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Tag: class war

To Protect and Serve Themselves: Police in US Politics since the 1960s

Police Death, Minneapolis, United States - 30 May 2020

by Stuart Schrader  – Public Culture (2019) 31 (3): 601–623 PDF

The police in the United States were once subject to control by political machines. The professionalization process freed police from this control, but it had an unexpected result. Professionalization meant that police answered primarily to themselves, which enabled them to become self-interested. This process transformed the police into a new type of authoritative political actor. This article examines the history and organizational sociology of the transformation of the police since the 1960s, investigating how, through groups like the International Association of Chiefs of Police, police have advocated on their own behalf and interacted with larger political and economic trends. Separate from their role in crime control, police have become entrepreneurial and resistant to fiscal austerity. This article offers a new characterization of the effects of the “war on crime” and “law and order” politics of the 1960s, while paying attention to the surprising Cold War roots of the political autonomy of police.

 

(see also: Origins of the Police by David Whitehouse; The End of Policing by Alex Vitale)

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We Demand Nothing (2009)

minneapolis 2020

Minneapolis 2020

by J. Kaspar (‘Fire to the Prisons’ # 7, Autumn 2009) PDF read / print

“I do not demand any right, therefore I need not recognize any either.”
– M. Stirner

On the night of August 8th, 2009, hundreds of inmates at the California Institution for Men in Chino rioted for 11 hours, causing “significant and extensive” damage to the medium-security prison. Two hundred and fifty prisoners were injured, with fifty-five admitted to the hospital.

On Mayday 2009, three blocks of San Francisco’s luxury shopping district were wrecked by a roving mob, leaving glass strewn throughout the sidewalk for the shopkeepers, police and journalists to gawk at the next morning.

On the early morning of April 10th, 2009, nineteen individuals took over and locked down an empty university building the size of a city-block on 5th avenue in Manhattan, draping banners and reading communiqués off the roof. Police and university officials responded by sending helicopters, swat teams, and hundreds of officers to break in and arrest them all.

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Social Contagion: Microbiological Class War in China (Chuang, 2020)

CV3

Chuang.org

The Furnace

Wuhan is known colloquially as one of the “four furnaces” (四大火炉) of China for its oppressively hot humid summer, shared with Chongqing, Nanjing and alternately Nanchang or Changsha, all bustling cities with long histories along or near the Yangtze river valley. Of the four, Wuhan, however, is also sprinkled with literal furnaces: the massive urban complex acts as a sort of nucleus for the steel, concrete and other construction-related industries of China, its landscape dotted with the slowly-cooling blast furnaces of the remnant state-owned iron and steel foundries, now plagued by overproduction and forced into a contentious new round of downsizing, privatization and general restructuring—itself resulting in several large strikes and protests in the last five years. The city is essentially the construction capital of China, which means it has played a particularly important role in the period after the global economic crisis, since these were the years in which Chinese growth was buoyed by the funneling of investment funds into infrastructure and real estate projects. Wuhan not only fed this bubble with its oversupply of building materials and civil engineers but also, in so doing, became a real estate boomtown of its own. According to our own calculations, in 2018-2019 the total area dedicated to construction sites in Wuhan was equivalent to the size of Hong Kong island as a whole.

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Other People’s Blood

 

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by Tim Barker 2019 (n+1)

If someone were to make a movie about neoliberalism, there would need to be a starring role for the character of Paul Volcker. As chair of the Federal Reserve from 1979 to 1987, Volcker was the most powerful central banker in the world. These were the years when the industrial workers’ movement was defeated in the United States and the United Kingdom, and third-world debt crises exploded. Both of these owe something to Volcker. On October 6, 1979, after an unscheduled meeting of the Fed’s Open Market Committee, Volcker announced that he would start limiting the growth of the nation’s money supply. This would be accomplished by limiting the growth of bank reserves, which the Fed influenced by buying and selling government securities to member banks. As money became more scarce, banks would raise interest rates, limiting the amount of liquidity available in the overall economy. Though the interest rates were a result of Fed policy, the money-supply target let Volcker avoid the politically explosive appearance of directly raising rates himself. The experiment — known as the Volcker shock — lasted until 1982, inducing what remains the worst unemployment since the Great Depression and finally ending the inflation that had troubled the world economy since the late 1960s. To catalog all the results of the Volcker shock — shuttered factories, broken unions, dizzying financialization — is to describe the whirlwind we are still reaping in 2019.

