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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS, KNOW YOUR ENEMY ISO THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST ORGANIZATION | SOCIALISTWORKER.ORG | INTERNATIONALSOCIALIST.ORG
RXI MA LIB M& S ION RAT E
MARXISM: THE BEST TOOL FOR UNDERSTANDING & ENDING ALL OPPRESSIONS Marxism seeks not to separate exploitation from issues of oppression, but to show how they are connected and how the solution to one cannot be separated from the solution to the other. Socialism is not only a theory of the liberation of the working class. It is a theory of the liberation of the working class as the foundation for the liberation of all of humanity. REVOLUTIONS: “Festivals of the oppressed & exploited.”
HE W T DAM OLE H TEM SYS N
THE #BLACKLIVESMATTER MOVEMENT “Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!” Accountability is a good place to start, but our critique must go deeper. “Not all cops.” Yes, all cops.
The movement against racist police violence is not about individual racist, violent cops engaging in misconduct, but about systemic problems with law enforcement and the law: The War on Drugs, stop-and-frisk, “broken windows,” over-policing, criminalizing poverty, racial profiling, mass incarceration (“the New Jim Crow”), mass surveillance, erosion of privacy rights, mandatory minimum sentencing, school-to-prison pipeline, torture, police militarization, etc.
Not just law enforcement and the law. These issues go to the core of U.S. society. We must expand our focus to include all institutions of corporate-state power and cultural institutions that provide ideological support.
WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM?
STUDENT DEBT ECOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION RACIST POLICE VIOLENCE INCOME INEQUALITY CONNECT THE DOTS INDIGENOUS RIGHTS GENDER INEQUALITY THE WAR ON TERROR ANTIIMMIGRANT FERVOR MASS INCARCERATION
ONE STRUGGLE, MANY FRONTS “The problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.”–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Working-class consciousness cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse, no matter what class is affected.”–V.I. Lenin THE POLITICS OF SOLIDARITY
“We do not fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity. We do not fight exploitative capitalism with black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism.”–Fred Hampton
LAS C IETY SOC S
PRE-AGRICULTURAL “PRIMITIVE COMMUNISM” Existed around the world for tens of thousands of years. Some cultures remain to this day. Subsistence hunting and gathering, plus horticulture. All things beyond personal possessions were communally owned. No class division. Relatively flat hierarchy. No kings, nobles, soldiers, police, or prisons. Egalitarian, democratic, with better gender-equality.
2000 BCE 10,000 BCE 7000 BCE 3000 BCE 3000 BCE 7000 BCE 3000 BCE ORIGINS OF AGRICULTURE AGRICULTURE HOMO SAPIENS 200,000 BCE TODAY
JARED DIAMOND: “Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, non-producing elite set itself above the disease-ridden masses.”
With the development of large-scale agriculture, for the first time, class division emerged. A LABORING OPPRESSED CLASS THAT PRODUCED THE SURPLUS AN IDLE RULING CLASS THAT APPROPRIATED THE SURPLUS
With class division came the rise of states–bodies of armed men and bureaucracies–to buttress this division with… IDEAS + FORCE
T ATE E ST H
“The state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy.”–Frederick Engels
Many radicals oppose the state, but we need to go deeper. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE STATE? WHO DOES IT SERVE?
States have grown in complexity and vary in character, but they all have the same purpose: to repress the majority in the interest of the minority. THE STATE IS A TOOL FOR PRESERVING CLASS RULE.
THE PURPOSE OF THE STATE To facilitate and preserve the profit system. To guarantee and make efficient the ruling class’ ability to exploit the oppressed class. EXPLOITATION & OPPRESSIO N PRODUCTION To create an order that legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between irreconcilably antagonistic classes.
IDEAS Ideological support for the status quo is taught via a network of state, corporate, and cultural institutions. Schools, religious organizations, the news media, fiction, cinema, etc. Socializing people for their place in society. “The poor are lazy. The rich earned it.” “We need a strong military to defend us.” “Western civilization is the pinnacle of human achievement.”
Force “consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons, and institutions of coercion of all kinds.” The police and the military are the chief instruments of state power. These “special bodies of armed men” grow proportionally stronger as class antagonisms within the state become more acute. FORCE
CULTURE BELIEFS MEDIA PHILOSOPHY TRADITIONS IDEAS ARTS EDUCATION + CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS SCIENCE LAWS MORALITY RELIGION MYTHOLOGY COURT SYSTEM POLICE PRIVATE SECURITY FORCES FORCE VIGILANTES MILITARY PRISONS GOVERNMENT STATE-FUNDED TERRORISTS
OUR FUNDAMENTAL ANTAGONISM IS WITH THE RULING CLASS. THE STATE IS THEIR TOOL. THE POLICE ARE THE TIP OF THEIR SPEAR.
