Strategy After Ferguson


This round­table is a part of our evolv­ing “Move­ment Inquiry” fea­ture, which opened with an inves­ti­ga­tions of hous­ing strug­gles in the US and Black Lib­er­a­tion in high­er edu­ca­tion. If you would like to get involved, email us at round­ta­bles AT view­point­mag DOT com.

Ferguson’s August upris­ing wasn’t the first to fol­low a police mur­der, not even in recent mem­o­ry. But unlike the 2009 Oscar Grant rebel­lion, or the actions in Flat­bush after the mur­der of Kimani Gray in 2013, the street mil­i­tan­cy exhib­it­ed by that small sub­urb of St. Louis endured long enough to inspire a nation­al move­ment for black lives and lib­er­a­tion. We should pause to reflect on the tremen­dous ground that’s been cov­ered in these first sev­en­teen months. How dis­tant do the denun­ci­a­tions of Al Sharp­ton and Jesse Jack­son now seem? Or the simul­ta­ne­ous out­pour­ing of hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple into the streets and high­ways of every major Amer­i­can city? Those ear­li­est debates estab­lish­ing black lead­er­ship and the urgent defens­es of riot­ing now car­ry an air of inevitabil­i­ty to them, but just over a year ago, they remained open ques­tions.

That the move­ment has devel­oped at such a break­neck speed has posed unique chal­lenges for our inquiry. Try­ing to keep pace has often a been dizzy­ing task, as new ques­tions and con­jec­tures arise with star­tling quick­ness. Celebri­ty activists and NGO lumi­nar­ies are des­ig­nat­ed and in due time dis­cred­it­ed, as bat­tles over scarce seats at the table car­ry on when the mass mobi­liza­tions begin to recede. The cycles of co-opta­tion and repres­sion can move many of us to cyn­i­cism, but nei­ther has proved capa­ble of exhaust­ing the dynamism of the grass­roots. For every Teach for Amer­i­ca oper­a­tion, there’s a Twin Cities’ riot.

With equal dif­fi­cul­ty, we have had to con­front the incred­i­ble polit­i­cal diver­si­ty of this moment, which has includ­ed every­one from the Nation of Islam, non­prof­it exec­u­tives, and unaf­fil­i­at­ed lib­er­als, to afropes­simists, oath keep­ers, and yes, rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­mu­nists. And while the polit­i­cal com­po­si­tion of many par­tic­i­pants stretch­es across those camps, it is hard not to sense that the move­ment is enter­ing a new junc­ture in which the lines of demar­ca­tion are being drawn a lit­tle more clear­ly. With each day the gap between those who fre­quent the exec­u­tive offices of Sil­i­con Val­ley, and those who main­tain feal­ty to the black rad­i­cal tra­di­tion, grows.

The eleven groups fea­tured below con­sti­tute part of what may be an emerg­ing rad­i­cal pole in the strug­gle for black lib­er­a­tion. Even in their ana­lyt­i­cal diver­gence and orga­ni­za­tion­al het­ero­gene­ity, they yield the out­lines of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary uni­ty, opposed to sep­a­ratism, whose ambi­tions exceed that of the mis­lead­er­ship both new and old.

We hope that this round­table on “Strat­e­gy after Fer­gu­son” is an open­ing to fur­ther dia­logue and debate. We wel­come your ideas, feed­back, cri­tiques, as well as your sup­port in shar­ing this resource – with friends and com­rades, in work­places and orga­niz­ing meet­ings, at ral­lies and direct actions, and beyond. To get involved, please email us at round­ta­bles AT view­point­mag DOT com.

