How Should We Respond to Police Violence?
The recent attention to murder and brutality of New Afrikan men by Amerikan police, and the shooting of police officers in Dallas, Texas by Micah X, apparently in retaliation for this brutality, inspired a lot of thoughtful letters from across the country. Many commented on the need to take up the gun to fight those with guns.
A contributor in Florida asked:
"So, my question is this: how effective and appropriate was the brother's actions (or sacrifice) at this point in time, or what do we, you and the readers make of all this? Are there any lessons, a message, or information to be learned from all of this? Or, ultimately, is there perhaps any more room, space, or a vacuum for more of this kind of self-defense at this point in time? And if so, how does one go about or start preparing, alleviating, educating, demonstrating or organizing for such right now from this example (or lesson) at this point in time? Like Micah X, are we ready to effectively exercise or address any more of this yet - or continue to keep the conversation going?"
If Micah were trying to spark a revolution, this would be a good example of what we call focoism:
The belief that small cells of armed revolutionaries can create the conditions for revolution through their actions. Demonstrated revolutionary victories, the successes of the foci, are supposed to lead the masses to revolution. Focoism often places great emphasis on armed struggle and the immediacy this brings to class warfare. Focoism is different from people's war in that it doesn't promote the mass line as part of guerrilla operations.It is difficult for us to know Micah's goals and intents without having been there and spoken with em. Regardless of eir intents, the outcome of the actions ey took serve as ammunition for the oppressors to continue oppressing. For them, it is much easier to gain (even more) public opinion and sympathy when they are able to point at specific incidents of a member of a movement "mercilessly" gunning down pigs. Remember that the majority of people in power are already on their side.
While revolutionaries and many in the oppressed nations know that Micah's actions were an act of self-defense, white politicians and leaders will never see it that way. As a Federal prisoner wrote to us: "President Obama called what happened in Dallas Texas 'A Vicious, Calculated, Despicable ATTACK!'" In their eyes, violent actions taken against a pig (or pigs) can never be considered self-defense, especially when the "offender" in question is non-white.
At this point, standalone violent actions such as this one serve to incite the government to act with more urgency against those who they perceive threaten them, and allow them to place themselves ever more in the role of "victim," and to place the oppressed in the role of "aggressor."
Violence is a very necessary part of effecting any kind of true change that puts an end to imperialism, but there is a time for it, and that time is not now. Our focus now is on educating and organizing ourselves, so that we are better able to organize those who already see things as we do. It is important to consider what someone with a drive like this could achieve over a lifetime of work.
A contributor in Maryland wrote:
"One of the DJs said one of the solutions was for us to just comply with the pigs no matter what when confronted in the streets by them. Basically, don't dare challenge master. But there can be no change without challenge. Why do we continue to lay down?... The white supremacists of this land have taken up refuge behind the badge. They can never be rooted out. Not by Obama, or anyone else. Remember they got a 200 year head start on us."While it is true that there can be no change without challenge, it is also important to remember that not all challenge enacts change. The pigs in no way deserve respect, compliance or gratitude. And it's true that they won't be rooted out without taking down all of the imperialists first. However, to challenge them now militarily serves to get the wrong people killed and give more instances for the oppressors to point at and say "Look! Look at how irrational and violent they are! We need to give the police more power, for our protection!" The oppressors will always try to paint the oppressed as the villian; we can never avoid this accusation altogether. But we need to look at the balance of forces and ask, in spite of this rhetoric, if we have enough public opinion in our favor that our armed struggle will have enough support to be successful. Suicide missions like Micah's make armed struggle look futile, so we should avoid them until we know we wan win. Even those who have reverence for what Micah did probably wouldn't do it themselves.
Look at the Black Panther Party, and what happened with them. The BPP openly carried guns as a demonstration of potential power, without engaging in focoist actions. But still the Amerikkkan imperialists struck back agressively with guns, drugs and imprisonment, leading to the eventual downfall of the group. We can only expect even more agressive attacks in response to use of the gun. The time for armed struggle is when the fight can be won. Right now, we're not close to that point.
This battle is a good example of why we need a vanguard party to lead the revolutionary struggle, including the armed struggle to take down the imperialists. It also provides some insight into just how hard the bourgeoisie will fight to maintain their position of power. Even after they are defeated militarily by the majority of the world's people we can anticipate that former bourgeois individuals and their lackeys in the police and military, as well as new people who aspire to wealth and power, will not immediately become cooperative and productive members of society serving the people. For this reason we need to think beyond the military battle and into the structure of society after capitalism is overthrown. This is why communists believe we must have a dictatorship of the proletariat under socialism while we undertake the long transition to a society where no groups of people have power over other groups of people. It is tempting to take up the gun now and fight back a death for a death, but we want to build a world where all people contribute productively to the betterment of humynity, and that will take a lot more than the death of a few cops.