Jennifer Petzen, Koray Yılmaz-Günay and Christopher Sweetapple
The once limitless optimism regarding liberal democracy has waned considerably: the rule of law and citizens’ expectation of order, the pluralist principles of secularism and multiculturalism, the prosperity of an efficient capitalist economy and, last but not least, impending ecological doom add to the prevailing uncertainties. It is unsurprising that with the notion of the «political», the majority of institutional, organisational, bureaucratic entities commonly meant the left’s struggle to articulate a viable vision of the future of liberal democracy. The failure of leftist politics to respond to noxious colour lines is the driving force behind this essay. We write from an activist perspective after many years engaging in intersectional anti-racist work in political parties, trade unions, NGOs and grassroots initiatives. Viewed from this angle, the «left» is at best an insecure home and at worst a source of menace for political anti-racism. European leftists tend to consolidate white domination in their reflexive attitude to their ostensible origins, namely the Northern and Western European workers’ movement and its specific reification as a cultural value to the exclusion of other histories of repression and domination, including racialised, gendered, affective and reproductive labour. Thus, we find it imperative to focus above all on these complex intersections of class relations, race, gender, sexuality and ability as racial capitalism’s fundamental dynamics, yielding stark lessons for the ways in which social movements critique these dynamics as contradictions of the promises of liberal democracy. After all, anti-racism is, while liberal democracy is not, one of the key guiding frameworks for global politics.
Keywords: liberal democracy, anti-racism, white supremacy, structural racism, leftist movements in Europe.
«The old world is collapsing and perishing, and we knew this would happen to you too.» (Dina El Kaisy Friemuth, Neda Sanai and Anita Beikpour, see El Kaisy Friemuth et al. 2020:29)
«Some say our empire is passing, as all empires do. // And others haven’t a clue what time it is or where it goes or even where the clock is.» (Laurie Anderson, from one of her tracks, Anderson 2010)
The reader might find it instructive to learn here of a critique by the editors of this volume before reaching the vortex of the article. (This critique was extremely important for us and so we thought that the crux of the matter should be given a prominent place here.) The question was this: why does the text start and end with a critique of the left, yet the middle is more of a critique of the mainstream? The answer has to do with the anger directed at various nodules of power and how they are related to each other. We see the problems of the left as inherently related to the problems of the centre/mainstream. It is precisely the left’s tacit support for the mainstream that produces the pain and frustration that was the primary motivation for our writing. Perhaps we were not clear enough in making these connections. In the rewrite we tried to deal with this issue in terms of the structure of the paper, but we are not completely sure how effectively we managed to articulate these complex connections and how the paper will be interpreted. So let us be explicit: for us the left and the centre are clearly and inexorably related.
LIBERAL DEMOCRACY: IN CRISIS FROM THE VERY START
Ah, the overwrought pairing of liberal democracy and crisis! Far from mere cliché, for centuries, great minds and dogged collectivities have been animated by sincere desires to alleviate upheavals seemingly delivered and/or exacerbated by the immense political armature and bureaucracy referred to by the term «liberal democracy». It is all too easy for us to forget that this was the name given to a kind of ideal or horizon towards which emancipated societies were thought to inherently gravitate. This ideal or horizon was understood in the Enlightenment idiom as being prodded and delimited by the wildly successful developments in the empirical sciences, with this being demonstrated in practical domains such as medicine and engineering. And oh, how those horizons have progressed! From colony to metropole and back, as so many humans gradually became citizens and then voters, the global imaginary of freedom took on the oversaturated tint of liberal democracy, even as interminable crises crescendoed into two world wars.
Liberal democracy still held sway with a cadre of true believers well into the 20th century, especially in Old and then New Europe, but the limitless optimism fuelling its global dominance has waned considerably. Indeed, the pall of crisis has enveloped the entire conceptual family of liberal democracy: the civilian state of the fully enfranchised demos, the rule of law and citizens’ expectation of order, the pluralist principles of secularism and multiculturalism, and the prosperity of an efficient capitalist economy. Impending ecological doom only adds velocity and torque to this flood of uncertainties. Political leaders know that the current system is breaking down and that the next crisis inexorably hurtling toward us provides another nail in its coffin. Rather than acknowledging that late capitalism is failing, they seek short-term solutions to prop up the system that benefits them and their cronies for as long as it lasts. Après moi, le déluge.
With eyes focused so intently on all these related crises, it is unsurprising that the majority of institutional, organisational, bureaucratic entities commonly meant with the notion of the political «left» – i.e. legacy political parties, foundations, NGOs, activist groups, and politicians – also struggle to articulate a viable vision of the future of liberal democracy beyond the exhausting inertia of the maintenance of the status quo and zealous faith commanded at priestly behest. As writers and activists, we jointly share a lifetime’s preoccupation with a politics which calls itself anti-racist. Thus, in the essay that follows, we home in on the theme of racism and anti-racist politics, drawing on our extensive experiences as researchers, writers, activists and, more recently, paid employees of the political-industrial complex. Viewed from the angle of our expertise in political anti-racism, the question of the current crisis of liberal democracy, baldly formulated like this, strikes us as an impertinence, almost an obscenity. The Mediterranean, for instance, has for some time now been turned into a racialised mass grave, and how do you talk about the future of a persistent grave of this type?
THE PROBLEM OF THE LEFT
In this essay, we assess the crisis of liberal democracy from an anti-racist perspective and articulate a critique of the leftist establishment, if we can call it that, in northern Europe. As touched on at the beginning of the article, the repeated failure of leftist politics to respond to noxious colour lines drives our assessment.
Our methodology is not a comprehensive sociological survey of racism/white supremacy in leftist political institutions in Europe. Rather, it is an essay from an activist perspective, written on the basis of years of experience of doing intersectional anti-racist work in political parties or trade unions and with NGOs, grassroots initiatives, and so on. Although we write mainly based on our experiences in Germany, we know from transnational networks that our observations are not simply local aberrations but rather a striking pattern that can be seen throughout the Global North – a perhaps unsurprising observation, as the Global North was and is the geographical fulcrum of white supremacy. From the angle of anti-racism, the left can be uncontroversially claimed to be at best an insecure home and at worst a source of menace for political anti-racism. Racism, after all, is structural, as sociologists and journalists and street activists all insisted again during the global outcry following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man killed by the police in the United States in 2020. The left is also made up of structures: organisations, institutions, rules and norms, and parties and states. It is only out of ignorance or mendacity that one could assert that the left is somehow purified or innocent of the contagion of racism. However, even we are not immune to the hope aroused by the history of utopian and liberation politics.
