Mumia Abu-Jamal, & Police Enmity

Bryan A. Alexander bnalexan at
Tue Jun 6 13:15:03 MDT 1995

The discussion recently being carried out by David and Matt raises a
topic worthy of broader examination: the role of violence in Marxist
practice.  The whiff of cliche surrounding that phrase suggests a willful
suppression of something useful -
	I keep returning to this theme as I become progressively more
aware of my colleagues' explicit pacifism and implicit support of class
and state violence.  By "colleagues" I'm referring to those designating
themselves as left, "radical", or even vehemently liberal.  In modern
left American discourse (under the critical eye and even influence of the
aforementioned elite) violence all too often becomes a trope, a flattened
pomo TV pic existing within a phrase or videocassette, easily invoked
with great rhetorical flair, dropped silently.  I read of the importance
of communication and public discourse - all without acknowledging that
this public sphere is set up, surveyed, and maintained by a readily
identifiable elite and by the often-carried-out threat of violence.  Of
all the theoretical school and swarms nesting in our cultural
stratosphere, only Marxism now seems to hold out the *possibility* of
dealing with violence as a material factor.
	Again, thsi sounds like a cliche.  A few of my co-grad students
tell me I sound old, like a crypto-Stalinist.  The realization, but not
the fact, of violence is being willfully pushed back into the past.  The
cliche is a defensive move, quietly and consensually warding off a
radical element of the material.
	Perhaps viewing all humans as characters situated on a pair of
lineups, heroic proles and capital's lackeys, engaged in a brawl to
utopia - this is of course simplistic.  But how can we, as Marxists or
even those claiming Marx's influence, pretend to discuss the social with
even the slightest pretence towards totality or the objective and not
include the fact of violence?

Bryan Alexander
Department of English
University of Michigan

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