Filed under: Analysis, Anarchist Movement, Capitalism, Featured
“This morning, I woke up in a curfew.”
– Bob Marley
Since the economic meltdown of 2008, Americans have been told again and again that the crisis has been averted, that the economy has “recovered,” unemployment is down, and America is “great again.” This is a narrative that’s been by and large repeated at face value by the majority of politicians in both corporate parties and the pundits within the mainstream agenda setting media. This in itself shows just how disconnected those in power, along with those who attempt to speak for and justify their rule, are from the vast majority of the rest of us.
This is because for millions of poor and working people living within the US territory, our lived experiences are worlds away from the rosy picture painted by Trump or the official talking points of politicians and media pundits. Simply put, current record profits for corporations are the result of stagnant wages, slashed regulations, and tax cuts for the wealthy – a classic model of austerity that has resulted in anything but improved living conditions and increased opportunity for those of us that actually labor to create this wealth.
Far from being “tired of winning,” most Americans are instead exhausted from having to survive a reality of working more than ever before, for less pay. Not only have real wages largely stagnated since the 1970s, but the amount of Americans living pay check to pay check has increased to as much as 78%, while around 40% of us don’t even have at least $400 in the bank to cover emergencies as consumer debt has risen almost 50% since 2008. Half of us are working in low-wage, dead end jobs just to make ends meet; while we wait for the ax of automation or globalization to replace us, as gentrification and rising rents push us farther and farther away from our means of employment. These realities are magnified in communities of color, as the overall wealth gap has become even more concentrated than at anytime in history since the Great Depression.
These current trends have also exacerbated a burgeoning social crisis, as we are witnessing an explosion of homelessness, suicide, and overdose rates – as even life expectancy among white workers is declining. In the current economic arrangement, the working poor simply don’t need to live as long.
This landscape has also been defined by the growth of increasingly repressive state measures: from creeping surveillance and the policing of everyday life, to the breaking apart of homeless camps and the smashing of social movements. From a “smart wall” of counter-insurgency tech at the border, to an explosion of facial recognition software and AI technology; the increasing response from States to the mounting problems of today is simply more repression.
But as countries across the world go up in flames against austerity and State violence, the question must be asked: just when and where will the fires of insurrectionary revolt will hit the US? Here’s your guide to what just might set off the next uprising, right in our own backyards.
Housing and Gentrification
If there’s one single thing that sucks up the majority of the money we do have – it’s rent.
In the last 50 years, as the vast majority of the US population has come to live in cities, the cost of rent and housing over all, has gone up much faster than actual wages. This reality was accelerated by the housing crisis during the 2008 meltdown, as corporations bought and flipped massive amounts of foreclosed housing stock, which helped to displace large numbers of working class residents, often largely of color. These new rental properties, coupled with new waves of condo and luxury apartment development, ushered in a new wave of gentrification in major US cities, as tech companies set up shop in urban cores.
This is Aja, one of the children #Wedgewood wants to evict from #MomsHouse so they can keep it vacant and drive up prices. Tell #Wedgewood not to evict #Moms4Housing here: https://t.co/9qpUcDt3nH pic.twitter.com/Z6I36JMTw8
— Moms 4 Housing (@moms4housing) December 5, 2019
At the same time, many cities like San Francisco, currently have more vacant buildings than they do homeless people. As Curbed wrote:
In fact, the entire Bay Area has far more empty houses than people without homes in 2019. The ten most populous Bay Area cities listed above have a combined point-in-time homeless total of 63,527, and, margins of error notwithstanding, a census-estimated 92,800-plus homes vacant, a ratio of about three units for every two persons.
With this major contradiction in mind, the group Moms 4 Housing in Oakland have recently occupied a vacant house owned by Wedgewood, a large corporation which flips homes in largely Black working-class neighborhoods in the bay area. The occupation began several weeks ago and has received a massive outpouring of support from the local community. Utilizing a text system, many people have signed up to support the occupied house if and when the authorities decide to show up. Currently, there are several families living in the home and they have just received an eviction notice. What happens next remains to be seen, but hopefully the hundreds who have stood by the occupation can push back against the company and the police.
