moralizing has begun. Those who have rarely been the target of organized police gangsterism are once again lecturing those who have about how best to respond to it. Be peaceful, they implore, as protesters rise up in Minneapolis and across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd. This, coming from the More