The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

A Brief Thought on Disbanding the Police

| 60 Comments

First of all, I’m not going to say much about the cry to “defund the police” because I’m not sure what it means. If by “defunding” they mean entirely removing its budget, that’s identical to disbanding; if not, it means they’re talking about what they did in LA, which is reduce it’s budget by a tiny fraction, probably causing them to drop their “community outreach” programs that never did anything anyway.

What struck me about the other demand, to disband the police, is its contradictory nature.

When it is put forward by capitalist politicians, it means, “We are going to totally remove the police department and replace it with one that is identical except for cosmetic changes and we hope this will make you people shut up and quit trying to actively change things.”

But when it is put forward by masses of outraged protesters, it has a revolutionary content.  They are not thinking cosmetic change, they are talking—no matter to what degree they consciously realize it—about striking at the violent coercion that permits the existence of class society, particularly capitalism.

The danger, then, is obvious: that the desires of millions of protesters will be harmlessly funneled into a dead end producing apathy and hopelessness.  But simultaneously, the opportunity for true revolutionary change—worldwide, as are the protests—has never been greater.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

60 Comments

  1. I keep thinking about 1848. How can we keep 2020 from being 1848 all over again?

  2. I had similar thoughts. The character and role of all US Police Departments is a feature, not a bug. It will not be possible to remove a few bad apples to keep the rest from being spoiled. The barrel itself must be thrown out.

    2) If the Democrats take charge of this project, you can bank on any changes being of the cosmetic variety, although even they are abandoning most all pretense of siding with the working class.

  3. Nothing ever happens until, suddenly, it does.

  4. I would love to know how many of the people saying we should disband the police are also people who say that private citizens don’t need guns because if you’re in danger of immediate harm you can call the police.

  5. When our brown brothers and sisters are in immediate danger and call the police, the police often arrive, then kill them.

    That seems like a pretty big problem. But if your guns are a comfort to you, it is your choice to have them. Please lock them up securely so they do not get stolen or accidentally played with by a child.

  6. Kragar – Occasions of people defending their lives and homes with firearms happen more frequently than cops murdering nonwhites who call them for help, so I’m assuming that, “People often have to use firearms in self-defense,” is a statement you’d stand by. Also, “People often get struck by lightning.”

    Please note this is not me defending police misconduct. Nor am I comparing the reasons for actuarial “acts of God” with acts of monsters with human facades. This isn’t me disagreeing with your main point of the police/judicial system having big problems. This is me saying using this sort of multiple-orders-of-magnitude level wild hyperbole reduces otherwise possibly effective rhetoric to trumptwitterian* levels.

    * only works on those who already agree with you

  7. The police killed just under 1000 US citizens in 2019, and a disproportionate number of those killed were non-whites.

    In that context, I disagree that ‘often’ is wild hyperbole. Also, I suspect only the tiniest percentage of those killed were well-to-do.

  8. You referred to those killed calling for help, i.e. murdered. The number of people killed by police who were unarmed in 2019 is 1/20th your number. The number who were killed calling for help must be a subset of that, and those nonwhite a further subset.

    It could be argued that possibly some of the ‘armed’ subset would be more aptly described as ‘weapon planted’ subset, but it is hard to guess how many and impossible to prove. Difficult for me to believe more than one fifth of ‘armed’ would be affected, which is what it would take to bring the numbers up to a lower estimate of ‘struck by lightning’ without even accounting for race.

    Even going with your number, i.e. saying, “One is three times more likely to be killed by police than struck by lightning in a given year,” – which is absolutely true – I cannot agree that this is often, even though I consider the number too high. The percentage of people in America of all races killed – not murdered – by cop per year is around 0.0003%. ‘Often’ makes me think of the proportion of my days I’ve drank coffee, not over 20 times less than the percentage of my days I spent having my tonsils removed.

    Disproportionality is there. It being evidence of individually prejudiced police, I can buy. Systemic prejudice also possible, though much harder to prove. Hard to argue with at least a part of it comes from the police having a larger presence in poorer, more populationally dense (thus, higher crime) areas, which in turn have disproportional racial makeups… and I just realized if one speaks of lightning strikes’ disproportionality in a certain way while believing in a higher power one could make some interesting conclusions.

