The protests that sprang up in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis seemed like spontaneous outpourings of grief and anger. They weren’t entirely. Though many who joined their ranks may have been moved by outrage at the images of Floyd’s death, those operating behind the scenes have prepared for this moment for a long time.
Indeed, the leaders of the Black Lives Matter organizations fueling this summer’s disturbances were trained by self-described Marxist revolutionaries who have long used the plight of black Americans as justification for overthrowing America’s constitutional order. They frankly admit that such “organizing” is the key to their goal of world revolution. Our political leaders owe it to themselves and to their fellow Americans to understand this blueprint before rhetorically embracing, let alone implementing, the radical changes that the protesters and rioters are demanding.
The goal of upending the American system is, moreover, also evident among the consultants now conducting “anti-racism training” within major corporations and foundations. These facilitators of anti-white struggle sessions disdain the capitalist system and seek its replacement—and the mainstream media cheers them on. In a July New York Times article on the BLM movement, Douglas McAdams, professor emeritus at Stanford, wrote: “It looks, for all the world, like these protests are achieving what very few do: setting in motion a period of significant, sustained, and widespread social, political change. We appear to be experiencing a social change tipping point—that is as rare in society as it is potentially consequential.”
But who initiated this demand for change? After the initial protests following Floyd’s death, public outrage was channeled—by trained activists working from a playbook—into manifestations that often grew riotous. The Black Lives Matters Global Network and Movement for Black Lives organizations have been the nerve center of the protests. They have been laying the groundwork for years, carefully cultivating a network of groups that could organize protests when the moment came and amplify the message through social media.
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Consider the BLM Global Network. The three women who thought up the BLM name in 2013, and then added the hashtag, later founded the global network. They remain in charge. As the New York Times Magazine explained, “while much of the nation’s attention drifted away from Black Lives Matter, organizers and activists weren’t dormant.” One of the three founders, Alicia Garza, said that “the movement’s first generation of organizers has been working steadily to become savvier and even more strategic over the past seven years, and have been joined by motivated younger leaders.”
As the Times report elaborates, “One of the reasons there have been protests in so many places in the United States is the backing of organizations like Black Lives Matter. While the group isn’t necessarily directing each protest, it provides materials, guidance and a framework for new activists.” Deva Woodly, a professor at the New School, told a Times reporter that, “those activists are taking to social media to quickly share protest details to a wide audience. . . . These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history.”
Melina Abdullah, of BLM’s Los Angeles chapter, told an interviewer that the demonstrations in that city had been strategically planned: “We built kind of an organizing strategy that said, build black community [to] disrupt white supremacy.” Their targets, she said, were the neighborhoods where “white affluent folks” lived. “That’s one of the reasons the marches and the protests were in Beverly Hills.”
A Los Angeles Times story emphasizes the central role that the BLM organization played, saying: “The unprecedented size and scope of recent rallies speaks to how Black Lives Matter has transformed from a small but passionate movement into a cultural and political phenomenon.” Weeks after Floyd was killed, BLM members were “continuing to channel their outrage and grief over his killing into a sustained mass campaign for profound social change. The group has political sway that would have seemed unimaginable just a few months ago.”
In a 2015 interview, Patrice Cullors, another of the three founders, said that she and Garza were “trained Marxists.” Abdullah, of the Los Angeles BLM chapter, was born a red-diaper baby—“Raised in the 70s, in the picket lines of Oakland, by activist parents,” as the interviewer put it. Her paternal grandfather was Gunter Reimann, a member of the German Communist Party. Garza cut her organizing teeth as director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), founded by Marxists Garth Ferguson, Patty Snitzler, Regina Douglas, Brian Russell, and Steve Williams. To Williams we owe the concept of “transformative organizing,” which insists “that effective organizing for social change cannot simply be based on an apolitical and highly specific analysis of what is possible in the short term.”
