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Speech on Anti-Fascism and Abolition

given by ACL at the People’s Council: A Community Forum
J20 #BeyondBiden #FascistFree541 1.20.20

The commitment to anti-fascism is intrinsically tied to the project of police and prison abolition and, I should add, to the abolition of capitalism. I want to suggest that this requires re-appropriating the aspirations of a genuinely communist vision––that is, the aspiration for a society in which the freedom of each and every person is the precondition of the freedom of all. We are not simply calling for the equal opportunity to enter into existing hierarchies; hierarchies are themselves the problem to be dismantled. No, we are calling for the radical transformation of every sphere of social life. It should go without saying that social change is not simply casting a vote at the ballot box. Genuine struggles for a world free of oppression must surge from below, from the self-emancipation of those most oppressed, exploited, and made disposable by capitalism.

We who are here today believe that a world without prisons, without police and state violence, without exploitation and immiseration, without poverty and unnecessary suffering, is a dire necessity. Our demands are perfectly reasonable; they only appear unreasonable to the status quo and those who benefit from it. And we know that only our collective power can give birth to another world. For we are fighting for an egalitarian world where our labor is no longer exploited and in which we collectively take back control of our working conditions; where carceral solutions and state violence cease to be the measure of justice; where people are no longer made subhuman through processes of racialization or because of their so-called ‘legal status’; where people do not suffer violence and exclusion in their everyday lives because of their gender expression or sexuality; where the natural world upon which we depend is no longer subject to the destructiveness of the profit-motive. We cannot erase the histories of dispossession and settler colonialism, white supremacy, and the ongoing destruction of the environment, but we can try to bring the continuum of oppression to an end. Walls, borders, prisons and police, militarism and the mass production of weapons can never solve these problems, because they are part of the problem. Only a society that is already structured on the basis of oppression needs such inhuman mechanisms to sustain itself. A free world would not need violence to keep the oppressed masses in line.  

It is no exaggeration to say that we find ourselves in a critical historical moment. Far-right, and even fascist tendencies, are acquiring greater and greater momentum in this country. George Jackson reminds us that fascism is not a uniform or static doctrine, but an ever-evolving ideology which adapts itself to existing conditions, and always in the interest of the ruling capitalist class. In the US, fascist tendencies have historically taken the form of violently enforcing white supremacy, ideologies of national unity and belonging predicated on racial purity, the subordination of people to rigid gender roles in defense of the so-called “traditional family,” police and state-sanctioned violence of leftists, workers, and BIPOC workers especially. As committed leftists, we resolutely oppose the fascist movements festering in this country. We also oppose the bullshit of liberals who think a return to the “normality” which produced a figure like Trump is desirable.

We say no! However, anti-fascism cannot just mean going toe to toe with fascists on the streets or doxxing fascists to the feds (all cops are bastards, remember?). Anti-fascism also involves abolishing the conditions under which settler colonialism, white supremacy, capitalist exploitation, and ideological manipulation––all of which are essential to fascism––become possible in the first place. Anti-fascism must include the struggle to create real alternatives to capitalism’s regime of racial hierarchy and exploitation. We cannot remain within a reactive mode. For if fascism is the attempt by the capitalist ruling class to save a crumbling socio-economic order, our task it to let this old order die––to help it die––as we strive to create a world in which human beings can live without fear and anxiety. We need to be organizing with workers and BIPOC in our communities, with prisoners and homeless people, with those who have been socially abandoned and disenfranchised and who have nothing to lose––in short, with those most terribly affected by the carceral and exploitative character of this society. We really do not have a choice but to struggle. We must create concrete bonds of solidarity––and this event is a step in this direction––between spaces of radical activism that make clear the interrelated character of our struggles for abolition. The alternative is the ongoing barbarism of the status quo.

Abolition, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore reminds us, is a presence, because it implies the creation of life-sustaining relations to each other––relations which abolish needless suffering and promote freedom and life as an end in itself. Such relations are grounded in a creative remaking both of ourselves and of the institutions and relations through which we relate to each other. So, abolition is already present in the constant struggles of people to remake their lives in the image of a qualitatively different world, struggles which hold fast to the idea that another world is not only possible, but necessary, since life itself is at stake. Abolition, indeed, is a matter of life and death. Abolition is present when prisoners go on hunger strike to demand that their most basic needs be met. Abolition is present when we refuse to allow Black lives to continue to be destroyed by state and extra-legal forms of violence. Abolition is present when we challenge the insidious forms of criminalization which feed the prison-industrial complex an endless supply of human beings. Abolition is present when we create critical education spaces in which our collective thinking can generate strategies for abolishing racism, the rule of capitalism over our lives, hetero-patriarchy, and all of the forms of unnecessary suffering we witness if we just walk down the street. Perhaps this act of expanding the scope of abolition as a social and political project is where the future lies. The only apparent permanence of oppression cannot and will not have the last word.

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