DEFINING THE LEFT AND THE CONUNDRUM OF LIBERAL DEMOCRACY AND ANTI-RACIST ACTION
In this text we use «leftist», «left-wing» and «progressive» to describe organisations and grassroots initiatives, including trade unions, political parties and NGOs, that consider themselves left of centre. Our critique homes in on what we see as a defining, indeed fatal, feature of, in short, the left throughout Europe, at all scales: the whiteness of its composition, which, we hope to show, has led – and can only ever lead – to an interminable state of white domination. As a semi-coherent system of ideological and cultural practices, ongoing white supremacy by definition limits the life chances and lives of racially marginalised groups, be they indigenous, long-residing groups like Roma in many European countries, or non-white immigrants or Muslims. In our view, implicit and explicit white supremacy, which finds a safe haven in left-wing parties, NGOs, trade unions and social movements, is the key obstacle hindering the gains the left had sought to achieve. Addressing and eradicating its nefarious effects looks like being the only way towards recuperating and building leftist political meaning and force. Otherwise, present-day white leftist politics will be made irrelevant.
Anti-racism is, while liberal democracy is not, one of the cardinal guiding frameworks for global politics, no matter the old guard’s dug-in heels or the myriad poisoned structures which make up the left. In the current dispensation, liberal democracy is less of a skeleton key capable of unlocking more freedom for more people; rather, it is more an affliction not unlike an addictive compulsion. Here, queer theorist Lauren Berlant’s concept «cruel optimism» (Berlant 2011) seems apt: following this rationale, «liberal democracy» refers to the fantasy complex which both postulates and thwarts flourishing. On the burning issue of anti-racism and the left, the «wing-and-a-prayer» investment in liberal democracy tethers us to a future which is neither liberal nor democratic.
In this chapter we hope to show a shift in perspective that provides an antidote to the kid-glove inquisition of liberal democracy which always seems to exonerate it of culpability in the very crises it purportedly faces. The widespread condition of white supremacy and white domination, as both material as well as ideological phenomena (that is, as structural phenomena), is quite instructive. With regard to the left as it currently stands, in its myriad components, regnant white domination is the resting state, the inhering present tense. Leftist organisations have been, and remain, constituted by liberal principles of procedure and rule, and they have not – and, we will argue, cannot – correct the ensconced myopias and reproductive efficacy of white domination. They cannot and will not be able to distinguish the forest from the trees, nor can they make good on the cultural and political diversity within their own ranks. White principles yield only white principals.
Anti-racist politics, in all its diverse varieties and histories, is firmly rooted in the left; however, as we mentioned, this is more strategic than intuitive. The vestigial white domination of the left has been overshadowed as a problem in its own right by resurgent ethno-nationalisms and continent-wide authoritarian, racist and pro-securitisation parties which continue to grow. These forces have, for some time, been racking up one electoral victory after another. Meanwhile, left-wing organisations like trade unions are losing their mobilising and collective bargaining power, leftist parties are facing a drop in their membership, and the liberal-democratic lodestar, the so-called rule of law, when countenanced at all, is regularly bent to the disadvantage of minority racialised groups and to the compromised advantage of the supposedly autochthonous population. This has led to a significant change in outlook among Black and indigenous people, as well as people of colour working within progressive and left-wing social movements. In response, European and North American progressives with a sensibility for racial injustice have increasingly doubled down on self-organisation outside traditional structures, sometimes even consciously working against leftist parties, unions and NGOs.
In our experience, we have seen centre-left parties develop comatose stares when millions of protest voters have run into the arms of Rassemblement National (RN, or National Rally) in France; the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the UK; or Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD, or Alternative for Germany); or whenever a contemporary approach to demographic change, sexual and gender diversity, the phasing out of fossil fuels or nuclear energy is adopted. They seem at a loss to follow through on the progressive policies that one would expect of them and often switch their rhetoric to chime with that of right-wing populism.
The failure to follow through on progressive policies was predictable, though. Anyone who has participated in a course, workshop or panel discussion about intersectionality has likely witnessed how this body of theoretical and empirical work, which is meant to further people’s understanding of (in leftist or Marxist contexts) how racism and capitalism work together, is handily defused by the seemingly naïve query «but what about class?» In these instances, leftists consolidate white domination in their reflexive attitude towards their ostensible origins, namely the Northern and Western European workers’ movement and its specific reification as a cultural artefact to the exclusion of other histories of repression and domination, including gendered, affective and reproductive labour, and against the backdrop of ongoing colonial exploitation being as extractive and de-humanising as ever. This reification leads to scenes such as the one at the Dangerous Conjunctures symposium in Berlin in 2018 (Haus der Kulturen der Welt 2018), where participants witnessed Antonio Negri’s incoherent response to Ruth Wilson Gilmore, who had asked him to consider racial capitalism in his analysis. This is just one example of countless scholarly conferences that have failed to constructively deal with questions of race-blind analysis and/or structural racism in academic institutions. This, along with other factors, has led to massive precarity among academics of colour and has huge negative ramifications for coalition organising. At the other end of the spectrum, white-dominated groups can on a whim bring together impressive resources to orchestrate mass anti-racist protests that make it very clear to people of colour that the prioritisation of anti-racist work is always plausibly articulated even by a white leftist plurality. Later that same year in Berlin, a leftist network headed by lawyers and academics organised a large-scale demonstration called #unteilbar (#indivisible) in response to racist riots in Eastern German cities in 2018. The size of the demonstration was impressive, indeed inspiring; it was attended by diverse groups, as well as a lot of individual protesters.
Although it was heartening to see such a major initiative coming together, it also raised many questions among anti-racist organisers. As mentioned above, it was astounding to see the level of resources put into the organisation of the demonstration when so many anti-racist local initiatives organised by people of colour have no budget at all. The organisation also begs the question of when to organise. The mainstream left tends to set up vocal actions when people of colour are spectacularly brutalised in pogroms, terrorist attacks or refugee camps (and of course it absolutely depends on where that camp is and who is in it), yet when reports come out about structural racism in Berlin schools, they get buried by the city’s progressive government. Structural racism, admittedly not an easy thing to deconstruct, rarely brings leftists out on the streets, nor is it met with significant anti-racist resolutions or laws in federal states (Bundesländer) in Germany with progressive governments. This clipped sociological imagination corresponds to the anaemic employment of people of colour in numbers reflecting their percentage of the population in the existing left, its political parties and innumerable NGOs and social work institutions. Finally, the fact that the leadership of anti-racist initiatives is often co-opted by colour-blind white leftists is a longstanding issue that a not inconsiderable number of workshops on critical whiteness have apparently been unable to consign to history. That this is fundamentally disempowering for people of colour is a sticking point for a leadership resistant to structural change.
