Among Friends: Reflections After the George Floyd Uprising
First published on SM28.org.
The following texts were written in 2021, intended as position papers to be discussed and debated among comrades. We’re publishing them because we believe they contain insights which could be useful for those struggling to orient themselves in the aftermath of the 2020 revolts.
The viewpoints expressed in these texts — presented in no specific order — do not converge into a neat, single narrative. While they share some basic assumptions about strategy, a closer reading also reveals considerable divergences. In fact, they show that partisans of the uprising have a wide ranging set of ideas that are often in conflict with each other, even if they’re occasionally synergetic.
For example, Kiersten’s and Adrian’s texts are in tension with each other, with Kiersten criticizing what she calls “the nihilism of technique,” or what can also be referred to as the theory of the "meme," an analytical framework which Adrian has more fully theorized elsewhere . According to the memetic argument, “leading gestures” (or leading techniques of struggle) are said to predominate over “leading identities.'' Adrian's text in this series ("Limits") is a good example of how this argument is applied as a mode of analysis. In another text, "Funeral, Riot, Wedding," the author further elaborates on the theory of memetic action, developing an approach that doesn't necessarily try to position the technique of struggle over it's social content, but is instead somewhere in between, at once technical and social.
In another divergence, Shemon critiques the way in which much of the North American ultra-left has imported its revolutionary theory from Europe, and is unwilling to fully digest the theories and strategies that were immanent to the George Floyd Uprising, specifically as these dynamics relate to the Black Radical Tradition.
These are only a few of the tensions which reflect the historic fragmentation of the far left, as well as the fact that the anti-police riot has yet to produce a common language (or analysis) when it comes to understanding itself. At the same time, despite these tensions, this series also demonstrates that alliances among different tendencies are not only possible but necessary for the development of a revolutionary movement.
For the time being, the anti-police riots have come to an end. But the legacy of the George Floyd Uprising lives on. Many questions and contradictions continue to linger under the surface. Even though full blown rebellions are no longer taking place in this country, crews of proletarians continue to attack capitalist social relations in various, hidden ways, from sporadic looting caravans, to sideshows, to bike life, to rowdy block parties, to jailbreaks and small prison riots. It’s unclear when the struggle will explode on a mass scale once again, but our wager is not only that it will, sooner or later, but that there’s a good chance it'll be bigger than anything we've experienced. What remains to be seen, however, is whether a significant number of those who fought in the uprising will gather themselves into revolutionary formations and carry the lessons learned in 2020 to the next phase of revolt.