First off the idea for this post largely comes from a, believe it or not, somewhat civil and productive discussion about anarchism vs. Marxism. Particularly a member of the Commune for Distributing Agitprop (CDAP) asked me this question:
What exactly are the institutions you would use to characterize a proletarian state? What do they look like, and how are they operated?
I think this is such a crucial and oft-ignored question even by many socialists. Worse still, both some anarchists and socialists will respond with the non-answer that destroying the bourgeois state, abolishing private property, and facilitating direct participation by the proletariat will inherently create communism, that ideal state of cooperative equality and liberation. We are faced with “What is Step 1?” and answer with a description of Step 76.
Most of the women were young, Black, together women who had come to college now because they’d not been able to get in before…A lot of them were older. They were very streetwise, but they had done very little work with themselves as Black women. They had done it only in relation to, against, whitey. The enemy was always outside. -Audre Lorde explaining a class she taught at John Jay College to Adrienne, Sister Outsider pg. 97-98
A lot of the movements and people I work with every day remind me of these students that Audre Lorde spoke so eloquently about, for they too have done little work with themselves and for them too the enemy has always been outside. Some are young Black women like those students; some are young trans women seeking some modicum of power on the internet; and some are young white men who were promised the world. They are all very different, but they all have one commonality: harm. Maybe greater or lesser, unexpected or brought-on, cyclical or spontaneous, but nevertheless the thread that runs through them remains: harm.
Torts is the law of damages. It is the godmother of one of the most popular characters in the legal realm: the greedy, unethical personal injury lawyer. Chasing ambulances from dawn to dusk, ready to turn your scraped knee into a traumatic, devastating injury through all the smoke and mirrors the cold, impersonal legal system provides. Like many mythical figures, it derives from a real phenomenon. I once interviewed at a law firm for a paralegal position where one of the two partners pretty closely resembled this character, at least by what assessment I could make in thirty minutes. He all but asked me how good at lying I was and whether I could “handle” clients. But overall, as the film Hot Coffee aptly demonstrates, personal injury lawyers are not like this stereotype and personal injury cases are rarely if ever as easy to dismiss (though again, there are exceptions: for a laugh, check out the case Van Camp v. McAfoos).