    I concur with your last point. I would be surprised, considering these numbers, that anyone well-to-do race notwithstanding was murdered by cop last year.

    Apologies for the ramble.

  9. I am only partly being snarky above. I really would love to see the numbers, if such a thing could be measured. Both are, broadly speaking, liberal/leftist/whatever views (those terms being so vague and multidefinitional as to be essentially meaningless). It seems likely that at least some of the people expressing one view have also expressed the other. And I find the human capacity for hypocrisy intriguing, from a psychological viewpoint.

  10. Alexx, my numbers come via the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/police-shootings-2019/ . From what I can read, the methodology they used is as sound as any in sociology/criminal justice. It is almost certainly correct in magnitude.

    LizV: I, too, would like to see those numbers, though am similarly pessimistic on how. One way I can think of would be to scrape social media for posts a la “Trump Criticizes Trump”, but it is likely more trouble than it’s worth, and as much as I like pointing out inconsistency I dislike people dredging random twitter feeds for headlines (which is what it would turn into) more. Speaking of, I believe the overlap of people who vehemently supported #metoo and those who are fine with “Silence is Consent” as a slogan is nonzero, which I find rather amusing.

    Would be nice to make questioning one’s side’s viewpoints/possible inconsistencies and steelmanning the other side rewarding instead of ostracizing on social media, though I haven’t a clue how to even begin to do that. Might be impossible.

  11. If you are getting your data from the Washington Post, I think I see the problem. They are the stenographers of power, the total antithesis of any revolutionary consciousness.

    Since dead men tell no tales, the police often get to give their own version of events after the fact. Luckily for us, occasionally a member of the public has recorded the actual encounter and released it to the public so the truth can be known. So which version makes into the Washington Post study?

    As Mark Twain so ably observed: “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” The official narrative must always be examined with great scrutiny, especially when a brown person is shot dead and the police are quickly cleared of any wrongdoing.

  12. The citation that is needed is for the other set of numbers—gun defenses.

    Although, purposefully or not, this part of the discussion is all a bit of a red herring. Police in the US and their many many problems are a symptom and not the cause.
    It is generally, however, good to keep a fever down so I am completely in favor of a massive restructuring of current policing while we work on the more massive restructuring of the rest of society that is really needed.
    The police are far too tempting a tool that are far too easily used as a source of repression. That is rather their point, currrently.

  13. But I think skzb’s point is that it is impossible to genuinely reform police departments while capitalism and the accumulation of private wealth remain in place.

  14. Krager:Yes, that’s the thrust of what I said.

  15. Statistics on self-defense with firearms are notoriously hard to get, because it’s generally not recorded that way, it’s not collated in any consistent fashion, and it’s frequently not reported — because if you scare off an intruder or attacker with your firearm and then you call the police to report the incident, there’s a strong chance they’ll confiscate said firearm as part of their investigation. You may or may not get it back, and it may or may not have been stored in such a way as to be useable if you do. Shockingly, gun enthusiasts are not keen on this.

    Steve Halter: This is both a side issue and not, in the sense that the police taking people’s stuff and treating them like crap has more than one face. The one that sparked the current unrest is by far the worst, but far from the only misuse of police power.

    I agree that police problems are a symptom, though I suspect we’d disagree about the cause. There seems to be a lack of, I dunno, basic decency and common sense? in any large official organization, be it police, political, or bureaucratic. The idea of a public servant being a *public servant* is long gone. The system becomes its own raison d’etre, and anyone outside the system is at best a resource drain and at worst an enemy. It’s less of an issue in my small rural town, where both cops and local officials are likely to be your neighbors and have the same concerns you do. But once the faceless bureaucrat (or officer) becomes the standard, they are just cogs in the machine and the individual citizen is grit in the gears.