The colour line in labour (Somerville 2000) is not always ignored, though. It can also be used in leftist arguments to shore up electorally useful anti-immigration sentiment while feigning to be pro-worker. For instance, in the midst of the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, Sahra Wagenknecht, who was then co-leader of the German party DIE LINKE (The Left), took a hardline approach to migration, using the alibi that she did not want to exploit foreign labour and weaken people’s rights, thus poisoning years of bottom-up organising and solidarity among workers of the Global North and Global South. Furthermore, her tough stance on migration, the trend rather than the exception among left-of-centre parties throughout Europe, failed to win any right-wing voters back from the centre or right-wing populist groups as calculated. Instead, her party lost Black and PoC voters and party members en masse, costing Wagenknecht her position at the top of DIE LINKE, and at the same time splitting, scattering and weakening Germany’s supposed party of the radical left. The left’s infatuation with right-wing populism, which reaches beyond just one iconoclast and finds parties from the centre and left of centre chasing the right, seals the fate of the entire system if the left keeps repeating these mistakes: everyone and everything will end up firmly on the right and remain there.
All this double talk props up the workers’ movement strand of the left, whose dinosaur discourse is similar to authoritarian-repressive populism. Here you have the good, local (white) workers who feed their family through «decent work», there you have the mobile neoliberal elites who work here today and somewhere else tomorrow – and the asylum seekers who come to «our» country «only for economic reasons». The tight regulation of geographical borders, in order to protect the frontiers of the labour market, and the questioning of payouts of social benefits have garnered leftist support, from Greece to Germany and on to Denmark. Similarly, some of the leftist discourse against the EU – declaring that it castrates national sovereignty – is indistinguishable from Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński and his right-wing populist and national-conservative party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice).
Where does the deep rift which seems for many leftists to lie between «cosmopolitanism» and nationalism as well as between «open borders for all» and the «little people» come from? Our decades-long experience working within left-wing institutions and organisations corroborates the extensive scholarship about racial capitalism (Robinson 1983) and its primary axes, in particular race, class, gender and ability, which have been shown to overlap in complex ways and to yield more inclusivity for some (those who are white, male, middle-class and not disabled) while also entrenching more exclusions from democracy for most (those who are not white, female or non-binary, poor and disabled). Thus, we find it imperative to focus above all on these complex intersections of class relations, race, gender and ability as racial capitalism’s fundamental dynamics, with stark lessons for the ways in which social movements critique these dynamics as contradictions of the promises of liberal democracy. Since almost all forms of continental European leftism remain blithely white-dominated, they have yet to come to terms not only with the new world order, even as they are directly confronted with their atavistic colonial attitudes now that the Global South, which has always defined Europe in its role as the other, is making its demands from the centre of Europe.
Anticipating that some will inevitably dismiss our argument, we find a summary of Ella Shohat and Robert Stam’s thinking on the issue of the colour line in white-dominated leftist groups a helpful tonic. They note how the colour line marked leftist organisations «from the Communist Party to labor unions, which privileged whites over working-class people of color despite ideologies of equality» (Shohat/Stam 2012:99) and castigate the cheap habit of blaming «identity politics» for the palpable divisions on the left.
Social identities are neither a luxury nor imaginary; they are shaped by history and have repercussions for who gets jobs, who owns homes, who gets racially profiled, who gets access to good healthcare, and so forth. This countenance of the causal role of identity in the realm of the political is too readily dismissed as «identity politics», especially by adherents of post-Marxist forms of leftism who should know better by now. Rather than an investment in a phantasmatic affiliation which competes with ordained worker solidarity, identities do, as a matter of fact, have plenty to do with the real-life differential relations of power, with discrepant experiences of the judicial system, the medical system, the economy and everyday social interchange. Of course, social identities are not pre-fixed essences, but emerge from a fluid set of diverse experiences, within overlapping circles of belonging. However, it is these overlapping circles of identity and identification that make possible trans-communal coalitions based on historically shaped affinities, not a dubious global propensity for proletarianisation. Anxieties about identity are asymmetrical, contributing far more heat than light, due to the lopsided distribution resulting from the unequal access among classes, used to express and deploy these anxieties. While the disempowered seek to affirm a precariously established right, the traditionally empowered feel relativised and diminished by having to compete with previously unheard, lowly voices. The «identity-is-dividing-the-left» argument obscures how each division can also be an addition within a coalitionary space. Disaggregation and re-articulation can go hand in hand (ibid.).
However, when it comes to political monopolies and elite capture of political structures, disaggregation happens only after concession. A public willingness to deal with the reality of disaggregation might be an alternative definition for «power sharing», an exponentially more significant gesture than allowing critical discourse or enabling enfranchisement. In terms of the condition of white domination across the left, we suggest a practical measure: the leading question «what about class?» has to be rendered obsolete to clear space for a much-needed disaggregation. As long as leftists, whether motivated by bad faith or fundamentalist certainty, only pose questions about exploitation while ignoring disenfranchisement, there cannot be any of the re-articulation in larger mainstream entities that is required to build broadly-based, sustainable and successful forms of leftism.
THE PROMISES AND DISAPPOINTMENTS OF LIBERAL DEMOCRACY
Simply parroting the outdated «good news» of the inherent value of liberal democracy in the face of humanity’s myriad challenges is, in fact, part of the problem. There are rich traditions of feminist, anti-capitalist and ecological activism and thought which have laid bare the ruses with which liberalism and liberal democracy muddle feminist, anti-capitalist and ecological politics. In this next short section, we continue our inspection of anti-racism and the left by stepping back and taking stock of the well-defined relationship of white supremacy with the development of liberal democracies, and more importantly the utopian vision of liberty that animates the left as well as the right.
