Defund the police has been the most important slogan in the last week. The mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco have announced to cut the Police Department’s budget. In Minneapolis, a majority of the City Council pledged to dismantle its Police Department and instead create a new system of public safety from the ground up.
- Why are these proposals adhered to by many in the protest movement?
- For what reason are they supported by a part of the political apparatus?
- What will be their effect?
- How can we defend ourselves against police violence?
The proposal to shift budget from police to investment in communities and resources of deprived populations sounds like a simple solution. But most participants in the demonstrations and riots are skeptical. Past efforts to reform the police have proven to be ineffective in reducing police violence towards proletarian neighborhoods. We can see that whenever a movement develops its power to a level that it can become a threat to the state, all kinds of reforms are proposed to bring the movement to the terrain of electoral party politics. With nearing presidential elections, that is exactly what is happening.
We can see in the last days that the police were more reluctant in using violence. Finally, it was understood by local authorities that the police violence was counterproductive in the sense that it has only brought more people in the streets, in what has become the largest wave of protests ever in the USA. In some cases, the police hardly showed up during day time demonstrations. In Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles curfews have been lifted because people massively disobeyed. Trump retired The National Guard from Washington DC, not surprisingly after the Army declared not to be willing to take action against citizens in protest.
The restriction on the use of police terror and the announcement of reforms through democratic institutions like the budget process is not only closely linked, but both are means to calm a mass movement that could become a threat to the state. We can learn from this that the bourgeois state, in the interest of maintaining capitalist production relations, depends upon a delicate balance between democracy and violence. No state can maintain itself in the shorter of longer run by depending only on terror, exercising an open dictatorship of an infinitely small minority over the vast majority of society. The bourgeois dictatorship must be hidden behind democracy.
This is the more true when – as in the actual beginning depression – the reigning exploiters are forced by the capitalist system to attack the living standards of a population that is completely dependent upon wage labor or unemployment benefits. The corona pandemic, and even more the police terror against demonstrations, have brutally revealed the class character of capitalist society and its state.
Nobody knows if the promises of reform will calm down the wave of protests and for how long. The economic depression had only started now in the USA, after its first signs in weaker economies. South America has seen massive revolts of its proletariat in autumn 2019. More crises and revolts will follow all over the world. But for now, the movement in the USA seems to have reached its limits. Not able – for the moment – to bring forwards slogans and demands that express the interests of the proletariat, the movement seems to accept what are in fact false perspectives, brought forwards by the left faction of the state, from Democrats and BLM to Trotskyists and Stalinists.
Even a radical reform of the police will end up with only more effective power of the state over proletarian neighborhoods; the more effective the more local ‘leaders’ have committed themselves to the reformed police and exercise police functions themselves. Before these effects of eventual reforms will show, the economic crisis will have devastating effects on all segments of the proletariat: mass redundancies, more unemployment, lower wages, and lower unemployment benefits, worsening education, health care, etc. There will be demonstrations, revolts, and confrontations with the police, reformed or not. How can we defend ourselves?
For the proletariat, this is not only a question of violence. As an exploited and oppressed class with a historic future it depends even more than the historic outdated capitalist class on its capacity to present itself as representing society and humanity as a whole. Yes, the proletariat can realize another society, another mode of production and distribution, that has been called socialism or communism. When the struggle of the proletariat embraces workers in production, when places of production are occupied and controlled by workers, organized in general assemblies, elected and revocable committees and centralized on town and regional levels in workers’ councils, we will have another situation.
Instead of providing itself with the necessities of life by looting, or even a collective distribution of looted goods, the proletariat can decide what to produce and for whom, that is how it will be distributed. In that context, the proletariat will have to be armed to defend itself against those elements that want to restore the old ‘order’. From defense against the bourgeois state, its police, its national guard, its army and its weaponed gangs, the armed proletariat, organized in production and territorial councils, will finally destroy the state and all its repressive institutions, ripping off from the state institutions with a social function that will be integrated into communist economic life. From that moment the abolition of money and the market (of exchange value), will begin by organizing production and distribution on the basis of the working hour, giving the exercise of proletarian power by council democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat an economic foundation.
Understanding how the present revolt can develop into a proletarian revolution, the next step is clear. The proletariat can
- organize (already) unemployed in mass assemblies in the streets or in conquered buildings, in
- elected and revocable unemployed committees, in
- mass marches to places of work where redundancies are announced and
- unification with the (still) working proletarians.
Fredo Corvo, 10-6-2020