U.S. and World Politics

Why Police Reforms Are Not Enough

We must end capitalism to end war and police violence

By Bonnie Weinstein

We can and should fight for police reforms such as outlawing choke holds, stop and frisk laws, plea bargains, bail requirements, as well as getting police out of our communities and schools. But that will not end the fundamental reactionary role of police departments in capitalist society.

The job of the police is to protect the fundamental core of capitalism that commandeers the wealth that we produce through our labor, while paying us the lowest wages they can get away with—including by outright slavery—still alive and well in our prison system.

Community occupation and control

The whole purpose of the police is to occupy communities of the working class—especially people of color—to enforce the basic economic foundation of capitalism that puts private wealth above life itself.

The police don’t protect the innocent from getting killed. They don’t prevent rapes. And they rarely capture those responsible for these crimes—including, of course, those committed by their own officers or by the wealthy elite.

Criminalizing the poor

Their job is to enforce obedience to laws that are designed to make even the smallest infractions punishable by death on the spot—a broken tail light (Sandra Bland who died mysteriously in her jail cell after being arrested); selling cigarettes without a tax license (Eric Garner died in a police choke hold while crying “I can’t breathe”); by allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit twenty dollar bill (George Floyd, murdered by police kneeling on his neck and chest for eight minutes and 46 seconds until he died); sleeping in bed (Breonna Taylor was shot eight times by police on a “no-knock” warrant. She was innocent of any wrongdoing), and on and on.

The prison industrial complex

The whole prison system is filled with people whose crimes are the product of poverty and racism. And the conviction rate is astronomical.

Ninety-seven percent of federal and 94 percent of state criminal convictions are obtained through plea bargains.

In an August 8, 2019 NBC News article by Clark Neily titled, “Prisons Are Packed Because Prosecutors Are Coercing Plea Deals. And, Yes, It’s Totally Legal.”1

“America is the most prosperous country in the history of the world. We excel at innovation and mass production—and nowhere is that more true today than our criminal justice system, which features a streamlined process for transforming millions of suspects into convicted criminals quickly, efficiently and without the hassle of a constitutionally prescribed jury trial. It’s called coercive plea bargaining, and it’s the secret sauce that helps us maintain the world’s highest incarceration rate. The answer is simple and stark: They’re being coerced. Though physical torture remains off limits, American prosecutors are equipped with a fearsome array of tools they can use to extract confessions and discourage people from exercising their right to a jury trial. These tools include charge-stacking (charging more or more serious crimes than the conduct really merits), legislatively-ordered mandatory-minimum sentences, pretrial detention with unaffordable bail, threats to investigate and indict friends or family members, and the so-called trial penalty—what the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers calls the ‘substantial difference between the sentence offered prior to trial versus the sentence a defendant receives after a trial.’”

The wealthy are not only able to hire banks of lawyers if they are even accused of a crime, they pay the lawmakers to create laws that are to their advantage and to the distinct disadvantage of working people.

These laws are designed to keep us in line—to instill in us the idea that we are powerless over them.

The police are the enemy of the working class

Law enforcement unions have no place in the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL/CIO). The allegiance of police, prison guards, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to capitalist law and order sets them apart from, and in direct opposition to, the working class. In fact, law enforcement organizations have nothing in common with unions and no common interests with working people.

They accept the role of occupation of our communities—it’s their job and sworn duty. How else can they calmly keep a knee pressed to a man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds without even grimacing—while stopping a human being from breathing?

The National Guard and the military

The difference between cops, prison guards and ICE, and the National Guard and the military, is that while the National Guard is often called out to repress strikes and protests—and the military is charged with winning world hegemony for U.S. capital through death and destruction, most of their ranks are enlisted only temporarily and most often, because of poverty and the lack of good paying jobs and the unaffordable cost of higher education.

For those reasons, sometimes they can be won over to our side. And getting them on our side is our best hope for ending the violence once and for all.

