Solidarity means dismantling the system everywhere

The infrastructure of racist policing must be dismantled brick by brick, dollar by dollar, police department by police department.

Noam Chomsky Yanis Varoufakis Aruna Roy Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta Ece Temelkuran Renata Avila
4 June 2020, 2.49pm
James Gourley/AAP/PA Images

A new solidarity movement is rising. From Los Angeles to Sao Paolo, Minneapolis to London, “Black Lives Matter” is a cry and a demand heard around the world.

The message of this movement is powerfully simple: stop killing Black people — in their homes, on the streets, and traveling across the sea to safer shores. Yet in its simplicity, it contains the seed of a radical transformation in our planetary system, raging against a machine of racist dispossession to make room for collective and communal liberation everywhere.

The last decade has witnessed a sharp turn in two terrifying directions: turning in and cracking down. A new cohort of authoritarians has shunned international cooperation in a retreat to the nation-state and its ancient myths of blood and soil. A new set of surveillance technologies has turned us in further, tightening and militarizing state control over our communities. And the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us further into locked-down isolation, introducing — in some cases — the threat of a permanent state of exception and the martial law attached to it.

Protest movements around the world are rising up and reaching out. In the streets of Santiago, young Chileans demonstrated against widespread conditions of poverty, precarity, and police brutality. Across India, millions of activists stood up to the racism and anti-Muslim violence of the Modi government. And in Lebanon, protestors have defied lockdown to demand their basic rights to food, water, healthcare, and education.

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It is in these planetary conditions that protests have erupted across the United States. And yet, there is something exceptional about these protests — if only that they expose a deep fissure in the doctrine of ‘American exceptionalism.’ We cannot ignore the particular hypocrisy of the hegemon, which brags to the world of its ‘missions accomplished’ and freedoms granted while oppressing its Black, brown, and native populations at home. And we should not overlook the opening these protests have created to break with this hegemonic power and advance toward a decolonized and multipolar world.

An opening is an opening — not an assurance. The scenes that have emerged from these international protests are those of a system at breaking point. But there is no guarantee in which direction it will break. It would be our grave error to underestimate the forces of reaction and their capacity to leverage the present opportunity to advance their repressive vision of ‘LAW & ORDER!’, as President Trump so succinctly tweeted.

The scenes that have emerged from these international protests are those of a system at breaking point

Our challenge, now as always, is to organize: to turn these spontaneous expressions of solidarity into an enduring international movement to dismantle the institutions of racist state violence and investigate the human rights abuses by US police departments, its prison system, and its military, in particular.

That is why we founded the Progressive International: to make solidarity more than a slogan. Marches in cities like Auckland and Amsterdam have sent an important signal to the US government that the world is watching. But bearing witness is not enough. Our task is to demonstrate the ways in which our solidarities can overcome borders to give meaningful support to people fighting unequal battles in thousands of places across the world.

That means learning from each other’s struggles against state violence, as in the case of the Lebanese activists who compiled a toolkit for protestors across the US. That means providing resources, where possible, to support the victims of police violence and their families. And it means identifying our own respective roles in this planetary system —wherever we may live — and delivering justice in our own communities.

Not all solidarities are the same. Far too often, expressions of outrage at what is happening ‘over there’ act as cover to ignore, dismiss, or otherwise minimize the ritual violence that happens right here. Europeans marching to defund the Minneapolis police might demand that their own governments defund Frontex, the EU border authority responsible for illegal pushbacks and deportations across the Mediterranean.

The same holds true in the opposite direction. The expansion of US empire through the unlimited funding of its military-industrial complex has boomeranged back home, arming local police forces with the same equipment that the US has deployed in its endless wars overseas. If the protests in the United States are to give rise to a new sense of solidarity among its citizens, then it must extend to all populations that have suffered US imperial aggression and sustained occupation — especially those native populations on whose dispossession the nation itself was founded.