The Enlightenment and the racial contract
The values of liberal democracy in Europe can be said to have crystallised in the French Revolution. However, these values (Freedom, Equality and Fraternity) can also be traced back to the first French pre-revolutionary colonial empire as well as its post-revolutionary counterpart. The same goes for the United States, whose Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America (4 July 1776) was written by propertied elites, many of whom were either slaveholders or whose wealth depended on the Atlantic slave trade:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (US Congress 1776)
The existence of this apparent contradiction in the wording and the intent of the manifesto, which Shohat and Stam (2012:29) define as «the contradiction between liberal Enlightenment principles of political democracy and social equality and the illiberal legacies of discrepant citizenship», has persisted to the present day in liberal, representative democracies. The central, open question remains whether one of these forms of democracy can be the suitable condition and social form for an equal, just and sustainable society. We would like to draw on the work of Charles Mills to help us elucidate the problem of what many people understand as Enlightenment values so that we can effectively examine the Enlightenment’s impact on those who were excluded from its promises and rewards.
In his book The Racial Contract (Mills 1997), Mills defines both «white personhood» and «non-white subpersonhood». Here, Mills notes that the contract excludes people of colour from being subjects of the contract: instead, they are its objects, being «subpersons» to whom a «different and inferior schedule of rights and liberties» applies (ibid.:56). In the fields of (European-dominated) moral and political philosophy, this has usually been treated as a «regrettable deviation from the ideal» (ibid.:56). This discourse has the effect of making racial exclusion in liberal democracies seem like an accident when in fact it has been the constitutive norm.
In her reading of Charles Mills, Akwugo Emejulu emphasises the ways in which the racial contract continues to operate through an epistemology of white ignorance, which is «an agreement to misinterpret the world, a refusal to know» (Emejulu 2016). This white ignorance and refusal to understand the world could be seen as the crux of the stagnation of leftist movements. The ways in which dominant leftist movements have prioritised an anaemic concept of class as the focus of social inequality remains a primary modality used to reassert the racial order (ibid.).
While Mills indicates that this philosophical tradition seems somewhat embarrassing nowadays, the racial contract continues to be the ideal for whites. Therefore, all the exceptions to access to rights – and this applies not only to non-whites but also to women, queer people, and people with disabilities and chronic illnesses – involved an «adherence to the actual norm» (Mills 1997:57). Mills’ characterisation of white people’s implicit or explicit entry into this contract describes the genesis of the process of white capture of liberal-democratic political structures. There was nothing natural or necessary about this; instead, the establishment of the racial contract was the purposeful integration of several lines of governance, including land ownership, access to the courts, burgeoning municipal and settlement ordinances, and prerogatives of employers, militias, lessors and lenders, all with the paranoid zeal and callous grit typical of settler colonists and residents of metropolitan centres.
Nor was there anything natural or given about how race and racism would be codified throughout Europe and its settler diaspora in the newly burgeoning publishing and scientific domains. We could dwell, for instance, on the extensive and massively influential scholarship of Immanuel Kant, one of the cornerstones – if not the cornerstone – of the European Enlightenment (and of democracy). It is a known, unwelcome historical fact that Kant espoused a crude geographic racism. Anyone who wants to understand contemporary philosophy as well as present-day European societies and their (progressive) movements must engage with Kant’s articulation of modern thought that informed and justified Europe’s colonial endeavours throughout most parts of the world. This version of the Enlightenment knowingly placed white supremacy at its core, and did not characterise it as a diversion or accident. Kant’s widely studied anthropology did not cite centuries of racist prejudice (thus mindlessly following a feature of his time and/or society); rather, it creatively modernised the racial hierarchy he inherited from the Catholic inquisition, but with the imprimatur of scientific reason. Despite the centuries of cross-linguistic and cross-cultural knowledge on which his musings were based, Kant was one of the first to unequivocally declare that only whites were capable of philosophy and science. No matter that the Aristotle he revered was passed down to him through lines of transmission begun distally in the Abbasid period of Arab and Persian scholarship and pursued with feverish intensity by non-Christian, Iberian scholars. With Kant, so went the philosophy of the Enlightenment, the meticulously surveyed globe was viewed from a white perspective. Race was fabricated as a «scientific» (anthropological) category that correlates with the ability to engage in abstract thought. Kant considered whites to be at the top of the racial hierarchy, which he explicitly outlined in his lectures on physical geography (Kant 1802:10).
Racial anthropology was ignobly carried forth in the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who, much more than Kant, remains a valid interlocutor for broad swathes of the academic left to this day. Susan Buck-Morss’s Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (Buck-Morss 2009) persuasively examined the «hiding in plain sight» influence of the Haitian revolution in particular, and the Atlantic slave plantation system more generally, in his works. His political taxonomy and metaphysical system firmly entrenched race thinking and white supremacist ideology in a discourse of hierarchical natural history and developmentalism, effects of his relentless dialectics.
In this brief survey of the Enlightenment-generation inheritance of liberal-democratic thought and politics, we could devote expository space to the renovations manifested in the Romantic movement’s various countermeasures. Herder’s theories of cultural and linguistic diversity represent one such milestone. So too do the works of Max Weber, who was among the most original and sober advocates of liberal democracy and state capitalism.
Weber’s sociology of disenchantment and iron cages coincides with the prayerful mantra «there is no place like home» of Dorothy, the protagonist of US author L. Frank Baum’s 1900 fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (see e.g. Baum 2000). For all his itinerant interest, Weber’s political sociology emphasised the very precarious hold of the young German state. A state’s primary feature is its monopoly on violence – this power stems pro forma from the people but it is actually transferred to the state. State action derives its power and legitimacy from the people who authorise it. However, the definition of who is meant by the people also reveals a contradiction. In the German case, for instance, the force of the German state derives its legitimacy from the German people. The latter, however, is construed in a way that the existing peoples falling under German jurisdiction may or may not be included. The Volk as a biological concept is obviously not coextensive with the population (Bevölkerung) of Germany or of any other country. The idea of the German nation was manufactured in the second half of the 19th century and had as its object the Kulturnation (cultural nation, or nation defined by or seen through the prism of a shared culture) which explicitly left out groups of people within a country who would have naturally been «German», especially Jews, Sinti/Roma and Slavs, if geography rather than cultural chauvinism were to be the defining principle. For this reason, we argue that the demarcation along race lines is not subsidiary or epiphenomenal, but rather a fundamental, constitutive difference within the population. This situation, which has held sway throughout Europe since its imperial period, deliberately and diligently converts difference into inequality. It also accounts for the widespread but utterly bizarre position today whereby across entire populated housing blocks in Europe’s biggest cities there are very few people who are eligible to vote, given that asylum and refugee and immigration statuses all act as uncontroversial bars to voting in municipal, federal and European elections. Again, the German case is instructive here: despite its contested leadership role in the EU and notwithstanding Merkel’s stance towards the influx of migrants in 2015, Germany continues to operate wildly unconstitutional regimes of asylum and refugee governance, imposing travel restrictions on most refugees, who are unable to travel outside the geographical zones they are assigned to live in. (The restrictive laws regarding residence requirements, work permits and access to health services have been lifted for an influx of white, Ukrainian refugees, following the start of the war in their country as this chapter was being revised. A comparison here between how they and other refugees or migrants have been treated would be beyond the scope of this paper, but it deserves a mention and underpins our argument here.)