- Ben Mabie 


“Rather than call­ing for ‘black and white, unite and fight’ as if both sides were equal play­ers in a giv­en whole, we say the spe­cif­ic strug­gles of black pro­le­tar­i­ans are in all of our inter­ests, and make it pos­si­ble for us to win togeth­er, and we relate to them as such.”


by some mem­bers of Ann Arbor Alliance for Black Lives

11084021_1641810649374540_499207291129150379_o“Our expe­ri­ences in this and oth­er move­ments have clear­ly demon­strat­ed to us that the con­cept of ally­ship is dead or at least dying. The key is to remem­ber that while we may have sim­i­lar ene­mies, we do not have the same rea­sons for our antag­o­nisms.”

by Ralikh Hayes

“The Civ­il Rights Move­ment and all those orga­niz­ing for Black lib­er­a­tion nev­er actu­al­ly stopped, even as the 1960s wind­ed down. This is a long strug­gle that was sub­merged beneath the sur­face for the last few decades, only emerg­ing as a mass move­ment again recent­ly.” 

by Mike Sivi­we Elliott

imgres“The police are just one front of the attack on poor and work­ing peo­ple. We fight there because it’s an impor­tant part of this larg­er fight, one that speaks imme­di­ate­ly to the needs and inter­ests of those in oppressed com­mu­ni­ties. But even our strat­e­gy to build up this par­tic­u­lar fight around com­mu­ni­ty con­trol of the police is based on par­tic­i­pat­ing in and sup­port­ing oth­er strug­gles.”



by Kali Akuno 

“Orga­niz­ing against state repres­sion and police ter­ror are cor­ner­stones of the self-defense work that Black peo­ple must engage in out of pure neces­si­ty in the Unit­ed States. How­ev­er, we have to rec­og­nize that defense work of this nature, in and of itself, is not trans­for­ma­tive.”


by Aurielle Luci­er



“This old­er lead­er­ship class is clear­ly invest­ed in the pow­er they’ve obtained for them­selves with a seat at the table, and they mis­take that seat as real lib­er­a­tion for Black peo­ple. Since the 1970s, there’s been no account­abil­i­ty of Black lead­er­ship to the com­mu­ni­ty they claim to rep­re­sent, and those lega­cies of protest and move­ment build­ing weren’t passed down, but were for­got­ten.”


by Way­lon McDon­ald
“Our focus is not try­ing to win over the right wing, but focus­ing on build­ing pow­er with­in our com­mu­ni­ties, along­side the major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans who are learn­ing that these kinds of state poli­cies are not in their inter­ests. So while we’re dis­rupt­ing our ene­mies, we must, at the same time, orga­nize and build sol­i­dar­i­ty among and across black, rad­i­cal, and pro­gres­sive sec­tors of the coun­try, with­out get­ting bogged down in nar­row and reduc­tive iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics.”


hqdefault“But we also want to be care­ful not to sole­ly focus our ener­gies on protest­ing, ral­ly­ing, and pol­i­cy change. We are work­ing towards build­ing autonomous eco­nom­ic pow­er, as we do not believe in rely­ing on white peo­ple or this gov­ern­ment to do what’s nec­es­sary for Afrikan lib­er­a­tion. That comes from the peo­ple, all pow­er is with the peo­ple and we tru­ly live our lives and run our orga­ni­za­tion with this mot­to.” 


by George Cic­cariel­lo-Maher  


“Build­ing these inter­na­tion­al rela­tion­ships will take many forms: reviv­ing and trans­form­ing a stale sol­i­dar­i­ty mod­el inher­it­ed from Stal­in­ism; insist­ing on build­ing direct rela­tions between move­ments, not state-medi­at­ed anti-impe­ri­al­ism; and refus­ing the rad­i­cal pos­tur­ing so preva­lent today in favor of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary humil­i­ty.”


by Abdul, Baa­seiah, and Nayef


“I often hear and rec­og­nize some­one on the metro from these var­i­ous events, and we will exchange a look or smile. I think that in a way, I can see how these kind of rela­tion­ships are a kind of hid­den orga­ni­za­tion. So we’re not anti-orga­ni­za­tion­al, we’re just not in the busi­ness of recruit­ment.”




“We pro­pose that we con­sid­er insti­tu­tions such as schools, hos­pi­tals and pub­lic trans­porta­tion as social choke­points, insti­tu­tion­al spaces where a diverse range of pro­le­tar­i­ans come togeth­er on a dai­ly basis. Mil­i­tants should strong­ly con­sid­er the impor­tance of orga­niz­ing with­in these spaces.”


Authors of the article

is managing editor at Viewpoint.

is a poet, feminist, and anti-capitalist. She writes in the militant research collective Praxis Research. Her chapbook Rhizomes is out with Birds of Lace.