The Black movement will be asphyxiated by the ubiquitous fingers of the Democratic Party if it does not build independent nexuses of people’s power.
If power is measured by corporate endorsements and the kiss-up antics of Democratic politicians, the movement popularly known as “Black Lives Matter” is awesomely powerful, its name painted into the streets of cities across the nation. Record-breaking contributions have also flowed to a broad range of social justice organizations from the public-at-large, with bail funds amassing almost $100 million. Even tiny projects have seen their previously forlorn GoFundMe accounts suddenly stuffed with contributions.
The cash windfall alone is enough to make one giddy–including life-long activists old enough to have participated in the radical mass movements of half a century ago. The “fascist pigs” have not been “offed,” but some of them have been indicted and Democratic politicians now claim they want to rein in the ‘warrior cops” that only yesterday were hailed as “heroes” of the constant “wars” waged against Black and brown America. “Policing” as we have known it has been discredited in ways that cannot easily be reversed, with 70 percent of white people under age 45 agreeing that George Floyd’s killing was part of “a broader pattern of excessive police violence toward African-Americans.” Sixty percent of white folks of all ages told New York Times pollsters they feel “positively” about the “Black Lives Matter” movement–meaning a significant slice of Trump supporters object to police behavior, as do overwhelming percentages of Black and brown Americans.
There is no doubt that, in the arena of public perception, we have witnessed a stunning rout of the forces that erected the modern Black Mass Incarceration State in response to the Black rebellions and radical movements of the 1960s. The Democratic Party–whose politicians of all races have for five decades been the hands-on urban managers of the world’s largest police state–pretends to have suddenly seen the light. In COVID-19/Great Depression Two America, the servants of capital say we are all Black Lives Matter — until the “crisis of legitimacy” passes.
But the oligarchs that rule this country and both its corporate parties have no intention of dismantling the racist police state, beyond staffing the blue legions with more Black, brown and female officers, embedding the multiracial occupation army deeper in our communities and increasing their intelligence capabilities. The “reforms” trotted out by local and national Democrats do not alter — but rather, enhance and make culturally more palatable–the police mission to contain, control and politically neutralize Black America.
To dethrone the overtly racist and imperially undependable Donald Trump, the oligarchs ensured the presidential nomination of hapless Joe Biden, who vows to veto Medicare for All, opposes defunding the police, and whistles tunes of war with Russia (but doesn’t remember the words). Biden personifies ruling class determination to double down on endless war, Race to the Bottom austerity, and an ever-expanding national security state, including the local police component — the same policies that led to the Crisis of Legitimacy of 2020. (The Covid mass deaths and accompanying economic shutdown is the result of privatization and austerity). The oligarchs get what they pay for. Therefore, the Democrats will wipe the clown paint from their faces, fold up their kente cloths, and apologize to the cops for joining in the “dozens” circle (“Your cops so brutal…”), as soon as the movement has been sufficiently exhausted or co-opted.
If the “Black Lives Matter” movement is to be neutralized, it will be by capture/cooptation by the Democratic Party – just as befell the great mass Black movement of half a century ago. The oligarchs are now vastly more concentrated and powerful than in the previous era, and their Democratic duopoly apparatus has thoroughly infested every nook and cranny of Black civic life. The Democrats are the capitalist enemy within Black America, ultimately answerable to the same forces that pull Republican strings. The main difference is that Democrats, like most of the oligarchy, have seen the advantages of a diversified, multiracial management of Black grassroots unrest and repetitive capitalist crises. Send in the Kente squads.
Half a million or more protesters in the streets, resisting the police, brought people’s politics back to life, but the Black movement will be asphyxiated by the ubiquitous fingers of the Democratic Party if it does not build independent nexuses of people’s power. ‘Defunding the police” may result in some reshuffling of local budget funds to social services, but does not in itself transfer power over those services — or the police — to the people. Movement-speak is replete with the word “transformational,” but only people’s power can transform the relationship between the Black masses and the oligarchs’ state. Cutting police budgets does not alter the anti-Black nature of the police mission, and neither does adding Black cops to the blue ranks. Only community control of the police can create the institutional people power to transform, and eventually do away with, policing as we know it. The cops will still be the cops, whatever their numbers and pay scales, unless they are made accountable to the communities they “serve,” who will shape the security force’s mission and manage and evaluate its performance.
Community control of the police is a project in democracy and Black self-determination, while defunding the police–inevitably, in practice–is an immersion in Democratic Party budgetary dickering that legitimizes the imposition of the police upon the people. It will suck the righteous energy out of the movement, while failing to transform any power relationships of importance. Along the way, key operatives will be “captured” as they form alliances with the “better” Democratic politicians in divvying up the budgetary spoils.
Instead, the demand for community control should be expanded to include people’s control of social services, schools and the other institutions and services that organizers foresee benefiting from defunding the police. This approach allows the movement to make common cause with social service, education and other workers and professionals, broadening and deepening the movement beyond policing/security issues.–enough political fuel to stay in the streets as long as necessary.
If the movement is to be sustained, it must keep its focus on bringing Power to the People, and avoid Democratic Party diversions. They are the grave diggers of social movements.