The infrastructure of racist policing is already international. US law enforcement agencies are trained by the Israeli military. US arms producers supply police forces across Brazil. US corporations equip the Indian government with surveillance technology. And US methods of stop-and-frisk in minority neighbourhoods have been exported around the world.

The task of our Progressive International is take stock of this international infrastructure — to listen to activists and organizers who have dedicated their lives to this fight — and to work with them to dismantle it: brick by brick, dollar by dollar, police department by police department.

Full list of co-authors:

Noam Chomsky — USA — Noam Chomsky is considered the founder of modern linguistics. He has received numerous awards, including the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal and the Ben Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science. Chomsky joined the UA in fall 2017, coming from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked since 1955 and was Institute Professor, later Institute Professor emeritus

Hilda Heine — Marshall Islands — Hilda Heine is Senator for Aur Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. She served as President of the RMI from 2016 to 2020, and the Minister of Education before that. As RMI President, Heine took the issue of climate change, an existential threat for the peoples of the Marshall Islands and others in similar situations, to the international stage to share the story and to increase others’ awareness of RMI and the difficulties it faces due to climate change.

Ece Temelkuran — Turkey — Ece Temelkuran is one of Turkey’s best- known novelists and political commentators, appearing in the Guardian, New York Times, New Statesman, and Der Spiegel. Her recent novel Women Who Blow on Knots won the 2017 Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award. She is the recipient of the PEN Translate Award, the New Ambassador of Europe Prize, and “Honorary Citizenship” from the city of Palermo for her work on behalf of oppressed voices.

Gael García Bernal — Mexico — Gael García Bernal is an actor. He began performing in stage productions with his parents in Mexico, and later studied at the Central School for Speech and Drama in London. He is a founder and the president of Ambulante, an itinerant not-for-profit documentary film festival promoting documentaries within Mexico and abroad. He has recently opened his new production company, La Corriente del Golfo, together with Diego Luna.

Áurea Carolina — Brazil — Áurea Carolina is a federal deputy for Minas Gerais state (BR), affiliated with the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). Áurea is part of the Muitas municipalist movement, of #partidA (an informal party composed dedicated to electing women into office), and of the Ocupa Política network (devoted to boosting the occupation of the institutional politics by progressive activists). Together with Andréia de Jesus, Bella Gonçalves, and Cida Falabella, she takes part in the “Gabinetona”, a forum where four parliamentary mandates work collectively.

Celso Amorim — Brazil — Celso Amorim is the longest serving foreign minister of Brazil to date (1993-1994 and 2003-2010). He also served as Minister of Defense (2011-2014). Amorim remains active in academic life and as a public figure, having written a number of books and articles on matters ranging from foreign policy to culture.

Renata Avila — Guatemala — Renata Ávila is an international human rights lawyer. She is a 2020 Stanford Race and Technology Fellow at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. She is a Board member for Creative Commons, the Common Action Forum, Cities for Digital Rights, Article 19 Mexico & Central America, and a Global Trustee of Digital Future Society. She also serves as a member of the Coordinating Collective of DiEM25.

Srecko Horvat — Croatia — Srećko Horvat is a philosopher. He has been active in various movements for the past two decades. He co-founded the Subversive Festival in Zagreb and, together with Yanis Varoufakis, founded DiEM25. He published more than a dozen books translated into 15 languages, most recently Poetry from the Future, Subversion!, The Radicality of Love and What Does Europe Want?.

Carola Rackete — Germany — Carola Rackete studied nautical science in Elsfleth and conservation management in Ormskirk, England. She has mainly been working on polar research vessels and spent eight seasons in the Antarctic. Since 2016, she has been volunteering on NGO ships and aircraft in the central Mediterranean and, as captain of the SEA-WATCH 3, was arrested in 2019 for entering an Italian port to safeguard a group of rescued refugees.

Yanis Varoufakis — Greece — Yanis Varoufakis is a member of the Hellenic Parliament and the Secretary-General of MeRA25. He is the co-founder of DiEM25, and the former finance minister of Greece. He is the author of several books, including Adults in the Room and And The Weak Suffer What They Must?.