Cullors trained for a decade as a radical organizer in the Labor/Community Strategy Center, established and run by Eric Mann, a former member of the Weather Underground, the 1960s radical faction identified by the FBI as a domestic terrorist group. The “Weathermen” explained in their 1969 foundational statement that they were dedicated to “the destruction of U.S. imperialism and the achievement of classless world: world communism.” The ties between the BLM Global Network and the Weathermen run deep. National Review’s Andrew McCarthy revealed in a recent exposé that Weather Underground supporter Susan Rosenberg, whose 1984 sentence of 58 years in prison for possession “of 740 pounds of explosives, an Uzi submachine gun, an M-14 rifle, another rifle with a telescopic sight, a sawed-off shotgun, three 9-millimeter handguns in purses and boxes of ammunition” was commuted by President Bill Clinton, serves as vice chair of the board of directors of Thousand Currents—the radical, grantmaking institution that until July sponsored the BLM Global Network. Rosenberg was also sought on federal charges that she aided the 1979 prison escape of Joanne Chesimard, a Communist now living in Cuba, and whom Cullors quotes approvingly in her book When They Call You a Terrorist. (Since July, the Global Center has become “a project” of the Tides Center, another donor and supporter of the hard Left and its ideas).
Mann, who served 18 months in prison for assault and battery and disturbing the peace, remains committed to overthrowing the American system and achieving world revolution through organizing. He calls his Strategy Center the “Harvard of Revolutionary graduate schools,” or “the University of Caracas Revolutionary Graduate School.” The Center’s purpose, he told a seminar at the University of California, San Diego in 2008, is “to build an anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-fascist united front.”
Mann says that the Center must teach people to organize strategically because “people think they can join an organization, and go out, and change the most dictatorial country in the world by just showing up. We don’t think so. Organizing is a skill, is a vocation.” During the Center’s “six-month, intensive training program,” classes offer a mix of theory—Mann’s wife teaches a class on “problems of imperialism, women’s studies, strategies and tactics”—with street activism, where students are held accountable. “How many people did you organize? How did it go?”
They also teach how to raise funds. “If we’re going to build a revolution, you gotta ask people for money . . . the poor must pay for their own liberation, so we need to teach you to ask for money,” Mann told the students. “I spend my time organizing mainly young people who want to be revolutionaries,” Mann said. If you’re not in organizing, “your life is meaningless,” and you risk becoming a “bourgeois pig.”
The challenge for students, Mann told the class, was to ask themselves, “Am I making decisions to change the system? Am I being tied to the masses?” Universities serve as vital centers of recruitment and radicalization. “The university,” Mann explained, “is the place where Mao Zedong was radicalized, where Lenin and Fidel were radicalized, where Che was radicalized. The concept of the radical middle class of the colonized people, or in my case the radical middle class of the privileged people, is a model of a certain type of revolutionary.” The goal for students, he told his class, was to “Take this country away from the white settler state, take this country away from imperialism and have an anti-racist, anti-imperialist and anti-fascist revolution.”
In their 1969 declaration, You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, John Jacobs, and other revolutionary leaders of the Weather Underground spoke of black people not so much as the reason for their push to destroy American society and institute world Communism, but as a means to achieve their goals. American blacks were considered a colonized subject of the United States, along with the people of Vietnam and Bolivia—another victim of U.S. imperialism. Their liberation was secondary to the general struggle; seeking black liberation for its own sake was just a form of bourgeois nationalism. “No black self-determination could be won which would not result in a victory for the international revolution as a whole,” the document affirmed.
These are the ideological sources for what could be the largest radical movement in American history—one that could lead to real policy changes. One component is street pressure, driven by the likes of Mann and Cullors. Another takes place in plusher environments, such as Fortune 500 companies or the halls of Congress. Consultants like White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo told 184 Democratic legislators in a conference call in June that their policies hurt black lives. DiAngelo told The New York Times that “capitalism is so bound up with racism. … [it] is dependent on inequality, on an underclass. If the model is profit over everything, you’re not going to look at your policies to see what is most racially equitable.”
Up to now, the American system has resisted socialism by offering prosperity and opportunity. Our politicians today need to understand what they’re facing from the BLM movement and what is at stake. The “white settler state” of Eric Mann’s fevered mind is in reality the American constitutional order. The imperialism that Mann, Rosenberg, DiAngelo, and others imagine is the American free-market system that has been the most successful weapon against poverty ever devised. Political leaders of either party feeling pressured to adopt BLM policies or even just mouth the rhetoric should spend some time examining the movement’s intellectual sources—and its political goals.
This piece originally appeared in the City Journal