Racial categories inherited from the colonial period – not simply as the result of the history of particular nation states but also of Transnational European History per se – ensure the internationalisation of these contradictions. This is what Eurocentrism looks like – a concept which Shohat and Stam (2012:61) define as the «discursive-ideological precipitate of colonial domination». Eurocentrism enshrines and naturalises the hierarchical stratifications inherited from colonialism, rendering them inevitable and even «progressive», according to Shohat and Stam, who write that «Eurocentrism does not refer to Europe in its literal sense as a continent or a geopolitical unit but rather to the perception of Europe (and its extensions around the world) as normative» (ibid.). Thus, not only race but gender, ability, sexuality and class with their intersecting asymmetries come to have transnational purchase. Today, these axes endow whiteness in the Global North with normative valuation and co-structure (access to education, health or participation in vital areas of society, and the consequences of policing, deportation and other techniques of state repression and discipline), even for nation states which had no colonies of their own, like Switzerland, or which were long dominated by other nations, like Poland or Finland. The global success of Eurocentrism has superimposed racialised categories and their supporting axes of differentiation on areas that were colonised, such as Brazil and India. Not only in Europe but also in most other parts of the world, whiteness serves as the elementary privilege acting as a refractory mechanism for other forms of structural marginalisation. The violence of disadvantage (including queerness, poverty and disability) is articulated through positions of (often class-based or racial) privilege (for a discussion of kyriarchy, see Schüssler Fiorenza 2009).
The myth of post-racialism
Bourgeois values and norms are contradictory and have never manifested themselves as anything but tenuous, hegemonic ideals. Freedom, equality, fraternity – «solidarity» might be a fitting contemporary synecdoche – were simply stated but had, and have, to be fought for by those locked out of the locally significant definition of the people. However, it is not only regressive forces blocking initiatives of equality, freedom, justice and sustainability. Even when emancipatory, progressive steps are set as goals, these forces try to turn back the clock. In many European countries, both inside and outside the EU, this can be seen in populist mobilisations against abortion, against «gender ideology», «early sexualisation» and «gayness», and above all against immigration, bringing tens of thousands of people onto the streets, from Spain to Eastern Europe. France’s largest gathering of political protesters, for instance, happened in the wake of its 2013 liberalisation of same-sex marriage rights, with demonstrations peaking only in 2016. Liberal-democratic modes of reaction that refer to the status quo as a fulfilled promise must refer to freedom of opinion and freedom of art. Moreover, even where the boundaries to criminal law are clearly crossed (as in the case of the racist murders of the National Socialist Underground in Germany or the murderous hunting-down of Roma), emphasis is placed on the exception to the rule: the institutions are characterised as democratic and the pogrom as a regrettable isolated case, given that the normative core of liberal democracy – freedom (for all), equality (for all), solidarity (for all) – is above all a label that is needed for human rights work in other countries, especially on other continents. Otherwise, Bosnia-Herzegovina would never have become a candidate for membership of the European Union. The European Court of Human Rights has indicated on a number of occasions that the unequal treatment of Roma, Jews and 15 other minorities, as laid down in that country’s constitution, violates the rights of 12% of its citizens. No one is ready to say out loud that there is a parallel illiberal rule of law which applies to those not seen as white, Christian citizens (see Human Rights Watch 2019). Otherwise, imperialist wars that pro forma serve «women’s rights» or the «rights of lesbians and gay people» could not be legitimised (Puar 2007).
At first sight, it is surprising that intellectuals and activists from progressive social movements participate in such discussions at all – and sometimes even approve of military interventions. Worryingly, German feminist Alice Schwarzer’s «‹principal contradiction› feminism» (Hauptwiderspruchsfeminismus) and «unease» with Islam, migrants and refugees (Schwarzer 2010; Poschardt 2016) has in recent years gained currency in the Christian Democratic Union (Christlich Demokratische Union, or CDU). Furthermore, it is astonishing that in the Netherlands, a gay man, Pim Fortuyn, with his movement, the Pim Fortuyn List (Lijst Pim Fortuyn), could become a pioneer of right-wing populism, having the same bizarre high profile as would Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, or PVV) leader Geert Wilders after him.
Such a turn to the right was also witnessed in the Germany of the early 2000s, where a certain media narrative and targeted campaigns made out Muslims and migrants to be the real perpetrators of homophobia and sexism (Petzen 2004). These developments were in line with the neoliberal shift in queer and feminist liberation politics that has happened since the 1970s (Duggan 2003; Puar 2007; Petzen 2012; Petzen 2016) and form the blueprints for the ways in which formerly radical movements get co-opted into racial and gender capitalist structures in exchange for Althusserian recognition and the ever distant promise of equality. Perhaps the most striking area of collaboration is provided by the ways in which some queer, trans and feminist groups have understood what they have to gain when they leverage their racial and gender contracts to squeeze rights and privileges for their white constituents. While working relationships with the police and the passage of hate-crime laws is touted, for example, by «progressive» queer organisations, trans and queer people of colour continue to be persecuted by these laws, which have not been shown however, to reduce crime or to contribute to improving the socio-economic or health status of queer and trans people (Spade 2015; Haritaworn/Petzen 2011; Sylvia Rivera Law Project 2009). All the same, leftists and progressive groups persist, and indeed are being increasingly successful, in helping to get these kinds of laws enacted.
It is also jarring when the political right, centre and left, when deploring «growing anti-Semitism», deliberately exaggerate the proportion of anti-Semitic criminal acts and acts of violence purportedly carried out by Muslims or migrants, even though around 90% of anti-Semitic violence is perpetrated by right-wing groups and individuals. This «funhouse» economy of misrecognition scapegoats and stigmatises Muslims while also partially hiding from the public the reality of criminal anti-Semitism and giving those responsible for it the chance to escalate their activities (Dekel/Özyürek 2020).
