Continued from Part I: What's Next for the Captive Maternal: Notes on a Rebel(lion) without a Cause
Part II: Abolition is The End
John Lewis' funeral indeed served as the site from which the state launched a decisive defense strategy in its effort to contain an escalating rebellion. The state's defensive action leveraged the legacy and co-sign of a dutiful Negroliberal caretaker whose endorsement of the state's (violent) action effectively harnessed the generative powers of their protesting, marooned, war resisting counterparts to deliver a Democratic victory that was only possible by conscripting the captive's work to the Master's cause to "flip Georgia blue." His call to "redeem the soul of the nation " secured the election of Ebenezer's own shepard, Rev. Dr. Senator Raphael Warnock, which on the one had, will forever hold its place in the Negroliberal tradition of black struggle as the progressive win that resulted in the election of Georgia's first black senator, and the South's first black Democratic senator since Reconstruction. But, it also legitimized the expansion of the state's counter-insurgent carceral apparatus, by re-positioning the riot and the black rebel as democracy's public enemy number one.
The commitment to Captive's Cause, be it liberal-reformist or "radical," demonstrates what Terrefe posits is "a commitment to an intramural that is shared, but [is also] also a desire for justification" for Black Revolutionary violence. This, she contends, is the Black Commune's collective psychic investment in betrayal that needs to be discarded in order to liberate the Captive from its compromised, compulsive need to justify the use of violence as self defense.1 I argue in agreement that this is why the Captive's Cause, as a pursuit of revolutionary love, holds within it a blueprint for Black liberation that is still bound-to the Master's code for Slavery's modernization. If it is the pursuit that is supposed to push us to a stage of the Captive Maternal beyond the stage of betrayal that forces the war resistor into compromised subjectivity—be it as a dutiful liberal servant or the devoted revolutionary veteran-survivor—we as the war resisters of this generation, owe it to ourselves to reflect on the violence of our struggle with a clarity of sight that can see through the ruse of imaginative experimentation that pushes us towards the Commune and away from the exit door.
It is in Terrefe's push back against revolutionary love, where I, a captive who inherited the burdened cause of preserving the Black Mecca, find the grounds for a necessary reorientation of "black political action" at present that might push us forward, out of the petrified condition of full surrender that has kept black revolt in an arrested state in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement's unraveling. Her reminder that "Some of us don't want to have to discuss love or affect or emotion or care in order to justify why we need to end the current order," as we recognize that it is "a violent world order, [that is] parasitic on Blackness," implies that the only hope for escalation towards the violent Slave Revolt that could end this order means that the war resisters who have reached the betrayal stage might recognize that the door out of captivity is still worth kicking if, in reflection, they recognize betrayal as the cause's fatal flaw. Those of us who are well aware that "we have a body count that's piling up [and] it's parasitic on other people by extension2," should no longer fear abandoning the cause for the sake of love and the dream of the Revolutionary Commune.
We are the Captives who search not for new bones upon which to create yet another new political culture, but for a new lens through which to reflect upon our entry into the tradition of struggle, that can account for the violent stakes of our ceaseless laboring for causes, making new lists of old demands and belonging to The Movement™, as a cycle of suffering that we should want out of. This renewed reflection "sees" these stages of Captive resistance in the afterlife of anti-state uprising, with what James refers to as the particular clarity of sight3 that belongs only to the rebellious war resistors, not as a linear progression that terminates at our end-stage betrayal, but as stages along an endless wheel of black suffering propelled by our cyclical progression from the concerned caretaker to the betraying war resistor. The captive's cycle is emblematic of its surrender to the Master, and reveals those many "small wins," "everyday acts of resistance" and past attempts at building the Commune as "settlements" for places within the tradition of resistance that take the form of "reasonable alternatives" that are worthy of our defense, even in their deterrence away from inciting the Slave Revolt. This is the "different" clarity of sight that grounds the veteran-survivor who now understands assignment and issues that (final) call to kick down the door of no return, in pursuit only of the rebellion with no cause.
