Tens of Thousands Come to DC for Justice or Else Rally
What Is Really Needed for the Movement to STOP Police Terror?

October 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Tens of thousands of people turned out in Washington, DC on October 10 for a rally demanding “Justice or Else,” led by a coalition initiated by the Nation of Islam. A lot of Black college students turned out from all over, along with a lot of Black families. The mood was serious, purposeful, and fed up with what is happening to Black people and other oppressed nationalities, looking for a way to go forward in resistance and for answers to the deeper question of WHY this keeps going on. Just so many people coming together for that purpose, with real seriousness, gave a sense of potential power that nearly everyone there commented on.

Justice Or Else march, Washington, DC, October 10, 2015. Photo: revcom.us

People like Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Travyon Martin, as well as family members of other victims of police murder, and Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, powerfully condemned police murder. Other speakers drew out sharply the many forms of oppression that Black people face in America. The whole U.S. history of genocide against its native inhabitants was movingly decried by a number of Native American speakers. Spanish was spoken from the podium and common cause was drawn with the struggle of immigrants. The roots of the antagonism between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which share the same island, were shown to exist in slavery, and a call was issued to overcome these antagonisms and unite to take on their oppression as nations. One highlight of the program was the linking of the struggle of African-American people in the U.S. with the struggle of the Palestinian people. All this was very positive, and needed to be heard.

But while the uprisings against police murder last fall shook this whole society, ever since the militant demonstrations of April 14 and the uprising in Baltimore (which itself was followed by national demonstrations), the movement has not been out in the streets. Some of the forces fighting for justice are focusing on developing “policy reforms,” others are getting into the political campaigns... meanwhile the rulers of this country have come back against the movement with repression and slander, and are increasingly censoring the news of the police murders that do happen. They are trying to turn the “conversation” to “the problem of Black-on-Black violence” (and the police have helped in this by unleashing and directing some of that violence), while assuring the masses that “reform is happening.” In actual fact, for all the talk about reform, not only are the “dogs still in the street,” they are biting with even greater ferocity. The actual struggle to END this reign of murder and terror, and to root out the whole genocidal program of which it is the spearpoint, has come to a crossroads. Many of the thousands who came to DC on October 10 were looking for leadership and direction.

What Is the Problem—What Are Its Depths, and What Is Its Source?

But while the initial part of the program was mainly positive, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, who gave the major speech of the day, put forward an analysis and program that would lead in a seriously wrong direction, both for this movement and in terms of what kind of new society could put an end to this and other horrors.

Farrakhan did applaud the Black Lives Matter movement and the Ferguson, Missouri, uprising (though Nation of Islam actually attempted to suppress the rebellious youths on the scene, as well as slandering and attacking revolutionaries who fought side by side with the youths). He also exposed some of the ugliness of U.S. history. But in the main he provided people with a wrong analysis of the problem and a wrong path forward. His method and approach substituted religious prophecy for scientific analysis—at a time when a scientific understanding of the problem we face and the solution to it is more critical than ever. We will focus in this article on a few key points (even as there is more to talk about at another time).

First, while Farrakhan called out America on many things, he did not really show people anything close to the full dimensions of the genocidal policy now being pursued against African-Americans and the dire implications of this situation; nor did he really get into the causes of it. Instead, he talked in a sort of timeless way about the tricks of the 10 percent of white men who supposedly understand the “laws of cause and effect” and who dominate Black people as a result.

In fact, while what is going on today has a long and ugly history, it is not same-old, same-old; right now is a particularly crucial and dangerous time. The capitalist-imperialist system that actually runs this country (and which is, yes, overwhelmingly run by white people and flesh-and-bone connected to white supremacy) has by this point taken things to an extremely dangerous turn. Right now these capitalists regard millions and millions of Black (and other oppressed nationality) youths as not very “pliable” for exploitation. They find it more profitable to exploit immigrants with absolutely no rights, and to ship production overseas where they can exploit women in low-wage, deadly factories. As a result, these capitalists see our youth in the Black and Brown communities as potential social dynamite—people who must be demonized as “super-predators” and locked down, penned in and if necessary killed off. Farrakhan’s speech did not urgently sound the alarm about this. This is a slow genocide that could become a fast one at any time.

Can Liberation Be Won Through Boycotts and Land Purchase, or Must We Struggle?

Farrakhan did not really call on people to struggle against police murder, to organize and rise up against it. He did not challenge people to draw thousands of others actively into this struggle right now and to move millions more to get on the right side of it and take it up. He did not provide a path toward making this horror STOP.

Instead, he called on people to boycott Christmas and give money to the Nation of Islam to buy land. This land, it seems, would go to build up economic power within capitalist America and then at some point perhaps lead to a separate state. All that would somehow be done in the middle of an America that first forcibly enslaved Black people and then, after slavery was ended in law, still denied them the right to self-determination and enforced generations of terror and oppression and super-exploitation. All this would somehow be done against rulers who have only ever conceded anything as a result of extremely sharp struggle involving millions, such as the Civil War and the Black liberation struggle of the 1960s.