— Moms 4 Housing (@moms4housing) November 18, 2019
The occupation also serves as an example of what might be possible on a much larger scale. With vacant properties dotted across major cities, what is stopping more families and those in need of housing from taking those buildings and creating an even larger network of support and defense against police eviction?
Coupled with with increasing gentrification and rising rent costs is the growing amount of people living on the streets and in their vehicles, as for first time since the recession of 2008, homelessness is growing. Currently in cities like Los Angeles, long famous for Skid Row, the size of the homeless population is exploding, while other major cities are also experiencing an increase.
Across the US, the burgeoning crisis is pushing the State to adopt more and more draconian methods of criminalization. For example, currently the Supreme Court is deciding if sleeping on the side walk could be again considered a crime.
VIDEO: three comrades were arrested for documenting the pigs during the destruction of the #HousingJusticeVillage last night. Current estimate is 5-8 people arrested last night (of 19 total) were documenting.
— The Village, Oakland (@VillageOakland) November 25, 2019
The Trump administration has also just named Robert Marbut, known for his opposition to free food programs and his push to house homeless people in jail like shelters, as the head of federal office on homelessness.
As NPR wrote:
Critics say his work has shifted taxpayer money away from proven strategies such as permanent and affordable housing, and funneled it instead into large shelters that some have compared to prisons.
But while across the US tent cities are being evicted and the homeless are under attack, many groups are getting organized to resist. Stop the Sweeps, a network of people mobilized in different areas to fight the eviction of tent cities, is once such group, another, The Village, located in Oakland, has also organized a series of land occupations. In cities like Seattle, people have also self-organized to build Tiny House communities, and currently are pushing back against a possible eviction in March of 2020.
Cuts to Services & Crumbling Infrastructure
While wages have stagnated and the cost of living has gone up, the wider push towards austerity has also led to State attacks on a variety of social safety net programs, from health-care to most recently, food stamps. With the recent tax cuts, Republicans are also hoping to use the reduced amount of federal funds coming into the State’s coffers as an excuse to defund social security, medicare, and medicaid, a move that would be disastrous – and potentially deadly for millions.
But while safety net programs that still exist are under attack, there’s also the reality that infrastructure across the US is also crumbling, from schools, to roads, to energy and water infrastructure.
Security at Jewel-Osco murdered 55-year-old Eugenio Guzman for suspected petty theft. Chicagoans staged a vigil, distributed free food, and chained a "ghost cart" to the store in his honor. pic.twitter.com/w4DIS71zYY
— LEVELLER (@LEVELLERcomms) December 6, 2019
In California, we’ve seen the death and destruction that’s resulted in the fallout of PG&E’s handling of the wildfire crisis, as they have neglected to carry out basic maintenance while giving their executives bonuses. In cities like Flint, Michigan, we’ve also seen the horror that’s resulted in the breakdown of water infrastructure, while Katrina in 2005 showcased the failure of levees. Moreover, in the aftermath of subsequent hurricanes hitting Puerto Rico, already rocked by decades of austerity, recession, and US colonization, parts of the island’s remaining infrastructure was further privatized and sold off to the highest bidder.
But while thousands of Puerto Ricans lost their lives during hurricane Maria and the following State imposed disaster, they also showed a way forward, as the people there this summer launched a popular insurrection which overthrew the Governor while also created a network of mutual aid centers and popular assemblies to meet everyday needs that the State refuses to.
