The Fire This Time

James Baldwin

The Academy Award-nominated documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, is the latest addition in a resurgence of interest in the prophetic work of James Baldwin.

Author, Chris Hedges, in a recent column for Truthdig, calls Raoul Peck’s Academy Award-nominated film, I Am Not Your Negro “one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen.”

“I would have stayed in the theater in New York to see the film again if the next showing had not been sold out,” writes Hedges.

Portland theater-goers interested in the documentary film are experiencing a similar problem. The film’s recently concluded run at the Portland Museum of Art proved so popular, additional showings were added for April. (All of the film’s March 12 screenings sold out.)

Readers who want to see I Am Not Your Negro should definitely get tickets while they can. The film is, as the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday writes, “a brilliant piece of filmic writing, one that bursts with fierce urgency…”

Though based on the notes, words, interviews, and writings of author and essayist, James Baldwin, Peck’s film is no mere biopic.

Instead, Peck has attempted something far more daring. I Am Not Your Negro envisions Baldwin’s final, uncompleted work. The unfinished book—to be titled, Remember This House—was to be a comprehensive, personal account of Baldwin’s close relationship with the three key figures of the Civil Rights movement: Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Baldwin died in 1987, having completed only 30 pages of the manuscript.

Using a combination of Baldwin’s own voice—supplied through audio recordings, television interviews, and archival footage—and that of actor, Samuel L. Jackson, reading from Baldwin’s manuscript, Peck eschews the traditional “talking heads” format and allows his prophetic subject to tell the story of black America in his own words.

“The story of the Negro in America is the story of America–or, more precisely, it is the story of Americans,” Baldwin writes in his essay, “Many Thousands Gone,” collected in the 1955 compilation, Notes of a Native Son. “It is not a pretty story: the story of a people is never very pretty.”

But the film’s chilling coup de grace is achieved through its juxtaposition of contemporary images and video of recent victims of police violence including, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland. Clips from the mass protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri highlight the sickening reality that, in the 30 years since Baldwin’s death, precious little has fundamentally changed for black Americans.

James Baldwin’s work is undergoing something of a resurgence of interest of late and it is not difficult to see why.

In the wake of the increase in police killings of unarmed black men and women, greater scrutiny of the issue of mass incarceration prompted by Michelle Alexander’s best-selling, The New Jim Crow, the rise of a young, impassioned anti-racist movement in the guise of Black Lives Matter, and the election of an overt racist to the White House, leftists are seeking guidance and wisdom in Baldwin’s poetic prose.

Indeed, Baldwin is equal perhaps only to George Orwell in his prophetic vision, his command of the English language, and his unwavering commitment to telling inconvenient truths.

Baldwin’s novels, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) and Giovanni’s Room (1956), along with his searing essays, The Fire Next Time (1963), Notes of a Native Son (1955), and Nobody Knows My Name (1961) exposed, in prose that is both lyrical and uncompromising, the dark cancer of racism.

“If we were white, if we were Irish, if we were Jewish, if we were Poles … our heroes would be your heroes, too,” says Baldwin.

Nat Turner would be a hero instead of a threat. Malcolm X might still be alive… But when the Israelis pick up guns, or the Poles, or the Irish, or any white man in the world says “Give me liberty or give me death,” the entire white world applauds. But when a black man says exactly the same thing, word for word, he is judged a criminal, and treated like one, and everything possible is done to make an example of this bad nigger so there won’t be any more like him.

Baldwin’s novels also grappled with issues of homosexuality decades before the emergence of the gay rights movement. (Baldwin was gay, a fact often overshadowed by his identification with the Civil Rights movement.)

In every instance, Baldwin went out of his way to defy expectations and literary trends. He did not want to follow in the footsteps of other African American writers, like Richard Wright, whose work he was quite critical of. And Baldwin refused to be pigeonholed as a writer of what he termed “protest novels.”

Baldwin brought this uncompromising stance into his activism, as well. Though Baldwin clearly adhered to liberal-left politics, he was reluctant to identify with any official political cause, party or movement.

