During the late 1960s in particular, the FBI genuinely feared that such a unifying leader, a black ‘messiah’, could bring about ‘a real “Mau Mau” in America, the beginning of a true black revolution’. Indeed, just one week before Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968, the FBI had cited him, alongside Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), as prime contenders to assume such a position. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X must be understood as part of a much broader wave of violence, intimidation, sabotage and repression focussed against the Black Nationalist movement and its allies, most notably by the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign (originally directed against the US Communist Party). The US state was so determined to crush any and all internal resistance that, in the words of one US general, if the uprisings did not die down as the 1970s progressed, the Pentagon was ready to turn American cities into ‘scenes of destruction approaching those of Stalingrad during World War II’. That willingness to use indiscriminate violence to crush internal uprisings has never dissipated, as the events in LA in 1992, Ferguson in 2014, Standing Rock in 2016-17 and nation-wide over the past week have made transparent.
There is a further layer of offense to the propensity of many Americans to only comprehend this recent wave of violence as though the US is temporarily acting like other implicitly ‘worse’ countries and that it should really be happening somewhere else like Caracas, Baghdad or Beirut. These ‘bad’ examples are frequently associated with violence in the mind of an average American as a consequence of the very same factor that now threatens US cities: the unceasing brutality of the US state. Beirut especially has become a lazy by-word for chaotic urban violence to many Americans of a certain age as a result of its civil war, and especially the 1980s period of that conflict, when a number of American citizens were kidnapped and some killed. But what is forgotten is that US marines were occupying Lebanon at the time; that the US was directly involved in sparking and sustaining the civil war itself; and that the US is responsible for some of its worst violence, including the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila.
As so many of those slain black revolutionaries understood all too well, there is a direct link between the daily racist violence inflicted upon them and their fellow black Americans and the violence the US military inflicted against civilians in Vietnam and elsewhere overseas; it is the intrinsic and ongoing link between racism, capitalism and imperialism. As the BPP revolutionary George Jackson – himself murdered by the state in San Quentin Prison in 1971 – wrote to Angela Davis a year before he was killed: ‘it’s no coincidence that Malcolm X and MLK died when they did … remember what was on his [X’s] lips when he died. Vietnam and economics, political economy’. X had explicitly stated: ‘you can’t have capitalism without racism. And if you find a person without racism … and they have a philosophy that makes you sure they don’t have this racism in their outlook, usually they’re socialists’. At this point he had begun working with the governments of a number of recently independent African countries, many of them socialist, to pass a UN resolution condemning the US as a colonial power for its treatment of its black citizens. This proposal ‘terrified the American power elite’ and X was eliminated before he could proceed with it.
In Blood in My Eye, a book which Jackson heroically managed to finish in prison shortly before he was murdered as well, he wrote:
The US has established itself as the mortal enemy of all people’s governments, all scientific-socialist mobilization of consciousness everywhere on the globe, all anti-imperialist activity on earth. The history of this country in the last fifty years or more, the very nature of all its fundamental elements, and its economic, social, political and military mobilization distinguish it as the prototype of the international fascist counterrevolution.
Jackson’s observation has only proven to be more accurate in the intervening half century. Therefore, in addition to their solidarity with the righteous cause of black Americans, it is for this reason, too, the eyes of many millions all over the world are now focussed so intensely on events in the US. Anything that has the capacity to weaken the US internally serves to strengthen the position and revolutionary potential of all progressive forces everywhere in the world. Jackson wrote at length about the potentially global significance of a revolution led by what he termed the US’ ‘black colony’ – a concern shared by the US state. As revealed by Maurice Bishop, one of the State Department’s primary fears concerning the Marxist-Leninist revolution in the small Caribbean island of Grenada in the early 1980s, was the fact that that its leadership and 95 percent of the country’s people were black, and therefore it could have ‘a dangerous appeal to 30 million black people in the United States’. This was deemed unacceptable and in 1983, after years of other means of sabotage against it, the US military invaded Grenada and swiftly crushed its short-lived revolutionary process.
Contrary to the blatantly racist notion that this ‘great nation’ should not lower itself to the standards of its enemies, it must be stated plainly that the US is in fact the global expert on assassinations, crushing internal dissent, controlling and intimidating the media and various acts of mass violence against protesters and opposition groups – all the very things that many people are now absurdly claiming to be ‘un-American’. The events of the past week have demonstrated this clearly. What remained of the superficial mask of American liberalism has – at least for now – dropped entirely, exposing the ugly fascism at its core.
In the days and weeks to come, many people – including some on the left – will scramble to pull that mask back up. Reforms, they will say, can address this problem, thereby implying the US remains a redeemable democracy morally superior to its enemies. But the reality is that the US is what it routinely accuses its enemies of being: an authoritarian, militarised police state that surveils, brutalises, imprisons and murders people at home and abroad with impunity – all in the service of the interests of its capitalist oligarchy, which lays claim to everything, everywhere.
Louis Allday, This is not an Aberration; Violence is Central to the History, and Present, of the United States