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Prisons and Class Warfare

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Interview with Ruth Wilson Gilmore 

Clément Petitjean: In Golden Gulag, you analyse the build-up of California’s prison system, which you call “the biggest in the history of the world”. Between 1980 and 2007, you explain that the number of people behind bars increased more than 450%. What were the various factors that combined to cause the expansion of that system? What were the various forces that built up the prison industrial complex in California and in the US?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore: Sure. Let me say a couple of things. I actually found that description of the biggest prison building project in the history of the world in a report that was written by somebody whom the state of California contracted to analyse the system that had been on a steady growth trajectory since the late 1980s. So it’s not even my claim, it’s how they themselves described what they were doing. What happened is that the state of California, which is, and was, an incredibly huge and diverse economy, went through a series of crises. And those crises produced all kinds of surpluses. It produced surpluses of workers, who were laid off from certain kinds of occupations, especially in manufacturing, not exclusively but notably. It produced surpluses of land. Because the use of land, especially but not exclusively in agriculture, changed over time, with the consolidation of ownership and the abandoning of certain types of land and land-use. It also produced surpluses of finance capital – and this is one of the more contentious points that I do argue, to deadly exhaustion. While it might appear, looking globally, that the concept of surplus finance capital seemed absurd in the early 1980s, if you look locally and see how especially investment bankers who specialised in municipal finance (selling debt to states) were struggling to remake markets, then we can see a surplus at hand. And then the final surplus, which is kind of theoretical, conjectural, is a surplus of state capacity. By that I mean that the California state’s institutions and reach had developed over a good deal of the 20th century, but especially from the beginning of the Second World War onwards. It had become incredibly complex to do certain things with fiscal and bureaucratic capacities. Those capacities weren’t invented out of whole cloth, they came out of the Progressive Era, at the turn of the 20th century. In the postwar period they enabled California to do certain things that would more or less guarantee the capacity of capital to squeeze value from labour and land. Those capacities endured, even if the demand for them did not. And so what I argue in my book is that the state of California reconfigured those capacities, and they underlay the ability to build and staff and manage prison after prison after prison. That’s not the only use they made of those capacities once used for various kinds of welfare provision, but it was a huge use. And so the prison system went from being a fairly small part of the entire state infrastructure to the major employer in the state government.

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The Market Police

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by J.W. Mason (Boston Review, 2018)

Review: Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism by Quinn Slobodian

In the neoliberal project, state power is needed to enforce market relations. But because democratic politics can demand broader economic planning, the site of that power must be hidden from politics.

In 1907, in the waning days of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Austria saw its first elections held under universal male suffrage. For some this was progress, but others felt threatened by the extension of the franchise and the mass demonstrations that had brought it about.

The conservative economist Ludwig von Mises was among the latter. “Unchallenged,” he wrote, “the Social Democrats assumed the ‘right to the street.’” The elections and protests implied a frightening new kind of politics, in which the state’s authority came not from above but from below. When a later round of mass protests was violently suppressed—with dozens of union members killed—Mises was greatly relieved: “Friday’s putsch has cleansed the atmosphere like a thunderstorm.”

In the early twentieth century, there were many people who saw popular sovereignty as a problem to be solved. In a world where dynastic rule had been swept offstage, formal democracy might be unavoidable; and elections served an important role in channeling the demands that might otherwise be expressed through “the right to the street.” But the idea that the people, acting through their political representatives, were the highest authority and entitled to rewrite law, property rights, and contracts in the public interest—this was unacceptable. One way or another, government by the people had to be reined in.

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Autonomous Antifa: From the Autonomen to Post-Antifa in Germany

AA_BO

AA/BO: Bloc of the “Antifaschistische Aktion – Bundesweite Organisation“. Northeim, June 4, 1994. (The organization AA/BO was founded in 1992 and disbanded in 2001.)

An Interview with Bender, a German Comrade 
by Paul O’Banion

Bender has been involved in the autonomous movement in Germany since the 1980s, and talks here about his experiences and observations from thirty years of organizing. He addresses the beginnings of the autonomen – the autonomous movement – how Antifa developed out of that in the late 80s and 90s, and has developed since.  He discusses where things are now, in a post-autonomous, post-antifa, German radical Left environment. He is familiar with the situation in the US, and offers lessons for organizing against fascism and all forms of domination. This interview was conducted via email, and Bender’s answers have been edited for clarity.