John McDonnell — UK — John McDonnell is a Member of Parliament for Hayes and Harlington. From 2015 to 2020, he served as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer under party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Andres Arauz — Ecuador — Andres Arauz is a former Minister of Knowledge of Ecuador and a former Central Bank General Director. He is a founding member of the Dollarization Observatory and a former board member of the nascent Bank of the South. He is currently based in Mexico City as a Doctoral Fellow at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM.

Alicia Castro — Argentina — Alicia Castro is political and union activist. She was was the General Secretary of the Union of Aeronavegantes, the founder of the Argentine Workers Movement (MTA), and a member of the ITF Council. She served as the Argentine ambassador to the United Kingdom from 2012 to 2016. Before that, she served in ambassadorial posts in Venezuela and as the National Deputy for the Province of Buenos Aires.

David Adler — USA — David Adler is the General Coordinator of the Progressive International, policy leader fellow at the School of Transnational Governance (EUI) and the policy coordinator of the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25).

Aruna Roy — India — Aruna Roy is a Founder-Member, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghathan (MKSS), National Campaign to People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), and the School for Democracy (SFD). She was with the IAS from 1968-1975. In 1975 she came to Ajmer District, Rajasthan to work with the SWRC and the rural poor. In 1987 she moved to live with the poor in a village called Devdungri, Rajsamand District in Rajasthan. In 1990 she was part of the group that set up the MKSS. She has worked for accessing constitutional rights for the poor - Right to Information, Employment, Food Security etc.She was a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) from 2004-06 and 2010-13. She is President of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW).

Nikhil Dey — India — Nikhil Dey is a leading Indian social activist and a co-founder of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). MKSS is a People’s Organisation and part of the growing Non-party political process in India. The MKSS works with workers and peasants in the villages of Central Rajasthan to strengthen participatory democratic processes, so that ordinary citizens could live their lives with dignity and justice.

Ertuğrul Kürkçü — Turkey — Ertuğrul Kürkçü is the current Honorary President of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and Honorary Associate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). He was the co-chair of the HDP in 2013-14 and the member of parliament for three successive terms between 2011-2018. He spent 14 years as a prisoner between 1972-1986 for his political activism in Turkey, after which he helped found the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP). After its disintegration, he joined the united block of ‘Labor, Democracy and Freedom’ in 2011 what successfully transformed into the HDP.

Nick Estes — Nick Estes is a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. He is an Assistant Professor in the American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico. In 2014, he co- founded The Red Nation, an Indigenous resistance organization. For 2017-2018, Estes was the American Democracy Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. Estes is a member of the Oak Lake Writers Society, a network of Indigenous writers committed to defend and advance Oceti Sakowin (Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota) sovereignty, cultures, and histories.

Paola Vega — Costa Rica — Paola Vega is a Costa Rican congresswoman. She is the chair of the Environmental Committee and a member of the Economic and Women's Committees. Her main goals in environmental matters are to change plastic consumption, pass a new and modern water law, ban gas and oil exploration and exploitation, evolve to sustainable fishing practices, and to promote green businesses and circular economies.

Scott Ludlam — Australia — Scott Ludlam is a writer, activist and former Australian Greens Senator. He served in Parliament from 2008 - 2017, and as Co-Deputy Leader of his party from 2015 - 2017. Currently working as a freelance researcher and troublemaker, while writing occasional pieces for Meanjin, the Monthly, Junkee and the Guardian.

Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta — Argentina — Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta is the Minister of Women, Genders and Diversity of Argentina. Previously, she practiced law from more than twenty years, representing victims of state terrorism and political prisoners. She is also Professor at the University of Buenos Aires, where she teaches criminal law. She has published numerous articles on criminal law, human rights law and gender. She holds a law degree from the University of Buenos Aires and has completed postgraduate studies in law, sociology and political sciences.

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