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Mar 2, 22

This Is America #160: An Anarchist Critique of the ‘State of the Union,’ Organizing Against Far-Right Convoy, Ukraine for Dummies

Welcome, to This Is America, March 2nd, 2022.

On today’s episode, first we bring you an anarchist critique of Biden’s ‘State of the Union’ address.

We then present an interview with long-time anarchist organizer in so-called Canada Jaggi Singh, who speaks about the recent counter-demonstrations which took place against the far-Right convoy protests in Ottawa and beyond. While this interview is over a week old, it still offers clear insights for those in the so-called United States, as another round of far-Right convoy protests are being organized as we speak. A fair warning, this interview has a lot of cursing.

We then switch to our discussion, where we discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine, how the police in Florida attempted to brand someone arrested outside of a rally in support of far-Right J6 defendants as a member of an “Antifa sleeper cell,” and much more.

Let’s dive right in!

An Anarchist Critique of Biden’s ‘State of the Union’ Address

“The United States is also a one-party state, but with typical American extravagance, they have two of them.” – Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere

Biden presented his first State of the Union speech on Tuesday, attempting to project a sense of strength and national unity to a nation increasingly divided by inequality, amidst a backdrop of an escalating war in Ukraine and a growing fascist threat at home. Speaking in front of a largely mask-less audience of military brass, politicians, and foreign dignitaries, Biden championed a growing economy, declared himself once again a “capitalist,” and attacked “defunding the police.”

Moreover, Biden attempted to sell the idea, as has the rest of the neoliberal class, that the pandemic is “winding down” and defeated, when in reality thanks to heavy corporate lobbying and changes in CDC rules, the ruling class has now transitioned into accepting the pandemic as an “endemic,” and is now pushing workers to adjust to an unending cycle of infection and death. Marching lock-step, the CDC has in the lead up to Biden’s speech, moved to classify formerly high-risk areas of infection to now low or medium-risk, in order to justify encouraging around 70 percent of the US population to stop wearing masks. This move has also been coupled by a push to end mask wearing in public schools. As one report wrote, the recent changes by the CDC come “weeks before the official death toll in the US surpasses 1 million, with the Worldometer site recording 973,119 deaths from COVID-19 in the US and nearly 2,000 people dying each day.”

Like Trump, the Democrats are attempting to normalize death of front-line workers, the elderly, the poor, and those lacking access to healthcare – as rents have skyrocketed, inflation has soared, the climate crisis grows more dire, and capitalists have attempted to recoup lost profits during the last two years of the pandemic.

But this collective push towards marketing mass death and disease as the “new normal” by both corporate parties is only matched by the growing social crisis. While Biden claimed in his speech that his administration was a departure from the “trickle down economics” that revolved around giving tax-breaks to the rich, under the pandemic, the wealth (and racial wealth) divide is the highest its been since World War II, as Wall-Street is reporting record profits. While Biden (again) talked about raising the minimum wage to a paltry $15 an hour, his administration has failed to deliver on any of the “bread and butter” issues people voted him into office to pass, such as gutting student debt, making college tuition free, and raising wages.

And as Biden painted a bright picture for “the economy,” he was doing so just as eviction moratoriums in many major cities are ending, while “[i]n the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, median rent rose an astounding 19.3% from December 2020 to December 2021.” Meanwhile, growing houseless encampments are met with police brutality and eviction sweeps and two years after the George Floyd rebellion, police continue to kill on average around three people per day. According to the Washington Post, in 2021, “Police shot and killed at least 1,055 people nationwide last year, the highest total since The Washington Post began tracking fatal shootings by officers in 2015.” The stark realities of the social and class war that defined the Trump era have only gotten worse and deepened under Biden – not gotten better.

Despite running on a platform that attempted to pay lip service to Black Lives Matter and George Floyd, Biden and the Democrats have done nothing but repeatedly call for more funding of police. This “woke” version of law and order was repeated by Biden during his State of the Union address, as he stated, “We should all agree, the answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police. Fund them with resources and training, resources and training they need to protect their communities.”

This sentiment echos calls by neoliberals at The Washington Post and the New York Times, both of which have erroneously blamed the rise in gun violence and shooting deaths on the George Floyd rebellion, the “Defund the Police” movement, and specifically on anarchists. In reality, while crime has been in overall decline since the 1990s, the current rise in gun violence is directly tied to the rise in poverty and lack of access to basic resources which has been exacerbated during the pandemic. Studies have shown that there is no direct link between the current rise in gun violence and a change in cities’ massive police budgets, many of which have fluctuated due to tax shortfalls due to COVID-19, not because of pressure from social movements, while crime itself isn’t impacted by numbers of police on the force to begin with.

But the rise in gun related violence and deaths speaks to a deepening social crisis that neither Democrats nor Republicans want to address. In cities controlled by either party, gun violence rose during the pandemic as people grew more desperate. This deadly reality has also been matched by an exploding suicide and overdose crisis which has become a key touchstone of life under neoliberal capitalism.

