Analysis: Police Reforms, a Pyrrhic Victory

By Ed Dalton

The reformists have ridden the wave of mass rebellion, trafficking in the oppression of the people to claim a ‘victory’ with Austin’s ‘defund the police’ campaign.  To understand why this is not a victory for the people at all, we have to examine the cause and response by dividing the matter into two parts.

On the one hand, losing roughly $20 million dollars from the police budget is a drop in the ocean, but still enough to shake up the most conservative among the ruling class. Why are the most conservative sectors of the ruling class so upset? Because the protest movement slapped the police in the face and forced the more liberal section to pass the cuts as a form a financial penalty. This still does not qualify as a victory for the people of Austin.

In response to the liberal city council, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor have already declared that they will increase patrols and deployment of Texas Department of Public Safety (state police) officers into the streets. As protesters and anyone else acquainted with the state troopers are already aware, they are far more brutal and fascistic than the regular police and face less restrictions and oversight.

The liberal bourgeoisie made a gamble to placate the mass movement and score points during the elections, but their maneuvers, backed up by the phony ‘socialists,’ have all the hallmarks of making the matter worse. Even the small slap from city council was answered definitively with a blow from the state government.

The reformist dreams of using decreased funding as a way to convince their murderous army to be less murderous, as if the root cause of racist police killings was the result of high police budgets and not the systemic racism inherent in the capitalist mode of production, centered around private property.

The ‘police abolitionists’ are equally as reformist and absurd as city council, maybe even more so. While it is appealing to imagine a world without police, such a world is impossible without abolishing class society and states entirely—there will be no police abolition without the whole world entering communism.

The police function as an armed repressive wing of the ruling class, as part of the state. No budget cuts or reforms will ever change this hideous function of the police, and they cannot be done away with as long as they are necessary to the function and maintenance of class society. While the phony ‘socialists’ offer next to nothing with their petty and superficial budget cuts, the anarchists offer nothing at all and just verbally vomit their runaway imaginations. Neither of these cretins, who both traffic in the oppression of the people, have a tangible program to lead the people toward totally overcoming the police and abolishing them along with all the other manifestations of class society. This is where Communists come in, but before delving into this point, we should further examine the conditions at play in Austin and other parts of the US.

The people have proven, especially with the May Uprisings, that it takes riots to make the so-called ‘progressive’ ruling class even pay attention. Austin has had the same city council for years, and it did not take action when the police slaughtered Mike Ramos in cold blood back in April. They continued pushing luxury developments that displace the people in the very same area that Ramos was killed, displacing those exactly like him and thrusting them further into poverty, making them even more likely to be targeted by police abuse and murder. The liberal reformist city council has the blood of the people all over their hands and it took fires, bottles, rocks, and beating up several police to get the vermin to listen. In all this they sniffed out a payday, which they neatly combine with a plan to sweep the mass movement under the rug of reforms. Within the movement they have their agents, those without uniforms who plug the reforms and nothing else, all the while demanding ‘non-violence,’ meaning a docile response to oppressive state violence.

The conservatives would prefer to crush the protest movement with force and drown it in blood. They have carried this out with enthusiasm in the streets of Austin, using both the Austin police and state police to do it. Anything from their liberal counterparts is too much for them to bear, they want even more money for repression rather than the same amount, let alone a minor decrease. Both agree that the police are necessary to bash the poor, the Black, the brown, and the rest of the working class into submission; they are united in systemic racism. One camp seeks to use the police to bludgeon the people always, while the latter seeks to criminalize the people through social workers.

It is quite common that bourgeois social workers, addiction, and mental health experts place a jacket on the poor, labeling them with terms which will classify them for their entire lives, making existence in the system even harder under capitalism. The social worker’s role is mainly to preserve capitalist society, they are not from and for the people. In any case, they are not suited to resolve the contradictions that force people into contact with the police to begin with. Even with $20 million more dollars divided up between them, they will still end up calling the police on children, on the elderly, on the homeless, etc., and the police will oblige with their typical callous brutality. Creating a middle man between the people and the police does nothing to halt police killings.

The state of Texas, just like the US government, is not going to tolerate anything that could curtail the police, it is in their very makeup to be enemies of the people. They will never choose to stop, because the police do not do what they do out of ignorance or malice; while they are surely ignorant and malicious, this too is a byproduct of capitalism due to their function as police and not their own personal dispositions. It is fruitless to fault the individual cogs in a machine when the whole thing is designed to bring death.

Texas will cite a million excuses to increase policing in the form they prefer. They rely on the fact that Austin is a capital city and has government officials living and working there, and they will work up all the business owners out of concerns for tourists; these are things they are already doing.

While the reformers rushed in to the scene late, and only when they saw thousands amass in the streets under militant and revolutionary leadership, the militants and revolutionaries had already been on the ground fighting the police presence in the community. The Mike Ramos Brigade (MRB), which had yet to establish its name and before they even knew Mike’s name, were on the ground within minutes of his killing, mobilizing their neighbors and making it clear that this crime against the people would be met with a fight. MRB does not ask for budget cuts or ask the state for the state’s ‘justice’ they demand People’s Justice.

People’s Justice means that the people bring justice to those who have harmed them, and not allowing the system to police itself. Those seeking People’s Justice have already fined the city of Austin with unknown costs of destruction during the uprisings. It is true that the struggle for People’s Justice can force the state to counter with their own phony ‘justice,’ and in these scenarios they might even (lightly) punish a few police officers. The immediate demand is that the state take action against the individual officers, only because at this point the people lack the organic forms necessary to punish them severely and outside of the system. Militant organizing has this goal in mind though, more than any pipe dream of ‘abolition’ in a class society.

In the strategic sense, People’s Justice is accomplished through New Power, which is won in the armed struggle—People’s War. The people instinctually know that to force the enemy to put down the gun, they have to take up the gun with the goal of everyone putting down the gun—there is no other way.

The militant’s viewpoint is neither defunding nor ‘abolishing’ the police, it is understanding the need to quite literally overthrow the entire ruling class and every single one of the apparatuses it uses to oppress and exploit the people. What is most important is that, while this is a strategic consideration, it provides the tactics to create the organic forms the people require to make People’s War by organizing the living struggles of the people today, tomorrow, and in the near future. Through organization in the active participation of the people’s class struggles, the militants conquer leadership and support from the people.

This is the current line that those in the struggle must grasp, and they must be warned against disguised capitulation in the form of voting and meager, easily reversible reforms. While it would be counterproductive to ignore the fact that the police are given far too much funding, it is equally counterproductive to imagine that less funding makes the police any safer for the people. Principles of refusing to work with the police, refusing to call the police, refusing to cooperate with their investigations, and self-defense against the police are the principles which must be espoused above any talk of ‘defunding’ or any mystical views that they can be abolished while class society remains intact.

This means speaking up for the necessity of armed socialist revolution in the US, reconstituting the Communist Party, developing its army, and constructing its united front so that it can conquer power, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, and continue the revolution under it until the whole world can enter the classless, stateless society together, free of police and all oppressors and exploiters. This is not a dream, it is an inevitability, and we all must decide where we stand so that preserving this decaying and vulgar system of abuse is no longer a considerable option. 

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