(“Many Thousands Gone” is critical of Marxism, dismissing the notion that the Negro and “the Worker” share any economic, social, or political aims. This unfortunate view—one firmly rooted in liberal identity politics—is echoed today by Baldwin disciple, Ta-Nehisi Coates.)

As a result, Baldwin—not unlike, again, Orwell–positioned himself more as a reporter or witness of the Civil Rights movement, rather than an active participant in it.

The film opens with Baldwin’s 1957 return to America after living abroad in France for nearly a decade. Baldwin wearily confesses that he never really missed America, nor the stereotypical staples of American culture like hot-dogs, baseball, and New York City. Seeing the images of 15-year-old, Dorothy Counts, as she is heckled and harassed by white students in a newly desegregated high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, prompted Baldwin to return to the States.

“I could simply no longer sit around Paris discussing the Algerian and the black American problem,” says Baldwin. “Everybody was paying their dues, and it was time I went home and paid mine.”

“If you have not read Baldwin you probably do not fully understand America,” Hedges writes in his piece. “Especially now.”

To understand America is to acknowledge the uncomfortable, horrifying truth so many of us are afraid to admit: This nation was founded on mass genocide and slavery. It is to concede the painful truth that America fought a bloody civil war, not to defend so-called “states’ rights,” as so many of us are taught in school, but to maintain the institution of slavery.

And it is to understand, as Karl Marx did, that both the institution of slavery and the pervasive disease of racism that continues to plague America some 150 years after slavery was abolished, are integral components of capitalism. Capitalists cynically employ racial animosity–alongside the equally deplorable oppression of sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and ableism–to sow fear and distrust among members of the working class.

The goal is to keep workers so busy fighting among themselves they fail to unite against their mutual oppressor: the bourgeoisie.

As the great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass put it, the ruling class in pitting white workers against black workers, “divided both to conquer each.”

The solution, then, is not to agonize over our individual “privilege,” or to reduce the role of white anti-racists to that of mere “allies.” Rather, we must develop a multi-racial, multi-gender, multi-ethnic mass movement that can fight for nothing less than the self-emancipation of the working class.

As the closing credits began–punctuated by Kendrick Lamar’s excoriating, “The Blacker the Berry”–I felt simultaneously galvanized by Baldwin’s words, but discouraged that some 30 years after his death, white Americans have largely failed to heed his prophetic words.

“The question you got to ask yourself … the white population of this country’s got to ask itself,” Baldwin says on an archival clip from an interview on Boston Public Television, “is why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place. Because I’m not a nigger. I’m a man.”

“But if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it, and you have got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that.”

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The Police State: Racist to the Core

police-barricade
Police cordon off a section of the Old Port in Portland, Maine, during a July 15, 2016 Black Lives Matter demonstration that blocked traffic for hours. Eighteen protesters were arrested. Photo from the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

PORTLAND, Maine- One of the most common objections to last summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstration that shut down parts of Portland’s Old Port on a busy Friday night in July, and resulted in the arrest of 18 protesters, is that the police shootings of unarmed black citizens that have become a regular fixture of the cable-news cycle “do not happen here in Maine.”

As Chris Busby wrote in his Bangor Daily News column (07/21/2016), questioning the overall efficacy of the protest, “If Portland cops are engaging in any racist behavior, word of it hasn’t reached my ears…”

But Black Lives Matter detractors can no longer make such naive assertions.

Chance David Baker, 22, was fatally shot by a Portland Police officer on Saturday, Feb. 20 at Union Station Plaza. Baker, who is black and had a history of mental illness, was seen outside the Subway restaurant, wielding a pellet gun and acting erratically, according to eye witnesses. Police were, reportedly, unable to discern that the pellet gun was not a rifle.

The PPD officer who shot Baker, Sgt. Nicholas Goodman, previously used deadly force prior to Saturday’s incident. Goodman has been placed on administrative leave following the shooting.