Children’s rights, women’s rights, lesbian and gay rights and the protection of Jews are only referred to when it is a matter of affirming whiteness in the covertly Christian idiom of European secularism, a liberal-democratic «we» which supposedly overcame sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism long ago. The counterfactual historicisation of these phenomena – or the externalisation of these phenomena to the extreme right of the political spectrum – creates an innocent mainstream of society, the democratic centre, which has supposed learned the «right» lessons from the past and therefore must be protected and preserved (Yılmaz-Günay 2014).
Media-saturated liberal democracies trade heavily in these strange distortions of images, which are bent to fit the desired narrative of nationalism and moral economy. For Germany, the case of the Jews provides an illustration of this instrumentalising disfiguration whose chilling discursive silence provides subtle cover for intensifying animus and violence. The small numbers of Jews of German descent living there were a grim and obvious consequence of the Shoah. In the half-century which followed, existing German Jewish communities have been complemented by significant numbers of returning ethnic Germans, mostly Jews from the former Soviet Union, and the migration of Israeli and North American Jews to urban centres, thereby making for a fairly diverse demographic situation. The heterogeneous reality of Jews living in Germany is hardly reflected in the country’s robust public sphere.
Here, the institutional voice of «the Jews» lies with a conservative and ageing minority, while strong narrative forces allow figurations of Jews as long as they fit in with the role assigned to them by the German «theatre of memory» (Gedächtnistheater in German). This useful term, introduced by sociologist Y. Michal Bodemann in his 1996 book on this subject (Bodemann 1996), describes a peculiarly German yearning for atonement for its Judeocidal past which calls on circumscribed figures of normative Jewishness alongside a growing cast of supporting characters and forces them to stage and restage post-Nazi German identity as foils and props (i.e. as objects). In this connection, Max Czollek clearly flags up the silencing of Jews in discussions of anti-Semitism in Germany:
The question of who a Jew is in Germany today is not decided by Jews alone. It is not about their own cultural and intellectual positioning, or about their personal relationship with religion, ethnicity or history. Rather, «the Jews» of today are characters on the stage of the German theatre of memory […] The theatre of memory thus generates the demand for certain Jewish characters who are supposed to confirm that German society has successfully come to terms with its murderous past. One result of this is that the public visibility of the relatively few Jews in Germany is both remarkably high and remarkably limited. Other groups, too, are at the mercy of similarly dominant pressures of expectation, such as Muslims, who are constantly forced to speak out about gender roles, terror and integration, thus serving as a counter-image to the self-image of tolerant and enlightened Germans. In both cases, the minority role is questioned from a position that remains unnamed and therefore invisible. I refer to this dominant position as – dare I say it – German (Czollek 2018:8ff.)
That this simultaneous amnesty and amnesia has little to do with social reality is clear from the 2012 German «circumcision debate», in which the German federal parliament, the Bundestag, had to officially state that the circumcision (i.e. removal of the foreskin) of Jewish and Muslim boys was legal (Çetin et al. 2012). Absurdly enough, especially in left-wing contexts the debate is increasingly focusing for the most part on Israel-related forms of anti-Semitism, especially when the perpetrators are identified as Arab, Muslim or Palestinian. At the same time, most Jewish institutions in Germany still need to be protected by cameras, security gates and the police. Just how necessary this is, was demonstrated by the attempted anti-Semitic mass murder in the city of Halle an der Saale, where at Yom Kippur, the principal Jewish holiday, in October 2019, a synagogue full of worshippers was attacked with weapons and explosives. Only a strong door – and the low quality of the mostly homemade weapons used by the assailant – prevented mass casualties. The white German attacker, Stephan Balliet, murdered two people in a public space, having failed to get into the synagogue.
Where this lone-wolf attacker got the resources from for his barbarous actions was never established, and this was especially odd given that he hardly received any payments into his bank account (see Lutz 2019). The reasons behind the relative silence surrounding this attack, the trial and the victims remain a mystery to this day, as does a statement by the investigative authorities about another perpetrator, Tobias Rathjen, who murdered nine people in or in front of two shisha bars in Hanau on 19 February 2020, before killing himself and his mother. These authorities said just five weeks later:
Based on the assessment of the federal German investigative authorities, Tobias R. may have committed a racist act, but he was not a follower of right-wing extremist ideology. Instead, he had selected his victims to get as much attention as possible for his conspiracy theory surrounding surveillance by a secret service. (Flade/Mascolo 2020)
THE FAILURE OF THE LEFT
In many ways, leftist groups/organisations/parties/initiatives are no different from the mainstream of society. Discussions about race, gender, sexuality and ability are often dismissed as identity politics. In fact, DIE LINKE’s Sahra Wagenknecht even belittled the political demands of «ridiculous minorities» (Klein 2021). Alliances bringing together organisations of people of colour, Blacks, migrants, Jews and Muslims and other marginalised groups are seen as necessary, and the few which do exist usually provide a de rigueur fig leaf of diversity or offer a «human shield» signalling the righteousness of the white mainstream. While the intersections with feminism have been disappointing, there is also an increasing alienation of the groups affected by various forms of racism.
It is no coincidence that the recent establishment of migrant anti-fascist groups such as Migrantifa after the Hanau attack has been enough to send the white German left into a state of panicked confusion. Despite the hashtags expressing solidarity on social media after the recent attacks and murders, there is also still a lot of misunderstanding about the needs of people who experience racism and yet feel dislocated from those jealously guarding the anti-fascist label as an element of cultural heritage. Instead, for young Blacks and people of colour feel this is a painfully reminder of the period following the reunification of Germany, when a huge wave of anti-Asian, anti-Black, anti-migrant, anti-Semitic and anti-Sinti/Roma violence escalated virtually unabated and illiberal treatment of asylum seekers and refugees hardened into law and policy. At that time, many people of colour were already organising themselves into groups that were explicitly and markedly different from the mainstream left.