The ruling class created the modern police in the early-to-mid 1800s, not to stop crime or promote justice, but to control large defiant crowds: IN THE NORTH: Strikes and riots IN THE SOUTH: Slave insurrections
Cops do not neutrally enforced the law (and the law itself has never been neutral). IN THE NORTH: They arrested people for the vaguely defined crime of disorderly conduct and vagrancy throughout the nineteenth century. Arrested anyone they saw as a threat to order. IN THE SOUTH: They enforced white supremacy and arrested black people on trumped-up charges in order to feed them into convict labor systems.
LAW ENFORCEMENT IS ALWAYS SELECTIVE. THE POLICE ARE ALWAYS PROFILING WHAT PART OF THE POPULATION AND WHICH KINDS OF BEHAVIOR TO TARGET.
POLICE FULFULL A RULING-CLASS MISSION: To protect capitalism from the threat posed by its offspring, the working class. To suppress rebellions and strikes and to oppose working class political advancement. To enforce order among those with the greatest reason to resent the system (i.e. poor Black people). To inflict nonlethal violence upon crowds to break them up while trying to avoid creating martyrs.
Any force organized to deliver routine violence is going to kill people. For every police murder, there are thousands of nonlethal acts of police violence, calculated to intimidate while avoiding an angry collective response. MAXIMUM CONTROL WITH MINIMUM VIOLENCE. But cops don’t need to be careful because they are almost never held accountable for their actions– especially against people of color, whose lives have been devalued by racist ideology.
IDEAS “Police keep the peace.” “We need police to protect us from each other, due to our violent, dishonest human nature.” “Police are heroes with very dangerous jobs.” “A few bad apples spoil the bunch.” “We are a nation of laws.”
COPS & ROBBERS: Dividing society IDEAS between good guys and bad guys is perfect for identifying scapegoats, especially racial ones. This moralistic scheme is a direct competitor to a class-conscious worldview, which identifies society’s basic antagonism as the conflict between exploiters and exploited. Police activity thus teaches an ideology of citizenship that dovetails with the lessons of the classroom and the workplace.
ROUTINE PATROL WORK gets cops accustomed to using violence and the threat of violence. Prepares them to pull off the large-scale acts of repression that are necessary when workers and the oppressed rise up in larger groups. Not just about getting practice with weapons and tactics, but crucial to creating a mindset among police that their violence is for the greater good. Shows commanders which cops are most comfortable inflicting pain. They can then be assigned to the front lines when it comes to a crackdown.
“GOOD COPS” PROVIDE PR COVER FOR THE BRUTAL WORK THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE BY THE “BAD COPS.”
JOHN STEINBECK: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” SIMILARLY: Opposition to the police never took root in America because people see the police not as armed enforcers of capital but as temporarily confused workers.
ARE COPS WORKING CLASS? Cops come from working-class backgrounds, but are grafted onto the ruling class to act as their enforcers. Cops are professional class traitors.
“THE WORKER WHO BECOMES A POLICEMAN IN THE SERVICE OF THE CAPITALIST STATE, IS A BOURGEOIS COP, NOT A WORKER.” –Leon Trotsky
We need to eradicate the liberal notion that if we articulate our grievances precisely enough the police won’t bash our heads in. WE CAN’T REASON WITH CLASS RULE. Cops who quit or turn in other cops for misconduct have no effect on the structural nature of law enforcement as the enforcers of the ruling class.
CE & RA ISM RAC
“You can’t have capitalism without racism.”–Malcolm X
Because capitalism enriches a minority that live off the majority's labor, it requires various tools to divide the majority—racism and all oppressions under capitalism serve this purpose. Oppressions are intersectional, reinforcing and compounding each other. CLASS OPPRESSION IS THE PIVOT AROUND WHICH ALL OTHER INEQUALITIES AND OPPRESSIONS TURN. To understand intersectionality is not enough. We must understand the root of all oppressions.
RACISM IS NOT AN END IN ITSELF. RACISM IS A LYNCHPIN OF U.S. CAPITALISM.
Many radicals oppose white supremacist racism, but we need to go deeper. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF RACISM? WHO DOES IT SERVE?
RACISM’S FUNCTION: 1 2 To justify plunder, conquest, slavery, and inequality. To divide and conquer. To impede class unity. To pit one section of the working class against another. 3 To blunt class consciousness. To cause confusion as to who our allies and enemies are. To obscure our place in history and the current landscape. 4 To supress wages and conditions for all workers. To better exploit the entire working class.
UNDER CAPITALISM, ALL WORKERS ARE EXPLOITED. Some workers face added oppression because of racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-immigrant ideas, religious oppression, etc. RACISM HAS REAL MATERIAL CONSEQUENCES. In every measure of the quality of life in the U.S., whites are on the top and Blacks are on the bottom. WHITE WORKERS CONFER BENEFITS FROM RACISM –and the illusion that the system is working for them–otherwise racism would not work at dividing Black and white workers.
But… as Black living standards fall, downward pressure is exerted on the living standards of the entire working class. BOSSES ARE THE BIGGEST BENEFICIARIES of race-based wage disparities and decreased wages across the entire working class.
To the extent that they accept white supremacy and fail to unite with their class allies (of all races, nationalities, genders, etc.), white workers contribute to capitalism's ability to exploit them more effectively. RACISM IS CENTRAL TO THE OPPRESSION OF THE ENTIRE WORKING CLASS.
“The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. … This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organization. It is the secret by which the capitalist maintains its power.”–Karl Marx
“The hostility between the whites and blacks of the South is easily explained. … masters secured their ascendancy over both the poor whites and the Blacks by putting enmity between them. They divided both to conquer each. …By the rich slave-master, they [poor whites] are already regarded as but a single remove from equality with the slave.”–Frederick Douglass
“The race philosophy came as a new and terrible thing to make labor unity or labor class-consciousness impossible. So long as the Southern white laborers could be induced to prefer poverty to equality with the Negro, just so long was a labor movement in the South made impossible.”–W.E.B. Du Bois
CAPITALISM HAS GIVEN RISE TO IDEOLOGIES THAT JUSTIFY, EXPLAIN, AND PERPETUATE IT. IN THE U.S., RACISM IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT OF THESE IDEOLOGIES.
“THE IDEAS OF THE RULING CLASS ARE IN EVERY EPOCH THE RULING IDEAS.”–Karl Marx They use “the means of mental production” to present the capitalist system as the highest ideal, to perpetuate ideas of a violent, competitive, sexist, racist, and immutable human nature, and to make class divisions seem natural and the way things have always been.
COPS ENFORCE THE RULING IDEAS. Cops ensure the maintenance of the dominant material relations through the enforcement of private property, debt collection, regulation of “moral conduct” and drug laws (so workers remain a valuable to their bosses), and the appropriation of wealth from and general harassment of people of color and the poor.
FOR RE REV OR M ON? LUTI O
We support genuine reforms. But the term “reform” is often applied to entrenchment of the status quo. And toothless or surface reforms are often used as pacification tools to diffuse popular movements. REFORMS WILL NEVER GET AT THE ROOT OF OUR PROBLEMS. Exploitation and oppressions are built into the very nature of capitalism. They are not determined by and cannot be eliminated by decisions of the capitalist class, police officers, politicians, or by laws of the state. They cannot be politely or gradually reformed away.
Demands from the national Black Lives Matter movement combine near-term reforms and goals that would require the wholesale dismantling of core U.S. institutions. RACISM CANNOT BE ELIMINATED WITHOUT ELIMINATING CAPITALISM. THE POLICE CANNOT BE (SUFFICIENTLY) REFORMED. As revolutionaries, we have ambitious goals! But we must work toward them by doing what we can in the here and now.
Reform and revolution are not opposed to each other, but intertwined. Struggle for reform is key because: » Only mass, militant struggle can win reforms. The biggest reforms come when the ruling class feels its control over society and its institutions are most threatened. » Ordinary people come together and get radicalized. » Only through struggle for reform—and any struggle short of revolution is a struggle for reform—is it possible to move beyond reform to seek revolution.
THE PRIMACY OF PROTEST Pressure from below forces elected officials and bosses to accept reform. Mass demonstrations, strikes, occupations, and uprisings mobilize and organize the power of the people–critical to building a revolutionary movement. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF FERGUSON & BALTIMORE: RESISTANCE.
“POWER CONCEDES NOTHING WITHOUT A DEMAND.” –Frederick Douglass
BIBLIOGRAPHY State & Revolution by Vladimir Lenin The German Ideology by Karl Marx What is to Be Done? by Vladimir Lenin Where Do We Go From Here? By Martin Luther King Jr. Origins of the Police by David Whitehouse The Invention of the White Race by Theodore W. Allen Where We Stand: The Politics of the ISO The Politics of Identity by Sharon Smith Who Killed Eric Garner? by Salar Mohandesi Pyramid of the Capitalist System by Speldwright The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State by Frederick Engels Race, Class & Marxism by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor Stop Kidding Yourself: The Police Were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People by Sam Mitrani Five Liberal Tendencies that Plagued Occupy by Juan Conatz The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race by Jared Diamond Police Reform is Impossible in America by Donovan X. Ramsey Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses by Louis Althusser