Appeals to “community” in the face of anti-police riots in Baltimore and elsewhere ignore the inherent class contradictions at the root of these conflicts.
Law and order and the sanctity of property: these are the rallying cries of those who would crush the outburst in Baltimore, just as in Ferguson, or L.A. In response to what cannot be understood, the capitalist press, and all the forces of capitalist society are marshaled against what can only be represented as an irrational and almost weather-like phenomenon. Local newsmen report on the temperament of ‘the crowd’ from the only place where such an assessment can be made: the ground. And on the ground, one imperative is stressed: safety.
Safety for who? In Baltimore, over the past four years more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.
Here we cannot avoid race and class. ‘The crowd’ in Baltimore, as in Ferguson, is made up of working class people, mostly black and Latino. The councilmen, the NGO-presidents, the statesmen and the property owners are not being gunned down by thugs in uniform. And those same capitalist-sycophants turn out in droves to bemoan the reckless behavior of protesters. There are two essential sides to the same pacifying coin: Capitalist Disgust, and Pacifist Condemnation. The capitalist disgust tends to simply reject the people engaged in rioting whole cloth as thugs, criminals, gangsters, violent, always holding up the sanctity of property. The pacifying agents of “the community” work to prop up the abstract humanity of protesters (They are not thugs! They are our children!) while simultaneously being unable to genuinely support “their children” against capitalism.
The failure here is partly in taking the “black community” as such. Instead of recognizing the dividing role played by classes, those who would engage protesters do so along the lines of representing “the community” (which in this case is composed primarily of property owners) in the name of “black unity.” In order to represent the black community (and to whom are they representing the black community?), would-be “leaders” must, before anything else, declare the sanctity of property over life. The old capitalist tradition of stamping out human life for the rights of property holders is alive and well.
Think about it: Monday April 27, after having planned something of a protest over the weekend prior, students were pre-empted by police in an attempt to disperse them. The method the police applied? By many accounts they were stopping buses, snatching off students and teachers and forcing them to walk home, after being dumped out of schools early. Surrounded and hounded by cops, the students fought back, as can be seen from various videos online.
As the protesters continued, they ransacked a CVS and a 7-11. And the capitalists want to tell you that they are thugs, they are criminals, savages, animals. Bullshit. They were making good on the promise all too often spit out by leftist sycophants: No justice, no peace. Your property isn’t worth shit. Facing their unfreedom, in the form of pigs decked out in blue and black with shinning badges and trigger-happy hooves, the Baltimore kids revolted. In the ensuing days we can’t be mislead by the potential arrest of officers responsible for Freddie’s death, or any “community” spectacle, invoking the need for “peace” between working class youth and cops.
As communists we ought to:
1. Find ways to practically support young working class people in revolt. Help them avoid police capture, help them with legal defense. This will be difficult from afar, which is why it is still necessary for national level fraternization between communist groups.
2. Support the formation of working class elements in Baltimore and elsewhere in practical struggle against white supremacy in the form of police brutality, job discrimination, and more. This means working to build solidarity among diverse elements of the class, encouraging education on race and capitalism, and building a direct action movement centered on concrete demands. This means aiding in the development of effective tactics and strategy. We don’t have all the answers. But engaging with working class elements on those terms is the first step to finding solutions.
3. Cops are not workers. They are wage-earners who’ve joined the other team. Somebody who seeks to daily crack the skull of the working class, to break the hands of some hungry soul stealing a slurpee is no friend of the working class. Workers need to defend themselves against this menace. With black workers being the most targeted by police in the United States, all workers have a stake in supporting them to fight back and avoid police brutality.