By the Editorial Board
Point 1: Expect Resistance, Not Dialogue, from Those Who Can’t Breathe
Black people have been yelling to the world, “I can’t breathe,” a popular slogan in the years since the murder of Eric Garner, amplified by the final words of George Floyd. But Black people have been saying this for over four hundred years, both figuratively and in many cases literally as well.
America is a massive prison which does not permit Black people to breathe. This society stifles Black lives, even when there is no literal knee on the neck of Black folks. The old society is that knee at all times; they cannot breathe in the big prison known as the United States. Through mass incarceration, any interaction can lead to a transfer from the big prison to the smaller prisons. The poor and Black cannot breathe, cannot freely associate, cannot relax. The ‘democracy’ of the old society is a sham, always out of reach for the poor and oppressed.
We have seen it, and the police in the Bronx showed us again this weekend. A car parked in front a hydrant is mundane for that city, but if you are Black and poor, this minor issue results in arrest. We watched the police attack a bystander, who fearlessly defended himself. The people know what kind of cowards deny them breath.
If you can’t breathe, if the enemy has robbed you of this right, then the last thing you should accept is a discussion with them. They own press monopolies and when they speak we all have to hear it; they have billions of dollars and can breathe quite easy. Anyone who expects a fair conversation to exist between those who breathe easy and those who cannot breathe is an idiot or a sociopath.
Imagine, a knee has been on your neck going on seven minutes, and the person pressing that knee is now telling you, “let’s discuss it.” That is the history of this country which has played out for more than 400 years. This discussion is a surrender.
The police are rabid, aggressive dogs with a taste for human blood, let loose from the yards of those who own America. It takes a real act of disassociation to believe that you can don your Sunday’s best and sit down with these dogs and their masters as they maul your children. Anyone telling Black people to stick to ‘non-violence’ in the face of this assault is objectively racist. Although at times responding without violence is tactically correct, the point is that violence is already imposed upon the people, and responding to it with the utmost force might be the only way to catch a breath or gain the hope that future generations of Black people will be able to breathe.
We have heard that violent protest endangers people, and no one could really deny the risk associated with it, but it should be understood that violent protest is necessary because the people are already objectively in danger from the police dogs and their masters. If they were not, and we lived in an equal society where everyone was guaranteed health and work and allowed an active role in the politics and administration of that society, well, in such a socialist system there would be far less need to respond in the way of the May Uprisings (unless of course it was to defend that system from those who want to go back to the old one).
The police are murdering people, this is real. Understanding that, really understanding it means that the people are correct to respond violently. Fighting police, setting fires, all of it pales in comparison to over four hundred years of not being able to breathe. If you disagree, then you are likely on the side of the rabid dog, its owner, and everyone else who thinks we should be mauled in ‘peace.’ Enough giving peace to the enemy, enough letting them breathe easy when Black people can’t!
Point 2: The Police Abolition Myth
There are people with good intentions that might actually want to chain those dogs back up, but they must realize that these guard dogs exist for a reason: to keep people bound in class relationships, guarding the homes of the rich who have to let them maraud. You cannot ‘sensitivity train’ the rabies out. Bringing those rabid killer dogs back to their anti-social, hateful owner’s side is just telling the people to hold their breath as they wait for the next rampage. So while they mean well, and we all want those chains to stay intact, we need to be realistic and start talking about putting the dogs down. This won’t work if you only put down the dogs who have already mauled children. You have to put down the whole system of guard dogs and guarded elites.
There are also those who mean well and want to ‘abolish the police,’ and we might be inclined to be more sympathetic to them. They are often intentionally vague on what ‘abolishing police’ means or looks like. Maybe they do not know and just genuinely want to figure it out together. If that is the case, we should discuss it.
The police won’t be abolished through dialogue or reform, not as we know them today. At best they might lose a few dollars or possibly a few advanced weapons contracts, but let’s not pretend they were not racist killers before they had armor, assault rifles, and tanks. We should not pretend like a broke police department is somehow a benevolent one. The police cannot and will not be abolished by asking the politicians to do so. The politicians have all accepted capitalism, and with it, racism; the two are inseparable as they are both founded on systemic inequality. You cannot expect the capitalist to do away with a necessary feature of capitalism. Even if it was their choice, they would not make it.
