Against Police Brutality

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Building off of our last discussion on cop-watch and anti-police brutality work, here is a pamphlet created by All Communities Against Brutality (A.C.A.B.), a group in Houston, TX.

This publication is helpful for thinking about, not just the role of police in capitalist society, but the social process of policing.  And just as social forces are never isolated to any one locale — whether school, work, or the community — A.C.A.B. notes that police presence and repression is just as ubiquitous in almost every aspect of our lives.

(Note: the pagination of this pamphlet is arranged to be printed and bound.)

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2 thoughts on “Against Police Brutality”

  1. I like this pamphlet, especially the section critiquing the ways in which the cops attempt to maintain legitimacy (barbecues, neighborhood sports teams, etc.). They are big on that sort of thing here, I assume partially as an attempt to coopt the anger and rebelliousness evident during the 1999 anti-WTO uprising. Of course these velvet gloves always cover an iron fist, and faced with challenges they also beef up their repressive capacities.

    On that tip, I have a few follow up questions:

    1) Are we seeing a notable increase in police brutality in major metropolitan areas across the country or are the killings of John T Williams, Oscar Grant, etc. Are these murders new forms of repression? Or are they just the continuation of centuries of police terror? Or is it both (e.g. is the current situation a continuation, but at the same time an acceleration of past forms of repression?)

    2) If these are new forms of repression, or an acceleration of repression, then why is this happening now? What does it have to do with the economic crisis? Are the rulers afraid of possible rebellion and trying to make pre-emptive strikes? What is the balance in current ruling class policy between violent repression and co-optative measure to try and maintain hegemony/ legitimacy?

  2. Here’s one more related question:

    3) How is police brutality here similar to police brutality in Third World regions such as Palestine, India, Mexico, etc.? How is it different?

    In this recent essay: http://www.khukuritheory.net/barack-badiou-and-bilal-al-hasan/, Don Hamerquist discussed these issues. I am pulling out a few paragraphs from that peice that I think are relevant to this discussion about police brutality. What do folks think about Hamerquist’s framework here and how does it relate to contemporary police brutuality?

    “The gap and the core

    To recap, capital currently faces a real danger from populism in the gap, and the gap is increasingly less defined and limited by geography because of the mobility of populations and the increasing access to information and new forms of communication. Moreover, the current crisis confounds all of the forms of capitalist triumpalism, including that of the Barnetts and the Friedmans (T. not M.), because there is no longer any compelling evidence that the gap is shrinking in any real sense. This means that the challenges to global capital from this populism will become larger and more urgent, rather than dwindling into only marginal significance.

    Afghanistan is one of the regions of the world where for the historical moment global capital has some flexibility to respond to these dangers experimentally with minimal worries about issues of moral standing or legitimacy in the exercise of power. However, such operations can hardly hope to achieve a social equilibrium in Afghanistan in any meaningful time frame and they are even less likely to initiate favorable trends on a broader scale. The likelihood is that the more effective these new methods prove to be, the more they will make themselves needed – and the more expensive, economically and politically, they will become.

    This points to the linkage between the issues in the gap and some emerging questions of capitalist hegemony in the core. The economic and cultural cushions that have supported hegemony in the core are wearing thin as the actual and prospective actions in the gap are becoming more costly, and now with significant elements of the costs in blood. That is the problem for capital and it is a large one. As more resources have to be directed at fundamental instabilities in the gap and their actual and potential spillovers into the core, the problems of maintaining an adequate hegemonic flexibility at home grow larger.

    The global dominance of capital has rested on its hegemony in stable nation states in the core. For a variety of historical reasons, these are regions where the ruling class is, and probably must be, concerned with maintaining legitimacy in the exercise of power and avoiding the collateral damages from an excessive reliance on repression. In these base areas it has been possible to both maintain and disguise essential capitalist rule through a network of incorporative privileges – but these are increasingly hard to sustain, politically or economically, and it is impossible to expand them significantly except in the most localized conditions.

    The requirements and conditions for capitalist stability change as a range of tensions emerge between its globalized pursuit of surplus value and its nation – based system of rule and, increasingly they will be set by larger issues of global power and profit. To avoid a general spiral down towards the pit, capitalist priorities cannot be limited within national borders or allowed to be overly influenced by nationalist sentiment. But this is no easy course. Certainly in this country it is almost hopelessly hard for the ruling class to politically explain the rescue of multi-national and foreign financial institutions while sacrificing Detroit; the borrowing of billions to finance wars that make no sense while a pathetic health care “reform” must be deficit neutral. If it happens as it well may, it will be hard to explain bailing out Spain, Greece, and Austria rather than California. But there is no framework of global capitalist legitimacy as a base from which to adjudicate the resulting conflicts.

    An increase in authoritarianism and repression can only be an inadequate and partial, probably temporary, solution, because any general resort to reliance on repressive methods will accumulate its own risk factors. The maintenance of political equilibrium in the core nations depends on an essential passivity which contains grievances and undercuts capacities and potentials for mass collective resistance. Many aspects of capitalist discipline and control are obscured by this accepted subordination, more accurately a repressive self-discipline that limits natural resistances to oppression and authority. This culture is a major part of capitalist strength and resiliency and it is not an advantage that will easily be surrendered. Consequently, I think that major increases in repression, and, particularly, overtly imposing elements of a repressive authoritarian “world government” in the U.S. or elsewhere presents unacceptable risks – at least for now.”

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