Friday, January 2, 2015

Protests against police violence creating serious problems for US capitalism

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

There is definitely a bit of a shift in the mood in US society, particularly with regard to the militarization of the police throughout the nation, including the schools. Earlier this week, Boston police officers that went to arrest a young man for defaulting on a court appearance were attacked by other teenagers as they were in the process of handcuffing him. (here). 

This incident is one of numerous attacks on the police including some fatal ones both before and after two NYC cops were shot while sitting in their car. Two sheriffs were killed in Louisiana in August and just last weekend cops were shot at in LA and Tampa. The media also reported that a man who had posted an online video threatening to kill police and FBI agents tried to use his car to run down officers seeking to arrest him so they shot him which is something every policeman is allowed to do if they feel their lives are in danger.

As readers are aware, the situation in NYC has led to a rift between the NYPD and the city’s Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio.  De Blasio has been accused of fanning hatred for the police and actually having blood on his hands for commenting on the recent spate of young black men murdered by cops, Eric Garner in NYC and Michael Brown in Ferguson MO that sparked off the protests we have see throughout the US and the world.  De Blasio is married to a black woman and happened to say that he’s trained his son, who appears black to “take special care” in dealing with the police—who, he added, “are there to protect him.” Any black parent is very familiar with this situation.

Thousands of cops attended the funerals of the two shot in NYC and turned their backs on de Blasio as he gave his eulogy. And at a recent police academy graduation event at which the mayor was speaking, many of the cadets booed. The NYPD are apparently on a work slowdown as they continue their offensive against de Blasio.

These developments are presenting a major dilemma for the big bourgeois in this country as the black working class in particular has shown that it has had enough and is not being cowed by the police. Firstly, we have the protests in the wake of the Brown and Garner killings which have subsided but not gone away. Earlier this week activists occupied the police HQ in St. Louis and issued a set of demands.   The protests in Ferguson were met with heavy-handed tactics and the whole situation including the response from residents clearly caused serious concern among the US ruling class-------the  unelected minority that has a monopoly on political life and determines policy in this country.

The Garner killing and the young black man shot in Cleveland while in possession of a BB gun made things worse but the mood of support for protests was temporarily cut across by the assassination of the two NYPD officers and the subsequent police actions.  It garnered additional support for the police and definitely undermined the protest movement that as Kareem Abdul Jabbar pointed out is not a war against the cops but against “institutionalized racism.”

 The police union and elements in the Tea Party have gone on an organized rampage against de Blasio. But the deathly war in which black males are the primary victims is real despite attempts by Tea Baggers and other right wing racists to show that more white people are killed by cops than blacks. Well, there are more white people in the US than blacks, so there are more white people in prison than blacks and more poor whites than there are poor blacks. It’s the percentage of the population as a whole that reveals a staggering disparity. Blacks are only 13% of the population and according to a recent study “black males are at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater.”

Boston’s mayor claimed that the teenagers’ attack on the two cops was not related to the other attacks on the police and the same claim has been made with regards to the LA shootings. But it’s hard to imagine that they’re not. And although the cops were not seriously injured, they were both “pretty banged up” according to reports. But there is no doubt that the situation presents many dangers for the big bourgeois.  Shooting deaths of cops rose 56% in 2014 according to the Christian Science Monitor, noting that in 1973 156 officers were shot and killed but, while “Such deaths have fallen from an average of 127 per year in the 1970s to 57 per year so far in the current decade.”, what is concerning the security apparatus is that the number of ambush type killings is on the rise.

The first major concern for the ruling class must be the schism if you like between two forces that represents its interests.  One is the police that provide the security for the 1% and the other being the New York City mayor who is a prominent political representative. A public division of this nature is a not a good thing.  As we have pointed out before, the state has not beefed up and militarized its police force with no intention of using it. It is this that is causing considerable concern among the general public, not just black America. 