The cops, prison guards and ICE sign on to their jobs with the intent of working until retirement—it’s their life’s work to enforce capitalism’s repressive laws and the legal system that murders and incarcerates, overwhelmingly, the poor and people of color.

The only real way to end police violence is to end poverty and injustice

Billions upon billions of dollars are spent enforcing the rule of law—and trillions on wars and policing the world—to aid and abet the theft of the world’s resources for the commanders of U.S. capital.

It is the rationale for the massive U.S. military, police and prison system. And it’s the modus operandi of capitalist countries around the world.

The U.S. spends the most money (our tax money) on war and incarceration, and that’s what gives U.S. capitalists world economic hegemony.

Let’s look at the money

According to a meme authored by economist Robert Reich (@RBReich):

“Unfettered capitalism is Jeff Bezos making $8,961,187-per-hour but refusing to provide paid sick leave for all of his employees.”

That’s Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon, who makes $149, 353,117-a-minute and $2,489,218-a-second off the backs of those who do all the work while he collects the money!

No wonder the U.S., the world’s most-powerful capitalist system, needs to spend trillions on prisons, cops, repression and wars.

In its report “Enough is Enough: Global Nuclear Weapons Spending 2020”:

“…the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons…estimates that the nine nuclear-armed countries spent $72.9 billion on their 13,000-plus nuclear weapons in 2019, equaling $138,699 every minute of 2019 on nuclear weapons, and a $7.1 billion increase from 2018. These estimates (rounded to one decimal point) include nuclear warhead and nuclear-capable delivery systems operating costs…”2

Of course, the U.S. spends more money on the military industrial complex than all other countries put together. The U.S. military is the biggest polluter in the world and their wars cause the mass destruction of the infrastructure of countries around the globe leaving the masses to starve in rubble.

The U.S. military manufacturers are the wealthiest corporations in the world.

The military, police and ICE must be disarmed and dismantled, and the wealth they waste on repression and destruction must be confiscated and used to provide for the needs and wants of all!

What we all desire and deserve

Can you imagine how different the world would be if all that wealth produced by workers and waisted on war and repression could, instead, be spent on providing everyone in the world with the things we all need to thrive and lead happy, peaceful and productive lives?

  • We could guarantee that everyone has all the necessities of life.
  • We could provide quality education for all from cradle to grave so that everyone can live up to their best potential and contribute their best to the general wellbeing of all.
  • We could provide quality healthcare free of charge for everyone, and roomy, comfortable, quality housing built to last.
  • We could ensure a clean and healthy environment in which to thrive.
  • We could stop manufacturing shoddy merchandise sold to the working class that wastes resources because they have to be replaced over and over because they are designed to break down.

Ensuring these basic necessities for all on an equal basis is the only way we can live peacefully in the world together.

There will be no more crimes of poverty if we end the capitalist system and peacefully share the bounty of the earth based upon equality, democracy and justice for all.

Building independent workers’ organizations that can change t
he world

To accomplish this, we have to organize to defend all workers from the capitalist repressive apparatus. We have to organize to defend our communities from police violence and repression. We have to build independent workers’ organizations that can organize communities and workplaces to fight for our rights to a decent life—a life free of the ravages of poverty, war and repressive violence.

We must welcome free and open discussion among the entire working class on how to achieve unity and solidarity in order to develop the best tactics and actions that can achieve these collective and democratically chosen goals.

Ultimately, we must organize the entire working class to democratically and with peaceful intent carry out a fundamental and revolutionary socialist transformation of the world’s economy and re-dedicate it to the fulfillment of the wants and needs of all instead of obscene profits for a tiny few. Socialism is the only economic system that will ensure that everything needed for human beings and our planet to thrive, is a basic right for the whole world.

In order to achieve this, we need to build a unified, independent, democratically structured, working-class organization for the socialist transformation of society.

It’s our only hope for the survival of our planet for the future generations to come.

1 “Prisons are packed because prosecutors are coercing plea deals. And, yes, it’s totally legal.”>-are-packed-because-prosecutors-are-coercing-plea-deals-yes-ncna1034201

2 ICAN, May 2020