By David Sole
On September 23 Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig went on TV’s Fox & Friends to denounce the demonstrations against police brutality and terror that have continued almost daily since May 29 after the murder of George Floyd. “They have another agenda and we know what that agenda is” explained the Chief. “I believe it’s a Marxist ideology.”
Black Lives Matter protesters are being funded by communist outsiders intent on undermining the government’ was another claim spouted without any evidence. “They embed themselves in peaceful protests.” [WDET.com].
Of course the political persuasion of the hundreds and thousands of Detroit protesters, indeed the millions who have marched and rallied across the nation, are of all stripes and varieties. No one is polling the demonstrators and no surveys are distributed.
What is clear, however, is that very real and disturbing issues like police terror, wanton murder of African American people, unjust courts and police immunity are the real driving force wherever these protest are found.
This Marxist who has been out in the streets many of the days in the past three plus months feels compelled to answer the garbage coming from the mouth of Detroit’s top police official.
I have been an activist protester since 1964 when I was just 15 years old. I didn’t know much about Marx, socialism or communism and was more hostile to them than favorable. I joined a New York City-wide boycott of the public schools in February of that year to protest the reports of unequal funding of Black versus mostly white schools. My mom was afraid that they would put my name on a list – a fear generated by the fanatic Senator Joe McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade in the 1950s.
The Civil Rights movement was sweeping the country, especially drawing in the youth who were less set in our ways and had less fear than our cautious elders. I was working as a waiter for the summer at Camp Equinunk located north of Honesdale, PA. Our bunk house had no screens on the windows and I helped organize a strike which quickly won us modest improvements in working conditions.
I can’t say that I was much of an activist until it became clear that the U.S. government was carrying out genocide in Vietnam. I joined the March on the Pentagon on October 21, 1967 and helped found the Queens Anti-Draft Union at Queens College, City University of New York where I was studying biology and chemistry. The issues of racism and imperialist war had drawn me into action not any abstract theory.
Here is where Marxist ideology comes in, Chief Craig. In the thick of one protest after another something was missing. Black people were denied the right to vote and were victims of segregation and racism and U.S. foreign policy led to wars in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic (1965). What connected these seemingly separate issues? Not to mention the mistreatment of Native peoples, Latinx minorities, women and LGBTQ+ folks?
There was all of this injustice, lots of facts of history, but nothing to make sense of it all. As a student of biology there was the theory of Darwinian evolution and modern DNA science that made that field wonderfully understandable. Chemistry made sense once the discovery of quantum mechanics unified that field.
In the same way scientific socialism, what you called Marxist ideology, made sense of history and politics. Marxism, simply put, focused on the economic underpinnings of society so one could begin to explain the political world around us. It allowed us to connect the dots, so to speak.
But in addition to having a theory, one also needs a will to change things. Those who have both want to participate in one or many of the struggles that inevitably break out in an unjust society. We don’t “embed” ourselves in a movement for some nefarious, secret goal. We are organically part of every and all fights for justice. Our theory allows us to understand that fundamental, structural changes must take place for serious improvements to be won and secured. And we don’t hide our ideology. Rather we look for platforms to explain to others caught up in the immediate struggle that racism, police terror, economic hardship, etc. are, at root, caused by the capitalist system.
Sometimes we talk about the Wall Street bankers and corporate bosses as the problem. When we organized against the phony Detroit bankruptcy we said from the start that it was only a scam to steal the pension money from 30,000 city retirees. That’s exactly what happened. The big banks paid nothing while the retirees (myself included) lost up to 40% of our pensions.
But, Chief Craig, you chose the path in life that makes you a paid agent of the capitalist system. You may not think so, but that is precisely what you are. And please don’t deny that you have a secret agenda. Didn’t you meet on August 18 with Trump’s Attorney General William Barr? Are we to believe that Barr’s influence had nothing to do when only four days later you launched your riot police against peaceful protesters on Woodward Avenue. Those cops clearly had orders to cause injury, more so than to arrest people. Trump and Barr had publicly announced on June 1 they wanted officials to overwhelmingly “dominate the streets” and to target “professional activists” and “leaders of protest groups.”
You were willing to do this work. And you glowed with pride when the White Supremacist in Chief, Donald Trump, publicly praised you. But a Federal judge saw it differently and has ordered your police force to stop using violent crowd control weapons.
Just like me over 50 years ago, young people are coming out into the streets to march, rally and protest one injustice after another. They know things are messed up. Perhaps some of us “elders” can help them understand the system. Or maybe they will be able to figure it all out on their own with the help of the internet.
But your anti-communist ranting, just like that of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover against the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is disgraceful and will never stop a struggle for justice.
You need to resign.
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