-Paul O’Banion

Talk about the autonomen: who you are, what political traditions and perspectives are you building on, and what has been your practical and theoretical activity.

Bender: When we talk about “the autonomen,” we speak of the 80s in Germany where the autonomen first appeared and had the character of a movement. It is one outcome of the dynamics of the so-called New Social Movements or, as you call it in the US, the New Left.

As in many other countries, the beginnings of the New Social Movements, from which the autonomous movement of the 80s was one result, was “the long year of ’68,” which in Germany is perhaps best characterised as an “anti-authoritarian revolt.” We have to remember, that the year ‘68 politically lasted much longer than one year.  The movement after ‘68 reached a kind of exhaustion, in which people asked themselves how to go on, which means: how to organize a movement in decline.

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LA ’92: The context of a proletarian uprising

by Aufheben (1992)

Distorted by the bourgeois press, reduced to a mere ‘race riot’ by many on the left, the L.A. rebellion was the most serious urban uprising this century. This article seeks to grasp the full significance of these events by relating them to their context of class re-composition and capitalist restructuring.


April 29th, 1992, Los Angeles exploded in the most serious urban uprising in America this century. It took the federal army, the national guard and police from throughout the country five days to restore order, by which time residents of L.A. had appropriated millions of dollars worth of goods and destroyed a billion dollars of capitalist property. Most readers will be familiar with many of the details of the rebellion. This article will attempt to make sense of the uprising by putting the events into the context of the present state of class relations in Los Angeles and America in order to see where this new militancy in the class struggle may lead.

Before the rebellion, there were two basic attitudes on the state of class struggle in America. The pessimistic view is that the American working class has been decisively defeated. This view has held that the U.S. is – in terms of the topography of the global class struggle – little more than a desert. The more optimistic view held, that despite the weakness of the traditional working class against the massive cuts in wages, what we see in the domination of the American left by single issue campaigns and “Politically Correct” discourse is actually evidence of the vitality of the autonomous struggles of sections of the working class. The explosion of class struggle in L.A. shows the need to go beyond these one-sided views.

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Ain’t No Grave

There ain’t no grave that can hold my body down.
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down.

When I hear that trumpet sound I’m gonna rise right outta the ground
aint’ no grave that can hold my body down.

Well look way down the river and what do you think I see?
I see a band of angels and they’re coming after me.

There ain’t no grave that can hold my body down.
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down.

Well look down yonder Gabriel put your feet on the land and sea.
But Gabriel don’t you blow your trumpet ’til you hear from me.

There ain’t no grave that can hold my body down
ain’t no grave can hold my body down.

Well meet me Jesus meet me meet me in the middle of the air
and if these wings don’t fail me, I will meet you anywhere.

There ain’t no grave that can hold my body down.
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down.

Well meet me mother and father meet me down a river road
and mama you know that I’ll be there when I check in my load.

There ain’t no grave that can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave can hold my body down

There ain’t no grave can hold my body down

Infinite Crisis

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by Jacob Blumenfeld, Brooklyn Rail

Did the world already end? Did we miss the moment of our own expiration? That seems to be the question we are collectively asking ourselves at this moment through the medium of popular culture. No longer satisfied by seeing our planet repeatedly threatened by aliens, disease, robots, nukes, or nature, we find joy in watching humanity manage the fallout of disaster instead of preventing its occurrence. No longer convinced by the theme of the unification of mankind against a universal menace, we take pleasure in watching people divide and fight each other to the death along lines of race, status, and country. To believe in the once utopian ideal of the working classes of all nations joining together to make a more perfect world signifies now more than ever that one is certifiably insane.

Is there any hope left for a future without perpetual war, economic crises, environmental catastrophes, rampant misogyny, racist violence, gross inequalities, horrendous prisons, endless work? Nothing points that way. Utopia was always a stillborn idea, pronounced dead on arrival to this world we must leave. For some, the world only gets better by including more people in the wealth of society. For others, the world only improves by investing capital in productive lines of industry. Most people, however, don’t care one way or another. The point is to survive, to manage my own exploitation as best as possible until society lets me cash out with enough money to feed myself, pay my debts, and watch my kids and grandkids fall with delight towards a much worse existence.