  16. Kragar – The WaPo site I linked above actually states just over 1000 killed by police in 2019. You stated just under 1000. It agrees with your number, at least as far as the total goes. If you think their subsets are faulty, I’m curious to see your breakdown at least in regards to justified/unjustified and white/nonwhite with data, or at least hear your reasoning. I’d rather come at this with at least the same initial assumptions.

    Steve Halter – The lowest estimate of annual defensive gun use (DGU) I’ve ever seen is ~50,000. Highest on the order of 1-2 million if I recall correctly. Obviously this is a large range, this is much more difficult stat to come to, with the definition itself fuzzy (does brandishing count?). Personally I think low to mid 100,000s reasonable. Taking the lowest estimate of DGU (50k), and we assume every single person killed by cop (1k) was 1. nonwhite who was 2. murdered after 3. calling to report crime, we still get 50x more likely to use a gun defensively. Thus, Kragar should have no problem with, “People often use guns to defend themselves.”

    1k in a population of 327m is a small number, and it’s been trending smaller. I understand the slow way might not be good enough for some, and there are some good reasons why, some of which I sympathize with. I agree wholeheartedly that any narrative where a government official is involved in ending the life of a citizen should be scrutinized with an electron microscope. I agree numbers can be fudged, statements falsified, evidence planted, asses covered. I think every second a policeman wears the uniform should be bodycammed. I agree statistics can be misleading, especially with the apparent number of innumerate people with large reach and those wholeheartedly willing to swallow damned lies when it suits their cause (see: Brian Williams and at least a few MSNBC workers glibly spreading insanity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_i0QrK2814 ).

    However, I also understand that the protests/riots/revolutions that have been occurring have lead to the deaths of several black people directly, have destroyed the livelihoods of many black businesses, have lead to many black people losing their jobs, and indirectly – due to police distraction and mismanagement – lead to higher crime numbers, including murder*, which disproportionately affects the black population. In the longer term, the affected areas will have fewer businesses willing to come in to give people options for livelihood over crime or welfare… a problem that will likely last decades, and the compounding effects on education and broken families even longer, and this says nothing about the possible spread of the Wuhan virus among the protests.

    I realize that many here believe these problems will disappear if/when revolution succeeds. From what I gather economical revolution isn’t happening just yet. With whatever police reforms, disbandings, renamings, or what have you that are actually likely coming, what makes the past couple weeks worth it? Using the worst case number: From 1 in 327,000 killed to 1 in how many?

    I suppose when all this settles, hopefully someone here can tell me whether the juice was worth the squeeze.

    *Chicago saw the bloodiest day it has seen in at least 60 years: 18 murders on May 31.

  17. It may be true that actual murders by police are rare, whatever that means. But surely focusing only on the number of deaths at the hands of the police obscures the broader problem. How many times does someone like George Floyd get pinned down with a knee to their neck, but doesn’t die, just suffers immediate fear and lingering impotent rage. Death is the background risk that resisting smaller indignities carries. Living one’s life that way has to be soul-crushing.

    If a writer had made up the circumstances of George Floyd’s death, the symbolism would have been deemed too pat.

  18. Nathan S.–

    I am going to resist the mild temptation to dive into the Washington Post police shooting data, although two easy observations spring to mind: 1) Floyd was not shot, therefore a case like his would not be included in the list; and 2) actual killings are only one aspect of broad spectrum full dominance excercised by the police state against poor and working class communities.

    This dominance includes, but is not limited to: harassment, frequent arrests and searches, pretext stops, massive rates of incarceration for non-violent offenses, probation violations, beatings, and a whole host of repressive techniques.

    By zooming in and looking at only the shootings, and seeking to study and possibly justify each one (was the “suspect” armed? Did we find this out before or after he or she had been killed) we are going to miss the forest for the trees.

  19. And, right on cue, here come the cosmetic changes. NASCAR–no more Confederate Battle Flags. New York–choke hold now a felony. South Carolina–Robert E. Lee statue removed.

    We’ll go ahead and keep our vicious system of economic barbarity in place, but it will be a (slighty more) polite economic barbarity. Millions will lose health care, their homes, and their food security while the richest rack up hundreds of billions of additional dollars, but we will make some purely symbolic adjustments. There you go.

