Unión del Barrio 5-Point Guidance For The Current Political Crisis

1. Only attend known events, and maintain all pandemic-related precautions.
2. Express your anger, but do not be blinded by your emotions.
3. Be “gente solidaria”, do not surrender your class-based political principles, but also maintain a barrio-based vigilance.
4. Maintain revolutionary discipline and organizational accountability.
5. Defend our barrios, by any means necessary.

There are mass protests occurring across the United States. Unión del Barrio has publically declared our solidarity with protesters who are standing up against police terror and we unite with the international condemnation of the Minneapolis Police for the lynching of George Floyd. The murder of George Floyd was the spark that set off the powder keg of political, economic, and social tensions already impacted by the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the police shooting of Eric Rosalia, and the 10th anniversary of the murder of Anastacio Hernández. Of course, this is all taking place during a pandemic that has our communities suffering disproportionately high rates of infection and death. There is also the ongoing economic collapse that we are having to shoulder. This is clearly the most terrible combination of large scale catastrophes anyone alive today has ever experienced.

It is not a radical position to acknowledge the righteous anger of people on the streets – and at times this is also riotous anger. This powder keg did not manifest itself on the day Floyd was murdered. For the past four years our communities have been in the crosshairs of a vicious trumpian intensification of colonial white-nationalist violence. Every day for fours years Trump, his minions, and his supporters have made it their primary political goal to attack our communities. Obviously, this violence did not start with the Trump regime, but it was also a fundamental part of democratic regimes, and together they are manifestations of the over 500 year legacy of colonial subjugation.

The pent-up anger of Brown and Black communities across the United States does not surprise us, and we do not shed crocodile tears for the police vehicles set on fire, the burned-out banks, nor the emptied store shelves. We will NOT denounce any of these actions because they are class-based spontaneous reactions to police terror – the consequences of people lashing out against the true nature of the colonial police state.

Yet, because Unión del Barrio is a 40-year-old organization, we also know not to celebrate these actions because they represent a vacuum of revolutionary organization. We do not accept political leadership from the people who decide to actively engage in these actions. These are not revolutionary actions, and this moment is not a revolutionary movement. People who argue that this is a revolutionary movement are, almost without exception, individualistic forces who will go back to their regular lives after this crisis passes, and will spend the rest of 2020 arguing against revolutionary organization and accountability.

At this moment the fascist rightwing is gaining political power in the US and in other parts of the world. The armed rightwing in the US has been preparing for a moment like this for decades, and for them the current Trumpian crisis is a call to action to leverage their ascendant position, violently repress our movements, and subject our communities to increasingly genocidal attacks. Their presidential leadership is using the power and pulpit of the federal government to exacerbate national anger and rally the most violent sectors of his base to take violent actions against our communities. This is what we see happening in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and it is not going to get better any time soon.

UdB members, supporters, and allies, we issue the following 5-point guidance on how to navigate the current moment of intensified political crisis, health emergency, and economic collapse, while maintaining our ideological principles, caring for the health and security of our membership and supporters, and expanding our organizational capacity.

1. Only attend known events, and maintain all pandemic-related precautions.

Many compas and supporters are considering whether to participate in the protests that are happening across the US. Remember we are still in the middle of a global pandemic that is hitting Black and Raza communities the hardest, and this past week noted a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases in California. We have had UdB members, families, and supporters get infected by this virus. COVID-19 is real and it is especially dangerous for the people in our barrios. If you or your family are older or have medical issues, do not take on the extra risk and stay home. If you feel compelled to attend public actions, you MUST WEAR a mask. Ensure that your participation involves keeping a safe distance, and car-based activities are preferable over physical protest. During the first weeks of the pandemic UdB issued guidance to avoid all political activities involving large numbers of people. Under the current circumstances this guidance remains in effect, although the political moment has changed dramatically, and we know that some level of activity is inevitable.