I virtually attended John Lewis' funeral with this clarity as it livestreamed from the church just two blocks away from my then-home in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. I vividly remember my own internal struggle to find the "right" way to feel about the passing of yet another elder in the black freedom struggle. Lewis, like all Negroliberal overseers, had on many occasions publicly sided with the state against the struggle my generation of the Atlanta Student Movement mounted against the Black Mecca's biracial coalition of institutions in the name of what we believed was our revolutionary abolitionist cause4. My generation of rebels inherited The Atlanta Compromise from every generation of student organizers who had rallied behind the causes for equitable resources and just living conditions for all black people in Atlanta. As an insurgent youth movement led by black leftist students who intentionally went beyond the gates of our universities to lend direct capacity to black communities struggling to the build institutions and infrastructures necessary to defend the existing black commune against state violence, we did not dream of inclusion into The Black Mecca; we pursued its abolition. What we could not see then, without a renewed clarity of sight, is that this abolitionist cause was compromised in its captivity to the demands of the community that called for measures of reform or transformation that were the cornerstone of the campaigns for the right to not be displaced, to preserve their community's history, to develop their community's in their own image and to no longer be vulnerable to state murder. Like the youth of Ture's SNCC, who organized both the Vine City Project and supported the Summerhill Riot from their Sweet Auburn headquarters, my generation endorsed the resistance movement and led its uprisings against the wishes and warnings of the Negroliberal vanguard, who, for years, leveraged their position as state overseers to spare no expense in quelling our insurgency. We soon realized that inheriting Ture's movement meant that we, like he and his revolutionary successor H. Rap Brown (Jamil Al-Amin), would see our legacies omitted from the annals of the city's history of struggle as those who had to be neutralized as punishment for destabilizing the tradition of dutiful Negroliberal approved "good trouble" with our endorsement of radical abolition and the riot. Our revolt, like Ture's participation in the 1966 Summerhill Riot and the passage of 1968 Anti-Riot Act aka The H. Rap Brown Law only appear in the "official narrative" as the hurdles the Black Mecca overcame in its pursuit of reconciling the Beloved Community.
Reflection with a renewed clarity of sight means severing the affective bonds to community and camaraderie that obscures the ability to see how our dutiful adherence to "doing the work" as an act of revolutionary love compromises revolution by ensuring that the Captive never pursues the escape door. This means that despite my locating my own betrayal in that mobile field office, driven into the 2016 Buckhead occupation by the police—who escorted the mayor into the "liberated zone," where we "held space" outside of the governors mansion, until the city met our immediate demand to meet The People at the negotiating table—there might still be one worthy pursuit left beyond betrayal.
Reflecting on my own moments of betrayal with a "renewed" clarity of sight means recognizing that the revolt had been compromised long before we, as the rebels who took the streets with no demands beyond one for the space to express our grief and outrage following the deaths of Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Jamarion Robinson, Caine Rogers, and all of the others. Our hands were tied before we polled the masses who held down the occupations for their consensus on those causes that were most pressing to present to the city's leadership in the list of communal demands. We organized in Atlanta, which coheres as a city that structures its geographic ground upon the cyclical renewal of the compromise struck between the emergent white industrial-corporate capitalist and the proto-Negroliberal vanguard in the aftermath of its most infamous riot, The 1906 Race Massacre.
The grounds of this compromise were simple: the negotiators on both sides would be held responsible for ensuring the compliance of the "worst elements" of their respective races, by adhering to a new code of social order that held black elites responsible for overseeing the "improvement" of the Black Commune, and in return for their "ruly" behavior, white citizens would not resort to using extralegal means of anti-Black terror that would surely incite another race massacre. For John Lewis, this 1906 moment served as a powerful reminder of the importance racial compromise in advancing progress, as he regarded the riot as "an often overlooked chapter in Atlanta's history [that if studied might] save our nation from the painful repetition of these acts of hatred and violence."5 For us, it served as a reminder of our duty to discipline our unruly, rebellious elements into the order of the Black Mecca that conscripted us into overseeing the expansion and fortification of our counter–state insurgency infrastructure, or in terms of the cycle of compromise, remain in the constant limbo between caretaker and protestor, as the Social Justice Workers™ so committed to the cause of transformation, that we would not revolt in a manner that forced us to tear down the foundations of the city we sought to build in our own radical image. This compromised position foreclosed war resistance, and positioned the sustainability of the "Black Mecca" as the now recognizable Maroon Camp as the only cause worthy of our "lives." While the massacre itself is regarded as the horror that should drive our changemaking causes forward, it is its compromise that I argue should encourage captive rebels to forgo the betrayal of the cause and rebel against nothing more than captivity itself.