    As Bill Hicks so brilliantly thundered nearly 30 years ago “Go back to bed, America! Go back to bed.”

  20. That’s a funny picture but the misery inflicted by capitalism on the people of the world is no laughing matter.

  21. The problem with the police is that they are sanctioned violence by the state. I used to serve as a selectman in my town. A few years ago my police department requested a Bearcat armored vehicle. (In a town of fewer than 15,000 people) I asked, in a public meeting:

    me: How many non-vehicle crash related calls do you respond to in a given year”

    Chief: 1,500 – 2,000. Most are alcohol related in the summer.

    Me: What percentage of calls involve mentally ill or developmentally disabled people?

    Chief: Probably 40 – 50 percent.

    Me: How many therapists do you have on staff?

    Chief: None. We don’t do that.

    Me: How many riots, civil unrests, or terrorist incidents has the department dealt with in the last 100 years?

    Chief: None that I know of.

    I was the only one who voted against buying the $500,000 armored vehicle. The problem isn’t just the police.

  22. The idea that America has a class system, rather than a caste system, is laughable.

    The revolution needs to be against racism first, or it will _never_ succeed.

  23. I forgot to mention that I was then told by the Chief to, “Watch my back”. This is their culture.

  24. Policies to restrict usage of force, reduce the incestuous relationship between enforcement and litigation, stop sales of military equipment, use predictive policing on the police, limit power of police unions, build hotlines to call EMTs or other first responders instead of police on drug/mental cases – which very well might have saved Floyd? Nope, tear down those Columbus statues. Band-aids? Why? We have body paint!

    Jo’din – Correct. As sad as voter turnout is for national elections, the local election turnout is usually worse. Did your town have the same issue?

    Publius Maximus – Studies and surveys done on the overwhelmingly successful non-white immigrants to this country would beg to differ.

    Kragar – I’m being a contrary little cuss about it, but from the beginning I’ve been trying to help. Your movement is ill-served by rhetoric like “police are killing brown and black people left and right” because people will either write it off as the hyperbole it is or use it as a focus for a cause that isn’t yours. Is it a surprise when superficial rhetoric and a few days of anger mostly ends a movement mostly fueled by superficial rhetoric and a few months of cabin fever?

    It’s like trying to start charcoal with flashpaper instead of oiled newspaper – much easier to light but it flames out quickly, accomplishing little other than burning the hand that holds the match.

    And getting “Gone With the Wind” memory-holed from HBO.

  25. Nathan S.–

    Oh, I see. We need a kinder, gentler force of armed guards to protect the property of the wealthy elite from the working classes who generate that wealth. Thanks so much for the wise insights. Now I am finally seeing the light.

  26. That’s… not what I said at all. Possibly my fault. Another tack:

    When you start a movement based on treating a symptom instead of a cause, you shouldn’t be surprised when the movement – that has TB, say – stops when it gets a bottle of Robitussin.

  27. Nathan S. — I think that is what skzb, Kragar and I have said in slightly different forms here.

    The cause (we would assert) is the underlying economic system (oligarchic capitalism) and real reform won’t happen until that is changed.

    What underlying cause would you assert?

  28. Cough–police
    galloping consumption–capitalism

    Nathan S.–
    What I am reading is that you believe the cause of the problem is poorly assembled and trained police departments. With just a few key adjustments, they can be fixed. This belief is deluded in that it flies in the face of decades of attempted but failed reforms, and dangerous because it wastes precious time and energy that must be spent on building a mass movement based in and for the working class.

  29. Yes. What I said was that certain rhetoric you’ve used and others have used lends itself to people either ignoring it or wanting to take it out on police departments/nebulous “whiteness”, not embarking on a quest for a Worker’s Paradise. Leading to the mess many cities are just now sifting through, and resulting in a lot of talk, some pointless hand-wavy crap, a few band-aids, and a metric ton of more problems for poor communities.