But in the face of this reality, Biden’s solution is to double down on the role of the police. In regards to fighting the opioid epidemic, he stated, “Stop the flow of illicit drugs by working with state and local law enforcement” and touted a plan to hire more teachers, seemingly oblivious of the fact that so many have quit due to the same unsafe working conditions his administration is helping to enshrine. Turning towards social media, Biden called to “hold platforms accountable” by strengthening regulations. This shows a clear pattern: according to Biden, the solution to deepening crisis is to be found within the state itself and implemented by police orders. Such a position does nothing to address why and how these problems are arising to begin with; it presumes that all social ills can be combated through government programs rather than by fundamentally changing the power relations of our stratified society.

With an eye towards the so-called southern border, Biden also proposed the expansion of the surveillance state, claiming “we’ve installed new technology like cutting-edge scanners to better detect drug smuggling.” And while neo-fascists like Lauren Boebert and Majorie Taylor Greene screamed “Build the Wall” as the rest of the crowd cheered during Biden’s talk of “immigration reform,” Biden made clear his commitment to Clinton-era policies of border militarization while funneling in workers to keep the economy humming, stating, “Immigration reform is supported by everyone from labor unions to religious leaders to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

Biden went further, doubling down on immigration policies that months ago led to border patrol officers brutally whipping Haitian migrants and herding them into camps and then onto planes to be deported. He stated, “We’re putting in place dedicated immigration judges so families fleeing persecution and violence can have their cases heard faster. We’re supporting partners in South and Central America to host more refugees and secure their own borders.” In short, Biden is determined to continue supporting Trump-era border policies concocted by white nationalists like Stephen Miller, using COVID-19 as a pretext for denying asylum seekers the right to apply for visas and keeping Trump’s system of militarizing borders south of the US in place in an effort to clamp down on migrants and refugees. Out with Trump’s overt xenophobic Nativism and back in with Biden’s covert structural white supremacy, enforced by neoliberal models.

Biden ended his speech addressing to voting rights, healthcare, abortion access, and the onslaught of Republican-backed anti-LGBTQ bills that take aim at queer and trans youth in particular. Biden stated, “Protect access to health care. Preserve a woman’s right to choose. As I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I will always have your back as your President…” These words have rung hollow, as the Democrats have failed to deliver on securing or expanding these protections in the face of a cascade of Republican bills and draconian legislation.

But perhaps the most important thing about Biden’s speech was what he didn’t say. Only mentioning climate change twice in passing, once to call for tax-credits to weatherize buildings and again for “economic competition… with the rest of the world—particularly with China,” he largely understated the crises looming ahead of us. He did not acknowledge the climate emergency as a fundamental threat facing humanity and the continuation of life on this planet; he simply put a green window dressing on the same old economic nationalism that Trump has touted over the previous four years.

Ironically, on the same day as Biden’s speech, the Associated Press, hardly a bastion of anti-capitalist sentiment, wrote on yet another UN climate change report, “Deadly with extreme weather now, climate change is about to get so much worse. It is likely going to make the world sicker, hungrier, poorer, gloomier and way more dangerous in the next 18 years with an “unavoidable” increase in risks, a new United Nations science report says. “And after that watch out.”

Hardly a friend to the environment, Biden has already signed more drilling permits on public lands than Trump and also backed highly contested projects through Native lands such as Line 3; projects which have paid off local law enforcement for their role in the suppression of grassroots resistance movements.

Lastly, Biden made no mention of the January 6th attempted coup by Donald Trump and his supporters, both in the Republican party and in various far-Right paramilitary groups. There was no discussion how the GOP is pushing to repeat the same game-plan against a backdrop of attacks on voting rights and removing people from the rolls in mass numbers. There was no mention of the wave of far-Right acts of murder and terror which have only continued under Biden’s presidency: from bomb threats against HBCU’s, a white nationalist killing spree in Denver, the recent deadly far-Right mass-shooting in Portland, white supremacist plots to attack the power grid and mosques in Chicago, waves of attacks and acts of intimidation by groups like the Proud Boys across the US, and beyond. This is to say nothing about the continued embrace of white nationalists, Qanon, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories by the Trumpian wing of the GOP which was on full display last week, as various elected Republican officials joined with neo-Nazi trolls at a white nationalist conference in Orlando, where the leader of the Alt-Right “groypers” declared it was “good” that Putin was like Adolf Hitler.

Like Trump, Biden is a largely weak and vastly unpopular President; pushed into office not because of his popularity, but because he simply wasn’t the other person. Biden’s proposed solutions to vast problems, as Politico wrote was “arguing for the passage of a grab bag of legislative proposals unfamiliar to most of the audience, and whose prospects range from slim to none” at coming to fruition.

But moreover, what Biden is selling is that neoliberal statecraft and policy making – as opposed to class conflict and autonomous organizing – will address the vast inequalities, structural problems, and deepening crisis which has only grown under the last year of the Biden presidency. Biden’s program and overall brand was always a return to normal, but not only is such a return not only impossible, it also fails to address the growing threat of the fascist wing of the Republican party which is becoming increasingly insurgent and blood-thirsty.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, its that despite promises by politicians to address this or that crisis, we are on our own. As COVID-19 continues forward and we hurdle further into climate chaos and the possibility of global military conflict, the future of humanity will continue to depend on our ability to organize, act, and defend ourselves, the earth, and our own communities, not in the half-baked promises of politicians who helped us get into this mess in the first place.

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