Six Thoughts on the Ferguson Uprising

1) I honor, respect and admire those participating in the Ferguson uprising. All of them: not just those engaging in what the bien pensant have designated as acceptably “non-violent” forms of protest.

2) Ferguson is unusual in having an overwhelmingly majority white city council and police force presiding over a majority black population. This imbalance is likely to be corrected sooner or later with the result that African American local officials and police will be in charge.

3) As a consequence of 2), one of the protestors’ main demands will be met, namely there will be an end to “racist” police murder. What will replace it will be black on black police murder–by definition, not “racist”.

On this basis, the black misleadership class, the community and the left will be mollified.

4) We know this because of recent history in which the devastation of African American communities was almost total-the wars on drugs and crime continuing to take their toll and now compounded by their having suffered the largest loss in their aggregate wealth in their history due to the banking and foreclosure crisis.

As this was presided over by an African American president and attorney general, there was almost no protest, as there will be when “black faces in high places” in Ferguson institute similarly repressive policies locally.

5) This provides the grounds for why I don’t think it’s correct to view Ferguson as within the same trajectory as OWS, as Frances Fox Piven has remarked.

While the uprising is entirely righteous, 2) suggests that it is ultimately about unfinished business of the civil rights movement, necessary but which should have been completed years ago.

In contrast, OWS was, as Piven notes, “something new” and different in that it put on the agenda precisely that which was taboo during the 60s: the 1% vs. the 99%. In a word capitalism, or in two words, class struggle.

6) The behavior and expressed attitudes of the white population around Ferguson make inevitable the view expressed by a facebook commenter: “The problem is that the majority of whites are racist and class unconscious — they are essentially counter-revolutionary at the core of their existential being.”

While there is plenty of reason to assume that this is the case, a movement which takes the vast majority of the population as “essentially counter-revolutionary” and unreformable is one which is by definition incapable of uniting the majority against elite power and privilege.

The new movement which OWS presaged will need to move far beyond Ferguson. In short, what Ferguson has to teach us will need to be learned and forgotten for our real work to begin.

John Halle blogs at Outrages and Interludes

John Halle blogs at Outrages and Interludes. He tweets at: jghalle.

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