The Black Liberation Army & the Paradox of Political Engagement

Frank B. Wilderson, III

The Black Liberation Army & the Paradox of Political Engagement”, is a recent essay by US Afropessimist theorist Frank B. Wilderson, III. It juxtaposes three armed guerrilla groups – the Black Liberation Army, the Red Army Faction, and the Irish Republican Army, in order to determine the anthropological and socio-affective conditions enabling political violence to be communicable and comprehensible.

“Blackness cannot be disimbricated from slavery, in the way that Irishness can be disimbricated from colonial rule or in the way that labor can be delinked from capital. The violence which subsumes the Irish has temporal limits (the time of the Troubles, from the late 1960s to the “Good Friday” Agreement of 1998) as well as spatial limits (the urban North). Not only is there no punctuation in the temporality of the violence that subsumes [Black Liberation Army soldier] Assata [Shakur], but furthermore, no cartography of violence can be mapped, for that would imply the prospect for a map of non- violent space. To the contrary, Assata Shakur’s political communiqué demonstrates that she and other Black people are in the throes of what historian David Eltis calls “violence beyond the limit”, by which he means (a) in the libidinal economy there are no forms of violence so excessive that they would be considered too cruel to inflict upon Blacks; and (b) in political economy there are no rational explanations for this limitless theatre of cruelty, no explanations which would make political or economic sense of the violence she describes (as, for example, Ulrike Meinhof does). Whereas the Human’s relationship to violence is always contingent, triggered by her transgressions against the regulatory prohibitions of the Symbolic Order or by macro-economic shifts in her social context, the Slave’s relationship to violence is open ended, gratuitous, without reason or constraint, triggered by prelogical catalysts which are unmoored from her transgressions and unaccountable to historical shifts.”