Our communities must take power to get what we need. We need to resist the police, stop gentrification, build programmes that allow us to survive and support one another, and to defend and organise our communities - this power will never be granted to us, but it's ours for the taking.
Deeds not words
Sarah Everard was murdered by a cop. Last week Reclaim These Streets called a vigil, only to cancel it before it began in conciliation to police threats. The vigil, resiliently re-established by Sisters Uncut, was broken up by violent policing, and the following days have seen demonstrations across Britain to mourn for Sarah Everard and all victims of police and state violence. Simultaneous to being a women’s movement, it has embodied a democratic one, too; these demonstrations occurred at the same time as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was put to the House of Commons. The bill heavily criminalises protests, with sentences up to 10 years for 'causing serious annoyance' to 'a section of the public'. It also includes further criminalisation of Travellers, “Prevent-style” approach to youth violence, “statue vandalising” and specific acts like hanging from bridges. Additionally, it is now being proposed that plain-clothes pigs will monitor nightclubs – under the perverse guise of protecting women. This proposal is the state defending exactly what is being demonstrated against.
As demonstrations break out, it is the task of communists to not only highlight what must be done, but to work with people to do it. Political leadership is predicated on organisational leadership; words without deeds are worthless.
Red Fightback have been supporting these demonstrations, attending with teams to defend against police tactics. Our methods differ from those of many other communists, who see their role as being to agitate via flogging their newspapers, getting their word in edgeways and counting it as a success. The Socialist Workers Party attempt to pounce on the movement with signs denouncing violence against women, and yet have facilitated this violence within their own party.
Instead, we follow the people; their success is our success. Red Fightback does not yell and wave papers from outside, but supports from amongst the people. We situate ourselves in the struggle, for the revolutionary goals the people fight for.
Our duty is first and foremost to serve these movements, and to push them to realise their revolutionary potential. To do this, we must understand them.
Reclaim These Streets must be recognised as bourgeois feminism, with its inherent deficiencies. Reclaim These Streets have engaged seemingly positively with calls to make 'misogyny a hate crime' and the suggestions for a general increase in carceral approaches to patriarchal violence. They have raised over £525k, and we can be sure given their lack of concrete links to communities and struggles that this money will find its way back to the state, via paying legal fees or otherwise funding bourgeois pretences of progress.
Various voices have correctly articulated criticisms of the white women who have expressed their shock at discovering that they have been rendered vulnerable to state violence, when Black, Brown, Disabled, Trans and Traveller communities have constantly expressed the realities of policing. Last summer saw countless Black Lives Matter protests, and yet some seem to have let it pass them by; not internalising the lessons learned in that period must have taken effort, and is nothing less than intentional ignorance. It is beyond frustration to see movements that fail to build on the foundations laid by those who educated and organised in previous years and decades, and that ignore the most vital leadership of Black and Brown communities.
We see the moral and political emptiness of those who ignore violence until it is directed upon them as individuals. We see the flimsiness of the resolve of those who mourn not for the many suffering and dead, but for their now-perceived loss of individual safety. We see the cowardice inherent in calling out the police for murdering a woman, but celebrating Pig-in-Chief Cressida Dick for being a woman whilst she facilitated that murder. This is bourgeois, liberal, white feminism. Those who have found themselves in this haze must not fall into further self-pity or cyclical introspection, but instead act in genuine solidarity and collective resistance.
In a quite literal sense, demands to end violence against women have come into contradiction with the primary means by which bourgeois feminism seeks to meet these demands: the state. Reclaim These Streets have failed to recognise that a proletarian feminist struggle necessitates confrontation with the state and its agents — the question is not “how do we avoid upsetting the police?”, but rather “how do we fight against the pigs and win?” The protests that actually took place have started to grapple with these questions. Sisters Uncut must be celebrated for their distinct organisational leadership, proving that they remain one of the most effective organising groups in Britain today.
Nonetheless, revolutionary politics must be clearly and unflinchingly articulated. There is no solution to police violence without revolution. One speaker at a Parliament Square demonstration threw up their hands and said “Well, I don’t really know what to do, except keep protesting”. The sentiment to keep protesting is correct, but we must know what we need to be building towards: nothing except revolution and the communistic world thereafter.
Abolition Must Be Revolutionary
Gal-dem recently posted this article, outlining an abolitionist demand for defunding the police and investing elsewhere, ‘in services such as social workers, counsellors and other support workers’. This article is representative of the radical trends within the current feminist response to police violence.
And yet the equation of abolition with defunding police and investing elsewhere is wrong. By that logic, George Osborne’s austerity budget, that slashed police budgets, established PREVENT, deepened the Hostile Environment and applied "multi agency frameworks", was effectively and materially abolitionist – an absurd idea. Simply rechannelling money is entirely insufficient: to take the examples offered, social and support workers often do the work of police at present, and would continue to do so if they replaced the pigs within a capitalist society. Abolition is not about redirecting the flow of capital, but abolishing capital itself. Joy James writes in ‘Airbrushing Revolution for the Sake of Abolition’ that some in the professional world:
“airbrush to transform revolutionary demands for power and community-defense into “non-reformist reforms” or “revolutionary reforms” (oxymorons). Before abolitionism, there was revolutionary struggle. Alliances between the two exist: Panther free breakfast programs — mutual aid — created a model that now serves public schools.”
Abolition necessitates revolution. We can only rid ourselves of carcerality, of policing as a means to protect private property and capitalist interests, if we get rid of private property itself. We build our power through revolution, the process of toppling capitalism and bringing in a new society predicated on the liberation of all working and oppressed people. And indeed, revolution necessitates abolition, for we can only topple capitalism if we recognise the police and carceral system as its foot soldiers. In other words, any abolitionist must be a revolutionary, and any revolutionary must be an abolitionist.
A revolutionary abolitionist approach not only applies to our demands, but also to our tactics. Demonstrations are just that: a demonstration of the fundamental power of the working class within capitalism. We cannot simply demonstrate without building that power in-between protests, by raising our collective consciousness, by striking and forcing the capitalists’ hand, by winning reforms that show what we can achieve whilst highlighting that nothing winnable under capitalism will ever be sufficient.
As they keep prisons and pigs to defend themselves, we must build our own forces. Revolution is the greatest amalgamation of our power, and we must keep our eyes fixed upon it. Revolution and abolition are daunting grounds; we might fear what they necessitate, stepping out of the ballot box and building power beyond a 5-9 demonstration. But they are necessary grounds for us to fight on - we cannot accept anything else. And in that pursuit of total liberation of our people, we find not fear, but hope.