    I’ve been remembering video of well-dressed well-fed youngsters with thousand-dollar phones looting and burning black businesses. Watching kids play at revolution and when the smoke clears it’s back to the ‘burbs while the ‘hood’s left holding the sack. I suppose that’s why I’m a bit miffed.

    The list of “fixes” I posted I labeled as band-aids. They’re cheap ways to improve police departments faster that they’ve been improving. The underlying cause of police malfeasance is crime. Underlying that is poverty, culture, education, family, inherited wealth, IQ, unwanted pregnancies, yes capitalism as well (Pareto, leverage of wealth)… list goes on.

    A socialist state as described here could possibly fix most of that list, might very well be the best option. Thanks to Mr. Brust’s work here I think maintaining his brand of one could be plausible. I’m not convinced on the ability to start one, hence my agreement with the band-aids and rancor towards those that encourage attempts bound to fail.

    As an aside re: attempted but failed reforms: Do you honestly believe the police, agents of a system of economic barbarity they remain, are the same as they were even a couple decades ago? Do you think the band-aids, which enacted sooner might have saved George Floyd’s life and prevented the past two weeks of people destroying black communities, would be currently a waste of time and effort? Or is it more a concern that if the police reform enough it will be more difficult to construct the mass movement, since ACAB has been used as a hammer for so long?

  30. In 1991, a dozen LAPD officers where filmed beating Rodney King with batons and fists in a little gully. Then an all-white jury in Simi Valley acquitted the officers involved in 1992, and there were massive riots.

    Fast forward 28 years. Now we have graduated to wholesale killing. So it seems like not much progress.

    Make no mistake, there is a fierce debate going on in elite circles. One camp wants to call in the literal US Army to crush the protests with violence up to lethal violence. Another camp wants to throw a few bones, like more funding for PDs so that they can ALL have body cams. Then the protestors will grow tired and slink away. And “community policing!”

    I hope this popular resistance movement does not go for either option.

  31. If you truly believe that the police have not gotten better in the last 30 years, if you truly believe that those thrown bones – which can save lives – aren’t worth it, just to keep the flashpaper going a bit longer… I can confidently say I want no part of any state where Commissar Kragars exist.

    Altered history and willingness to put others through hardship for a cause not their own. How Soviet.

  32. Nathan S.–

    You and I are poor judges of the improvement or lack thereof in police departments over the last 30 years because, as white professional men of privilege, we are not its target.

    For instance, when I was old enough to know better, I drove around in my small American city in an Infinite G20 with expired tabs for one full year, and was never once pulled over.

    The actual targets of the police state are the poor and working classes of all races. If you would like to know their opinion, I suggest you look out your window.

  33. I should find a black person who grew up poor to tell me all in regards to police and race relations and stop listening to you or my own judgement? Alright. Let me just pick one out of the hat… hmm.

    Ah. Old enough, check. Grew up in Harlem, had to drop out of high school because of family and money problems, started working in a machine shop like I did, played baseball like I did, Marine, Marxist until working in the Labor Department disillusioned him… I like this guy. Thomas Sowell, eh?

    You know, he makes sense here *hrrrk* Maybe Obama was a terrible president for race relations *hrrk* Reagan wasn’t so bad *hrrk* I have a strange urge to clean my assault weapons in lefty tears while wearing a MAGA hat with an FOP sticker on it. Thanks for the advice! Guess commies are good for something other than cool national anthems and pumping steroids into women’s Olympic teams after all.

  34. I’ll see your Thomas Sowell and raise you a James Baldwin. Go take a deep dive into his works, it will be a considerable benefit to you.

  35. “You and I are poor judges of the improvement or lack thereof in police departments over the last 30 years because, as white professional men of privilege, we are not its target.”

    “Alright, I’ve picked a black man who grew up poor.”

    “No, read a man who died 30 years ago who wrote about how things were 50-80 years ago.”

    This lines up too well to not be intentional. Touché. Fantastic writer, though.

  36. 1) I did not recommend James Baldwin for his skill as a stylist, although that skill was considerable. Rather, for his stark description of the black man’s experience with racism and capitalism. Think substance over form.

