By David Martinez
In a press briefing in late July, Biden told reporters that, in essence, his views on protesters do not differ much from Trump’s.
“I think we do need to hold those who violate the law accountable,” Biden said. “We should never let what’s done in a march for equal rights overcome what the reason for the march is. And that’s what these folks are doing. And they should be arrested — found, arrested and tried.”
Any person participating in the current movement for Black lives should flat out condemn this statement. This is only the liberal version of Trump’s ‘antifa’ boogeyman, an obvious ‘law and order’ strategy to signal to his fellow imperialists he’s still their guy, and hold on to the most right-wing Democrats and independents while drawing in the conservatives who can’t bring themselves fully on board with Trump’s more open appeals to fascism. They prefer the Democrats’ more politely crafted denunciations of rebellion.
But the goal is the same. Both Biden and Trump, as members of the imperialist ruling class, do not want any type of protest they can’t co-opt or outright control. Even as Trump tries to crack down, he still makes distinctions to feign support for ‘peaceful protest’ and has declared he’s, “an ally of all peaceful protesters.”
It should be clear by now to all those in the struggle against the police and their brutality that the strategy of distinguishing ‘legal, peaceful’ protest from ‘criminal, violent’ protest is the ruling class’ attempt to divide protesters and crush the militants, particularly the most advanced elements of the working class. The bourgeoisie does not want any protest that threatens their hold on the people or their ability to rule. Streets full of people ‘without permits,’ confronting and clashing with police, blocking highways, taking direct action against property, fighting back against reactionaries – all of these things cause social disruption and economic impacts that imperialists can’t tolerate.
This strategy to divide protesters has become more effective as the proletarian character of the protests has weakened. The first weeks of protests reached inspiring heights of rebellion because the working class, particularly the Black working class, did not hold back and came out into the streets to smash any agent or symbol of this dying system, and did so without agonizing over the ‘right’ way to protest. And their message was heard, despite the lies of liberals and opportunists who claim that violence ‘doesn’t get the message across.’ It indeed does get the message across.
When people first took the streets in Minneapolis, reports were saying there would be no indictment of the officers who killed George Floyd. 48 hours later, as the precinct that killed Floyd burned to the ground, the ruling class was forced to prosecute and arrest his murderers, knowing full-well that the people would not be satisfied with anything less (and we know that this is still not enough).
But as many proletarians have left the protest movement due to the lack of consolidated leadership, the pacifists, reformists, and worst of all, the election pushers, have flowed in. They have the gall to tell us to vote for Biden as an alternative to Trump, even as he wants to hunt and prosecute the comrades who are out on the streets pushing militant action in its many forms.
The vote pushers and reformists can’t even get Biden to back the current consensus of the liberal left, which is to ‘defund’ police departments around the country. Biden stated his position in an interview with CNN on Monday.
“I don’t want to defund police,” Biden said. “I want to get police more money in order to deal with the things they badly need, from making sure they have access to community policing, that they have also in the departments social workers, psychologists, people who in fact can handle those god-awful problems that a cop has to have four degrees to handle.”
Biden even undermines the liberal left’s own misguided lines. They say they want to defund the police in order to give those resources to other departments, such as actual psychologists, or providing resources directly to communities instead of keeping them in the hands of the cops. Instead, Biden wants to put badges on therapists and guns on their hips. He wants to fund PR stunts such as ‘Coffees with a Cop’ and basketball games. But once the cameras are gone, those ‘community’ police officers will stop and frisk the same kid they were just playing with. We know that any dime that stays with the police will be used to degrade and brutalize the people.
Defunding the police is not a long-term or effective strategy to stop racist police violence, but as a demand, revolutionaries can unite with those who uphold it, while explaining that it is merely a way to deal blows to the enemy’s supply line in the institutional realm. But the pursuit of these institutional demands must never come at the expense of isolating the militants and revolutionaries. Revolutionaries must explain that nothing less than overthrowing this social order and its rotten economic system will remove the base of the ruling class’ power. This unwillingness to concede and collaborate is why militants are targeted and the ruling class wishes to make examples of them.
Without a permit, it is illegal to block a street and in most places it is illegal to use a megaphone or amplified sound in public. Any protester who participates in these things is committing a ‘criminal’ act. Whether they justify it as being ‘non-violent’ – fellow protesters should not be attempting to distance themselves from the militants standing beside them who may take further action. Do not allow Biden and the imperialist state to target the militants with silence or participation in their vilification campaigns and criminal prosecutions.
Bourgeois justice is not justice at all. When the US imperialist state prosecutes a crime, it does not do so out of concern for the people – it is selectively enforced against the people generally and the working class specifically, especially the most advanced parts of it. Do not be deceived – Biden upholds this dying system’s ‘law and order’ as steadfastly and forcefully as Trump does.
Biden’s appeals to law and order are merely the most recent version of his long history of backing racist policing and an anti-people justice system. Biden infamously championed the 1994 crime bill which has been cited as kickstarting the era of mass incarceration. As chair of the Senate judiciary committee, he drafted the bill, and in a speech on the senate floor, Biden said “One step is “you must take back the streets” and you take back the streets by: more cops, more prisons, more physical protection for the people.” History shows that the imperialists simply come back to sweep the messes they created the first-time around right back under the rug.
We can expect the electoral opportunists to continue to defend Biden as a preferable alternative, even as he shows that he does not support the reformists’ most modest demands. The electoralists live in a fantasy and expect us all to delude ourselves as they have done. Without shame, they use the murders of Black people to push us towards voting for another imperialist like Biden. These vote pushers are grave robbers, using the corpses of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and countless others as props to demand we vote for those who put our people in the grave in the first place.
Trump and Biden both want to maintain this system as it is, or make it even more brutal. Every word that comes out of their mouth is in service of this goal, and when protesters find themselves repeating their words or ideas, they are only parroting the most backward, vile lines of the US ruling class. To combat this, when we hear a political statement (all statements are political), we must ask, “what class does this serve?” Biden and Trump serve one class, the imperialist bourgeoisie. As divided as its representatives can be in their statements, their ultimate goals are the same. Voting for either one of them (no matter how reluctantly) and believing the Democrats have any sort of redeeming quality and deserve the people’s support, puts you in the service of the imperialists’ and their goals. Instead, support the militants and keep the fires of rebellion burning in service of the people and socialist revolution.
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