Without such a reflection, the veteran-survivor falls victim to a form of betrayal like that of Atlanta in the aftermath of the 2016 political moment, which modernized the prevailing Negroliberal Political culture and generated a libidinal market for changemaking work and state repression that reduced the revolutionary imperative to an equity movement that responded to the uprising and its demands6 with polic(e)y solutions supported by the diversified investment portfolios of the same corporate partners with dedicated resources for both compliant "resistance" work and the expansion of the police state. Our youth movement produced, in place of a revolutionary vanguard, a generation of young "political leaders" that perform politics-as-influence and contribute their "radical platforms" to the Tradition™ as evidence that they are content in their commitment to a life sentence of "doing the work." It has inspired a generation of captive Changemakers™ who have usurped the demand to off the pigs for the cause of social transformation, and in doing so, taken their place as the 21st Century Millenial-Gen Z iteration of the Negroliberal vanguard committed to overseeing the Master's control of the means of cultural production.
Read Part I:
The captive's cause and the compromise of abolition: A critique of the state's appropriation of John Lewis' legacy to quell the radical demands at its heart. "Black Power poses a threat to the global order."
The recognition that there is no cause necessary for black people to choose violence and move beyond resistance towards revolt, means understanding "Atlanta" and its ruse of The Black Mecca as a geography of compromise, that relies on a narrative of racial progress that deems its inclusionary concession a marker of the city's hospitality, which caters to the tradition of "good trouble" while also airbrushing its tradition of revolt. It also conscripts the social change movements to the duty of overseeing insurgent black youth cultures that exist beyond the realm of "politics proper" and ensuring the gang and the trap adhere to the same doctrine of "good trouble" as the political rebel. The city's posture as a place that has a long tradition of permitting black struggles for "justice," while also maintaining a zero tolerance polic(e)y against any insurgent elements that threaten the compromised order, has worked to modernize the technologies of violent anti-black repression that it has perfected and heralds as its greatest contribution to the American republic. This is why any cause that asserts freedom as a destination is already compromised.
The arrival at such a compromised freedom destination does not deliver a black freedom to belong to a place where it finds a cause for its own self-determination, but instead relies on Black (political) culture to secure the ground for freedom that redeems the Captive's allied Human subjects and solidifies their place as citizens within the "progressive" urban order. And this ground cannot risk obliteration by the uncompromised insurgency of Black revolutionary violence. In other words, the compromise of spaces like the Black Mecca ensures a cosplay of "black freedom" at best, as their very appearance as "spaces of black resistance" is possible only through the apprehension and subsequent surrender of the black revolutionary possibility. Freedom is indeed a movement, a journey, or a pursuit, but it remains elusive so long as this momentum is directed towards the acquisition or restoration of "something," or towards the arrival "somewhere," over the break with captivity, which to say, to break with everything the door out remains both locked and obscured.
If this is the utility of Black culture for the Human, then what is it for the dueling black subjects?7 Compromised Black political cultures yield ontological security for Human allies, and gives blackness a vestibule through which to filter out the violent nature of Slave revolt. They produce a political tradition that offers a plurality of formations that are neuter-bound in their pursuit to make both the white and black imagos "feel" secure8 in the face of the negrophobic anxiety stimulated by the specter of black revolutionary violence. Black people feel that they have a "home" to belong to and their Human counterparts find relief in knowing that blackness is held in place, confined in The Black Commune, with the detonation lever switched "off."
The freedom destination, in its compromise, gives way to "locatable" forms of resistance to captivity as the countless pursuits mounted by generations of Captives beat paths to freedom that are littered with "settlements" that cohere as those defunct yet celebrated, short-lived attempts at building sustainable models of freedom. They map with it a genealogy of betrayal within its accounts of counter-cultural resistance that reveal not only that captives fled, settled elsewhere and foraged new bones that support intramural struggles for a revolutionary communal order that is in direct opposition to the ("former") Master's, but that in these creative struggles, provided the generative powers necessary to patent new technologies of repression. In other words, this resistance transforms society, as it modernizes, society's methods of capture. It is this compromise that burdens the Negroliberal, the Revolutionary, and any formulation of a political subject that positions the Captive as beneficiary of a tradition that binds it to a lifetime of "doing hard time." The resistant captive is bound to "the work" like the vagrant was once bound to the convict lease, and like the turn of the century bondsman who labored as a means of maximizing production in the age of the modern-industrialization, the rebel labors without compensation to generate transformative cultures that makes "the world a better place" for those with the ontological capacity for the cartographic certainty of their place in the world.