    2) If you think the problems of systematic oppression facing Baldwin and those who looked like him 50-80 years ago are gone, I will renew my invitation to look out your window.

  37. From what I understand: “defund” has meant taking money from the police budget to create non-police programs which will more effectively fulfill the functions of the police as they currently operate. The police are now the only people to call for issues for which they are either unqualified to handle or for which they often increase the harm to society rather than the reverse. So substance counselors, psychologists, teachers, youth counselors, public health, etc., would be called in to do a more effective job of handling the incidents we now dump on a bloated and overly militaristic police force.

    What this will look like after it goes through the ringer of actual regulation and implementation? Anyone’s guess. It will probably vary vastly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In any event, it will also take a long time to do right.

    If you are pessimistic, even places that try to implement such changes will probably see increased violence in the near future and this will taken as evidence that reform isn’t working. So the knout will be back on the menu.

  38. The militarized police are plenty qualified to handle their actual intended role–the boot on the neck of the working class.

    The more unjust and absurd the wealth gap as the screws get tighter and tighter, the more the need to enforce that absurd wealth with a goon squad.

    Sending a mental health trained counselor on a ride-along might soften the impact in a few tactical encounters, but the grand strategy will not be curtailed by any reform initiated by the “leaders.”

  39. Kragar: I think you are making a few assumptions here.

    In most cases counselors would not be dispatched along with the police. They would either be operating in the community on a long term basis to prevent incidents or intervening without police back up.

    Defund originates with protestors, not leaders.

    Basically people want to reallocate resources to sane community services. With the underlying assumption that this will drastically reduce the need for police, thus allowing the size of the force to be cut. For their part, I think most police would prefer that social services be expanded AND the police continue to get their ridiculous military style budgets. Because the police don’t actually like getting involved in most of these cases. But they still want their pay and they still want the power.

    Obviously there is not going to be enough money for both of these things. And we probably agree on how this is going to play out in the intermediate term.

  40. Well in my town the trained mental health specialist ride in the police car with the officer on calls about those experiencing symptoms.

    So that’s not an assumption, it is an actual reform that I have literally seen with my own eyes.

    But all the additional training and reforms and improved recruitment in the world will not change the character of US police departments.

    The need for police will not be reduced until the underlying economic conditions change. Elite wealth and property and the orderly conduct of business as usual will need more and more brutal enforcement as wages keep dropping, healthcare is lost, families are evicted from homes, job losses keep increasing, and bodies of the underserved communities literally pile up because the government has consciously chosen and even encouraged a situation where the virus is claiming thousands and thousands of lives in poor communities.

  41. The difference between me and other posters here is that I see the structures of capitalism that historically have made police the protectors of that system are not all that is out there. Ever interacted with a cop in old E. Germany or Hungary?

    Statistically female police officers interactions with the public result in fewer than one half as many arrests or violence. The old saw, give a man a hammer and every problem is a nail applies. Give a cop a gun or a club and thet’ll be his tool.
    Kragar’s description a mental health ride along is a basic reform that will not solve racism or capitalism. But do it. As a life long socialist, as old or older tham most here, I am still waiting for systemic change.
    I pretty much agree with Privateiron.
    I guess that I’m a Fabian. Don’t stop working for what you can.

  42. One thing to remember is that the police are at least nominally answerable to the public, and they are the ones who show up to protect small businesses and individuals as well as the wealthy. Given the massive international size of G4S, the wealthy may actually be deciding that private police are cheaper than public, and so may actually be the ones calling for defunding the police now (or did you really think that the BLM movement was a spontaneous grassroots movement not supported by the corporate world?), with the funds not going anywhere else other than to lower their taxes. Everywhere I go around the world, the G4S uniform is ubiquitous. You may wish for the police to be stronger if they are replaced by giant private security firms which really only work for the wealthy. It is the small businesses that will go out of business wherever a protest turns into a riot that results in destruction and looting with no police protection, and the giant corporations will just end up being that much stronger.

    Pinkerton’s anyone?

