Berlin Diaries: “Protests, Concerns & Hopes”

The human race is obliviously marching towards the perfect storm that is rapidly forming on our collective horizon. According to the doomsday clock, we are very close to it indeed. Only 100 seconds away, to be exact! If we reach it due to our neglect, greed and lack of action, we will quickly realise that no lives on this planet matter at all. 

Nuclear clouds don’t care about the colour of human skin since the black, white, yellow, red or the brown ones burn the same, just like the bones below it. Climate change is equally ignorant — it will freeze, drown and starve us all, regardless of race, religion or passport that we hold. Obviously, the same can be said about various diseases and the current COVID-19 pandemic in particular which is sowing death and sorrow all around the world with complete ignorance of one’s nationality or race.

Existential threats described above combined with other burning issues such as perpetual financial crises, growing inequality, rise of nationalism, increasing democratic deficit, cyber based disinformation and systemic racism — to mention just a few — should give us plenty of reasons and motivation to mobilise and unite internationally into one collective anti-extinction, egalitarian, green force.

The sooner we realise that there is no other way to avoid the global catastrophe, the sooner we will be able to stop and, hopefully, reverse the ticking of the doomsday clock. In his latest and arguably the most important book, Internationalism or Extinction, Noam Chomsky wrote:

“The urgency of “looming extinction” cannot be overlooked. It should be a constant focus of programs of education, organisation, and activism, and in the background of all other struggles. But it cannot displace these other concerns, in part because of the critical significance of many other struggles…”

One such issue is undoubtedly the struggle against racial inequality.

In the USA, with well over 100.000 dead as a result of the mishandling of the pandemic, and with over 40 million unemployed and with a history of injustice, inequality, brutality underscored by systemic racism, mass protests led by Black Lives Matter were inevitable.

There is no need to underline the fact that every single human being on this planet should be supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement and that we should all stand shoulder to shoulder with our American comrades of colour in their struggle for justice and equality.

Since the protests started, plenty has been achieved already. A fair few confederate and colonial statues have been removed — in the US as well as abroad! The city of Minneapolis has committed to dismantling its police force. And big budgetary reforms have been pledged in New York; the city with a 6 billion dollars large annual police department budget. That is 3 times the size of nuclear capable North Korea’s military budget which, by the way, has a universal health care system in place: let this sink in for a moment or two! Furthermore, a database to record police brutality at the protests was created. Several ‘bad apples’ out of truckload of ‘bad apples’ within American police force have been dismissed for their conduct. In the case of murder of George Floyd, officers involved were charged with aiding and abetting murder.

However, given the scale of the problem and it’s systemic nature, these are all largely symbolic acts and as such nowhere near enough to provide the final solution.

Systemic issues require radical systemic changes!

As the great Dr. Martin Luther King said back in 1968

“The black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”

While current BLM protests are absolutely necessary and should be supported with everything we got, it is concerning to see that their general message is nowhere near as strong as it used to be over fifty years ago. Largely spontaneous protests without strong leadership and ideological and political backing most likely won’t result in desired, radical systemic change. In fact, it is perfectly possible for such protests to end up being counterproductive if their demands get muted by corrupt mainstream media or, in the worse case scenario, if protests get ‘hijacked’ by certain parts of neoliberal establishment and endup being used as a tool for ‘regime change’ agenda — this time at home rather than abroad.

Unfortunately, this is not where concerns end. There are two blatantly obvious terms mainly absent from the American mainstream media as well as from the general public discourse and they are — ‘3rd political party’ and ‘neo-liberal capitalism’. Both should be highly ranked on the agenda yet one needs to try really hard to find even slightest reference to either.

For example, it is interesting to note that Black Lives Matter Berlin (the city I am writing this text from) has anti-capitalism near the top of their common consensus list, right after justice and equality. At the same time, the original American Black Lives Matter website not only doesn’t have ‘anti-capitalism’ as part of their policy, but it doesn’t even mention the word ‘capitalism’ anywhere on the site at all. Yes, you read that right!

How about ‘3rd political party’? This is certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity for creating an anti-racist, anti-war, anti-capitalist, green, egalitarian, and progressive political party while using ongoing protests to mobilise the masses. Such a party could potentially win the upcoming elections or at very least put enormous pressure on the Democrats while ensuring BLM demands are met. Of course, this is easier said than done, but I am surprised that there is virtually no mention of such an obvious idea in public discourse, yet alone concrete action of achieving this well needed and well overdue political mainstream alternative.

Radical systemic changes in the so-called ‘developed world’ — changes that the BLM is fighting for — require internationalism, organisation via political and ideological backing and persistence.

Otherwise, we will either end up with some sort of fascism on steroids delivered by the Trumps of this world or fund the status quo while being shot in the legs instead of the heart by the Bidens of this world. Perhaps being shot in the leg is the lesser of the two evils, but it’s about the time we ditch this principle and try something else for a change.

Chicago based Black Panther, Fred Hampton, said in his 1969 speech

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”

Capitalism and racism are deeply interlinked, from over 400 years of Transatlantic slave trade to modern time prison labor, sweatshops and wide ranging disparities in regards to wealth, education, justice, health care, employment and other factors. There is simply no reasonable way of fighting one issue without addressing the other.

Let’s hope that the Black Lives Matter will sharpen up their demands, general message and direction — without doing this, a huge opportunity for the people of colour as well as humankind as a whole might be missed.

With the above in mind, could the BLM protests sweeping across the US, Europe and most of the world be the starting point of a wider progressive international fight for peace, equality, justice and the green future?

Could the BLM inspired protests potentially trigger unification of fragmented political ‘left’ and therefore solve what is arguably the biggest challenge international progressives face these days? 

Perhaps DiEM25 and Progressive International (PI) can get involved by providing a unifying political ‘umbrella’ and backing for all involved. As PI mentions, the challenge is now to organise these ‘spontaneous expressions of solidarity’ internationally. By connecting best practices from grassroots activists and community leaders everywhere — we can already learn from each other’s ‘struggle against state violence’. 

If there is ever going to be the right time to overcome our differences, organise and unite on the international level, that time is certainly now!

Learn more about the Progressive International!

For previous and future articles written by Ognjen Ogy Vrljicak, you can visit his blog.

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