Observations of an expat: Marxist BLM

I was recently sent an article by the American columnist Charles Davenport in which he warned of anti-American Marxist infiltration of Black Lives Matter.

To be fair to Mr Davenport, he prefaced his criticism of BLM with a stiff condemnation of the death of George Floyd and racial discrimination in general.

But then he goes on to quote their leaders out of context and describe Black Lives Matter as

… an anti-American, often violent, collection of Marxists. Their contempt for capitalism is brazen, as is their disdain for law and order.

He is right and wrong. But more importantly, Mr Davenport fails to ask the all-important question: Why?

It is absolutely true that there are Marxists who support BLM. Some of them are in leadership positions. They are in a tiny minority. A recent opinion poll by the Pew Research Centre showed that 67 percent of the American population support Black Lives Matter. There is no way that 67 percent of Americans are Marxists.

Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate within the ivy-clad towers as to whether Marxism is more or less democratic. In fact, when Marx and Engels wrote their “Communist Manifesto” In1848 they implored the workers to revolt in order to establish a more democratic system that represented the rights of the wider working class rather than the narrow establishment of the day. The “dictatorship of the proletariat” was added later and probably owes more to Lenin than Marx.

Then there is the issue of opposition to capitalism being anti-American or opposed to American values. That is a tricky one. Mainly because it is so difficult to define national values.

It is perhaps a bit easier in the case of America because two key documents – The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights – attempt to put down in black and white the basic rights and beliefs which can be defined as values. But it is important to note that in neither document is there any mention of capitalism. The closest that the Bill of Rights comes to dealing with the issue is at the tail end of the Fifth Amendment which says that no one shall be deprived of their property without due process of law.

Setting aside the debate about Marxism and anti-Americanism there is the question of why anyone would support an organisation which they believe undermines their country’s basic values and institutions?

The answer is that too many people – Black, White and overwhelmingly young – feel that the system no longer represents their interests. They have no stake in its success because they are convinced it has been hijacked by narrow special interest groups who abuse and manipulate the democratic processes to line their pockets at the expense of the wider national interest.

They point out the social and economic inequalities in the “land of opportunity.” In the past 30 years income inequality in the US has grown so that the top twenty percent now earn more than the bottom 80 percent combined. Capitalism is perceived by a growing number as not working to their benefit.

If Charles Davenport and other conservative commentators want to keep Marxists out of Black Lives Matter and other activist groups; if they want to save their statues and stop the demonstrations then they need to focus on reform of the political institutions that extend the benefits of democracy to the greatest number of people.

* American expat journalist Tom Arms is LDV's foreign affairs editor and Campaigns Chair for Wandsworth Lib Dems. His book “America: Made in Britain” was published on 15 October.

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  • Paul Barker 10th Jul '20 - 5:42pm

    We need to distinguish between BLM the Slogan, BLM the Movement & BLM the Organisation. The first two are in line with Liberal Values, the last isnt & does seem to be Leninist/Marxist in its leadership.
    I have not done any research into BLM, the Organisation so I have no idea whats its Membership & structure is Like but they certainly dont give an impression of openess.

    This is a common problem with Left Movements, whatever the their Formal Structure they are often run as a Front for some Revolutionary Sect. Generally most supporters dont mind that any more we mind the SWP handing out Free placards on Demos.

    More relevant for us is that BLM, the Organisation Is American in origin & language. The Slogan about Defunding The Police is relevant in at least parts of The USA but makes no sense at all here.

  • Richard Easter 11th Jul '20 - 9:19am

    I tend to ignore too much talk of “Marxists” in this day and age.

    It is very unlikely that even many socialists want the full eradication of capitalism entirely. Sure they may want workers to have ownership of firms, but I don’t see many advocating the abolition of all private property and all profit.

    I am sure if you asked most of these “Marxists”, should black owned small businesses be abolished – the answrr would be a massive “no”.

    It’s why I find a lot of talk of Marxism to be hysteria – trying to recreate the Cold War narrative. It was relevent during the “Golden Age of Capitalism” versus oppressive communism. It is not relevent when we compare various degrees of social democracy / democratic socialism with rampant corporatocracy and crony capitalism.

  • Richard Easter 11th Jul '20 - 9:21am

    Agree about the nonsense of defunding the police here.

    In fact Gideon Osborne did a better job of defunding the police with the cuts, than BLM ever will! If you want to defund the police “neoliberalism” is far more effective than socialism!

  • richard underhill 11th Jul '20 - 9:31am

    Tom Arms | Fri 10th July 2020 – 1:48 pm
    “warned of anti-American Marxist infiltration of Black Lives Matter”
    So, is Donald Trump a Marxist?
    Does his recent pardoning of a convicted criminal qualify him for anything?
    Is there a rule of law in the USA?

  • Ryan Hollinsworth 12th Jul '20 - 4:13pm

    The classification of BLM as Marxist is another example of a progressive/liberal movement being called ‘’far left’’ or ‘’Marxist’’ by the far right to undermine it.

  • “there are Marxists who support BLM. Some of them are in leadership positions.”
    A quick search returns:
    A you tube video of Patrisse Cullirs, one of the founders, describing herself and Alicia Garza, one of her co-founder, as “trained Marxists”
    The UK fundraiser includes:
    “We’re guided by a commitment to dismantle […] capitalism,”
    Or from the Website:
    “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”
    You can look up for yourself the adverse impact of the absence of fathers in black families in the US. A phenomenon exacerbated by the US highly draconian justice system that locks up such a disproportionately high number of black men, a factor that used to be pointed out for those concerned about the US black community.
    It would appear that the columnist is wrong as Black Lives Matter appears to have those ideas from the founders so there isn’t a risk of “Marxist infiltration.”
    The issue is the sentiment is something that I suspect for more the 67% of Americans agree with, but because you agree with a sentiment doesn’t mean you have to support every organisation that uses that slogan. There are a great many issues that need to be resolved, I am not sure the prescriptions you will get from BLM the organisation will actually help.

  • Testing, am I on a blocked list since posting the above comment.

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