  43. skzb

    I think Kragar has gotten to the essence of it. The police–more generally, the state–exist because of inequality. The state first rose with private property, and it’s job is repression. We could predict (we have predicted, I have predicted, in this blog) that increasing inequality must bring greater repression, but we no longer need such predictions, because it’s happening. The police exist to enforce inequality, using as much violence as they or their masters believe is necessary.

    The call to defund the police, when coming from politicians, is an effort to end the protests without changing the nature of the police, and is a deception.

    The same demand, coming spontaneously from protesters, is a demand to fundamentally change the nature of the police, the problem there is the belief that this is possible. That requires we explain the relationship between the police and production for private profit–in general, with inequality. Which, in fact, is exactly what Kragar is doing.

  44. mser: “wherever a protest turns into a riot that results in destruction and looting with no police protection”

    Why do you describe this as a potential future? This is the *present* we are living in. Police have been ostentatiously, proudly, neglecting to take action against actual rioters and looters for weeks now. They’re not even bothering to be subtle about it. (This is leaving aside the credible allegations that many of the rioters and looters (as opposed to, y’know, protesters) ARE police.)

  45. skzb

    Alexx is correct. Many are police, others are white supremacists. As for the rest, a riot is what happens when there is revolutionary outrage without revolutionary consciousness. The solution, in my opinion, is to build revolutionary consciousness.

  46. Alex: I apologize if my wording was confusing. I was using the current rioting resulting in the destruction of many small businesses, where police have been told to stand down in mostly poorer neighborhoods, as an example of both how the protests are actually supporting the wealthiest corporations who can afford massive private security in one explicit goal of oligarchs which is to destroy all competition (note the wealthiest people in the world, Jeff Bezos and the Walton family, both became wealthy by adopting business strategies which were designed to destroy smaller businesses) and well as how a future world of only having privatized police might lead to this being the norm. Also, note that the mafia started in Sicily as a way of protecting small businesses due to a lack of any effective law enforcement. Do we really want the poorer neighborhoods in the US to turn into completely gang-run favelas? That is what will happen if there is a general defunding of public police with no accompanying improvement of the welfare of the poor and working class.

    Also, note that the right wing agenda has been to decry the performance of all public institutions so that they can either be gotten rid of or be turned into profit making private companies that can then neglect or rip off the poorest (eg. charter schools, prisons, utilities, efforts to privatize the post office, massive use of private support services who exploit poor people from India and Pakistan to do the kind of duties that used to be done by military personnel). However abusive they are, the police are one of the politically strongest unionized public institutions, exactly the kind of institutions that the libertarian right wing has been trying to destroy. So, tell me exactly how does the current “defund the police” movement oppose the long term goals of the oligarchy?

  47. mser, we are more in agreement than not. The best kind of argument!

    We agree that the Mafia is bad — but the current state of US police is but little better. We agree that it is critical to improve “the welfare of the poor and working class.”

    The US police, as you say, “are one of the politically strongest unionized public institutions”. For the moment, I would argue that they constitute a branch of the oligarchy themselves. “Oligarchy” not being a monolithic block, it may well be that other oligarchs would like to see the police replaced with private security.

    Defunding the police is not, I agree, particularly opposed to the long term goals of the oligarchy. It *is* however, strongly opposed to the oligarchy’s short-term goals of keeping oppressed people quiet and too frightened to act. Long term goals — for any faction — cannot be implemented without a lot of shorter-term goals, including basic survival and group coordination.

  48. skzb

    mser’s remark correctly points out one of the flaws in the worship of the small business, as if it were a question of the big companies being “evil” and small businesses being “less evil.” Indeed, it is the larger production facilities that, under democratic workers control, will provide the greatest benefits from cooperation and planned production.

    The point of the demand to defund or disband the police is not that it is a useful demand—on the contrary, it is asking the bourgeois state to kill itself, which it obviously will not do. As such, the demand reflects political naivety. The state will have to be destroyed and replaced with a workers state, as part of which process the police force will be dealt with by the revolutionary masses.

