An Annoying Paradox for Communist Rappers
Boots Riley of Street Sweeper Social Club again fails to reconcile his revolutionary faith with his profession.
November 30, 2012 - 4:31 pm
Boots explaining how his attempt to jumpstart a revolutionary communist movement through his hip hop music has “gotten a lot better”:
MARK: Do you think we’re making any progress? Things have gotten a lot worse in a lot of ways since you started in 1991. Wealth inequality, for instance…
BOOTS: Really? In 1991, we were having demonstrations with ten people. So, things have gotten a lot better. Now we’ve got thousands of people, all with the idea that we need a systematic change, with class analysis being a part of it. Things have gotten better.
MARK: I wasn’t thinking about the numbers of people in the street. I was thinking about wealthy inequality, the fact that our public schools are being systematically dismantled…
BOOTS: The numbers are the only thing that matters, though. What matters is not how the state is working, or how the system is working, but the point at which the movement is that could change the system.
MARK: I can see you point, and there’s potential there. A movement is starting to build. But, at the same time, you see the public school system being systematically taken apart, our wealth being siphoned off by for-profit charter schools, the growing, racist “patriot” movement in America…
BOOTS: Yeah, and all of those things are going to happen as long as we don’t have a movement. So none of that surprises me. As long as you don’t have a movement, any of the gains that you make are going to be dismantled. And that’s why a revolutionary movement that fights for reform, on the way to making revolution, and sustains the movement… That’s why you chart your progress relative to how the movement is growing, not on how strong the system is that is attacking you.
Boots concludes by warning about the potential prison time for those joining his movement:
MARK: One last question… Were do we have the most leverage? Where should we be focusing right now, if we really want to make long term, systematic, sustainable change?
BOOTS: Well, it’s like we were talking about earlier. I think right now what people want are material gains. They need to see victories. And they need to see it done in a certain way. We need a radical, militant labor movement that uses direct action and work stoppages to gain some of these things. We need for it to be connected to the community, and not just built around wages. But using labor and work stoppages to effect change in other areas, that would normally be considered community things – community organizing. An example is how the ILWU shut down the port of Oakland in protest of the Oscar Grant verdict. They might have done it in a safe way, but that’s an example. And there need to be sympathy strikes. That’s got to become a tool. And union leaders are going to have to be down with going to jail, just like anyone else on the line is down for it…
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