There was talk of “hard truths.” What about the hard truth that only a struggle of at least those earlier dimensions would even have a chance against the New Jim Crow system that now rules the lives of the masses of Black people? Instead, Farrakhan claimed that “God’s judgment” was now on America—but that America’s rulers still had time to repent for all the horrible crimes they’ve committed. This judgment and repentance deal sounds a lot easier than massive struggle, but it was wrong 60 years ago when Nation of Islam put it forward and it is still wrong today.

And by the way, the idea that Black capitalism would do anything other than enrich a few Black capitalists is an illusion—a deadly illusion that only serves those who are or aspire to be a new bourgeoisie, exploiting and ruling over their own people. Capitalism requires exploitation, capitalism requires that some people own the means to produce wealth and that others have to sell themselves for wages to survive, and exploitation means that the majority will always be oppressed. Capitalism is capitalism, no matter the flavor, and as such will only ever benefit the capitalists. The capitalists of an oppressed people are themselves oppressed by the imperialists, and can at times be united with. But if they are given the leadership of the struggle, it will lead not to liberation but merely to a new capitalist class—or really, more often than not, to a deal to be “junior partners” with the reigning oppressor-nation capitalists (as has happened in South Africa). Just to reiterate and be clear: this does NOT mean that we cannot and should not unite with Black capitalists who oppose police terror and brutality, as well as other ways in which oppression comes down; to the contrary, we should and must reach out to such forces. But if the program or outlook representing Black capitalism leads, the struggle will neither get to full emancipation nor even be firm enough around the immediate aim to stop police murder and terror

Religion Is NOT the Road to Emancipation

Here a word must be said about the constant casting of real-world material problems in religious terms. What was done to Africans—the kidnapping and murder and enslavement of millions, and then keeping them chained in living hell for centuries, does not have a damn thing to do with any supposed prophecy from any supposed god. The twin crimes of the enslavement of Africans and the genocide against Native Americans came out of the very real-world workings of the capitalist system. THAT is a scientific fact.

While many, many people with religious beliefs play a positive role in the struggle for liberation—indeed, most people in this struggle ARE religious—and while in many cases these beliefs propel them to do positive and courageous things, in the final analysis if religious thinking guides the struggle, it will not get to liberation. Stories of Moses and the Israelites being saved by God’s intervention against the Pharaoh may be nice (if you don’t read the “fine print”1) but as a political program they come up way short, to say the least! Indeed, waiting for “God’s judgment” or for any kind of savior is ultimately a slave mentality. It will take struggle against a very worldly—and understandable—capitalist power structure to prevent that power from beating people down and even carrying through genocide. It will take a revolution to dismantle this system of white supremacy and the whole capitalist economic and political system in which it is embedded and which that system in America has always required. To do any of this, we are going to need to rely on a real-world scientific understanding of things, and not hopes of redemption from on high.

10,000 Fearless Men—But to Do What and Against Whom?

Farrakhan’s call for “10,000 fearless Black men” is both vague and off base; at least at one point in his speech he seems to be saying that these men would be deployed to stop the crimes that some Black people do to others, and that if they did that they would then also have to deal with what he called “rogue cops” who “had fun” and benefited from this. This totally mixes up who is the main enemy.

Yes, there is crime that is concentrated in the ghettos—in part due to the conscious steering of such crime by the police into the neighborhoods of the oppressed; in part due to people internalizing the constant drumbeat of the system and its culture that treats Black people as worthless; and in largest part due to people who are given nothing and have nothing but the snarl and contempt of their oppressors actually applying the dog-eat-dog, me-first mandates of capitalism to their lives in the only ways available to them. But even while we struggle with the people caught up in serious crime that actually harms other people (or themselves) to get out of that destructive stuff and get into revolution and mass struggle, they are not anywhere close to the main problem.

The main problem again is the system that both deploys the pigs AND keeps people in a situation in which some of the system’s own theorists say that crime for such youth is a “rational choice.” Yes, we need fearless people (whatever their gender!) right now to stand up and stop this outrageous killing of our people; and ultimately we need many more than 10,000 people to go up against this system, all-out in the struggle for power, at the soonest possible time—to make revolution, to dismantle and destroy this SYSTEM that causes it. It is just that aim—mobilizing and preparing millions to do that, hastening the time when that CAN be done—which the Revolutionary Communist Party is committed to carrying out.

As this movement grows in strength, it SHOULD definitely set different standards and morality among the people, standards that do not allow for predation on each other. But you can only set these standards by involving people in the struggle against the main enemy and, as you do so, struggle with them over what their lives will really be about. If we do that, such people can actually rise from the depths to be emancipators of humanity and nothing less—precisely on the basis of fighting the power, and transforming themselves and others as they do so, for revolution.

We absolutely do NOT need to “police our own people” within the confines of an economic and political system that can never produce anything other than exploitation and oppression. Nor should we call on the police to resolve problems or disputes that take place among the people. This almost always leads to worse disasters, as the countless people who asked for help in dealing with mentally ill relatives and friends, only to see them murdered by police, can so painfully testify. The movement does have to figure out ways to resolve these kinds of things—but this can ONLY be done in the context of going up against the real power that keeps people continually clawing and scratching at each other and themselves, like so many crabs in a barrel.

A System Enforced by Illegitimate Violence—Not a Few “Rogue Cops”

Further: the problem with police and prison goes far beyond some rogue cops. You could have a total cessation of crime done by Black people against Black people tomorrow and it would not have stopped the harassment (leading to murder) of a Sandra Bland, the brutalization of a James Blake, the torture and driving to suicide of Kalief Browder, or the murder of an Eric Garner, a 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a Tanisha Anderson, a 13-year-old Andy Lopez—none of whom were doing a damn thing criminal. These pigs are given a green light by the system to break people’s spirits, to bully, abuse, brutalize, frame up, and outright murder Black and other oppressed people—ALL of these police are given that green light, most of them take advantage of it, and none of them will come forward to oppose it. The problem is not some rogue cops, but the standard operating procedure for a force whose mission and raison d’etre (reason for being) is enforce the relations of exploitation and domination, of degradation and oppression, that this system requires for its functioning and cannot help but generate.

What is required is actual MASS STRUGGLE against those who rule this system—nothing has ever been won without this and no larger struggle and certainly no revolution for human emancipation—and again, this is what is ultimately required—ever could or will be won without it. Right now, the challenge for thousands is to ACT to STOP murder by police—to follow your convictions that this is wrong, to find the best ways to oppose this and make this movement grow, and to learn more about the source of the problem and its solution as you do so.

Patriarchy: Part of the Problem, Most Definitely Not Part of the Solution

Finally, but hardly least, there is the patriarchy that permeated Louis Farrakhan’s speech. The whole speech was suffused with the outlook of the old James Brown song that “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World (But It Would Be Nothing Without a Woman or a Girl).” This is a world in which men are the creators, the leaders, and the warriors—and in which women, even if they are scholars or scientists, are mothers and domestic slaves above all. There are, unfortunately, too many instances of this in Farrakhan’s speech for this brief article to get into—talk of the “luscious hips and lips of women” and even upholding polygamy, to take just a couple examples—but surely one of the worst was when Farrakhan had some women from Nation of Islam come up on stage and then pointed to them and proceeded to brag about how they are trained to cook, to sew, to rear children and, yes, to dress in a way that covers up most of their body.

Even if women are supposedly put on a pedestal in this worldview, they are treated as lesser human beings whose mission is to help “their” men. As for those women who refuse such treatment and refuse to dress and act as lesser beings than men, the implication is that they are undeserving of respect—and therefore “deserving” of the harassment and worse that they get. Farrakhan’s upholding of the right to abortion is of a piece with this—he immediately followed this with a strong assertion that abortion is wrong, shaming the women who DO get abortions and effectively treating women as breeding vessels—a view that has much in common with that of the slave masters.

This is not just a case of someone who happens to have “traditional values” or someone who hasn’t got the news—this is an attempt to cohere a movement around male privilege and domination, and this is something going on all over the world wherever religious fundamentalism forms the core ideology of a movement. The terrible results of such a movement coming to power, especially but not only for women, can be seen in countries like Iran and Afghanistan.

Going along with this is the fact that while a number of other important struggles and causes were spotlighted at the DC rally, not a single speaker represented for the movement against the oppression of women as women. As for the supposed “inclusion” of LGBT people, through the parable of casting the first stone, let’s remember that that parable still assumes that “the woman at the well” had sinned—and by implication, that LGBT people are, by who and how they love, “sinners.”

This is NOT the movement we need to be building. It is true that for some time to come there will be a struggle in this movement over whether we are fighting for a world in which everyone gets emancipated from ALL forms of oppression or for something lesser, but the standards of this movement must be clearly against the oppression of women.

Where to Now?

Tens of thousands of people came out to call for justice, to protest and to seek answers. To all who did come out and who felt the power of their numbers: now is the time to build on this. The question of what to do now to STOP murder by police remains sharply posed; the moment to actually ACT on this situation, to take concrete action and challenge millions of others to do so as well—to ring out the call to ALL society of WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?—is here and now, and urgently must be seized.


1. The actual books of the Bible concerning the story of Moses—see, for instance, Numbers 31:7-18—show him to be someone we would consider a tyrannical monster today, inflicting wholesale genocides and mass rapes on people who are not Israelite but who possess land that they think was promised to them by God, and wild, vengeful slaughters not only against the Egyptians but those among the Israelites who disobey him or incur his displeasure. [back]


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