What will happen now to “Black Lives Matter”?

26 April, 2021

Fireworks celebration of Derek Chauvin's Black Lives Matter conviction.
Fireworks celebration of Derek Chauvin's Black Lives Matter conviction.

Derek Chauvin’s trial will not put an end to the racist/racialist logic of state ideology in the US. Black Lives Matter will have the full support of the state at its disposal to ideologically frame us and send us to war if necessary… in order to defend democracy and its achievements.

In this article

Derek Chauvin’s trial ruling, a celebration of US democracy

Car Parades and Sentencing Celebrations by Black Lives Matter in Minneapolis
Car Parades and Sentencing Celebrations by Black Lives Matter in Minneapolis

On April 20 Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who murdered George Floyd, was found guilty on all charges: unintentionalsecond-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The sentence could range from 15 to 75 years, depending on several factors. The judge will most likely apply aggravating factors to the sentence and theexperts are saying a 40-year sentence would be most likely.

The conviction immediately became a US-style democratic celebration. Newscasts around the world showed images of fireworks and celebrations after the verdict was read. Attitudes that do not cease to be shocking outside the US where not even the convictions of Eichmann, Milosevic or the Argentine military junta triggered – not even among the relatives of their direct victims – celebrations worthy of a soccer match.

Riding the wave of jubilation encouraged by the media coverage, Biden declared that this is a victory, but it’s not enough. BLM made clear that the trial result meant no more than a starting point. And some politicians such as Kim Janey, Boston’s Democratic mayor, unflinchingly pointed to the urgency of setting in motion a racial reckoning.

Whatever that means, what is clear is that Derek Chauvin’s trial will not mark an end to the racist/racialist logic in US state ideology.

Black Lives Matter: between civil rights and black nationalism

"Black Owned Businesses", one of the enduring banners of Black Lives Matter.
“Black Owned Businesses”, one of the enduring banners of Black Lives Matter.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that erupted over the past year in response to the murder of George Floyd, as well as other victims of police violence, did not fall from the sky. Nor was the outrage caused by police violence their sole driver. BLM was not and is not an organization devoted exclusively to police reform.

It is important not to forget that it was precisely the riots provoked by the War on Crime which fueled the black nationalism movement of the 1960s. The militarization andprofessionalizationof the police under the guise of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as its mass relocation to lumpenized neighborhoods, caused not only widespread discontent in the affected neighborhoods, but also a rebellion of the lumpenproletariat. It’s obvious why: it turned the lumpen and the police against each other, when they had always worked together in the US.

Black nationalism at the time was not only the program of the militant and separatist black petty bourgeoisie. It also offered an outlet for the lumpen, excluded from the Civil Rights Movement. The claim to an independent black nationhoodand independence represented a promise of security and land for the marginalized. The Nation of Islam offered themredemption and a way to become religious chieftains.

But neither the civil rights movement nor the black power movement alone was sufficient to meet the needs and realize the aspirations of the petty bourgeoisie. The strength and innovation of Black Lives Matter (BLM) derives precisely from its ability to draw on both the strategies of civil rights activists and black nationalists. It vindicates both Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panther Party. And so, both the respectable petty bourgeoisieand the lumpen rally behind the banners of Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter, like the black nationalists of the 1960s, also draws strength from protests and riots in order to promote an agenda centered on the interests of the black petty bourgeoisie. But Black Lives Matter, unlike black nationalism, does not dream of aseparate black nation, but of the true social elevation of the black petty bourgeoisie within the American nation. It is no coincidence for the organization to have emerged under the Obama administration… that is, under an administration from which the black petty bourgeoisie felt it could benefit.

That’s why Black Lives Matter, which lost influence during the Trump administration, bet on Biden in 2020. The resurgence of Black Lives Matter occurred precisely during the run-up to the 2020 election. That is, its fight over the summer of last year was largely a fight for a Democratic administration that it could influence in a real way.

The criticisms Black Lives Matter levels at the government have nothing to do with ours own criticisms either… it simply tries to push it to serve its class interests as much as possible while trying to preserve its own appeal to its base.

For instance, while the Biden administration has announced passage of a bill that would reform and increase police funding, Black Lives Matter has announced its displeasure and continues to call for defunding of the police. Again this has nothing to do with any real opposition to state repression, but is instead an attempt to preserve its appeal to the lumpen who have repeatedly expressed an interest in establishing a system of community policing… that is, in their view, in working with the police to maintain control over neighborhoods.

Imperialism and racialism

Maj. George S. Roberts in 1944
Maj. George S. Roberts in 1944

But, of course, there is also an important difference between the first Black Lives Matter protests in 2013 and the protests held in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. In the midst of a raging pandemic, when workers began to strike en masse and were rapidly losing faith in their governments’ ability to protect their lives, when the economic crisis resurfaced and the US ruling class and petty bourgeoisie were beginning to worry about the country’s position on the world stage…. Black Lives Matter came to the rescue.

Racialism has not only been the backbone ideology of an internal ideological campaign with which to attempt to dissolve, divide and discipline workers. It has become an essential part of the US imperialist strategy. With Biden racialism holds the promise of being used again by the US in order to legitimize itself on the global stage.

If there is so much willingness to restore faith in the country by reforming the police, it is not in order to curb the violence of the state but, on the contrary, to prepare us for war

In the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement was not just a movement of the black petty bourgeoisie claiming a piece of the prosperity gained by national capital from winning World War II. It also served the needs of U.S. imperialism during the Cold War. The language used then to promote it is the same as that used today with Black Lives Matter: The United States cannot present itself as a global defender of democracy if it does not guarantee democracy within its own borders.

That is why reforming police forces has nothing to do with diminishing state repression… not even in a gradual way. Because, if there is so much willingness to restore faith in the country by reforming the police, it is not to reduce state violence but, on the contrary,to prepare us for war.

All in all, that is what all the so-called progressive movements which occurred in the United States after World War I entailed…. Whether it was feminism or racialism, the goal was the same: for the petty bourgeoisie in any of its detachments, to keep a significant piece of the fruitsof exploitation.

Black Lives Matter under President Biden

Joe Biden announces the bombing of Syria
Joe Biden announces the bombing of Syria

Black Lives Matter attempts to enlist workers on every issue the state is putting forward, from the Green New Deal to mass unionization. In return, he will have the full support of the state to frame us and send us to war if need be… to defend democracy and its achievements.

State violence cannot be abolished by the black petty bourgeoisie, whose real purpose is to frame the workers to promote its own class interests…. even peddling the necessity of war if needed. Police and state violence can only be abolished along with capitalism as a whole. And that is something only we workers as a whole will be able to do.