The first panel of this week’s comic was copied from a screenshot of the opening sequence from the old GI Joe cartoon from the 80s. When I was a kid I thought the COBRAs were cooler looking than the GI Joes, so I would always make the COBRAs win when I played with my extensive collection of GI Joe toys. I don’t think that preference played any part in the formation of my current anti-imperialist politics, but my cousins were COBRA fans too, and none of them grew up to be great patriots either. So who knows. Maybe it’s all Hasbro’s fault.
80s nostalgia aside, I wanted to share a few thoughts regarding Red Chuckie’s question in the fourth panel: how do we organize to fight a system with such overwhelming power? If we honestly want to leave the exploitive, omnicidal social relations of capitalism behind and replace them with something better, then we have to confront this question.
The answer won’t be found through mixing Molotovs, throwing bricks through retail store windows, or even dressing up like Beach Head and Snake Eyes and heading out to the woods to shoot Kalashnikovs with your buddies. All of that stuff sounds like a righteous time to me, but it isn’t how we can create revolution. In the first place, the armed bodies of the US state will always cream us when it comes to shooting and blowing shit up. They have more guns, more bombs, all the helicopter gunships and Predator drones, and they’re flat out better at it. But even if we could be Che Guevaras and take down the government in our camo pants and make it look sexy, we won’t build the broad worker’s democracy that we need by charging in and taking power at gunpoint. That route leads to a gang of revolutionaries ruling by force in the name of the people, not to genuine worker’s control.
So, if the ruling class has us hopelessly outgunned, how can we workers organize to fight them? The working class has two advantages that we can exploit to overthrow the bosses. First, we have the numbers. Those of us who sell our labor to get by make up the vast majority of the world’s population. Second, our collective labor, aside from being the source of the boss’s wealth, is what makes all of society function. Without our work, nothing happens. As labor leader Bill Haywood once said, “If the workers are organized, all they have to do is to put their hands in their pockets and they have got the capitalist class whipped.” We build that power through solidarity, by standing together and fighting for our rights, everywhere and every time the pigs are beating us down or the bosses are ripping us off.
Expecting that struggle to always be nonviolent is ridiculous. It’s as foolish as thinking that we can overthrow the system by being prayer warriors or voting Democrat. In the violence unleashed against Black Lives Matter protests and Occupy camps, we can get a glimpse of what the ruling class is willing to do to protect their property and their power. In the sixties, they used hoses and dogs and even bullets to keep the people’s movement at bay. While I was watching GI Joe cartoons in the eighties, the Philadelphia cops were bombing the MOVE compound. And none of those movements came anywhere close to overthrowing capitalism. We can only imagine the kind of biblical violence that the capitalists would unload on us if they thought we posed an actual threat to their property. They built their wealth by enslaving an entire race and committing genocide all over the globe. What nightmare wouldn’t they stoop to if that wealth were threatened? So we need to be prepared to defend ourselves and our communities. We may need Molotov cocktails, we may need barricades, or we may need to take the guns that they give us to fight their wars for empire and turn them around on them. But our power doesn’t come from guns and violence; theirs does. Our power comes from our labor, and from our love for one another.