Truly abolishing the police as we know them today means revolution. Revolution means organized, armed struggle fought over a long period of time against a militarily superior enemy. This is not something simply thrown together at Friday’s protest. It takes vision, patience, and deep connections with the most oppressed people in this society. You cannot commit to doing this, or even hope for it, if you have one foot planted in the door of city hall and think those elites will let you back inside once things pop off. Revolution has a life of its own, it is inevitable, but it requires the conscious activity of revolutionaries. Riots and rebellions will inevitably happen as people respond to their horrid conditions, but even a rebellion in a scope much larger than the May Uprisings is not going to abolish the police; they can and do hurt the police, but they do not abolish them.
The best thing about uprisings is that they show the fighting ability of everyday people; they instill confidence and contain a promise of the potential power of regular people to overcome anything. A violent protest from, and in solidarity with, those who cannot breathe, but are fighting to breathe, is an awe inspiring event. But it is not enough, it has to be organized, and that means in a real direction—a revolutionary direction, away from reformist false ‘solutions.’ That does not mean that the people will not make conquests along the way however. It means organizing people into bigger and stronger fighting groups, political groups, and other groups which serve their communities.
Some comrades want police ‘no-go zones,’ which is a good idea. Let’s briefly examine this with a historical understanding of how the police function in class society. The first thing is making the police retreat from an area and fear going back there, which is relatively easy and can be done with a mass rebellion. That is the first step, but a useless, fleeting one unless the people and the revolutionaries have done the necessary groundwork. This means preparing the forces of the people to protect themselves in an organized way against their enemies.
Everyone from poor communities knows this, the police are not a welcome force, but you can expect serious problems from their cohorts, the predatory parts of the community, if they go away. The ecosystem is imbalanced and consequently the small illegal capitalists, kept in line by the big legal capitalists, will now be the new tormentors. They are going to try and make as many gains as quickly as they can, which means shootings and crimes against the people too. When white people, especially young white college students, start talking about abolishing the police, this is what we all think. People from the working class and poor neighborhoods across America all know that the new police force from the small criminal capitalist gangs would be just as murderous if they tried to fill the shoes of the police. They are both looking to expand and protect profits. The name may change but it would be more or less the same operation. And of course, the old police would come right back without much resistance against a divided people, only to restore the old order, old profits, and plunder. There must be militia and an army to prevent this, as well as stable community bodies to solve the people’s problems which do not require violent force (as most problems the police use violence to resolve do not require violence).
So what is this groundwork?
Today, without hesitating, people must come together. They must form committees that keep themselves secret from the state and the ruling class. These must necessarily be formed in struggle and cannot be arbitrarily tossed together on an ad-hoc basis. They have to be democratic and focused on struggle. They cannot be part of the Old State. They have to stand for the new.
These committees can organize to handle anything the state would, and they can fight as well. They form leading commissions for this purpose and hold elections and mass meetings among the people in the area. They determine that any leader deemed unfit or corrupt can be recalled at any time, and they freely discuss and debate all the issues. They first police themselves with the democratic participation of the people who live there and are supported by the most serious revolutionaries who help defend and lead them.
For this to work, everyone needs to seriously consider how a class finds its expression politically. These committees will not have any control without battling for it, and they will not have any power without a war to conquer it, but they can and must learn to administer the New State by administrating the struggle and daily life without reliance on the enemy.
Just imagine the benefits that the people would gain from this; no one could stop them, because unlike the police and city governments of the Old State, everyone would play a part and carry things forward. Only then, from fighting and with the ability to fight, could the police really be forced out sustainably, without harm to the community.
Really abolishing the police in the US means abolishing the US as we know it and toppling the class that has been in charge of it. It means smashing the Old State and all its apparatuses, as well as constructing the New State with real democracy and workers’ control. It means taking the guns from the hands of the racists and capitalists and turning them on their former owners to the keep the racist capitalists down and defenseless. Day dreaming while the world rages around us is not an option. Fighting for power and the construction of the New State is the task before us. Taking out the Old State without taking these steps results in a power vacuum filled by any anti-people elements. This hopeless scenario is the result of not thinking things through, a failure to organize for power.
