By: Trevor Loudon
From Big Government, by Trevor Loudon
An Occupy Wall Street activist and veteran of the Trotskyist International Socialist Organization, Pham Binh, has written a widely circulated article, which explains how socialists should attempt to manipulate rank and file police officers against society’s so called rulers – the “1%ers.”
According to Pham Binh:
Occupy is a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-merge the socialist and working-class movements and create a viable broad-based party of radicals, two prospects that have not been on the cards in the United States since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Occupy is broader in terms of active participants and public support and, most importantly, is far more militant and defiant. Tens of thousands of people are willing to brave arrest and police brutality. ..
Binh goes on to outline how some of the numerous Marxist sects operating inside the O.W.S. movement have attempted to inflame hatred against the police:
One of the socialist left’s most consistent criticisms of Occupy has concerned the issue of the police. PSL’s Liberation News ran an article entitled, “Are the police forces part of the 99% or tools of the 1%?” The Internationalist Group attributed the predominance of whites at OWS to its “line” on the police: “A main reason why there are relatively few black and Latino participants in Occupy Wall Street is this positive attitude toward the police, who day-in and day-out persecute the oppressed.”
Socialist Worker correspondent Danny Lucia concluded an article entitled “Officer not-at-all-friendly” this way: I’ll ask the same question now to all those chanting and blogging about the police being part of the 99 percent. When you chant and blog support for the cops, when you publicly speculate that maybe deep down the cops really like you, how does that make you appear to your darker-skinned comrades in the movement who have no doubts about how the police feel about them?
The New York City ISO even held a public meeting on the topic: “Our Enemies in Blue: Why the Police Are Not Part of the 99%.”
Socialists are duty-bound to object to politics, strategy, tactics and slogans we believe harm or impede movements of the oppressed and exploited. On this point there can be no debate.
Binh then goes on to explain that Marxist hatred of police was so intense and blindly ideological, that numerous criminal incidents, including rape and lesser sexual assaults, were ignored:
However, the socialist left’s objections on this issue are not rooted in the needs of the uprising but in our desire to “teach” Occupy Marxist orthodoxy. According to the socialist left, OWS was and is too friendly to the police, when, in reality, OWS had the opposite problem: hostility to the NYPD was so strong that incidents of groping, sexual assaults and rapes that began almost from day one of the occupation went unreported for weeks. This practice changed as the incidents escalated and occupiers realised it could not be handled “internally”.
None of the socialist publications acknowledged or seemed to be aware of this development within Occupy, nor did they offer any practical guidance on what to do about the sexual assaults that plagued occupations across the country.
Binh sees a problem with the socialist left’s analysis of the police as unequivocally part of the “1%.” Binh’s approach is more sophisticated – in his view, the police are BOTH part of the “1%,” AND the “99%.”
To comrade Binh, this new analysis has implications:
The socialist left objects to the inclusion of the rank and file of the police force in what Occupy calls “the 99%” by which the uprising means everyone outside the wealthiest 1% who destroyed the economy, paid themselves and rigged the political system. These objections have been framed in a problematic way; the issues have been mixed up and, as a result, Occupy’s “friendliness” towards the police in the face of repression appears to be stupidity, insanity, or both.
No act of police violence will “finally settle the debate” about whether the police are part of the 99% because there is no debate, at least within Occupy. The police rank and file are part of the 99%. They are the part of the 99% that keep the rest of the 99% in line at the behest of the 1%. The police rank and file are professional class traitors. Shouting “you are the 99%!” at them drives that point home far better than calling them “pigs” or “our enemies in blue”.
To argue that the police are “not part of the 99%” means to argue that they are somehow part of the 1%, a radically and demonstrably false notion. This explains why the socialist left’s argument on this issue has gained zero ground within Occupy despite all the beatings, arrests, abuse and brutality.
So how to use Binh’s new analysis in service of the Occupy movement?
Where the police rank and file fit into the 99%-1% dichotomy is separate from questions like whether Occupy should march in defence of police pensions or if shouting “you are the 99%!” or “join us” at the police is something Occupy should do. These are the live issues facing Occupy that the socialist left should be discussing and providing a political lead on instead of criticising who occupiers maintain “sympathy” for.
Occupy is absolutely correct in its openness to including rank-and-file cops in a struggle against the 1%. This correctness has been proven in practice many times over. Police in Albany resisted pressure from Democratic Party Governor Anthony Cuomo to clear and arrest occupiers. Retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis joined OWS and was arrested in full uniform during the November 17 day of action; he carried a sign that read, “NYPD: Don’t Be Wall Street Mercenaries”.
It is precisely because the uprising says, “you too, officer, are part of the 99%” that Christopher Rorey, a black officer with the DeKalb County Police Department, emailed Occupy Atlanta for help fighting the unjust foreclosure of his family’s home. Occupy Atlanta sent a dozen occupiers, delaying the foreclosure temporarily.
If the socialist left’s “line” on the police prevailed in Occupy and the uprising treated rank-and-file cops as “the enemy”, none of these things would have happened. If officer Rorey is not part of the 99%, then Occupy Atlanta is guilty of betraying our cause and siding with “our enemies in blue”.
According to Phan Binh, the socialists must abandon their blindly anti-police ideology for a more sophisticated tactical approach.
They must attempt to side with rank and file cops, in order to divide their ranks and even to turn them against their bosses:
As socialists we should be going out of our way to organise actions that might split the police along class lines or cause them disciplinary problems. Cases like Rorey’s are a golden opportunity. It offers us the exceedingly rare possibility of fanning the flames of discontent within the police force, between the rank-and-file cops and their bosses, between the police force and the 1% they work for.
The tension between the police and their political bosses became evident after the Oakland police union issued a scathing rebuke to Oakland’s Democratic Party Mayor Jean Quan, who ordered them to clear Occupy Oakland and then tried to distance herself from the crackdown after they nearly killed Iraq veteran Scott Olsen and provoked a general strike. Imagine the difficulty that would have emerged within the Atlanta police department if they had been ordered to clear the house of a fellow officer, his family, and “pro cop” occupiers.
It is for these strategic reasons that Occupy the Hood founder Malik Rhaasan spoke positively about the prospect of marching on NYPD headquarters in defence of their pensions. Such an action would put the NYPD in the awkward position of possibly pepper spraying and arresting a “pro cop” march. Rhaasan’s position should also serve as a warning to disproportionately white socialist groups not to use the suffering of oppressed peoples at the hands of the police to make bogus arguments about Occupy and the police.
The task of socialists is not to “teach” Occupy that the police are “our enemies in blue”. Our task is to overcome the police as a repressive force, to neutralise them, as US Marine and Iraq veteran Shamar Thomas did when he stopped 30 cops from arresting peaceful Occupy protesters at a massive Times Square OWS demonstration. Thomas shamed them, implied they were cowards, and told them there was “no honour” in brutalising the very people they are supposed to protect. He utilised the contradiction between the stated purpose of the police and their actual purpose to impede police repression on behalf of our real enemies, the ruling class.
Pretty clear isn’t it? Pham Binh and his socialist comrades hate the cops, BUT, that hatred can, and should be, set aside in the interests of the revolutionary struggle.
Will we see more overt attempts by O.W.S. activists to side with the police? Will we see fewer bogus accusations of “police brutality” and more “occupiers” marching in solidarity with police against city budget cuts and pension issues?
I’m picking we will.
The question is – will the police fall for it? Will men and women in uniform, march side by side with people, who sneer at them behind their backs as “class traitors”?