Baker had struggled with substance abuse as a teenager, and had been in and out of homeless shelters, according to local news reports. Still, friends said Baker had made great progress in recent years. They praised his selfless nature and committed work ethic. Baker was working three jobs just to make ends meet.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck lashed out at criticism of the PPD’s use of deadly force the following Wednesday, telling reporters he is “disgusted” by local officials who have “politicized” the shooting.

“I am saddened, I’m disappointed,” said Sauschuck at a press conference, “and I’ll tell you I’m disgusted by any use of a tragedy to further some kind of political agenda…”

The citizens of Portland are disgusted as well, Chief: Disgusted that police throughout the country feel they can kill unarmed people of color at will without repercussions.

Speaking of “politicizing tragedy,” Sauschuck was scheduled to receive an honorary commendation from the Portland City Council during its Feb. 22 meeting. Mercifully, a group of protesters loudly disrupted the provocatively-timed ceremony, causing the council to go into recess, and the police chief to flee City Hall before it could be concluded.

Baker’s death marks the third fatal shooting by a police officer in Maine so far this year. Much as we like to believe otherwise, we are not immune to racist police violence, here in Maine.

Yet, in our imperialistic culture of mandatory troop worship, many Mainers are reflexively rushing to express sympathy and condolences not with Baker or his friends and family–but with the officer who murdered him in broad daylight.

Eileen Reynolds of Brunswick defends the “brave, heroic sergeant,” in a Feb. 22 letter to the editor in the Portland Press Herald, “who prevented what easily could have resulted in a disastrous situation.”

“This incident,” Reynolds writes, “… should reinforce all of us to appreciate and stand behind our law enforcement officers.”

Donald Trump–who campaigned on a pledge to be a “law and order president”–has, likewise, stoked pro-police sentiments, perpetuating the false narrative that law enforcement officers are “under attack.” Trump and police-worshiping Republicans have countered the mantra of “Black lives matter,” with the ludicrous rejoinder, “Blue lives matter.”

Legislators in Louisiana recently passed a “Blue Lives Matter” law, which expands the list of protected classes under the state’s hate crimes statute to include police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel.

But not only is there no “war on cops,” police work overall is not actually as dangerous as we are frequently led to believe. A 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of the most dangerous jobs in America does not even list law enforcement among the top-ten. Instead, the survey found that truck drivers, fishermen, electricians, and garbage collectors all face a greater threat of injury or death on the job.

Thus, it is difficult to understand why Goodman felt compelled to use lethal force against Baker, rather than resolving the situation by talking him down and apprehending him. Perhaps the answer becomes clear when one considers the origins of the modern police force and its roots in the late 19th century slave patrols.

The epidemic of police violence towards people of color is not, as is often suggested, the result of a “few bad apples.” The entire system of capitalist law enforcement is rotten to the core.

“The modern police institution is at its core racist, elitist, undemocratic, authoritarian, and violent,” writes Kristian Williams in his recently updated book, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America.

These are the institution’s major features and it did not acquire them by mistake. The order that the police preserve is the order of the state, the order of capitalism, the order of White supremacy. These are the forces that require police protection … These are the ends the police serve.

Far from being members of the working class, the police have historically been the bourgeoisie’s first line of defense against strikes, peaceful protesters, and the threat of slave insurrection in the antebellum South. Though police officers generally make a fairly modest salary, their elevated position in society often causes them to identify more closely with the wealthy elite.

And the overall selective nature of the implementation of law enforcement grants individual police officers (who, unlike most workers, generally go about their job unmonitored by a boss or supervisor) wide leeway in terms of who, precisely, to target. This leaves them to rely on subconscious (and, in all likelihood, racist) prejudices about what a “criminal” or “suspect” looks like, how he dresses, his skin color, etc. Such leeway also provides greater opportunity for corruption.

As George Orwell wrote in Homage to Catalonia:

I have no particular love for the idealized “worker” as he appears in the bourgeois Communist’s mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.

Baker’s death must not go unpunished. We should fully support the implementation of body-cameras on all PPD officers–an effort many of the “liberal” local news outlets oppose.