Our observation, that the left – including parties as well as trade unions and other social movements, even where they explicitly see themselves as bottom-up, leftist social movements – is still made up of white movements that have more problems with diversity than multinational companies, and that have more difficulties implementing power-sharing than public administrations that have been working on «intercultural opening» since 1994. An example of this came at the end of 1994, when the then Federal Government Commissioner for Foreigners, Cornelia Schmalz-Jacobsen, published her «Recommendations for the Intercultural Opening of Social Services» (see Simon-Hohm 2004:17f.). Her goal, which could be compared with the personnel policies of left-of-centre parties and institutions, was, in her words, quoted in German in Diekelmann (2011), «to stimulate and enhance the debate about adequate social care for migrants within German society, both in practice and within associations and public agencies, as well as within educational and training institutions».
Since the reluctant admission that Germany is a de facto immigration country, «migration» and «culture» have been the two signifiers that have loomed large over the debate on racism there – despite the fact that the first immigration law came into force in 2005 and the process of intercultural opening has not been demonstrably unsuccessful in every domain. The insipid conversation about cultures not only neutralises discussion about various forms of racism; it also nefariously emboldens links to anti-modern and anti-emancipatory traditions when it comes to class and gender relations, along with race and ability. These traditions are a fundamental part of the system. From the genesis of liberal democracies to the present day they have worked against the proclaimed values of bourgeois-liberal democracy.Therefore,it is not enough to blame right-wing populist and right-wing movements and parties, since liberal-democratic institutions and other democratic actors play substantial, enabling roles in perpetuating racism.
Against this background it is unsurprising that sizeable segments of democratic socialism are so vehemently opposed to the headscarf. This can be seen in all European countries, in whose view the so-called neutrality of the state is not endangered by the massive financial, personnel-related and ideological entanglements with the Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church (see the website of the → International League of Non-Religious and Atheists (Internationaler Bund der Konfessionslosen und Atheisten, or IBKA), but by the minority religion, which stands forever accused of discrimination against women – and often also against queer people. The fact that the headscarf only becomes a problem when it is worn by prospective teachers or by female public prosecutors, judges or police officers has got lost in this debate. Neither the political right nor the political left have a problem with cleaners wearing headscarves.
The situation is rather similar for new mosques. Whereas little is made of Muslims praying in backyards, garages or private apartments, when a representative building is planned that is recognisable in the public space as a mosque, this leads to information sessions, rounds of dialogue and protest rallies in the respective local communities. What this repeated response actually means is not hard to work out: public premises are considered to belong to «us». The functional unity of the state and its legitimating Volk remains, as it has since Kant’s declarations about the «unreason» surrounding non-whites, always in lockstep, with even the tendency to goose-step.
The wilfully ignorant lack of understanding of the overlapping, intertwining and mutual reinforcement of class and gender relations with race relations makes the left’s often cautioned ability to forge alliances impossible, subverting its very electoral success among prospective leftist-inclined voters. Thilo Sarrazin of the German Social Democrats (SPD), as Berlin’s Senator for Finance (or finance minister), was an extremely important figure on the city’s political scene. He went on to become a member of the Executive Board of the German central bank, the Deutsche Bundesbank. Seen as a classic representative of bourgeois liberal democracy, he has long since recast himself as a mastermind of the New Right, in the full knowledge that his mix of biological racism as well as the cultural spiel of «fruit and vegetable merchants» who can do nothing better than produce more «little headscarf girls» (Berberich 2009) would resonate with populist racist discourse. The Social Darwinism in his 2010 bestseller Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany Abolishes Itself) (Sarrazin 2010) was pre-printed in the number-one German daily newspaper and in the most popular weekly magazine and was discussed on all the talk shows. Although almost immediately calls were heard for the SPD to throw him out of the party, it took more than 10 years for them to actually accomplish this, although it was the bare minimum that he deserved – and then only after he had produced more extremely problematic publications. However, Sarrazin’s actions were much more than mere embarrassments for a major political party that had, lest we forget, made its name as a party aligned with resistance to the Nazis. Sarrazin’s writings actually fall within the purview of criminal action, which is outlined in section 130, covering incitement to ethnic hatred, of the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) (Federal Law Gazette 2019). With the publication of his interview in 2009, many individuals and non-profit organisations complained to the police, but following preliminary investigations no charges were pressed, with the Berlin’s attorney general defending Sarrazin’s right to freedom of expression. As a result, an NGO successfully lodged a complaint against Sarrazin with the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). CERD issued Germany with a rebuke (Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2013), but its decisions are non-binding, and so the most that one could hope for was that Germany would feel embarrassed about its laissez-faire attitude to the crass racism of not only Nazi hooligans. Unfortunately, an admission by Germany’s ruling political class to the existence of structural racism in the supposed post-racial state, is not expected any time soon.
Any expectation that social democratic parties would act in concert to tackle racism might have died with EU policies on the safeguarding of refugees and the right to asylum after 2015. With the EU’s border policies making it complicit in the deaths of tens of thousands of migrants from Africa and Southwest Asia who drowned in the Mediterranean, the wretched conditions of migrants in the Mória refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos and in other camps (at a time when Greece was governed by an ostensibly leftist party), and the illegal violence which the EU border agency Frontex unleashed against people with the international right to apply for protection, it should come as absolutely no surprise that anti-racist initiatives and social movements have simply lost patience with parties and other political entities that gorge themselves on power-sharing coalitions at the national or European level while duplicitously acting as an unconvincing, outraged opposition force at local or state level and ventriloquising anti-racist slogans.
Of course, political parties are made up of a broad spectrum of members, and such diversity is often said to enrich the lifeblood of these parties. However, often the more conservative strands of such parties tend to silence or even force out more progressive minorities. The Democrats in the United States provide a stark example of this as they continually advance conservative candidates who have no desire to effect any systemic change. The pressure by the left wing of the Democrats (i.e. «the Squad» in the House of Representatives), the challenges it faces in getting progressive people of colour elected and the resulting backlash from party elites all offer prime examples of this dynamic we have been delineating: leftist parties and organisations trying to preserve white supremacy in their ranks. It will certainly be fascinating to see what the Biden presidency will do for its constituents of colour who got them into office. Moreover, the emergence of a Black woman Vice-President was only possible with a candidate who was comfortable with the capitalist status quo.
A look at members of state parliaments representing left-of-centre parties in Germany, there are hardly any Black people or people of colour – perhaps three at the most. The structural exclusion of migrants and BPoC from these parties so obviously belies their pro-migrant stance that it is no wonder that anti-racist social movements have seemingly moved on from the prospect of leftist collaboration and have instead turned to the brute facts of survival and self-organisation.