This is an inheritance that is premised upon a concession within the terms of the compromise that grants the permission to "have" a political tradition of black resistance if the Slave foregos revolt and yields to capture. The compromised political tradition betrays the Slave revolt in producing a cycle of suffering that hinges on getting "caught" for the sake of revolutionary culture. For the Captive-Rebel, abolition is not a transformation strategy, it is The End. The final stage of the captive maternal should therefore serve as the rebel's about face that reorients away from the pursuit of a freedom that we can imagine, towards an abolitionist end that leverages the rebellion as the detonation that obliterates the exit door, breaks the wheel of suffering, and gives way to the tunnel out. Opting for the exit strategy and the tunnel out, over conceding to being-caught in the trap of being, means we must sever our affective ties to these "places" we call "home," and their genealogies of struggle, in an effort to push beyond the captive desire for the bond of belonging somewhere in sometime that pushes us to pursue an abolitionist cause with the imagined sovereign, Revolutionary Commune as its end. It means interrogating our desire for a revolution to have and defend, and not fearing the realization that the world beyond captivity that we once dreamed of, is a delusion of freedom that coheres as a revolutionary vision of an abolitionist future only "through a means of imagi(ni)ng [that is] bound to a history of photographic representation essential to modernity's enduring project of worldmaking."9
In my reflection, our betrayal is not limited to a repeated acceptance of the state's invitation to the negotiation table, where we "agree" to the terms of compromise, take our crumbs and de-escalate from war resistor to the dutiful Social Justice Worker tasked with expanding the maroon camp into a sustainable anti-state infrastructure that supports our efforts to care, nurture, and defend our communities and provide the foundation for the future of our movements. We may have inherited the revolutionary's compromised movement, but it is my hope that we might abandon "the cause" as an alternative, transformed Master. It is my only hope that we take Terrefe seriously and realize, collectively, that we "don't want to have to say that 'I love my people' or 'I love anybody else' in order to wage war against the current order". If the question is "what's next for the captive maternal" beyond the cycle of betrayal and regression, I say it is to inhabit the psychic space of the rebel without a cause, who recognizes Slavery as the condition of their suffering and chooses to mount a Slave revolt for no means of justification aside from captive condition. If the movement and the revolutionary cause gives us nothing more than a revolutionary society on the other side of abolition as our new Master, and we take George Jackson seriously when he says the definition of fascism is reform, then we owe it to ourselves and the rebels who's struggle we inherit to revolt until we break out. It is to accept that the "other side" of that door might only be the path that leads us into the prison yard and to be clear that the cost of a "successful" Slave rebellion is equivalent only to the bullet from the guard tower. We may not know what this "exit plan" actually looks like, as there is no community toolkit for bringing about the end to order itself,10 but I believe it is, as Joy James puts it, "an impossible task" and the only cause "completely worthy of us."
1 Ontology of Betrayal
2 Terrefe "Ontology of Betrayal"
3 "Architects of Abolitionism"
5 Lewis' blurb on Rage in the Gate City, a historical account of the 1906 Race Riot
6 The ATLisReady Demands are still available on the AiR website here
7 Hortense Spillers Black, White and In Color
8 Reference to the neuter-bound nature of captivity and the vestibularity of blackness as matters of the flesh from "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe."
9 Rizvana Bradley "Picturing Catastrophe"
10"Now, Black people have an unconscious too, but it is an unconscious that is garrisoned by non-Black desire, usurped, overridden by the anti-Black imperative to turn white or disappear. If we ever got to a Black unconscious informed by Afropessimism, wow.That would not mean the end of a political economic order like capitalism or the end of an oedipal, filial order like patriarchy. That would mean the end of the order of order. We would be on the cusp not of a crisis, but of a epistemological catastrophe. What I'm trying to say is that on the other side of anti-Blackness, people could still live and breathe and have families, but no one in the world can tell you how that would look because Black people exist beyond semiotic logic." Wilderson, "Ontology of Betrayal"
The captive's cause and the compromise of abolition: A critique of the state's appropriation of John Lewis' legacy to quell the radical demands at its heart. "Black Power poses a threat to the global order."
Moving intellectualism from the academic factory into communal struggle, a new roundtable seeks to examine, engage, and interrogate James's subversive attempt to reclaim revolutionary struggle from the academy—and deliver it back to communities.
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