by Nat Winn, Kasama Editorial Working Group
The system has laid down THEIR verdict. Now, and in the coming days, the people will give OUR verdict.
It has been a long time since the people, in their broad mass, have anticipated and prepared to respond to the oppression and disregard that the United States government has shown Black youth. The police murder of Michael Brown in August of this year in the small midwest town of Ferguson, Missouri, has served as a rallying call to young Black people and all who support their fight against oppression. Both the racist authorities and the people in the streets have been anxiously awaiting this decision on whether to indict Brown's murderer, which is now here.
The national guard has already been called out. The emergency has already been declared. And the people in the streets have been building together to insure that the mockery of justice that is now upon us doesn't go unchallenged.
Predictably, yet another Black life is deemed expendable, and the right of the police to wage a reign of terror over Black communities has again been validated by the grand jury's decision.
Now those of us who stand with the young people of Ferguson must tell the truth: in order to seek justice, to end oppression — the people themselves must unite and rise up. There will be no condescending saviors. We must decide our duty and do it well.
There are times in history when “the people” run ahead of the revolutionary forces in society. While it is clear that many communists, anarchists and other revolutionary-minded people have been strengthening ties with the people in Ferguson and preparing to respond to the grand jury decision that was just laid down; it is also true that the decision may potentially lead to events that we as an emerging revolutionary ecosystem are not yet prepared to influence.
And yes — revolutionaries should seek to engage movements such as the one in Ferguson to help lead them in a revolutionary direction.
What then is it that revolutionaries can provide to the people of Ferguson and their allies?
A crack in a faultline
The rebellion in Ferguson and its aftermath is reflective of a larger problem that the government (at national and local levels) cannot easily resolve or co-opt. Look at how many times the brutality of the police has led to these kind of rebellions within Black communities: Police brutality was the cause of urban rebellions in the 1960s including Watts, to Rodney King in the 1990s, to Cincinnati in 2001, to East Flatbush last year after Kimani Gray was killed, to Ferguson today.
Why is this? Why can't the government and its lackeys like Al Sharpton contain and satisfy the anger of Black people, especially youth? Wouldn't it be easy for the government to just arrest this cop, bring him out in handcuffs and take him to jail? And yet this doesn't happen – and that has been a pattern.
The answer with this has to do with the role of police in relation to Black people.
Black people have been pushed to the margin of societies. The US rulers have not figured a way in which to integrate Black people into the economy since the turn toward de-industrialization.
Increasingly many Black people are unemployed for most of their lives and targeted for prison and ethnic cleansing. They are being isolated, frequently being pushed out of urban cores with the poor enclaves in which they live surrounded and occupied by police forces.
Why are the police given all the military equipment we now see them using in Ferguson? What is all that for?
The fact is that it is the job of these police to terrorize Black people. This is what they are trained to do. They are taught during their training, just as we are taught through mass media, that Black youth will not work, that they are criminal, and that they must be controlled. This is not a question of “some bad cops” or of “hiring cops from the communities they patrol.” The pigs are the pigs. Their role is to terrorize Black people and there is no reforming that basic fact.
This is why the county police in Ferguson think that it was okay to murder Michael Brown. This is why no branch of government will just arrest him. What kind of message would it send to their police, bedrock of this system of repression? If police were prosecuted for brutalizing and executing Black people, then police couldn't do their job, there would be no trust between the police and their political leaders and the system that oppresses Black people wouldn't work.
It must first be realized that the events in Ferguson represent a faultline in the broader society. That is, it is a problem of the capitalist system of oppression that cannot be easily resolved or co-opted by the ruling classes.
Rebellion is right, but it is not revolution
The rebellion in Ferguson has inspired all who care about human liberation.
But street fighting is not the same as revolution and we need to turn the righteous anger of Black youth into disciplined revolutionary organization.
Some sincere people would have the idea that what is needed is to spread the rebellion in Ferguson to other parts of the country. Theirs is the mistaken belief that the key thing that is needed right now is more Fergusons, more riots.
While the spread of rebellions in several urban Black suburban neighborhoods could have a positive effect on the consciousness and fighting spirit of the people, such rebellions alone will not, by themselves, lead to liberation. Obviously we think solidarity actions, including urban rebellions with a real base in their community, are good. But are they enough?
Some revolutionary-minded people have put out calls for nationwide action with the hopes of spreading rebellion in the neighborhoods where they are. Is this the key thing that communists should be doing? Do communist networks exist with real ties to the people so that such calls can have the desired effect? If not this call for action, then what?
What Ferguson exposes is the urgent need for communist organization.
We need to do real work to develop networks of people that can respond to events like Ferguson and have real influence over the debates in the broader society when events like Ferguson pop off. Pretending like such networks already occur will not work.
To be clear, there are emerging networks being formed among revolutionaries and this is obviously positive. However this will not replace networks between revolutionaries and the broader people, which are currently primitive. If the people engage in street fighting, then they should be supported and joined, but this cannot be replaced by small revolutionary networks spread out around the country seeking to ignite such rebellions through sheer force of will.
The outrage of the people needs to be transformed into revolutionary organization, not merely courageous yet unorganized fighting. The people in Ferguson are seeing the need for organization and creating it. But there needs to be revolutionary organization. These can include organizations at many levels: Street level organizing projects, mutual aid projects, strong media projects, revolutionary art, music, the capacity for rigorous investigation into 21st century political economy, and more.
All this involves fusing communist ideas with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. We need to have a sense of direction – direction toward developing the strategy and program that can challenge the existing order of things, and truly begin to liberate Black people and all those who suffer from the inequality, alienation, and misery of capitalism.
Faultlines as spaces where communist organization can take root
Openings to connect communist ideas with a section of the people are not spread evenly throughout society. Those problems in society that are very hard for the ruling classes to resolve have disproportionate potential for communists to develop connections with broader sections of the people. The brutalization and murder of Black people by the police has provoked militant resistance time and time again, It is correct to organize around this fault line.
In Ferguson the people have stared down the barrel of the police gun and have stood their ground. There are those who have argued that there is no potential for revolutionary change in the United States. They say that the majority of society is bought off, more concerned with owning the new iPhone or Nike sneakers than with fighting for liberation.
What would such skeptics have to say about Ferguson, about the willingness of the people to risk arrest and physical harm to demand justice for a young man gunned down by police in their small town? It seems clear that Ferguson in fact reveals something deep about the potential for struggle. But how fundamental the nature of this struggle becomes is now key.
We communists work from the understanding that the people in Ferguson and around the world need liberation. Our responsibilities are not merely to tail behind the spontaneity of the rebellion. We need to be building the types of organization and developing the sophisticated networks that can challenge this society and its rulers that perpetrate police murder of Blacks. What we can offer at our best is a strategy and program for liberation that many people can unite around.
Illusions about the potential for justice in the capitalist USA are worn thin in places like Ferguson. This is a moment when it's important to crystallize what oppressed people are teaching us every day about the way the world works with ways of sustaining the fight and pointing it toward victory.