Notes on Advancing the Struggle Outside: Redefining Crime
"As did witch hunters in the past do we still have 'criminal' scapegoats?" This is a good question but a better one to ask is "are we still sometimes misled by authorities who define crime in their own interests or out of ignorance, as authorities did in dealing with witchcraft?"(1) For those conscious of being oppressed this isn't a hypothetical, but an actual problem to be solved. Even those unconscious of the political situation, living in the barrios, this is an everyday problem; it is reality. The problem turns on what is "criminal" and who should define "crime"?
Nobody doubts that poverty, lack of legitimate opportunities and such in the barrio leads people to alternative methods of survival, which the system has declared criminal. Consider this: a brown boy grows up in a violent, poverty-stricken barrio. He is denied most, if not all, "socially appropriate" methods/means for success (e.g., role models to learn from, positive environment, good education, adequate employment opportunities). Without access to approved avenues for social survival — yet still held to society's expectations — our brown boy turns to alternative means and learns the perils of the injustice system. Is it criminal that he turned to the only obvious option available? Or is it criminal that capitalists have attempted to make that his only option?
The United States has an injustice system which focuses on the actions of an individual, not on the reason, motivation, or purpose. To address this failing and irradiate it, those caught up in the vicious cycle must rise up. Our communities must also join in the necessary revolution for hope of success. Activism on a proactive level is needed. We cannot be liberal-minded (reforming without making substantive changes to the system structure) in our objectives. Changing only definitions ignores the problem, which is the process itself. Reform of existing systems is equal to affirming their correctness but asserting that some fine-tuning is needed. Such is not the case.
A quantifiable and qualitative change is necessary which cannot be accomplished within the current system.(2) We, the people, must construct independent resources and systems if we are ever to supplant capitalism and its inherent inequality. In pursuit of this, our community members must connect with prisoners (current and former), coordinating and cooperating, building and spreading consciousness, correct political views, theory, practice and support for the movimiento.
One's actions cannot be labeled criminal if those are the only options made available. Today our communities generally face an alternative of evils: spend one's life struggling within a system meant to keep us outside the power structure, never progressing, or refuse to be subjugated and be labeled criminal. The choice is between a slow and torturous death and surviving by "crime." Those not faced with this drastic choice of evils cannot rightfully say what is and is not criminal.
"Law provides the baseline for formal social control. Criminalization of behaviors is a political process..."(3) The first steps towards changing this political process — the arbitrariness of labeling procedures — is to correct the criterion of what constitutes crime. From there, remove those who have contributed to labeling criminality and re-educating them as communists did in China during the 1950s.(4) Pressure from below provoking pressure from above to induce meaningful change.(5) Supplanting capitalism is a marathon not a mile-long race. Every stage must be approached and accomplished with care and attention. We revolutionaries must be methodical, concise and avoid impertinence. Success will come, just not overnight.