This is the dawning of the age of post-post-apocalypse: life not after the catastrophe has struck, but after it has settled in as a permanent condition. Whether you’re a Maze Runner or a Divergent, the collapse cannot be reversed, only partially escaped. The hot Fury Road leads to an endless desert, and revolution only brings more Hunger Games. The force has not awakened, justice has not dawned, humanity has not evolved. But a world without heroes does not mean a world without villains. Billionaire vigilantes, suicidal death squads, nihilist mercenaries, and neoliberal politicians have all taken on the role of saviors from the threat of the even-worse option. The message is clear: we are the villains we’ve been waiting for. The true enemies of the present, however, are not people but abstract structures of domination. And how do you fight an abstraction?

In our mass-mediated imaginations, the structure of civilization has already collapsed due to one of the many choose-your-own-adventure disasters occurring in slow motion all around us. Whether Syria or climate change, the prison system or Brexit, the refugee crisis or Trump—it all ends in the same way: the inability of anyone to change anything at all. Progress, if it occurs, comes by accident, luck, or automation; humans only get in the way. Collective political change appears only as a cover for individual tyranny. People are constantly changing their lives to accommodate the impossibility of changing anything at all. Cybernetic dreams of greener pastures and cosmopolitan citizenship may circulate among the diverse ruling classes of the world, but for the rest of us, there’s no way to escape the utter subjection to national borders, international law, and the global market. No cosmoproletarian heroes are here to save us. Refugees come and go in every generation, but the magnitude of the desperation at the moment is overwhelming. A world civil war beckons while history marches forward inexorably to its completion in the supersession of man. No time to be alive like the present.

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Condition of the Working Class

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1845, Engels

The war of the poor against the rich will be the bloodiest ever waged. Even the union of a part of the bourgeoisie with the proletariat, even a general reform of the bourgeoisie, would not help matters. Besides, the change of heart of the bourgeoisie could only go as far as a lukewarm juste-milieu; the more determined, uniting with the workers, would only form a new Gironde, and succumb in the course of the mighty development. The prejudices of a whole class cannot be laid aside like an old coat: least of all, those of the stable, narrow, selfish English American bourgeoisie.

These are all inferences which may be drawn with the greatest certainty: conclusions, the premises for which are undeniable facts, partly of historical development, partly facts inherent in human nature. Prophecy is nowhere so easy as in England America, where all the component elements of society are clearly defined and sharply separated. The revolution must come; it is already too late to bring about a peaceful solution; but it can be made more gently than that prophesied in the foregoing pages. This depends, however, more upon the development of the proletariat than upon that of the bourgeoisie. In proportion, as the proletariat absorbs socialistic and communistic elements, will the revolution diminish in bloodshed, revenge, and savagery.

Communism stands, in principle, above the breach between bourgeoisie and proletariat, recognises only its historic significance for the present, but not its justification for the future: wishes, indeed, to bridge over this chasm, to do away with all class antagonisms. Hence it recognises as justified, so long as the struggle exists, the exasperation of the proletariat towards its oppressors as a necessity, as the most important lever for a labour movement just beginning; but it goes beyond this exasperation, because Communism is a question of humanity and not of the workers alone. Besides, it does not occur to any Communist to wish to revenge himself upon individuals, or to believe that, in general, the single bourgeois can act otherwise, under existing circumstances, than he does act.

English American Socialism, i.e., Communism, rests directly upon the irresponsibility of the individual. Thus the more the English American workers absorb communistic ideas, the more superfluous becomes their present bitterness, which, should it continue so violent as at present, could accomplish nothing; and the more their action against the bourgeoisie will lose its savage cruelty. If, indeed, it were possible to make the whole proletariat communistic before the war breaks out, the end would be very peaceful; but that is no longer possible, the time has gone by. Meanwhile, I think that before the outbreak of open, declared war of the poor against the rich, there will be enough intelligent comprehension of the social question among the proletariat, to enable the communistic party, with the help of events, to conquer the brutal element of the revolution and prevent a “Ninth Thermidor.”

Shit’s Going Down

milwaukee

Originally posted to It’s Going Down

This week brought another uprising against the police, after a police officer shot and killed a 23 year old man, Sylville K. Smith, in the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee. The uprising, which saw right-wing Governor Scott Walker call-in the national guard to sit standby in case the riots escalated, happened against the backdrop of continued rampant police killings and the growing social degradation of poor and working people in the United States. This is the second time in two years that Walker has called in the National Guard to deal with protests against the police and the fourth alongside Ferguson and Baltimore in the US.