We also advise all compas and supporters to only attend actions that are convened/ organized by groups that you are familiar with and trust. At all times maintain a critical assessment of who or what group is directing a public action. This terrible combination of crises is taking place at a time in history when the means of mass communication (primarily social media but also the corporate media) has already proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be an instrument of neoliberal capitalist/colonial state power. The power of this system is dependent on its global digital networks that traffic in misinformation, hatred, misrepresentation, and mass surveillance. Furthermore, in the context of the COVID-19, all forms of political struggle (including the current wave of protests) have become MORE dependent on these reactionary capitalist technologies, such as Zoom. This fact is clearly a part of the counter-insurgent repression that is beginning to be unleashed as these words are being written, with National Guard troops mobilizing across the country.

ALL individuals who claim to be social media “influencers” but do not represent any substantive political work in our communities must be disqualified from practicing any form of political leadership in general, but especially in any critically risky moment such as this one. DO NOT attend any event or respond to any convocatoria that does not list real organizations and or endorsers. Do not fall for the self-righteous performative-radicalism of individuals who have no history of community struggle, but in the context of this crisis suddenly appear as key leadership and spokespersons of political movements or broader communities. This includes opportunist religious figures, actors, sports figures, media personalities, musicians, and academics who will inevitably be propped up by the system as “leaders.” Typically, those people do NOTHING for decades, then are suddenly declared local, regional, and national leaders. If an individual who only speaks for themselves is suddenly getting national media attention or institutional recognition, there is likely something wrong with that person and they should not be trusted. Police agencies, corporate media, neoliberal academic  institutions, and both Republican and Democratic parties have a long standing strategy of propping up false leaders who claim to represent the masses, but only represent themselves.

As UdB we will not take our eyes off of the actions of fascist trumpian state power. They have declared “Antifa” a terror group, while at the same time law enforcement agencies are mobilizing agent provocateurs to dress up like “antifa” and instigate violent actions within protests. They are now, and will increasingly use this classification to repress all forms of resistance, and the democratic party will applaud the unleashing of state violence.

2. Express your anger, but do not allow yourself to be blinded by your emotions. 

Guide your decisions to participate on the minimum threshold of solidarity and community self defense. If both of these elements are at stake, then action is likely to be necessary. Short of that threshold, we do not recommend that our compas and supporters attend street actions. We should act as a collective and not as individuals, therefore please check in with your local organizational leadership if and when you participate in events.

If we are blinded by our emotions, then we limit ourselves to parroting sterile debates as framed by media personalities, democrats/republicans, and representatives of social service agencies. Consequently, we also limit ourselves to demanding the same short-term reforms, inevitably condemning ourselves to more state terror a few weeks or months down the road from now, when the pattern is then repeated. Inevitably, another innocent member of the Black or Brown community is murdered by the police. As before, we will endure weeks of so-called “analysis” and “debate” online and within the corporate media, so that we can “begin the healing process.” Loyal critics of the US political system demand resignations, reforms in policing, greater diversity among police, and funding for a few social programs. When the evidence is so damning, there is even a small chance that the offending officer will be arrested as is the case with Chauvin. All of this can happen, and the system as a whole survives.

We must not limit ourselves to more of the same ineffective solutions offered by liberal politicians, social-media woketivists, or even performative-radicals who are down to flip over a car, but absolutely reject any type of collective accountability. We know that if we truly want to bring about substantive political change to our peoples, we are going to have to be AT LEAST as organized as those institutions and agencies that are used to repress our communities. The only way to challenge police/migra violence (and attend to the dozens of other urgent needs of our communities) is to build dual and contending power that demands collective organization.

3. We must be gente solidaria. We will not surrender our class-based/barrio-based political principles, but we will also maintain a barrio-based vigilance. 

This moment is not a revolutionary moment, but with principled revolutionary unity across all oppressed sectors of this society we can transform this moment and turn the tide in our favor. We must stand with the Black community basing ourselves on revolutionary political principles, versus fetished notions of “Black bodies,” multiculturalism, diversity, intersectionality, or any of the other postmodern pseudo-critical frameworks trafficked by neoliberal academics and opportunistic non-profits. We need to differentiate between community members, allies, and outsiders and treat them accordingly. Outsiders are not just political provocateurs but also gentrifiers and opportunists.

