Chicago NATO Summit, Marxism & state violence
By Sara Flounders
Published May 14, 2012 8:17 PM
The extravagant NATO Summit scheduled for May 20 and 21 in Chicago has made it necessary to restate a Marxist, working-class understanding of the role of violence in capitalist society.
This obscene celebration of organized, high-tech violence brings generals, admirals, heads of state and their entourages from 26 nations to Chicago just as an unsolvable capitalist downturn has brought cuts to every social program. High unemployment has created a crisis for millions.
In Chicago, college classes, graduations and dorm closings have been moved to accommodate the NATO Summit. Streets, buildings and whole city sections will be locked down, as prohibitive new ordinances restrict public assembly. Thousands of Homeland Security, State Police and National Guard troops will arrive.
Chicago’s corporate media promote scare stories that demonstrators will use violence to protest the NATO military alliance.
This fraudulent media hype consciously aims to mask the NATO military alliance’s concentrated violence. It’s no surprise this media distortion seeps into the whole population. It even impacts the progressive political movement.
Historically, in the U.S. and all around the world, the oppressed and exploited have created and joined popular movements that organize mass actions. These movements confront overwhelming state violence orchestrated by a tiny ruling class that accumulated capital through hundreds of years of slave trade, child labor, piracy, brigandage and colonial expropriation.
Mass self-defense against capitalist violence, colonial policies or institutionalized repression has taken many forms. This legitimate self-defense confronts state-sanctioned violence.
In Chicago, for months the United National Antiwar Coalition working with the local Coalition Against NATO/G8 — CANG8 — has built a broad, united effort to hold a legally permitted, well-organized, family-friendly mass protest. Many unions and community organizations have endorsed and are mobilizing. This is undisputed.
Unfortunately the media hype has influenced some voices in the progressive movement to accept as fact that the planned protests are threatening violence. They have demanded that all organizers protesting the violent NATO military alliance must publicly disavow violence within the progressive movement and must politically embrace nonviolence.
To raise such a demand not only takes the whole anti-NATO protest off message, it turns the whole issue of state violence on its head. The progressive movement should focus on demanding that the repressive state apparatus, the racist police in Chicago responsible for the killings of so many youths of color, and NATO itself forswear violence.
NATO is the U.S.-organized, -commanded and -equipped military alliance. It is the force keeping the world in a capitalist straight jacket. It is a brutal military machine that holds more than 80 percent of the world’s weapons.
Its voices filled with awe, the media have publicized NATO’s high-tech bunker-busting bombs, nuclear weapons, Hellfire missiles fired from drones and its white phosphorous, napalm and cluster bombs stockpiled at 1,000 military bases around the world. NATO military command has waged wars for Wall Street, destroying the essentially civilian infrastructure in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya.
NATO conducts undeclared wars on Pakistan, Yemen and Syria, while threatening war on Iran and encircling Russia and China with a new generation of missiles. Both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations have politically defended the deployment of targeted assassinations, secret renditions, kidnappings and torture.
We have to combat the corporate media’s calculated hype that covers up the central role of violence here in the center of the U.S. global empire, a role that once led Black liberation leader H. Rap Brown (now Jamil Abdullah al-Amin) to comment: “Violence is as [U.S.] American as cherry pie.” This high violence level — in comparison with that in other imperialist countries in Europe and Japan — is true even in statistics on domestic violence, violence in schools and individual assaults.
The domestic police force is larger in the U.S. than in any other country. The cops especially target youth of color and immigrants. Policies like “stop and frisk,” racial profiling and SWAT teams breaking into homes are standard police practice. Round-ups and immigration raids terrorize millions of undocumented workers.
The U.S. jails far more people than any other country in the world. The institutionalized violence of the prison system — including strip searches, the humiliating rape of “cavity searches,” solitary confinement, lock-downs and sensory deprivation against defenseless inmates — is legal and permitted.
Some 31 percent of women in the U.S. report physical or sexual assaults at some time in their lifetime. A 2001 report from UNICEF gives the U.S. the highest rate among the imperialist countries of deaths from child abuse or neglect. Violence against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people is pervasive.
The violence and insecurity of hunger, evictions, layoffs, lack of medical care are the daily experience of millions of people, especially people of color.
The source of violence
Violence in the U.S. flows from the bosses’ need to steal the workers’ labor, the very basis of capitalist class society. Over 95 percent of U.S. laws involve protecting and defining property. It took years of struggle to win the few laws protecting basic human rights.
In the past, forcing the entire movement to pledge nonviolence has been a weapon to exclude those who have organized militant resistance and self-defense of their communities against overwhelming state repression, mass incarceration and neocolonial exploitation. This demand has labeled heroic movements in solidarity with Palestine, Lebanon or Colombia as violent. The state apparatus has arrested political supporters of these movements here in the U.S. and called them before grand juries.
Workers and peasants revolutions in the last century in Russia, China, Vietnam and Cuba have also been labeled violent and bloodthirsty. Those who label them conveniently forget the daily violence, the horrible oppression and the long murderous wars these movements had to overcome.
Building unity and solidarity with all oppressed people resisting around the world means standing up to the capitalist state and refusing to allow any part of the peoples movement to be isolated, demonized or its accomplishments distorted.
The organizations calling the demonstration in Chicago against NATO have already achieved a resounding success by standing strongly for unity and refusing to get swept into dividing the movement. This well-organized mass mobilization has put forth strong demands for an end to NATO wars and for funding for peoples needs. It has also shown the ability to defend the rights won in past struggles for assembly and free speech. This mass mobilization will provide new lessons and experience for the summer mobilizations during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
All out to Chicago on May 20!