Two years after hurricane Maria, the State in #PuertoRico has receded, but the organization, infrastructure + spirit of the Centers for Mutual Aid continues, as new projects and assemblies flourish. @MutualAidRelief reports on the current terrain. https://t.co/gt4c75LuC7
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) October 22, 2019
As with much of the country, mass transit systems are seeing both an increase of fares, coupled with increasing fare enforcement. In Philadelphia, a young African-American man was killed this summer after he was electrocuted, following a pursuit by authorities. In New York, increased State repression has also lead to continued attacks by police on the homeless, youth of color, and street vendors, catapulting a series of “FTP” marches and mass fare evasions to demand police off mass transit.
Inspired by ongoing revolt in #Chile against austerity + resistance to transit cops in #NewYork, cities across North America took part in a day of action demanding free service + police off transit. Here's our roundup of #NoBodyPays from SF to Toronto. https://t.co/NPQvLQSIFa pic.twitter.com/M5VPbNWFsz
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) December 1, 2019
As we saw with the recent November 29th actions across the US and Canada and the continuing revolt in Chile, anger over mass transit has the potential to not only mobilize people but also spark a wider revolt against capitalist society.
Policing and the Carceral State
According to the Washington Post, 850 people have been killed by American law enforcement so far in 2019. As we have written before on It’s Going Down, the amount of actual police shootings however (including those that do not end in a fatality) are much higher. Current studies continue to show that police still stop and search black and brown people at a much higher rate than whites, a reality which leads to potentially deadly police interactions as well as a stream of revenue into city governments through fines and tickets.
But, as we saw in the riot that broke out in the Frayser neighborhood outside of Memphis this summer, the possibilities of anger at police exploding into a full on rebellion remains as high as the continuing body count at the hands of law enforcement.
At the same time, we have watched over the past few months as the white nationalist character of the current regime’s push to attack migrants has come to light, while the Trump administration has moved to deny entry into the US for refugees, those fleeing hurricanes, and migrants seeking asylum. Anger and action aimed at ICE has remained constant, while on the inside, protests and hunger strikers by detainees has continued.
Work, Wages, Automation
Since the mass wildcat strikes organized by teachers and the growth of the #Red4Ed movement began several years ago, there has been an increase in both strikes and working-class militancy on the job. In fact, more Americans went on strike in 2018 than they have in decades. But while workers have been going up against not only their bosses but union bureaucrats, the nature of work itself and production has also been changing.
New industry giants like Amazon, Uber, and Lyft have arrived, creating new terrains of struggle and worker exploitation. Amazon already has seen a variety of strikes, protests, and actions take place against it around the world and in the United States, and currently workers on Staten Island have launched protests demanding breaks, free transit to work, and better conditions. Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft drivers have been fighting to be recognized as employees, while the Fight for $15 movement continues forward.
#Automation will displace millions of jobs, solidify inequality, and transform cities as neoliberalism did the Rustbelt. In response, everyone from the Alt-Right to Silicon Valley is now backing #UBI. But is keeping capitalism afloat really the solution? https://t.co/XC8pqSzyof pic.twitter.com/PGmtzNhSOm
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) April 27, 2019
But while both sectors like teachers and education staff have been keen to launch strikes, job actions like the Kentucky coal blockade have been successful in winning back millions in lost wages, and strides are being made by workers at Amazon and in the gig economy, the threat of automation continues to potentially push millions of workers into increased precarity and even homelessness.
As we wrote in our expose on automation, likely hardest hit right out of the gate in the coming years will be truckers and service workers. The loss of these jobs will have a massive impact on working-class people’s lives as well as the economy.
Organize, Build, and Grow Now
The more deep seeded the contradictions and exploitation of everyday life in the US, the more the elites simply don’t talk about it and instead find ways to distract us from our lived realities. But as the contradictions grow deeper, this civilization seems unable to re-correct itself or offer up even the tiniest amount of reforms. This reality makes those running the system exist within a perpetual cycle of fear over potential rebellion, as counter-insurgency becomes the de-facto mode of governance at all times. While none of us can guess the future, as we look at the struggles breaking out all around us and learn from the process of resisting the current set of conditions, this gives us a way to build, experiment, and prepare for the new round of revolts yet to come.