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Why Brzezinski said ‘There could be even riots’

Published May 7, 2009 8:31 PM

2009 began with a rebellion. On Jan. 7, seven days after Oscar Grant III had been shot in the back and killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit cop Johannes Mehserle, the people of Oakland, Calif., rose up and rebelled.

The rebellion was short-lived. It was confined. However, it indicated that whatever distractions might exist, even the symbolic victory of the first Black president, the conditions of oppression and repression remain just as intense, and violent rebellion is still possible.

The response of Oakland’s people was what pushed the city government to arrest and charge Mehserle. Before that, Mehserle had dodged questioning and fled to Nevada, where he was picked up on a fugitive warrant.

‘National Solidarity Fund’

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor and architect of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s, remarked on MSNBC in February, “And if we don’t get some sort of voluntary National Solidarity Fund, at some point there’ll be such political pressure that Congress will start getting in the act. There’s going to be growing conflict between the classes, and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could be even riots.”

Brzezinski was arguing for the capitalist class and the moneyed small capitalists to band together and create a fund, which he called the “National Solidarity Fund.” The fund would be used to buy off the poor and the quickly declining middle class.

The idea is inane for a number of reasons. Its title, “National Solidarity Fund,” is a severe misuse of the word “solidarity.” Certainly it is not solidarity to give people a pittance of what you have stolen from them through exploitation, so that the inevitability of the working class and oppressed beginning to openly struggle against the conditions forced upon them is staved off for a little while longer.

Besides the obvious meaning of such a fund, it is absurd to think that the capitalists would be into giving workers and the oppressed anything. The capitalists are demanding more handouts from the federal government, with trillions of dollars robbed from working people.

Brzezinski is right to expect that open conflict will arise, but the capitalist class has always been clear about its position. It has always been antagonistic. It is the waking up of the working class that Brzezinski fears. The increasing heat of class contradictions is melting away the one-sided détente. Yes, “there could be even riots.”

Since last October, many in the progressive movement have raised the specter of federal troops being used internally against people in the U.S. Some fear there could be martial law, and an Army Unit, the 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Brigade Combat Team, could be used to put down rebellions.

The state apparatus is meant to stand between the exploiter and the exploited, to maintain the status quo by beating back workers and the oppressed. The government will wield the state as a hammer or sword. So fear of an infantry unit, one that has been used to beat back the resistance of the Iraqi and Afghan people against U.S. imperialism, is real.

The state, though, has many weapons. Already, a battle-hardened army with the most high-tech weaponry patrols the streets. This army occupies oppressed communities. In some oppressed communities, such as Trinidad in Washington, D.C., this army employs checkpoints, pulling drivers over and stopping people who are walking, denying them access to neighborhoods if they can’t verify their address.

This army is the police and sheriff’s departments in every city, town and village across the U.S. In New York City, the police department numbers nearly 50,000, when you add up actual police officers, auxiliaries and school safety agents.

Each state also has the National Guard, which has historically been called on to put down rebellions when the police have not been able to. The National Guard was used during the Los Angeles rebellion in 1992, with troops patrolling in armored personnel carriers.

The state has many means of repression: the police, the military, courts, jails and prisons. While it is right to fear the implementation of the various state agencies, one cannot necessarily anticipate their use against the movement.

The state exists for the uses of the ruling class. Some have decried the federalization of the army brigade for domestic use as a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, but it won’t be the first time.

Historically, Posse Comitatus was never used progressively but was a compromise between Northern finance capitalists and the Southern former slave masters. Federal troops were pulled from the South, ending Reconstruction and leaving Blacks to fend for themselves in the face of a well-equipped tide of right-wing paramilitary groups.

Struggle happens, and struggle in the interests of working and oppressed people can use whatever means the people in the struggle deem necessary to protect themselves. Oakland, a city that has a rich history of struggle, signaled that violence in this era is still in the equation and will always be.

The key is solidarity, which means white workers must stand in support of the most oppressed and support their right to self-defense and to fight for liberation by any means.

In the current climate, where the decadence of bourgeois society grows fouler and white workers have seen beyond racism to elect a Black president, the possibility of broad working-class unity appears great.

This unity does not erase the demand of the oppressed for self-determination, but that demand will grow stronger as racism intensifies to divide workers. The demand itself strengthens the overall movement against the brutal capitalist system.

Millions of people have lost their jobs and homes. Imperialist war wages on, with threats of more. The contradictions are starker than ever, but the possibility of open struggle is looking up.