BHABANI SHANKAR NAYAK | 15 JUNE, 2020
Black Lives Matter Bonds With Other Movements
”Movements like #BlackLivesMatter carry planetary significance
On the 25th of May, 2020 Derek Chauvin, a White police officer killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was in broad day light: the police officer pressed his knee down on Floyd’s neck like a coward trophy hunter.
18 complaints had been registered against Chauvin, the first White officer ever to be charged for the murder of a Black civilian in Minnesota.
Eric Garner was killed by another White police officer in New York City on July 17, 2014. “I can’t breathe” were the last words both George Floyd and Eric Garner ever spoke. Their institutional murders reveal the institutions and structures of racism in the USA. Their last words did not die with them, but have become anthems of anti-racism protests and social justice movements worldwide.
The #BlackLivesMatter movements which emerged in 2013 continue to campaign against racism within and outside the USA. The movement derives its inspiration from historic political struggles for equality, liberty and justice. It continues to represent the legacies of historic anti-colonial struggles, civil rights movement, other progressive and radical social and political movements.
The protests across North American, European and other cities across the world show the racist discrimination, frustration and despair that people of colour face due to pervasive racism in different parts of the world.
Anti-Blackness has long and varied histories, but White supremacy as an ideal owes its origin and power to the historical events of transatlantic slavery and European colonialism, whose structures still inform and underpin racial and other forms of discrimination within and outside the “western world” of colonising powers.
Therefore, movements like #BlackLivesMatter carry planetary significance.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement has also opens up the wounds of all other forms of discrimination in societies across the world. Muslims, Kashmiris, lowered castes, Adivasis in India – non-Bengalis and non-Muslims in Bangladesh – Ahmadis, Balochis, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan – Tamils in Sri Lanka, Rohingyas in Myanmar, Tibetans and Uighurs in China – and seemingly everywhere, violent discrimination based on gender, sexualities, dress and food habits – these are the unadulterated realities of our unequal capitalist world.
The likelihood of an egalitarian and non-discriminatory world depends on people’s resolve to fight against all forms of discrimination based on prejudice.
There is global upsurge of right-wing politics and reactionary movements which patronise the politics of hate and othering. It breeds discrimination, violence and inequalities in different parts of the world.
Liberal and right-wing commentators offer a Eurocentric Lockean social contract as an alternative to re-establishing peace and social order, based on ideals of hierarchy and domination.
The progressive, democratic and emancipatory political forces and their movements divide themselves on sectarian lines.
The cultural, economic, gender divisions in society echo within the weak and divided political struggles for emancipation.
Many radicals, socialists and progressive movements consider identity politics the cultural logic of failed capitalism. They argue that identity politics destroys the unity of the working classes and marginalised communities’ fight against the capitalist system.
These progressive and radical movements need to understand that race, ethnicity, gender, and class intersect with each other within a capitalist system. Intersectionality helps to understand the existence of multiple and overlapping forms of exploitation, violence and oppression.
This realisation is crucial to developing emancipatory political strategies.
The intersectionality of race, gender, class, caste, sexuality and other marginalised identities helps us understand the different exploitations and oppressions coexisting within the hierarchy of capitalist systems. This identities-based discrimination, oppression and exploitation exists in unity with the structures and processes of capitalism.
The failure of class politics and defeat of revolutionary movements in the 1990s led to the rise of intersectionality as an approach to understand exploitation and discrimination based on personal characteristics of individuals: race, gender, sexuality, caste, region, territoriality and ethnicity.
The politics of intersectionality ignores the role of pre-existing unequal social relations in shaping the conditions of production and reproduction within capitalism. Instead it tries to find alternatives within the existing capitalist system, which reproduces gender, caste and race-based inequalities and exploitations resulting in precarity and proletarianisation.
The archetype I see of intersectionality debates and discourses fails to locate the fluidity of power relations and sites of struggles against identity-based violence, exploitations, dominance and discriminations within and outside those communities. The intersectional approach to movement is ahistorical in that it does not recognise any inherent or historical roots to the different forms of exploitation with capitalism.
So, deradicalisation is the inadvertent outcome of intersectionality as a political approach to emancipatory struggles.
Critiques of intersectionality do not reject or disregard the realities of multiple forms of power structure that exploits, discriminates and kills on the basis of individual identities.
But ideas of identities are not just about atomised, abstract and individual self-reflections. It also involves an individual identity’s organic relationship and porous interactions with the environment and fellow beings.
Individuals build relationships with others to fulfil their own desires and needs which gives meaning to their lives. This generates the foundation of collective identity based on voluntary, natural relationships.
These relationships are territorialised and de-territorialised by multiple identities created and destroyed as per the requirements of neoliberal capitalism under globalisation.
For example, the identity issues of displaced persons, refugees, internal and external migrants etc. are the direct or indirect products of capitalism. So, there are material conditions that shape identity politics.
Mindless criticisms of identity politics are also dangerous. It is important to distinguish the following two ideological trends of identity politics.
The growth of European reactionary nationalist politics led by the British Nationalist Party and English Defence League in the United Kingdom, UKIP in England, the National Front in France, New Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary are classic examples of reactionary identity politics, which promotes the cultural logic of failed capitalism.
The politics of highered caste Hindus led by the BJP in India and White supremacists in Europe and America are reactionary identity politics, which needs to be discarded.
The Scottish Nationalist Party follows both regressive and progressive aspects of identity politics adding to the complexities of identity politics.
Four centuries of globalisation have led to the normalisation of precarity, and the emancipatory labour and trade union movements have become wage-bargaining movements promoting representative careerism in the name of affirmative actions.
Such an approach helps hide the institutionalised discriminatory acts and powers of capitalist structures led by the patriarchy of White supremacists in Europe and the Americas, and the Brahmanical Hindu caste order in the subcontinent.
The Dalit and Indigenous (Adivasi) movements in India, the LGBTQIA+ movements, anti-racist movements, women’s movements and indigenous communities’ movements to save their land, livelihood and forests are emancipatory identity politics.
Therefore, it is important to embrace the progressive aspects of identity politics, develop intersectionality and transcend differences as a political strategy to strengthen emancipatory struggles for liberty, equality, justice and fraternity. Progressive ideological engagements with intersectionality politics can reduce its isolationist approach.
It is impossible to fight racial, gender and caste discrimination without fighting capitalism. The struggle against racism, patriarchy, caste, sexism and all other forms of discriminations and exploitations are struggles against capitalism. The academic left and their privileged politics must get on with it without creating a further mirage of theoretical complexities.
Let the everyday realities of people with their subjective and objective conditions guide an organised and united struggle for alternatives to all dehumanising structures of capitalism.
Finally, as the significance of the #BlackLivesMatter movement goes global with its open and inclusive approach, it is important to call for a borderless revolutionary internationalism based on the experiences of local sites of struggles against all forms of inequalities, injustices and exploitations.
The local, national, regional and global alliance of revolutionary collectives can only help democratise the planet, ensuring peace and prosperity for one and all.
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