Wed, 20 April 2016
Will Bernie's Burnout Lead To A New Movement? Maybe, Maybe Not.
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
What's going to happen when Bernie endorses Hillary Clinton? A springtime blizzard of articles and internet postings says some big fraction of Bernie's activists and voters won't work or vote for Hillary. But we all know what happens after springtime blizzards. The snow stops, the white stuff melts and the landscape changes.
When it does Bernie will hand over his volunteer lists, fundraising, email and social media assets to Hillary. Most of Bernie's activists will get out the vote for the Democratic nominee against the greater evil that is President Trump, and most of Bernie's voters will follow. But a minority, a significant number will be disposed to do something else election day, or to help build something afterward. What about them?
Most discussions of putting together a force outside and to the left of the Democratic party dwell on the issues and the demographics but fail to credibly explain how such a thing could be funded or to whom its leaders would be responsible. Democrat and Republican parties, politicians and all but a tiny number of campaigns are funded by the generous and more and more often the anonymous donations of wealthy corporations and individuals. Take the big easy money and your donors will, directly or indirectly determine your leadership. Don't take the money and you're broke, looking for new models of funding maybe leadership too.
What about the hot new funding model: lots of small donations, reaped over the internet? To tell the truth except for the internet part this is an old model, not a new one --- religious congregations have long supported ministries and pastors, sometimes in opulent style, off the small donations of mostly poor people. But it's the leaders and big donors if they have any, who call the shots in these organizations, not the small donors.
Moveon.org used to bill itself as an example of an outfit supported by tens of thousands of small donations, presumably from people of modest means. But MoveOn's leadership, like that of many organizations sustained by small donors are a self-selected and self-perpetuating crew. Its thousands of small donors cannot choose or un-choose the leaders, cannot determine or change its policies, any more than small donors to the NAACP or the Sierra Club both examples of places happy to take both large and small contributions.
When people discuss the formation of political movements outside the Democratic party in this or any other season they like to talk about ideas and policies, but not so much about how to guarantee some semblance of small d democratic leadership of these movements, leadership responsible to members. The answer pretty much suggests itself. If your funders will inevitably choose your movement's leadership, and you need your leadership to be responsible to your rank and file members, then you need to have dues paying members as your principal funders.
Membership funding, with organization structured so that leaders are directly accountable to, selected and un-selected by members. That's the model we should be exploring. This is the way genuine left and socialist parties and movements for the last hundred years have funded their operations all over world, a fact not much taught to so-called community organizers here.
Until these old lessons about choosing internal democracy and membership funding over s big donors and self-perpetuating leaders are re-learned, it's hard to see how a new political movement left of the Democratic party will ever take hold and grow.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georiga Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tue, 19 April 2016
“Democracy demands that “the people must be empowered to hold the police accountable for their crimes and misconduct.”
The absolute intransigence of the U.S. mass incarceration regime is most dramatically on display in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s own special investigative task force has concluded that the “police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.” The report backs up that conclusion with a now-familiar recitation of statistics that show, by the numbers, the raw nature of the police as an occupying army that perceives that its mission is to stop, humiliate, frame, physically abuse, torture and kill Black and brown people. Seventy-four percent of the 404 people shot by the Chicago police last year were Black. Seventy-two percent of those stopped on the street but who were not arrested, were Black. Three quarters of those singled out for tasering were Black. And, the bulk of the remainder were Latino.
The task force was Mayor Emanuel’s response to demonstrations in protest of a massive cover-up of the police killing of Laquan McDonald, whose death in a hail of 16 bullets was caught on video that was hidden from public view for more than a year. Since then, the killer cops have been gunning down Black folks like clockwork, including last week’s shooting of 16 year-old Pierre Loury after he ran away from a police stop. Witnesses say the cops high-fived each other over the dead boy’s body.
“The mayor thinks he can hide behind Eddie Johnson’s Black face – but those days are over.”
Mayor Emanuel was forced to fire his police superintendent in the wake of the Laquan McDonald cover-up. Last week he passed over three candidates recommended by a police oversight board, to pick Eddie Johnson, a Black 28-year veteran of the force, as the new superintendent. Emanuel made it clear that Eddie Johnson’s first job is to restore the “morale” of his fellow officers. “He’s well-respected within the department among the rank-and-file officers,” said Emanuel, as if the main task is to keep the cops happy – instead of confronting the fact that they “have no regard for the sanctity” of Black lives. The mayor thinks he can hide behind Eddie Johnson’s Black face – but those days are over. Johnson’s record of service to the Chicago Police Department is a badge of shame, not honor. He served as chief of patrol, commanding 8,000 of the very same officers that have compiled an unbroken record of lawlessness and contempt for civilian authority. Eddie Johnson would not have climbed so high in such a department if he were not, himself, a protector and champion of killer cops.
The young people that forced the issue of police terror to the forefront vow that they won’t settle for anything less than community control of police. They say democracy demands that “the people must be empowered to hold the police accountable for their crimes and misconduct,” the power to tell the police how they want their communities to be made safe and secure. As Frank Chapman, Field Organizer for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression wrote on the organization’s Facebook page, “Community control of the police is not a utopian dream, it is what we are fighting for now in this present reality.”
The present reality, in Chicago and throughout the United States, is that the police are an occupation army in the Black community. If there is to be peace, that army must be dismantled and disbanded.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.