We must unite with African people by upholding their most advanced political organizations and emulating their most revolutionary political histories. This is why UdB upholds our decades-long fraternal relationship with the Uhuru Movement as the leading force for Black Power and African Internationalism. Politically, on issues pertaining to Africans, we take our lead from the African People’s Socialist Party because they are a serious organization who have the objective of building organization and creating revolution. As UdB, we have decided to communicate with the UHURU movement as to what our response should be. We will be in solidarity and provide support with whatever action they organize. We will provide more details as we receive them.

The vast majority of the protests taking place offer no political plan nor proposals for bringing about revolutionary change because most are not led by serious political forces. These events are often convened not by organizations, but by individuals whose only claim to leadership is that they are the ones who showed up to the protest with a bullhorn. Many people who claim to lead media-centered coalitions with names that become popularized as slogans, do not represent viable organizations. Many of the people who speak for these groups are hostile to organizational structure because it stifles their individual priorities. Furthermore, we will continue our support for the African community and we’ll continue to call on our gente to unite with the struggle, but we aren’t going to take the lead from ANY organization based only on the racial composition of their spokespersons.

Finally, we direct all members of UdB to guide our actions and critiques of the current moment by considering the following points:

  • Never side with the state, police, and/or corporations.
  • Never side with either political party (repubs/dems).
  • Maintain a healthy skepticism of liberals and performative-radicals.
  • Always be on the side of our barrios.
  • Always be on the side of the working class.

4. Maintain discipline and accountability. Be transparent and do not tolerate adventuristic behavior.

UdB members must always uphold organizational discipline. We must be transparent in the face of the organization and our communities. We will not tolerate any form of adventurism. If members and supporters do attend protests, it is HIGHLY recommended that you DO NOT participate in any events alone. You should always be accompanied by at least one other person, ideally more if possible. Our leadership will communicate with other organizations to see what we can plan so we can participate in actions. We will keep you informed.

Please check in with your local leadership if and when you participate in events. Also, keep in mind that these events typically provide no security for the participants, and privilege high risk behaviors. Most of these protests involve an elevated level of risk of arrest, and if you are undocumented, or have pending legal issues the consequences will be more serious for you.

The protests that have no public leadership can lead to MANY security problems. We have seen undercover officers act out as provocateurs, causing havoc at these events. They do this to help the police criminalize the actions and the people who participate in them. Adventuristic acts, acts of provocation, and actions not in agreement with the program and the political work of UdB endanger our organization, our communities, and la raza in general.

5. Defend our barrios, by any means necessary. 

At a moment like this we must forge a closer unity with those advanced political organizations with which we have had historical relationships: AIM, Anakbayan, the African People’s Socialist Party, Bayan, the Brown Berets de Aztlan, Human Rights Alliance, La Raza Unida Party, Palestinian Youth Movement, Struggle for Socialism, among others. During dangerous moments like this one, we can only trust those organizations that have been putting in the work for years and decades. Trust only inter-generational struggles, rooted in our collective histories and who carry the torch of our revolutionary ancestors – this is the only way to differentiate between the voices of opportunists and the collective voice of our peoples.

Fascist groups will be increasingly aggressive, and they will be actively provoking our barrios in the coming days and months. They will have the ideological and logistical support of the police. They will also promote the entry of provocateurs and false “radical” groups who for years have served to provoke the state to repress our communities. Those groups have a history of challenging and attacking UdB at our own events, seeking to take “revolutionary” actions in communities they do not represent, and then they run home and leave barrio residents to deal with the aftermath. This is a vile form of opportunism and we must not allow it.

In closing, we need to come out of this moment better organized and more united as a community and as a movement.

Liberación Exige Organización