I, like many other Black radicals who follow the Black radical tradition, are filled with hope to see such a large amount of people talking about abolishment of the police. A few months ago, many would deem us wild to even think that abolishment was such a possibility, let alone a mainstream conversation. With national discussion, however, nuance is erased and conversations become watered down, and the reality of the conditions we are in are not properly articulated. I want to recognize the work of Mariame Kaba, who helped me come to this abolitionist politic; in addition, I want to thank the many folks like Angela Davis who have laid the foundation for abolitionist thought. This piece seeks to provide clarity and guidance to the people, and a framework for which abolishment of the prison industrial complex is possible.
For starters, it is important to note that the prison industrial complex is deeply tied to the military industrial complex. The weapons and gear manufactured by captured Africans in penitentiaries is used to loot countries in the 3rd world. This makes way for corporations like apple, tesla, google, and microsoft to come to the continent to loot Africa’s resources while also using African child labor. This is only made possible because the police force captures Africans and then enslaves us in penitentiaries in which our people are forced to make weapons and materials for the military. This undeniably connects the prison industrial complex with the military industrial complex. It’s important that we know our enemy and what we are up against if we are going to abolish the PIC.
The us empire and its military is the most violent imperial regime in human history. Do we think that the biggest purveyor of violence will willingly concede to demands of abolishment? The national guard was called in and military rule began when windows were broken and buildings were burned. Similarly, if we seek to abolish the PIC, this fascist state will have a violent response. I purposefully start here with this framework because it’s important to know what we will be up against if we seek to truly abolish prisons and the police, and thus the military industrial complex.
america’s economy runs off the exploitation of captured Africans and global imperial dominance. To think that prisons and police will be abolished through non violence underestimates the capacity for violence that america has. america will do anything to preserve its colonial violence, history shows us this and it is a scientific fact.
Prisons won’t be abolished through the reformist calls to defund. Schools are defunded. Healthcare is defunded. Section 8 housing services are defunded. Just because the police are defunded doesn’t mean that they will be abolished. Revolution doesn’t come from policy changes, it comes from destroying these systems that kill us. This is an important distinction necessary for us to be aware of. We must be wary of reformist calls that will somehow “lead” us to abolishment.
We know that reform only furthers fascism. The past 400 years shows us that. We can’t settle for nothing less than the complete eradication of the systems of oppression that kill and exploit our people on the daily. Whether it is transphobia, ableism, or police violence (which are all deeply connected and often intersect at the same time) we can’t concede to the demands of a fascist state for reform. As George Jackson says,.“…with each reform, revolution became more remote[…]But if one were forced for the sake of clarity to define [fascism] in a word simple enough for all to understand, that word would be ‘reform.”Our people’s lives depend on revolution.
While new calls to abolish the police show that the general public is ready for change, we have to be honest about what true abolishment will take. As prison-industrial-complex abolitionists, we seek to eradicate systems of violence that enslave, kill, and exploit us. We seek to create new systems that address violence at its core to create peace in our communities. Kwame Ture teaches us that we (revolutionaries) are not only destroyers but we are creators. Creators of a new world where peace is possible. But we must understand that in order for peace to exist, there is a scientific method that must be used to obtain it.
We must understand that armed struggle in defense of and against this fascist state is the only way to eradicate fascism. Mussolini wasn’t defeated through non-violent protests. Hitler wasn’t defeated through non-violent protests. And trump and the united corporations of america won’t be destroyed through non-violence. Revolutionary (counter)violence, which is a defensive and life-affirming posture as much as it is an act of self-preservation, will create the conditions in which we can abolish these systems that have oppressed us for the past 400 years. As Malcolm X said best, there’s been no revolution in the world without bloodshed — from Haiti, to Venezuela, to Cuba, to Ghana.
While many might say our people are not ready for this, I would like to remind people that it was unarmed protestors in Minneapolis who sent pigs squealing and retreating from their precinct. This happened as people in current time created a plan to do so. Imagine if the people had more organization? Imagine if the people were armed? There’s endless possibilities if we have an organized guerrilla front.
As I said earlier, revolutionary (counter)violence is at the core of abolishment, but as revolutionaries we also create twice as much as we seek to destroy. As my comrade noname said,
“when the dust settles and the protests stop, communities will still be poor, police will still murder and violate citizens. prisons will still be filled with millions of ppl. half a million ppl will still be houseless. the past 2 weeks was the easy part. solidarity isn’t a trend”.
This is why we have to create programs, people’s programs, that serve the material needs of our people pending armed struggle. We have to show our people that a future outside the parasitic conditions of capitalism do exist. We need food programs for the hungry. Housing programs for the houseless. Medical programs for the people. COVID-19 testing for the community. We must provide this for our people. If we are to claim the title as revolutionary, it is our duty to serve the people, love the people, and free the people.