Ultimately, democracy is driven by what elected officials can get for their constituents. "Bring home the bacon" is just another way of saying "what have you done for me lately?"
To point. Black politics in the Age of Obama are broken: an enthusiastic group of constituents are given little if anything of material substance for their support of the country's first Black President. Yet, this same group of constituents continues to vote for and support said (now twice elected) official.
In an era of cruelty, surveillance, and Austerity/hyper-conservatism the Black Left is obsolescent at best, mostly irrelevant, and stillborn at worst.
Michael Dawson, one of the United States' most senior black political scientists, had an excerpt from Blacks in and out of the Left featured by the website Salon.com earlier this week which speaks to these questions.
The Salon piece, as well as the book, are worth reading:
One area that desperately needs the type of innovation and experimentation generated by pragmatic utopian thinking is the institutional arrangements that govern the functioning of modern civil society, the state, and the relationship between the two.
In his book Democracy Realized, Roberto Unger argued that to achieve truly democratic societies we must concentrate on institutional innovations and experimentation that put into place a robust and humane democracy. For this type of innovation to be designed and implemented, Unger suggested, a “transformative and solidaristic” political project is necessary. That transformative political process in turn requires that “we speak in the two languages of interest calculation and political prophecy,” what I have called the language of pragmatic utopianism.
One might disagree with Unger’s specific institutional proposals, but he was right in stating that institutions shape our perceptions of our interests as well as our ideological predispositions, and that when designing institutions we must remain flexible so as to be able to adapt to new situations, adopt good ideas from elsewhere, and correct mistakes.
In short, given the central role that institutions play in shaping our lives, economics, and politics, we can no longer allow them to become rigid and inflexible, unable to serve the needs of society’s citizens. Not only must the institutions themselves remain flexible, but we must be willing to constantly innovate, to tinker, to experiment.
Only through this type of flexibility and willingness to experiment will it be possible to discover the type of educational institutions Berlant described. Badiou characterized this process as “combining intellectual constructs, which are always global and universal, with experiments of fragments of truth, which are local and singular, yet universally transmittable.”Where do we go from here?
The language used to discuss "The Black Freedom Struggle" and "Black Politics" which includes terms and phrases such as "counter-insurgency", "resistance", and "People's movements" borrows heavily from military science.
For example, the website Small Wars Journal recently featured an essay on military strategy and tactics which paralleled many of the existential questions that those who are trying to stand against the Right and the neoliberal order should meditate on.
I have highlighted what I believe are some particularly resonant passages.
From Carl Castellano's The Infantryman's Half-Kilometer Reconsidered:
Time and again in warfighting history, it is good use of terrain for observation, cover, concealment, channeling, and effective fires that has given weaker opponents an edge. WWI was highlighted for its use of man made terrain to mitigate the effects of direct/indirect fire, and use of man made concealment afforded by well-coordinated rolling artillery barrages and smoke screens in support of attacks. Fast forward to Afghanistan, and the trenches have translated to well-built houses and mountainous terrain. Concealment depends upon excellent uses of vegetation in some areas, cave networks, and uses of natural micro-terrain.
By the end of WWI forward trenches would be lightly defended in order to further mitigate the effects of devastating artillery. In Afghanistan, the enemy mitigates the effects of supporting arms with time, by understanding approximately how much time they have in an engagement before they need to break contact. In WWI, the rifleman mitigated the effects of direct fire while observing in the defense through use of periscopes.
In Afghanistan, the direct fire “half kilometer” supposed strengths of the Western riflemen are mitigated by long-range precision small arms and machine gun fire. In WWI the rifleman utilized mines to degrade the mobility of attacking adversaries, with pressure-plate IEDs being the Afghan counterpart.
This does not represent a revolution or even much of an evolution in military affairs; it is business as usual adapting to the tactical situation.
The evolution is the increasing degree to which the enemy exploits the moral and political terrain. Third world enemies have learned that they can significantly degrade the chances of supporting arms being utilized against them if they are in proximity to civilians. They learned that collateral civilian deaths could be exploited for greater local support for their operations. They learned that even when they feel the effects of supporting arms, that they can fabricate reporting to suggest civilians were casualties. They learned how to set conditions so that the Western squad/section they faced would possibly be without external support for the duration of the contact. They learned that they could move around the battle space, and as long as they weren’t observed to be armed in between they wouldn’t be readily engaged.
They learned that as a SOF raid force entered their house, they could keep their rifle away from them in the corner and be captured alive as long as there was no resistance.
They learned that despite the extent of their offenses, corruption in the judicial system could be exploited for their release.
Is the Left irrelevant in the United States? What would Black Politics look like on the ground if it were able to adapt in the post civil rights era to the realities of colorblind racism, Austerity, and neoliberalism?