Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
The Vocabulary of Struggle

The Vocabulary of Struggle

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by executive editor Glen Ford

Can the organizers reboot the momentum of protest.”

The Black Lives Matter mobilization against the brutal guardians of the State proved its militancy in a winter campaign of protests. Hundreds of thousands marched and staged righteous disruptions of the status quo in defiance of the collaborationist Black Misleadership Class and the Black president of the United States. Deep into the cold season, aroused and angry young people dared to confront their persecutors, incarcerators and executioners: the police. It was an organized, disciplined campaign that reached into every region of the United States. And, for the first time in two generations, it seemed possible that a real grassroots Black-led movement might have sprung forth from the pain and fury at Michael Brown’s murder, August 9, in Ferguson, Missouri.

The winter is over, the season has turned, and soon the mass mobilization that desperately needs to become a movement will face the test of sustainability. Can the organizers reboot the momentum of protest, and ultimately bring it to such a fever pitch of intensity – a state of crisis – that the powers-that-be are forced to make concessions they would reject as unthinkable under normal circumstances. Concessions that allow Black people to determine how, and by whom, their communities will be policed.

Relearning Movement Politics

Managing a deliberately escalating social crisis is a gargantuan undertaking. There are no experts; it has been too long since the last mass movement. Conditions of life, including the ways that people communicate with each other, have changed drastically in 40 years. But, if the movement is to succeed, there must be tens of thousands of students of mass mobilization who are eager to major in the study and practice of political confrontation and social transformation – students of all ages, but mainly the youth. They will have to take up the task of dismantling the Mass Black Incarceration State – the New Jim Crow – that was imposed after the last mass movement was shut down, four decades ago.

When there is no resistance, one loses the vocabulary of struggle. The incipient movement that currently calls itself Black Lives Matter has emerged from a political desert, where even many protesters don’t know the difference between “community policing” and “community control of police.” The vocabulary of struggle has been so under-used, that some young folks who put their lives on the line in confrontation with the police, would deny that they’re engaged in politics; they think politics is about voting once every couple of years. And, it has been so long since there was an actual movement to betray, we have not yet invented a word to replace the no longer useful term “Uncle Tom.”

But we will come up with something appropriately insulting, if this nascent movement continues. Some of the phrases that were in common usage in the Sixties might even come back. I’ve always had a soft spot for “the Long Hot Summer.”

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at
Direct download: 20150408_gf_VocabularyOfStruggle.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:09am EDT