Which Way Forward to Stop Police Terror and End Systemic Racism?

Juneteenth (June 19) march against police brutality at the Port of Oakland, CA

Editorial — T.O. Weekly Newsletter No. 2

On June 18, the Executive Council of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) adopted a resolution, titled “Confronting Racism and Support for Black Lives Matter,” that puts forward 19 commitments to combat systemic racism and police violence against Black people.

Reading through the resolution, one cannot help but be impressed by the scope of some of the commitments. There are some notable exceptions, however. The sixth commitment, for example, notes that, “all working people, including those in the criminal justice system, should have the right to organize as a union and bargain collectively.”

No! The police don’t belong in the trade union movement; their mandate is to defend the capitalists and the State against the working class and oppressed communities. They should be expelled from AFL-CIO affiliates and labor councils.

The main problem with the AFT resolution, though, is the final commitment, which reads, “As our nation faces the most consequential election season in recent history, the AFT will commit to mobilizing and engaging our members, friends and family members to vote for Joe Biden for president.”

Millions Demand Fundamental Change

Millions of workers and youth have taken to the streets this past month, despite the COVID-19 restrictions, to demand an end to police terror and systemic racism. Enough is enough, they proclaim, as they rally to defund the cops and place them under community control, with elected civilian review boards with teeth — that is, with the power to disband and reorganize police departments, redirect police funding toward social services, hire and fire police officers, and more.

Millions of workers and youth have mobilized to demand jobs for all at a living wage and an end to privatization and deregulation. They want an end to three-and-a-half years of Trump’s reactionary policies.

But will these aspirations for jobs and justice be fulfilled by a Biden administration? Let’s take a closer look.

Ties that Bind

Biden is bankrolled by the very same capitalists who are funding Trump and the Republicans. [See the article in this issue of our weekly newsletter titled, “The Ties that Bind: Biden and his Bankers.”]

And the ties do bind.

Biden has been a longstanding backer of the “education reform” agenda that has made devastating cuts to public education while privatizing public schools, scapegoating educators, and providing massive tax breaks to the corporate elite and the rich — that is, the very same people who are funding his campaign.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president based in large part on his promise to enact the Employee Free Choice Act — thereby making it easier for workers to join a union. Vice President Biden led the campaign to “postpone” enacting EFCA. His rationale was that the country’s first priority must be to bail out Wall Street, to “help the economy recover”; only later would it be possible to pass EFCA. Not surprisingly, EFCA never saw the light of day — though the Democrats had a majority in both houses of Congress during the first two years of the Obama-Biden administration.

Today, we are hearing the same pleas from Democrats and Republicans. We are told that drastic cuts will be needed in social spending — including to public education — to pay back the debts incurred through the bipartisan “stimulus” packets. We are told that addressing the budget deficits must be the first order of business to enable an economic recovery.

These debts were not incurred by working people, nor did the working class benefit from them. The billionaires, who are funding both the Trump and Biden campaigns, saw their net worth soar $434 billion after the adoption of what were essentially Wall Street bailout plans. Workers should not have to repay these debts through budget cuts plus massive layoffs, and the like.

Bail Out Main Street, NOT Wall Street!

The labor movement should be demanding: Bail Out Main Street, NOT Wall Street! No Layoffs, No Cuts! Tax the Rich! Fund a Marshall Plan-scale Public Works Program to put the 40 million unemployed to work in union jobs, at union scale! Medicare for All, Now! Slash the War Budget!

Is this what Biden and the Democrats are proposing? Not at all. You can be sure that, if elected, Biden will be among the first to urge working people to “postpone” all social spending “until after the economy has recovered” — meaning never.

Is Biden calling to slash funding for the police so that these funds can be redirected toward investments in the communities of the oppressed? No. He is arguing against defunding the police — while calling on police academies to teach new officers to “shoot at the legs and not at the hearts,” a capitulation, to say the least!