But what if the police opposition to de Blasio or any other wing of the capitalist class spreads? Could the cops become unreliable? What if there is a split within the security forces, a split along racial lines.  It is most likely that not all cops think the same way about the behavior of some of their more thuggish comrades and it is impossible that black or Latino officers are not a weak link, after all, like de Blasio, they have children too and they themselves face discrimination within the force and society as a whole. But the danger of breaking ranks may well be that their backs are not covered out in a hostile environment. Police also build up a network of snitches and informers who could ensure life is made very precarious for cops that break ranks.

Added to this is the possibility that the protests might increase and become more widespread. It is a very volatile situation and the danger exists that if the various movements around the country begin to link up, and there are many different struggles going on around housing, police abuse immigration etc., things could really get out of hand. It is exactly this scenario that has forced the big bourgeois to arm their security forces to the teeth military style and a more aggressive approach on the part of the police is demanded to fit the situation. There is also the crisis within organized labor that will break in to the open at some point as wages, benefits, and working conditions of the US working class have been savaged over the past period.  The police are no friends of workers on strike.  The silence of the trade union leaders with regard to the attacks on de Blasio, the spate of killings of black males and the crisis in society in general is criminal. 

Despite needing the police at times, there is a love/hate relationship here. US television has numerous shows about cops as they bust down the doors of poor people, working class people, some of the least organized and weakest among us; people that have fallen prey to drug abuse and petty criminal activity. Incarceration has nothing to do with correcting behavior. Without a guaranteed job at a living wage on release from prison, as well as adequate training, being released from jail releases people in to a hostile, insecure and unfriendly social environment and more often than not they will head for the milieu that provided some social connection but got them in to jail in the first place.

To the foreign viewer, one would think most of us are cops over here, and that police cars speeding down the sidewalk knocking over fruit stands and café tables chasing criminals is the norm. But many people tire of scenes of cops dragging ordinary people, poor people out of their homes or trailers when the “successful” crooks in society remain untouched for the most part.  This is particularly so in the aftermath of an economic crash that threw people out of their jobs and homes while cutting social services at the same time.  Young workers are facing a future that forces them to work longer in to old age and lacking basic services and security as well.  People in the US are stressed out.

The anger that swelled after the Great Recession hit still lurks beneath the surface of US society and most people have not forgotten the role of the bankers, moneylenders and other wasters in making that happen. They haven’t forgotten being driven out of their homes by sheriffs acting on the mortgage bankers’ behalf. While most examples of criminal activity on the multitude of cop shows in the mass media are guilty of petty crime or drug related offenses, the bankers, war criminals, hedge fund managers and other crooks walk free and are continuing the activity that brought the economy to the verge of collapse only to be saved by public finds.

It is impossible to say which scenario may play out. We do know that the strategists of capitalism are also asking themselves the same question and are desperate to return to normalcy, a situation where economic activity and profit-taking can continue unabated.  A recognition of the crisis in law enforcement and condemnation of individual actions by some officers by the police unions would go a long way to calming some elements but it is highly unlikely, almost impossible that this would happen.

And when it comes to crooks and arresting anti-social elements, starting with Wall Street, bankers and other corporate leaders, many of whom are responsible for the deaths of workers, destruction of communities and the environment and lobbyists who are nothing but professional bribers would be a start from a working and middle class perspective.

The primary concern of the 1% is healing the rift between its security and political forces and hopefully making some minor improvements in the former.  But we all function within circumstances not of our own choosing and the ruling class is facing a real dilemma. It is the absence of a clear leadership and policies able to bring all the forces of resistance together that is delaying a generalized movement for change in the US but this cannot prevent the explosions that lie ahead.  In the absence of a united national movement it makes the likelihood of this process being unnecessarily contradictory and no doubt violent at times. History teaches us though that it is from the forces of the state that violence originates.

Some of us connected with Facts For Working People have shared ideas about the perspectives for the coming period in the US.  Understanding the general processes is important but as to exactly how events will occur given all the variables and factors involved it’s almost impossible to say.

No comments: