We Don't Need "Reconciliation" Between the Youth and the Police—We Need Revolution, Nothing Less!

Comments on hearing Fania Davis at the Left Forum in New York City

by Sunsara Taylor | June 2, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


I really appreciated the recent polemic published in Revolution/revcom.us, "Mass Incarceration, the Democrats, and Angela Davis—Don't Be Fooled; and Don't Let Others Be Part of Fooling You." That piece reveals powerfully and poignantly the way that she is misdirecting people's anger and leading them towards a harmful and poisonous dead-end. If anyone hasn't yet read it, they should do so right away.

I am writing because recently I heard Angela Davis's sister, Fania Davis, speak and this further drove home the need for clarity on the fundamentally different approaches being advocated in response to what is actually a slow genocide of Black and Latino people in this country, as well as the question of reform or revolution. Fania Davis, who is the director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth and who shares the same overall political and ideological outlook as her sister Angela, was speaking on a panel focused on mass incarceration at the Left Forum in New York, a major conference of various "leftist trends" and activists.

Fania began by sharing how she and her Restorative Justice project have spent the last two days "training police officers." As one major part of this, she proudly described organizing a "youth/police healing circle" in which the youth complained about the way police make jokes and laugh at the crime scenes of murders in their communities and where the police explained that that was just their way of handling the ongoing stress and tension of their jobs. Then, she explained, they all played a game of basketball together and this has "significantly eased tensions between them."

Later, she addressed the theme of the conference while at the same time implicitly polemicizing against Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The main title of the Left Forum this year is "Reform and/or Revolution," and Carl Dix had just argued that you cannot have both reform and revolution as your main approach. Either you make revolution and defeat and dismantle this whole foul system that rules over and destroys the lives of billions, he argued, or you end up tinkering around the blood-soaked margins of this nightmare of a world. In the fight to make revolution, it is correct at times to take up the fight for certain reforms, (for example, demanding justice for victims of police murder or fighting to overturn laws that have closed down women's abortion clinics), and it is important to unite with and "stretch a line" to people who are rising up against this system's crimes even if they themselves are not coming from a revolutionary perspective. But it is necessary to do this in a way that strengthens people's understanding and ability to go forward to make revolution. Carl called on people to join with the major October Month of Resistance being planned against mass incarceration and wrapped up by explaining how this fits into the RCP's strategic approach of "Fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution."

In stark contrast to this is the approach of reformism—making a principle of the notion that all one can, or should want to do is make some reforms to the system. That approach is very harmful—and all the more so when it is advocated by people who claim that their brand of reformism is somehow actually "revolutionary," even though they never put forward the clear understanding of the need for revolution or how the particular struggles they are advocating today can advance the people towards such a revolution.

About halfway into her presentation, Fania referenced Carl's remarks by calling them "binary." She said that we have to get away from that kind of "binary" and "simplistic" thinking that things are all one way or the other—either reform or revolution. Instead, she argued that we need both reform and revolution, putting them on equal par with each other (thereby opposing the need for clarity on which one is primary and must set the terms for the other) and went on to describe a very reformist, gradualist, non-revolutionary vision of personal change, spiritual "healing" and more about bringing the police and the youth together. She included in this the proclamation that she was "not just about protesting" or just saying what she is against (again, an implicit polemic against Carl Dix), but that she is bringing alive what she is for.

What a bunch of poison!

First off, revolution—especially as Carl Dix and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA are fighting for it—is not just "what we are against." It is a profoundly positive and realistic vision and program and strategy for a world without exploitation and oppression in any form. It is about defeating and dismantling the capitalist-imperialist system that is on track to lock up one out of every three Black male babies born today, that carries out terror from the sky in countries around the world, that traps millions of children worldwide in sweatshops and fields as the basic fuel for its international economy, that is devastating the natural environment, and that requires and is ramping up the enslavement and degradation of women everywhere. Revolution is about bringing into being a world where not only people's basic needs are met, but where everyone—including those who have for millennia been locked out of these realms—is part of a rich cultural, intellectual, and social life that is breaking down former divisions and social antagonisms. To get a sense of the real world history of this kind of revolution read the interview with Raymond Lotta, ("You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future") and to get a living and concrete sense of what this will look like dig into the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. What could be more "positive" than this?