But our efforts for police accountability must not end at body-cameras alone. Indeed, I ultimately envision a world where we do not need the police at all–at least not the institution of policing as it currently exists. (Williams, in his book, points to a form of democratically-run community policing as a viable alternative.)

In the meantime, let us place blame for Baker’s murder squarely where it belongs: With Sgt. Goodman, and the racist, hyper-masculine culture of violence that the police ultimately serve.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Thanks for reading!

Dickensian Days are Here Again

An homage to Charles Dickens

dickens-at-work

Charles Dickens, whose classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol is ubiquitous on television and local theater stages this time of year, is one of my favorite authors. The celebrated British novelist had a keen insight into the arrogant mindset of the bourgeoisie that remains unrivaled in literature to this day.

Consider, for instance, when Ebenezer Scrooge is approached by two social workers who solicit him for a charitable donation for the poor. Upon rebuking them (“Are there no prisons? …No workhouses?”), Scrooge admonishes the social workers:

“I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I mentioned. They cost enough. And those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.”

Fast-forward to president-elect Donald Trump. When asked if he was “sympathetic” to minimum wage workers’ demands for a $15 minimum wage during a Fox News “debate” last year, Trump seemed to channel his own inner-Scrooge.

“I can’t be,” Trump flatly told moderator Neil Cavuto. “…Our taxes are too high…. Wages too high. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it [the minimum wage] the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard, and they have to get into that upper stratum.”

Leaving aside the obvious factual errors of Trump’s response (both taxes and wages are notoriously low in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries; likewise, Americans already rank among the hardest-working people in the world yet only a tiny privileged minority make into that “upper stratum”), his callous rhetoric toward the poor is virtually identical to Scrooge’s.

Turns out the capricious mindset of the rich has not changed much in the last 200 years.

But as much as I enjoy A Christmas Carol, I find it unfortunate it is Dickens’ best known work. Indeed, the 1843 short story really only scratches the surface of Dickens’ literary talents.

Dickens’ novels following Christmas Carol–most of which originally appeared as serialized installments in magazines–featured intricately-woven plots, and delved into darker subject matter than his previous works. The classic Dickens storyline typically features dozens of characters—often, as is the case in Great Expectations and Little Dorrit, hailing from opposite social classes—whose fates are inevitably bound together somehow.

A master of wit and satire, Dickens’ stories tend to feature outlandishly cartoonish characters like the teacher Mr. M’Choakumchild from 1854’s Hard Times or the duplicitous Yes-Man, Uriah Heep from David Copperfield. Consider Dickens’ vivid description, as narrated by titular protagonist, David Copperfield, of Heep from the following passage:

“There I saw him, lying on his back, with his legs extending to I don’t know where, gurglings taking place in his throat, stoppages in his nose, and his mouth open like a post office… Afterwards I was attracted to him in very repulsion, and could not help wandering in and out every half hour or so, and taking another look at him.”

Dickens introduces Scrooge, likewise, as a “tight-fisted hand at the grindstone… a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.” Needless to say, Dickens was never too keen on subtlety.

But it was Dickens’ passionate humanization of England’s poor and working class, and his scathing indictment of the ultra-rich that truly secured his legacy not merely as a writer, but as a social reformer as well.

Like George Orwell and Upton Sinclair, Dickens began his writing career as a newspaper reporter. His stories on the ills of London’s capitalist industrialization easily lent themselves to his literary exposes of child labor, homelessness, and the plight of the poor as depicted in Oliver Twist and Great Expectations.

Even Karl Marx took notice of Dickens’ socially-conscious writing. In an August 1, 1854 article in the New York Tribune, Marx praised Dickens as belonging to a “splendid brotherhood of fiction writers in England, whose graphic and eloquent pages have issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together.”

Dickens’ concern for the poor came out of his own childhood struggles with poverty. At the age of 12, Dickens was forced to leave school to work full-time in a rodent-infested boot-blacking factory after his father was sent to debtor’s prison. Dickens would later denounce these prisons and the institutional criminalization of poverty, in 1857’s Little Dorrit.