But these rebellions point to deeper tensions caused by the systems of domination inherent within industrial capitalism and white supremacy, which is policed and protected by this government. In the case of just Milwaukee, Niles Niemuth wrote:

Milwaukee has been devastated by decades of deindustrialization and financialization, which has produced the highest levels of inequality since the 1920s. The factories that provided decent wages and benefits for tens of thousands of workers have all but disappeared.

The city lost three-quarters of its industrial jobs between 1960 and the 2010. The disappearance of manufacturing employment had a particular impact on black male workers in the city. From 1970 to 2010, the employment rate for black men aged 16 to 64 in the metro Milwaukee region fell precipitously, from 73.4 percent to only 44.7 percent.

The city’s overall poverty rate in 2014 was 29 percent, nearly double the national rate. Children and youth aged 18 and under were the worst affected, with more than 42 percent growing up poor. More than 43 percent of the population in the Sherman Park neighborhood lives below the poverty line.

At the same time, despite continuous slumps in US productivity, the rich just keep getting richer. As Andre Damon wrote:

In 2015, the International Monetary Fund noted in its annual report that the decline of business investment is at the heart of the failure of the global economy to recover from the 2008 crisis, despite the flooding of financial markets with cheap credit.

Major corporations are hoarding trillions of dollars in cash, which they are not investing in production or research and development. Instead, they are using it to buy back stocks, increase dividends, and carry out mergers and acquisitions, all of which increase the payouts of Wall Street CEOs and shareholders.

As a result, stock markets around the world are at or near record highs, corporate profits are surging, and the wealth of the top 0.1 percent in the United States and internationally continues to soar at the expense of the working class.

But while it is becoming more and more clear that the only solution the elites have to continued immiseration and poverty that is endemic in capitalism is simply more repression and police, the very system of industrial resource extraction and production that is making a few elites so rich is also threatening all life on this planet. This summer, scientists have recorded the hottest months ever in June and July.

At the same time, the South was hit by disastrous floods that destroyed homes and left many homeless as Obama vacationed at Martha’s Vineyard and thousands were crammed together in shelters and curfews were put into place to stop people without food or water from looting. In many ways, all of these instances should be seen as signs of not only the kind of system we live under, but the trajectory it is hurling us towards. While the rich and powerful drink wine in tranquility, our homes are washed away, we work harder and harder for less and less, and an ever growing police presence watches our every move and taxes, harasses, and kills us without cause. Meanwhile in the background, the military is at the ready should a rebellion pop off.

But a rebellion is growing, and one that cannot be contained or smothered by either the police or the military, or the attempts of politicians, activist bureaucrats, or media pundits to stop people from fighting for and creating a world worth living in.

In that spirit, let’s get to the news. 

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Zwischen Eigentor und Aufstand: Ultras in den gegenwärtigen Revolten

Al Ahly Soccer Fans Celebrate After Port Said Football Massacre Defendants Sentenced To Death

In the last cycle of struggles, a new force entered onstage: organized football fans took part in unrest across the globe, from the Greek uprising of 2008 to the social movements in Portugal, Occupy in Spain and protests in Israel during 2011/12, from the Gezi Park revolt in Istanbul in the summer of 2013 to the riots in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014. And even the biggest football haters can’t ignore the fact that the ultra groups of North Africa played a significant part in the so-called Arab Spring. An observer goes so far as to claim that the ultras “played a key role in overturning the ‘barricades of fear’ (…) Their appeal to disillusioned teenagers is enormous. We’re talking about the second or third largest citizens movement of Egypt, with tens of thousands of members.” The following text attempts to explain how this often, at best, completely apolitical or rather commercially-dependent actor could arise, and how to judge their effects in the class struggle. For if it’s true that we are currently on the threshold of a new era, then parts of this milieu will surely play a role in the coming revolts. Nothing is further from our minds than ascribing a central role to the Ultra-movement, whether in the current or coming insurrections. Focusing on a supposedly more revolutionary type according to one’s political stripe, be it the mass worker, part-timer, woman or immigrant, has always been just as questionable as the insistence on a predetermined location for revolt. All areas of social life that bring together wage-earners can develop into zones of struggle, regardless of whether these are neighborhoods, soup kitchens, factories, or even football stadiums…[translated excerpt from “Ultras in the Contemporary Revolts” by Kosmoprolet, 2015]

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