July 2020 Washington Socialist Cover

July 2020

In the span of barely a month, a long abandoned idea – reconsideration of public priorities by way of restricted size and scope of the police state – now occupies the forefront of political discourse, untethered from the fringe-ideologies of the political left. Fueled by mass uprisings across the country, this proposition has normalized a simple rally cry: defund the police. If this political opening seemed insurmountable in the past, mass unemployment, pandemic hardship and a decaying administrative state have provided a narrow opening for the left to act.

Radical response and specific proposals to defund the MPD and rethink public safety have been rapid-fire and may seem bewildering. The careful timeline laid out in “Defunding MPD” shows that policy impacts are beginning to be felt and that left and insurgent strategies have knitted well to keep public awareness and official pressure at the needed level – so far. In considering the tactics for advancing changes to the criminal justice system, “Police Reform and the Working Class” argues that police brutality is not simply a problem of individual racist police officers, but the result of a class dynamic that disproportionately polices the working class. And in response to the federal government’s attempt to squash these nascent movements, “Enforcing the First Amendment” presses government workers to respect the right to protest and assembly following the brief, but harrowing, occupation of DC by the National Guard.

Of course, uprisings are hardly new to American cities - in 1992 police violence and its aftermath led to large demonstrations morphing into civil disturbance in Los Angeles’ communities of color. Within weeks, a similar response to police violence right here in D.C.’s fast-changing Mount Pleasant neighborhood sprouted. “Reflections: A Tale of Two Cities” comes from the Washington Socialist circa 1992 to review the then-fresh events reprinted here.

Other political events give hope for sweeping political change. DC Statehood has for the first time been approved by a chamber of the US Congress, though the further steps toward that goal will have to wait for Democratic wins in Senate and White House – if then. Still, as pointed out, in “Trumps Attacks Show Why DC Needs Statehood”, the credit-taking has begun locally, starting with the ever-opportunistic Mayor Bowser. Additionally, the national importance of statehood is observed in “The Time for DC Statehood is Now”.

But any successful attempt for either of these campaigns – or any other left-wing priority - will require effective organizing and base building. In a review of a trenchant book showing the daily vicissitudes of organizing and union maintenance, “Union Building for the Long Haul” shows how hard the work of staying organized can be, and how the compensations for that near-thankless work sometimes surprise with their value. “Maryland’s Unemployment Crisis” covers recent worker mobilizations in a response to the triple whammy of mass unemployment, pandemic outbreak, and an ambivalent administrator in Governor Larry Hogan. And “On Electoral Strategy” considers DSA electoral strategy in relation to extant mass protests and DSA electoral successes both locally and nationally.

Finally, long-time activist and University of DC professor Dr. Howard Croft is remembered by long-time organizers and DSA members who knew him.

In this issue