RADICAL RESTRUCTURING? REPLACEMENT OF TRADITIONAL LEFTIST STRUCTURES
This chapter on the crisis and future of liberal democracy has been written from our perspective as activists. This gives us the opportunity to wrestle with demons we often struggle with, namely our questions about our own efforts to remedy a system we regard as inherently illiberal. From the angle of a principled politics of anti-racism, we hope to have made clear the gulf between what liberal democracy promises and what it delivers. From an anti-racist perspective alone, it seems rather simplistic to expect liberal democracies to eradicate the very oppressions it fosters and proliferates. Were we to widen the political scope to include the radical politics of the feminist, disabled or ecological movements which are primarily motivated by mutual desires for harm/violence reduction and justice, it is clear that the thin gruel of nominal liberty and democracy does not and will not suffice. The particular history of liberal democracy, with its murderous colonialism and genocides coupled with its Enlightenment alibis, provides no justifiable points of identification worthy of our allegiance, no scripted incantation that might herald a viable future – certainly not using the decrepit political equipment and lousy political vocabulary liberal democracy offers those of us committed to the project of dismantling the structures of unremitting racism. There has to be a fundamental break with the empty promises of liberty and piecemeal allocation of democracy – both of which feel like kindred forms of security creep following their perverse post-9/11 manifestations. Militantly liberal projects which are meant to increase so-called freedom through force, coercion and/or war must have no chance in practice.
To conclude this chapter, we note how a real project of dismantling structural racism would inevitably yield a radical restructuring of political, economic and ecological relationships worldwide. However, this would be the best case scenario. More realistic – and feasible – is the advancement of a successful anti-racism politics across the left. This is under way and probably unstoppable. As anti-racism continues to complement the public’s political vision, it stands a good chance of becoming effective in as far as it is embroidered with other progressive justice movements and desires, resulting in a plausible, coagulated «we, the people» far bigger than the current, truncated «we» of each nation-state’s legitimating electorate, reaching out to everyone without exception. Liberal democracy, built on the foundation of the pact of a white patriarchy and a rationale of capitalist accumulation at the cost of the planet’s ecological systems and the lives of its workers. This relates particularly to the exploitation of people of colour and of women. Furthermore, people with disabilities, are considered unable to help create added value and are regarded as superfluous under this rationale. This rationale of liberal democracy seems to us an extremely risky bet for both anti-racist politics and for a sustainable and powerful left. Hence our advocacy for the very un-liberal-democratic aim of dismantling structural racism entails the birth of new structures.
These new structures are meant, by design, to impede the reproduction of existing class elites, abandon the discredited lust for profit and appeasement of conservative and reactionary populist tastes, reject violence and oppression tout court. They must be transnationally connected, intersectionally formatted, sensitive structures resonating widely and communicating in real time across every viable channel (Sweetapple 2018:10). The charitable (white) left helping people in need is neither sufficient for the tasks at hand nor discernibly conscious of the sensibilities of the very people it aspires to govern, especially as the people «in need» are not elsewhere or hypothetical but part of the here and now.
With the increasing brutality of food insecurity, surveillance, incarceration, police violence and the restriction of human rights including the right to mobility, asylum, education, healthcare and decent work for people of colour and people with disabilities, we are also seeing increased intersectional alliances and participation in resistance movements and communities of self-care. Leftist political parties and labour movements, which have been largely led by a white, ableist managerial elite, have been unable (or unwilling) to make lasting improvements to the political power of women, Black people and people of colour, and people with disabilities. These white-dominated institutions and organisations stand to lose further steam, ideas and energy to these new coalitions and groups prioritising anti-racist, decolonial, environmental and intersectional approaches.
While white leftists still rabidly discuss the finer points of textual Marxist theory and await the revolution, others are trying to escape an early death. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore (2007:247) reminds us, «[r]acism is the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death». This exploitation, in other words the banal status quo, and the denial of exploitation and disenfranchisement, which makes white supremacy possible, must be reversed. The fate of «organized human existence» – to borrow Noam Chomsky’s recent phrase, as quoted in e.g. EcoWatch (2017) – hangs in the balance. This would mean that the mainstream forms of institutional and organisational leftism recognise not only the exclusion, dismissal and denial (see Emejulu 2016) of people of colour and their experiences that have trailed the dynamics of white supremacy in the left, but also a radical restructuring of leftist structures and priorities that would affect the real world. The traditional power structures such as parties and trade unions need to be transformed with the recentring of the intersectional insights and voices of people of colour, poor people and people with disabilities as the starting point for a genuinely leftist politics. This reorientation must not be allowed to be dismissed as identity politics, as this rhetoric fractures and hobbles the left and distracts us from the real issue at hand, i.e. class-based political movements. In the past, this so-called critique has only brought heat and little light, serving at times as a manoeuvre shoring up white supremacy’s grip on the left. The traditional left needs to move out of its comfort zone, which may initially lead to less immediate harmony but promises to definitely increase authenticity, the currency of political trust. People join political movements not because they sound harmonious, but rather because the politics practised ring authentic and true. This, in turn, will increase their legitimacy and the extent of their political reach, leading to more organising and more progressive change. If this does not happen, and quickly, European leftist structures will continue to atrophy political legitimacy and more liberal-democratic ground will be ceded.
It has to be admitted that reform (i.e. endless workshops on diversity, intercultural opening, awareness of racism, homophobia and transphobia, and sexism) has not worked. If we look at, for example, the power structures in governments, political parties, trade unions, educational and cultural institutions in the Global North, and the list could go on and on, we see incredibly fierce resistance to power-sharing with people who have not traditionally held power, i.e. those who have been subject to structural violence. That is why the attempts to «open up» are referred to as «diversity» and not «power-sharing», given that there is no illusion that power will be shared when two migrants secure parliamentary seats to represent a leftist party. Unfortunately, this holds just as true in white-dominated progressive social movements as in the diversification measures of global corporations, and it is the reason why the next steps in leftist politics must be framed as a divorce from white supremacy and the racial contract. In this light, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam note that «[t]he show must not go on» (Shohat/Stam 2012:201). In other words, as the artist collective D.N.A. warns us in El Kaisy Friemuth et al. (2020:29):
Leftist movements beware – either do something different or be threatened with the same slogans that have been used against the ruling class. Crisis is here. Let’s pour into it. Demand the systems to crash. They will. And they will burn.
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Das komplette Buch befindet sich als e-Book im PDF-Format zum kostenlosen Download auf der → Verlags-Website ALS LINK.