Dickens’ own difficult childhood proved a near endless well of inspiration for his novels, nearly all of which feature child or young adult protagonists. For the leftist historian, Howard Zinn, who was greatly influenced by Dickens at an early age, this championing of the plight of children was something of a revelation.

“How wise Dickens was to make readers feel poverty and cruelty through the fate of children,” Zinn writes in his 1994 autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, “who had not reached the age where the righteous and comfortable classes could accuse them of being responsible for their own misery.”

To be clear, Dickens was not a socialist and it is not my intention here to paint him as such. While Dickens understood all too well the dehumanizing effects of industrial capitalism, neither his novels nor his nonfiction writing offer anything in the way of an economic or political alternative.

Indeed, as a successful literary celebrity, Dickens likely had as much to fear from a working class uprising as the greedy capitalists he took such obvious pleasure in skewering. This fear is hinted at in the character of bloodthirsty revolutionary, Madame Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities, whose motives have more to do with pure vengeance than any real political agenda.

“Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again,” Dickens writes in the conclusion of Tale of Two Cities, “and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”

This moralistic, “a-pox-on-both-houses” view of class struggle is all too common among center-left liberals who put their faith in piecemeal reforms and legislation to ameliorate what they describe as capitalism’s “excesses.” Dickens’ novels, likewise, stressed social reforms, a generic Christian kindness, and in the case of Scrooge, philanthropic charity from the wealthy.

Again, Dickens was no Marxist.

(A socialist re-imagining of A Christmas Carol would perhaps see Bob Cratchit organizing his fellow workers to forcibly wrest Scrooge’s business and wealth from him. Come to think of it, somebody should really write that book…)

These limitations of political vision aside, one is hard-pressed to identify a contemporary author who shares Dickens’ keen sense of social outrage.

And this is why Charles Dickens’ work still resonates in our own time.

Today, we find ourselves living in hard times not unlike those that defined Dickens’ Victorian England. In the wake of late-stage capitalism, and Wall Street’s trashing of the global economy, we are witnessing an unprecedented gulf between the rich and the rest of us. According to Oxfam, the richest one percent are currently on track to own more wealth than the rest of the world. This is a scale of global inequality the charitable organization calls, “simply staggering.”

And, in what is perhaps the most frightening indicator that we stand on the brink of a return to the dark, Dickensian days of unregulated capitalism, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, belongs to a right-wing think tank that endorses repealing child labor laws.

Perhaps David Copperfield‘s perpetually unemployed Mr. Micawber best sums up the plight of the working class:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen-six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Solidarity with Standing Rock

standing-rock

The extreme state violence unleashed on the indigenous protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota, is not only shocking, but should also be very instructive to all Americans who care about social justice and democracy.

The capitalist state has demonstrated just how far it is willing to go to ensure its profits are secure. Those like the Sioux Standing Rock tribal nations who valiantly stand in the way of corporate profits through their ongoing protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) will find themselves on the receiving end of the full force of the state.

In the words of the malicious apparatchik, O’Brien, in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, “We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back.”

Consider that the U.S. capitalist state’s unofficial slogan.

The protesters—who refer to themselves as “water protectors”—include the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe along with dozens of other native tribes and non-native activists. They have been camped out at the Sacred Stone campsite for months now to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which would carry about 500,000 barrels of dirty crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil shale to Illinois. The $3.8 billion pipeline would run directly through the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s treaty-protected land, as well as sacred burial sites. It would also pose a considerable threat to the Missouri River, tribe’s water source.

Rebecca Solnit, writing for The Guardian in September, calls the burgeoning protest movement, “extraordinary,” and “possibly transformative for native rights, Sioux history, and the intersection of the climate movement with indigenous communities.”

But the protest has been met with vicious repression by local police forces in riot gear and the National Guard, along with heavily armored private security forces assumed to have been hired by Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation funding DAPL. In a highly disproportionate display of force similar to the state’s response to largely peaceful protests in Ferguson, Missouri, police have used tear-gas, attack dogs, pepper spray, and sound cannons on the water protectors.

