Socialist Worker

The revolt runs deep—take it to its most radical conclusions

by Michael Brown
Issue No. 2708

Power is in the streets

Power is in the streets (Pic: Elvert Barnes/Flickr)


In terms of just the numeric size of this particular revolt, this is absolutely the biggest multi-city rebellion and revolt since the sixties.

There’s a variety of reasons why this particular killing invoked so much outrage from so many people.

I think that the visceral way it occurred on camera was part of it.

But also, you can’t decouple the current rebellions and uprisings from what we saw a few years ago in places like Baltimore and Ferguson over other cases of police murder.

The larger context is also important.

So many working class whites, Latinos and Asian youth are joining these protests alongside black youth partly because in this country there are 40 million people unemployed.

There are also tens of millions of people without health insurance in the midst of a pandemic.

And when you take into consideration what we have on offer in the coming election, we’re basically being forced to choose between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Writing to your congressman and waiting to vote isn’t the most appealing option.

We are also in a Black Lives Matter era that has shifted the ideological conditions in this country.

A number of videos have been posted on social media of police officers kneeling and marching with protesters.

This most definitely represents a real panic within policing in the US. The cops are used to being presented as the good guys. And now they have lost a lot of legitimacy.

The police are panicking.

But at the same time a lot of the officers that are doing the kneeling are also pepper spraying people later on. It’s just theatre.

I think that Trump will try to appeal to certain very violent reactionary elements of his base.

Trump’s rhetoric that he’s tough on crime isn’t new.

We saw a similar “tough on crime” rhetoric from Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and to some extent from Bill Clinton.

Trump opens a rift with US ruling class
Trump opens a rift with US ruling class
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We can’t decouple Trump’s hateful rhetoric from neoliberalism, where the emphasis is on policing not on social programmes for people.

Any time you resist and stand up you’re met by the iron fists of the state instead of policies that could uplift millions of working class people.

From union activists to even liberal pacifists we are all going to get painted with the same brush.

It’s important that we stand up and push back against this. We need to be anti-fascists and be unapologetic about it.

When we look at where this movement should go next it is important to look first at what is currently on offer to people in the US. And in terms of electoral politics, the choices are limited.

There are a lot of people on the left who want to supposedly reduce harm and are encouraging people to vote for Biden.

And for many, the draw of the “lesser of two evils” will be very strong.

But as a socialist, I don’t think this system can reform itself.

I think we need to take these rebellions and uprisings to their most radical conclusions.

Already we have certain sections of the state—particularly the Democratic Party—that are offering concessions.

At this point, we need to be demanding and raising reforms but keep in mind that the system is rotten.

It needs to be uprooted, branch and root entirely. We’ve exhausted all other social means.

The power is in the streets. It’s not enough to write to your congressman or circulate a petition anymore.

And first and foremost the ruling class is scared because people are looting and burning, and defying curfews. That type of militant power in the streets is what we need.

Michael Brown is a socialist and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Long Beach, California

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