Point 3: The Reformers and the Revolutionists
All classes will find their political expression. The top of the old society, the ruling imperialist class, already finds its political expression in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The comfortable upper strata of workers and the lower rungs of the exploiting class also find their political expressions on the so-called ‘left’ and the right. On the ‘left,’ the Democratic Socialists of America represent the most privileged and comfortable sections of the working class and small owning class. On the right, the assorted reactionary parties cater to the same base from more openly fascist positions. The imperialists and the upper strata of society have a stake in the continuation and maintenance of imperialism, but they are fractured and fight over their own stake in this system rather than for its end.
The working class, which includes the overwhelming majority of Black people and other oppressed peoples, does not have its political expression in the form of a party at this time. At the end of the day, the other class parties are against the formation of the independent party of the working class; the working class party can only be the Communist Party, which carries out its revolutionary program. This is the first difference in the positions of the reformers and revolutionists.
Those who still have a stake in imperialism will sometimes seek to reform it, to allow its survival to continue through general reorganization. This is what it means to be a reformist: to deny the essential role of revolution in transforming society. Revolutionists see through this. They know that whatever conquests the people take in their struggles come by way of force and not discourse. They know that these will be taken in moments of unrest by the people, and in moments of relative social peace or increased waves of reaction, they will be snatched back by the elites.
Reformers will call their pandering to the elite a form of ‘harm reduction.’ They argue that people should calm down and accept the crumbs as a victory, and that sitting at the table with the killers accomplishes this. They do great harm to the revolutionary role of the people every time they promote voting and legal ‘change’ as the ‘best’ or ‘only’ options.
On the other hand, revolutionists snatch the crumbs from the table in their continuing efforts to flip it over and smash it to bits. After all, these crumbs will not feed everyone, but the supper was prepared by and rightfully belongs to those who worked for it, not those who acquired it through the process of exploitation. Revolutionists know that if Black lives matter to them, that Black liberation is the way to make Black lives matter to society. This change does not come about by leaving the parasitic classes (who do not work) in power; liberation only comes through the seizure of power by force of arms. It is not enough to change the laws of the elite. To adjust the settings on their society, their laws need to go and be replaced by the laws of the working people. The whole society is a corpse and it must be buried so a new one can bloom.
Things are already that serious. The taking of power is not going to fall from heaven or glide down on the wings of protest. It has to be strategic, planned, and taken as a matter of life and death. Revolutionaries sometimes come to die, but they never come to bow.
If you want to know how to identify the revolutionary, look at how the state treats them. They are beaten, jailed, framed, and defamed in the ruling class media. The revolutionary is correctly seen as an enemy of the Old State. If you want to know how to identify a reformer, just look at how the state treats them. They are bribed with large financial contributions and they are paraded in front of the media. Even if what they say gets amended to be more amicable to the ruling class, they are treated as ‘good’ protesters, and the state tries to convince them to go against the ‘bad’ ones; this process is to bait and bribe them against the revolution. In many cases they are so worried about sitting with the enemy that they forget to sit with the revolutionaries. The reformer is correctly treated as a friend by the Old State, but they do not always treat their friends so well. Beware.
Ask yourself, why does the system throw money at one type of activist and fire bullets at the other? Both actions are designed to divide and conquer, to submit and kill the movement by whatever means they can. Make no mistake, the money of the ruling class is more deadly to the spirit of struggle than real bullets. Martyrs at least inspire more people and have earned good deaths, while a sell-out becomes a shell of a person who is already dead inside and exists at their master’s mercy.
Those seeking reforms and those fighting for revolution do not have to be enemies. They can work in tandem against the bribery of imperialism and its white power manifestations. However, this is not attainable without a united front under revolutionary leadership, as the imperialist’s promise to give a small seat at the table to the reformer is only made with the caveat of attacking the revolution. There is a place in the struggle for those who battle for reforms, but the reformists and their methods must never be allowed to lead the working people. Only the Party of the working class with its revolutionary program can lead the diverse struggles into one fight for conquering power. Without power, nothing is real, everything is a bait-and-switch.
Revolution is the promise of tomorrow, and it must be made today. It is today’s struggles in the streets and in the factories which prepare the people’s forces against bribery and repression. Since the working people are without their Party, these struggles must be oriented to unite everyone possible under the banner of revolution, to provide special roles for everyone and organize these on the basis of what serves the people and harms the state. Struggle to advance the cause of revolution along with the struggle to reconstitute the Party of the working class, to arm it, to unite all friends in an invincible front against the enemy. The dawn is unfolding and we must rise early to greet it.