The police violence reached a frightening crescendo on Nov. 20, when a protester, 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky, was severely injured by what eyewitness accounts claim was a concussion grenade hurled directly at her. Wilansky’s left arm was grievously maimed during the explosion, which destroyed arteries, soft tissue, nerves, muscle, and bone, according to the Guardian. It remains to be seen whether she will need to have the arm amputated.

Officers are now denying they ever used concussion grenades on the protesters, claiming instead that protesters set off the explosion. Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, calls this account, “bogus nonsense.”

Video recordings of the night of Wilansky’s injury show the police and Morton County Sheriff’s Department officers using water cannons on protesters in sub-freezing temperatures.

Make no doubt about it: This is a terrifying act of carnage against peaceful protesters.

And where is President Barack Obama during this assault on American citizens…? It is a good question. He and the Democrats–still licking their wounds after their stunning surprise electoral defeat in this month’s presidential election–have been conspicuously silent about Standing Rock.

Earlier this month, Obama addressed the stand-off in his typically aloof, bureaucratic manner. In an interview with Now This News, in which the president tepidly broached the prospect of having the pipeline re-routed, he said:

“We are going to let it [the standoff] play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”

Obama went on to criticize “both sides” in the struggle, falsely suggesting that the First Nations protesters and the state forces are equally to blame for the escalation of violence.

“I think that my general rule when I talk to governors and state and local officials,” Obama said, “whenever they are dealing with protests–including, for example during the Black Lives Matter protests–there is an obligation for protesters to be peaceful, and there is an obligation for authorities to show restraint.”

He went on,

“I want to make sure that as everybody is exercising their constitutional rights to be heard that both sides are refraining from situations that might result in people being hurt.”

But this assessment of the situation at Standing Rock is a disingenuous false equivalency. “Both sides” are not at fault, here. There is really just one side in this conflict that is employing violence and disproportionate force: The state forces, in the form of the police and the National Guard.

Furthermore, the law enforcement officers have military-grade weapons, including water cannons, rubber bullets, attack dogs, tear gas, mace, and grenades. The peaceful water protectors, meanwhile, have signs, banners and … some tribal drums. Thus, even if we are to accept Obama’s false claim that both camps are equally guilty of engaging in violence, this conflict hardly constitutes a fair fight.

As cultural studies philosopher, Theodor Adorno wrote, “Bourgeois society is ruled by equivalence. It makes the dissimilar comparable by reducing it to abstract quantities.”

All of this is to acknowledge that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the state is not a neutral arbiter in instances of class struggle. We are taught in school that the U.S. government operates with a system of “checks and balances,” to ensure the equitable distribution of power among competing groups (women, minorities, labor, business, immigrants, etc.).

But the state actually has a self-serving objective: The advancement of capitalism–at any cost.

As Marx and Engels observed in The Communist Manifesto, the capitalist state is little more than a “committee for managing the affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”

Or, as Paul D’Amato writes in his socialism primer, The Meaning of Marxism:

“In a society based upon massive concentrations of wealth on the one end, and poverty and low wages on the other, one billionaire has more political clout than even millions of workers.”

The point here is that the state (or, more specifically, the fossil fuel corporations like Energy Transfer Partners, which essentially control the state) has a clear financial interest in building the Dakota Access Pipeline. If it must maim–or even kill–unarmed citizens in order to achieve this end, so be it.

This is why piecemeal reforms are ultimately not sufficient to curb capitalism’s relentless thirst for ever greater profits. The entire system is incompatible with human needs–including the maintenance of a healthy, sustainable planet habitable for human life. Capitalism is literally killing the planet. It must be dismantled.

And that is why supporting the water protectors at Standing Rock, in whatever manner one is able to, is the most important thing progressives can do right now.

“Without clean water we are nothing,” one activist said. “You can’t live off of oil. You can’t drink oil.”