Second, this whole notion that it is categorically wrong or simplistic to be "binary" (i.e.: draw clear lines of demarcation) is just bullshit. During slavery, was it "simplistic" and wrong to be "binary" by standing unequivocally for the abolition, not the reform, of slavery? Is it simplistic and wrong to be "binary" towards, and fail to find anything redeeming about, the Nazis? Is it simplistic and wrong to be "binary" about, and to firmly oppose, torture?

Those questions should answer themselves. And the same applies to the question of revolution. The system of capitalism-imperialism causes—and can only cause—tremendous misery and suffering. This system cannot be reformed; the actual dynamics of this system as well as generations of struggle and sacrifice have demonstrated that even hard-fought reforms will be undercut and turned back against the people (often in new, and disorienting ways) until this system is swept off the face of the earth and a new revolutionary society constructed in its place. Again, while the fight for reforms can at times be part of the struggle for revolution, and while it is essential to unite with and reach out (especially through our newspaper, Revolution, and website, revcom.us) to the many outbreaks of struggle coming from other perspectives, all this must be done in a way that contributes to and hastens the development of an actual revolution.

By actively spreading unclarity about this, by criticizing this for being "simplistic," Fania Davis is just using her "radical" image to foster poisonous illusions and turn people away from the only path to real liberation.

Third, as one vivid dimension of where this approach of trying to combine reform and revolution (in reality defanging the idea of revolution by submerging it in a program of reformism) leads, lets look at the real meaning of Fania's "police/youth healing circles." A slow and grinding genocide is taking place against Black and Latino youth. Millions are locked out of any sort of decent education, healthcare, housing or prospects of work and instead turned against each other on the streets, sent off to kill others in U.S. wars, and locked in concrete cages.

What is the role of the police in all this? They are the armed enforcers of the system that is carrying out this genocide. They are not just a collection of individuals any more than the overseers and slave-catchers during slavery or the Nazi guards at Auschwitz were. They are organized, trained, and deployed to enforce the policies and programs of the state and system they serve. And the program of working to improve interpersonal relations between oppressed youth and the police, in opposition to leading those youth to join with others to fight against this terror and criminalization as part of building up the strength and understanding to make revolution as soon as that becomes possible, is deadly! It is exactly analogous to having organized the slaves to sit down with and seek "understanding" and a "defusion of tensions" with the lynch mobs and slave-chasers, rather than joining in the fight to rise up and abolish slavery. Or to trying to get Jewish people to build "understanding" and "defuse tensions" with the concentration camp guards, without doing anything to break people out of the camps or put an end to the overall genocide.

Again, the question should answer itself. We do NOT need to "foster understanding" between the police and those they terrorize, brutalize, and massively imprison. We need to build massive resistance against this terror and criminalization, among all sections of society including the oppressed youth who are the most direct targets of this, and do so in a way that increasingly strengthens people's fighting capacity, organization, and understanding of the need for revolution at the soonest possible time to put an end to this outrage as well as all the other crimes of this system!

Finally, a word on simplicity and complexity. The world is, indeed, complex and it is important to be willing and able to deal with the world in all its complexity. But some things are very simple. And frankly, if you don't get clear on some very simple things you cannot even begin to make sense out of all the various layers of complexity. For example, there is a lot of complexity to the strategy of basketball, but you can only begin to master all that if you are clear on the basic and simple rules that define the game. Or, there is lot of complexity to the different kinds of breads and pastries that can be baked, but there are some simple and basic things that you have to grasp to even begin to master all that, like the need to turn on the oven. Similarly, making revolution and going on to achieve the emancipation of all humanity is a tremendously complex process and it requires deep study and theoretical work. This is why it is so precious and so significant for the world that this work has been taken to a whole new level through the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian (BA), Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. But one thing that is very simple and which must be grasped clearly—and which BA has consistently fought for—is that without making a real revolution humanity will remain trapped in horrific wars, exploitation, degradation, and terror.

With that, I want to end on a "binary" but basic and true statement: There is nothing good about the confusion and misdirection that Fania Davis is spreading. Get with the real revolution at revcom.us. And get with the fight today to resist the slow genocide of mass incarceration at the "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" page at revcom.us.


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