the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Nov 8, 2021
On November 2, Minneapolis voters rejected a measure that would have “defunded” the city’s police department, with about 56% of those who went to the polls saying “no.”
This ballot measure was proposed after the protests against police violence that broke out after George Floyd’s murder, starting in Minneapolis and sweeping the country in the summer of 2020. In June of 2020, while those protests were at their peak, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged to defund the city’s police department. In negotiations with activists, the city council eventually agreed to put a measure on the ballot that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety, though what exactly that agency would look like remained quite vague.
Many of the areas that voted most heavily against this proposal were the majority-black neighborhoods, most afflicted by police violence, but also by crime. In these areas, crime has gotten worse over the last year and a half. And there are few choices in the face of crime other than calling the police. As a result, many Minneapolis residents reported feeling trapped between two bad options. One black resident interviewed by the Washington Post said she was no fan of the police, but she still voted against the measure. "It’s a no-win situation … We need someone to call, and if it’s not the police, who will it be? We already don’t have enough police on the street."
This ballot measure was based on the idea that police violence can be reformed away, as if the problem of violent police is separate from the problem of violence more generally. In reality, the violence of murderous cops and everyday violence on the streets are deeply entwined, both essential by-products of the basic functioning of U.S. capitalist society. And a proposal like this gives no way out of the trap expressed by many in the neighborhoods.
It can certainly make a difference when masses of people push back against police violence. George Floyd’s killer, Derek Chauvin, is today in prison, unlike the vast majority of killer cops. If the police are a little more cautious about inflicting violence on the population today, it’s because people stood up. But the idea that police violence as a whole might be reformed away is a pipe dream.
Police violence is an integral part of this capitalist system, as much as the violence in the poor neighborhoods. The only people who can solve this violence are the people who live in the neighborhoods where it is part of their everyday reality, which means the working class and the poor population. They are the only force that can eliminate this capitalist system that creates poverty and violence as its necessary by-products.