    What is important about these demands, to the degree that they emerge spontaneously from protesters, is that they show the changes in thinking of masses of people. That such a demand could come from thousands upon thousands of people was unthinkable even five years ago; ten years ago it was only “lunatic fringe lefties” such as myself who argued that the police force was the violent arm of the enemy class, not simply a random organization of random people some of whom might be good or bad.

    This change is what is significant. By unleashing terror in order to quash anticipated mass opposition, the state has taken large strides in creating that mass opposition. The dialectic of a bankrupt social system is playing out before our eyes.

  49. The current oligarchy has been massively centralising power for decades. Massive increase in the military, massive increases of the national police forces (eg the FBI, TSA, homeland security in general). The fact that these BLM led protests have so strongly been promoted by the MIC media, and that any deviation from them being primarily about racial disparities, rather than the brutal oppression of the poor and working classes in general, being so vociforously shut down by the entire elite makes me feel that the oligarchy has simply reached the conclusion that locally controlled public police are now considered obsolete and will be replaced. Accompanying this is the promotion of censorship and a powerful echoing of the officially accepted language and ritualized behavior in academia, HR deparments, as well as the mass media. The goal of the oligarchy is to maintain a large underclass whose lives are of little relative value. Historically in the USA, this was the primary role of racism, which was just an extension of the age old valuing of what family you are from. Now, that role is being taken up by academia pretending that we are heading towards a meritocracy where a person’s value is determined by how well they do at the University. The biggest increasing wealth gap is between those with a high school diploma vs. those with a college degree. However, that is too simple of a distinction. If you can get into an elite institution and do well in the right subjects, you get to be in the top 10%. If not, well… The message I hear from the elites who promote BLM is that poor whites (who make up the majority of the poor, as well as the majority of those killed by police) have no excuse for being poor since they were born with all this “privelege”, and hence they deserve their misery and they deserve to be paid next to nothing for the vast majority of jobs where a college education is unnecessary and useless for doing that job anyway. I see this as an attempt to focus the masses attention on the disparity between races rather than asking what justification is there for the disparity between what a CEO makes and what a janitor makes. Not to mention the disparity between those who can telecommute and so keep making money during a pandemic (i.e largely those with a job requiring a college education) and those who cannot. As far as I can tell from an ocean away, they are succeeding.

  50. But the elite’s best technique previously was funneling popular movements into National Democratic politics. I don’t see a lot of Biden signs in the throng of protestors. The corporate owned media are characterizing the protests as primarily BLM and anti-racist, and that spin can certainly work in the elites favor. But facts on the ground are making it more and more obvious that such a characterization is a gross oversimplification.

  51. skzb

    I pretty much agree with both mser and Kragar. The only point I’d make to mser (not a disagreement) is that we are more than passive observers to this process. A part of how it falls out depends on us and our ability to make these things clear to others.

  52. One (I think rather mild) disagreement with mser (and others): To speak of “the oligarchy” having “decisions” and “goals” is akin to saying that evolution “wants” survival of the fittest. The oligarchy is made up of many different actors, many of whom are often working at cross-purposes, and all of whom are fallible human beings who often do not work efficiently towards their goals. To speak of this complex group as a unitary entity with specific desires and plans can often be a useful shorthand — but like all useful shorthand, it can also be a trap.

  53. skzb

    Alexx: The significant and important thing about that is that, while it is reasonable to speak of “the oligarchy” as in those who exercise significant control over the resources and political direction of a given state, it is also true that they are full a conflicts among themselves, and far, FAR from free actors. They are as much caught in a failing system as much as anyone (though I somehow fail to generate any sympathy for their dilemma).

  54. There is a passage in Peace where a rich banker explains that he has no interest in running his bank, but that if he gave it away to someone else, his relatives would put him in a home.

    If the CEOs of today don’t work to slash employee wages, crush unions, ruin neighborhoods, exploit nature, all in the name of short term profits, the same thing will happen to them and the board will replace them with a new CEO who will.

  55. skzb

    Sociopathy is built into the system.

  56. Or— the system is built for sociopathy.

  57. If only we could just talk to the oligarchs and convince them to “knock it off.”

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