Because it wants to continue taking money directly, Black Lives Matter UK has become an official organization and, in the process, renamed itself “Black Liberation Movement UK.” This obviously allows it to retain its BLM UK branding without changing anything about its politics.
“We remain committed and our politics hasn’t changed, and we remain in constant conversation [with] and committed to the network of Black Lives Matter groups across the world,” said Elliott Cooper, who registered the entity. But people should be asking what this idea of “black liberation” is in the first place. We hear it a lot, and yet a quick web search reveals that its meaning is not immediately clear.
Liberation—black or otherwise—is a neo-Marxist concept based loosely upon Marx’s notion of the “emancipated man” who has been freed from the oppressive system of capitalism as it naturally evolves into communism. “Liberation” specifically refers to the liberation from systemic oppression, to frame it as the neo-Marxists would, which is to say liberation from the liberal order and Enlightenment rationalism, if we translate it into plainspeak.
“Freedom is liberation, a specific historical process in theory and practice, and as such it has its right and wrong, its truth and falsehood,” wrote neo-Marxist Herbert Marcuse in his famous 1965 essay, “Repressive Tolerance.” And what does it require? Suppression and the revocation of the civil rights of those in “power,” according to Marcuse: “It should be evident by now that the exercise of civil rights by those who don’t have them presupposes the withdrawal of civil rights from those who prevent their exercise, and that liberation of the Damned of the Earth presupposes suppression not only of their old but also of their new masters.”
Marcuse went on in 1969 to write about liberation in positively alarming terms, indicating that until human beings are fundamentally remade at a “biological” level, essentially to prefer socialism to capitalism, liberation will remain impossible. He also went on to inspire the radical black feminist theorist and activist Angela Davis who abandoned her studies (against another neo-Marxist, Theodor Adorno’s, advice) and joined the Black Liberation Army. She is now actively pursuing “black liberation” within the context of BLM (whichever thing that refers to ). Davis, for all her prolific writing and activism seems merely to assume the meaning of liberation, largely like her mentor Marcuse, though, and finding a clear outline of what either he or she means by it is a surprisingly tricky task. It seems to mean, reading from Marcuse’s 1964 book One-Dimensional Man, the rejection of all servitude and domination, which begins in turn from one’s “consciousness” of this dismal state.
While, at times, both Marcuse and Davis described “liberation” explicitly in Marxian terms and both left open the door for “violent resistance,” if necessary, to achieve it, the Black Liberation Army of which Davis was a part was more forthright about what liberation meant and entailed. It’s a neo-Marxist conspiracy theory. They observe, to quote them at some length,
In a society such as exists here today, law is never impartial, never divorced from the economical relationships that brought it about. History clearly shows that in the course of the development of modern western society, the code of law is the code of the dominant and most powerful class, made into laws for everyone. It is implemented by establishing “special” armed organs, that are obliged to enforce the prevailing class laws. In this historical period of human social development such is the objective function of “law.” …
Under such conditions of the most powerful economic and political classes. But, what about the law in a democracy, especially one that claims that all its citizens can elect their representatives who in turn can create new laws? First of all such a democracy does not exist in North America, bourgeoisie democracy is essentially the dictatorship of what used to be termed the “national bourgeoisie.” There are a combination of reasons as to why this form of democracy as such is merely a means of political control that evinces a design to subjugate its people, all of these reasons flow from the necessity to maintain exploitative capitalist relationships. Thus, the influence of corporate wealth on the politics of bourgeois democracy is merely an extension of private property’s traditional influence and control of the so-called democratic process. … To a greater degree all social and political institutions in a class society are reflections of the class organization of that society of the reflection of a given technological-economical arrangement and its supporting value system. The political organization of the most powerful classes or economic groups in a class society has to be, and is, the control by these classes over the entire society and its political system. We have found the democratic process under capitalism to be merely a means by which capital controls the masses. It is a means of mass diversion, designed to keep the powerless classes politically impotent while at the same time fostering the illusion that real power can be gained through the electoral process. Black People should know better. In a nation based on the false principle of majority rule we are a marginal minority and therefore our right to self-determination cannot be won in the arena of our oppressor.
It’s in this context that we can understand what “black liberationism” actually means in practice:
We, as blacks in North America must realize, that to seek inclusion into the prevailing socio-economic system is suicide in the long run, for the prevailing system cannot withstand the irresistible world trend of history which is opposed to continued U.S. exploitation, racist domination and subjugation. To fool ourselves into believing that “equal opportunity,” “justice,” and social equality is the same as the capitalist system is a grave mistake with genocidal implications for every person of color. Our first obligation is to ourselves, this means our first obligation is to secure our total liberation from those forces that maintain our oppressive condition. Related to this self-obligation (not distinct from it) is our obligation to all oppressed peoples throughout the world, for in striving to liberate ourselves we must abolish a system that enslaves others throughout the world.
So, black liberationism is the effort to free black people from every conceivable form of systemic oppression as analyzed by a Marxian conspiracy theory about how capitalism and the related liberal order allegedly intrinsically oppress them through tools like “equal opportunity,” “justice,” “social equality,” and, we could add, Enlightenment rationality, equality theory, and neutral principles of constitutional law (which Critical Race Theory explicitly and cynically calls into question). I don’t think this is what a lot of people think the otherwise pleasant-sounding term “black liberation” really refers to. Why not? For the simplest of reasons—who could be against liberation?
When people think of Black Lives Matter, as a decentralized confederacy of co-belligerent movements operating effectively under one umbrella, they may not realize that what they’re actually observing is a re-assertion of the Black Liberation Movement of some fifty years ago, which is in turn based literally upon a neo-Marxist conspiracy theory about free (liberal) capitalist societies. Perhaps this change of name by BLM UK will help them understand that.
This article was originally published at Roca News.