Are Biden and the Democrats demanding to slash the war budget and stop all sanctions against oppressed nations — sanctions that are killing tens of thousands of people the world over? Are they calling to redirect the billions of tax dollars for the military (more than half of our tax dollars go to the military) into funding human needs?

No. The Democrats in Congress voted to give more military funding to Trump than he had requested. In fact, Biden is positioning himself to the right of Trump on key foreign policy issues — a topic that will be discussed in greater depth in our next issue of our weekly newsletter.

Are Biden and the Democrats raising the roof to protect Black voters’ rights? No! Margaret Kimberley, in her “Freedom Rider” column in the June 24 Black Agenda Report, put it well when she noted, “The purge [of Black people] from the rolls, the closed polling places, and the other methods of disenfranchisement are continuing without comment from the Democrats, who ignore their most loyal and important cohort.”

Kimberley concluded her column with words that are both poignant and true: “On election day, we will have Trump 2.0 — even if Biden manages to win.”

The “co-opoganda” Machine

Most of our readers support the call for an independent Labor-based party and admit that Biden is a “Republican-Lite politician,” as one reader put it — yet some insist that conditions for building a Labor-based party will be far better under Biden than under Trump.

Not so fast.

No sooner are Democrats elected than they move to silence and co-opt the social movements that have risen up to demand peace, jobs, and justice. History has demonstrated time and again that the Democratic Party is the master de-mobilizer; it is the graveyard of all social protest movements.

The “co-opoganda” has already begun, in fact, with one Democrat after the other calling for “police reforms” that have no teeth. Democrats taking a knee in Kente cloth for George Floyd will do nothing to improve Black lives.

On the contrary, as Glen Ford reminds us in his June 24 editorial in  Black Agenda Report, “a large majority of the Congressional Black Caucus voted against a bill that would have halted the Pentagon’s infamous 1033 program that funnels billions of dollars in military weapons and gear to local police departments, and supported a bill that makes the police a legally ‘protected class’ and assault on police a ‘hate crime.’”

The mass movement that has erupted in support of Black Lives Matter must remain in the streets and not relent during this final round of the election season — or after the election, whichever of the Trump 2.0 candidates is elected. The Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam antiwar movement in the 1960s— both independent mass movements in the streets — played a pivotal role in securing the right to vote for Black people and in ending that horrific imperialist war.

It is time for the labor movement to get out into the streets in huge numbers to support the mass Black Lives Matter movement, refusing to be taken in by the “co-opoganda” and raising demands that oppose frontally the capitalists’ war drive on workers and all the oppressed, both at home and abroad — in keeping with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s seminal affirmation in his 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York that, “the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

Laying the Groundwork for an Independent Party

It is time to begin laying the groundwork for a new, independent Labor-based party rooted in the unions and communities of the oppressed. Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) has embarked on this effort. [See the LCIP website at lcipcampaign.org.]

LCIP’s Organizing Committee has held two Expanded Planning Meetings, with close to 70 participants representing unions and community organizations with thousands of members, in preparation for a “Breaking the Grip of the Two-Party System Conference,” which is slated to take place in early September 2020 in Baltimore, hosted by the Ujima People’s Progress Party. (If conditions do not permit a live conference, it will be held online.)

Some of our readers have written to express their overall support for LCIP’s two-prong strategy (run independent candidates for local office based in labor-community coalitions, promote a discussion in the labor movement about the need for a Labor-based party), but they question the decision to hold such a conference on the eve of what the AFT calls “the most consequential election season in recent history.” Wait and hold the conference for independent politics after the November 2020 elections, they advise.

We disagree with these readers. We agree with ILWU Local 10 retiree Clarence Thomas, who told The Organizer [see interview in this issue of our newsletter] that now is the time to point the way forward for independent working-class political action. “We have to strike while the iron is hot,” Thomas stated.

Please join us in supporting the Baltimore “Break the Grip” conference. The time is now!

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