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The State, part 2

Where Do We Go From Here?

Global citizens are demanding action!

What can this group do to create positive change and equality for all?

Recorded meeting from 6/7/2020

WHAT IS THE STATE ?

 

The state is an organization of violence in the hands of a ruling class. It is the

military, police, judiciary, intelligence, prisons and other coercive machinery bound

up with governance. As an organization of violence that protects private property,

the state maintains and enforces the domination of the propertied classes over all

others. The state protects all the relations and institutions that enforce the ruling

class’ right to appropriate the surplus products and govern society in its class interest.

The state is . . . a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the

admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with

itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel.

But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic

interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became

necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the

conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power, arisen out of society

but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state.

 

(V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, 1917.)

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/ch01.htm#s1

Open Letter to Our Nations’ Lawmakers on Systemic Racism

An unprecedented wave of protests for racial justice has swept the United States and the globe since the modern-day lynching of George Floyd on Memorial Day. This is radically shifting public opinion about the need to address systemic racism and Black Lives Matter in American public life. But the new nation being born in our streets must reckon with four centuries of systemic inequality. The public murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police furnished the spark and years of police violence caught on cell phone videos stacked up like dry tinder to fuel the fire that rages in our spirits. This is about more than policing. The question before us is whether America can be what it has promised to be.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is therefore sending this letter to our nation’s lawmakers to end systemic racism and implement a reconstruction agenda for our country.

Please sign on to the Open Letter to Our Nation’s Lawmakers on Systemic Racism. (Full text below.)

We have been facing the pandemic of systemic racism for too long. We have the right to protect ourselves and our communities from a system that is killing us.

We will not stop until we can all breathe.

Rev. Dr. William Barber, II
Co-Chair, The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and President, Repairers of the Breach

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
Co-Chair, The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and Director, Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

An unprecedented wave of protests for racial justice has swept the United States and the globe since the modern-day lynching of George Floyd on Memorial Day. This is radically shifting public opinion about the need to address systemic racism and Black Lives Matter in American public life. But the new nation being born in our streets must reckon with four centuries of systemic inequality. The public murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police furnished the spark and years of police violence caught on cell phone videos stacked up like dry tinder to fuel the fire that rages in our spirits. This is about more than policing. The question before us is whether America can be what it has promised to be.

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is therefore sending this letter to our nation’s lawmakers to end systemic racism and implement a reconstruction agenda for our country.

We lift up those who are taking action against police brutality and all forms of violence against black, brown, indigenous and poor people. Our collective public mourning is an expression of outrage, anguish and pain from these multiple pandemics of police violence, policy violence and economic violence. We are committed to ending systemic racism, poverty, militarism, climate crisis and a distorted moral narrative that denies, excuses and justifies violence against us.

We need sweeping change. The long train of abuses demand it. Too many deaths demand it. And the protests demand it.

We demand that our politicians address the full extent of this violence — not only the police violence — that we have been suffering from for generations.  

 

Somebody’s been hurting our people for far too long. And we won’t be silent anymore.

Our Demands

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival makes the following demands on our federal government to end systemic racism and all related injustices:

1. Protect and expand the right to vote. The people who are elected into office through voter suppression — which disproportionately targets black, brown, indigenous and poor people — also militarize and protect the police; attack health care, living wages, welfare, education, immigrants and LGBTQ+ people; and keep vital resources out of our communities.As Rev. Dr. King said in 1957, “Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot, and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law…and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence.” Today, these perpetrators are not hooded, but voter suppression is allowing them to commit their acts of violence with near impunity. We must protect and expand the right to vote for black, brown, indigenous and poor people. This means:

  • Implement vote by mail for the November 2020 elections. This will be safest and surest way to ensure the broadest participation of voters even in the pandemic.

  • Reinstate key protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Update the formula for preclearance to apply to jurisdictions that were covered by the VRA and all jurisdictions that have enacted voter suppression laws since 2013.

  • Enact federal legislation that protects and expands the right to vote. This includes online registration, automatic voter registration, same day registration, early registration for 17-year olds and a verifiable paper record. 

  • Make Election Day a national holiday.

 

2. There must be consequences for abuses of police power, and justice for families and communities who have been harmed and terrorized by police violence must be a matter of law. We demand federal legislation that makes officers accountable and liable for abuses of their power through apprehension, investigation, prosecution, conviction and incarceration. This means:

  • Any officer who abuses the power to kill with racial or discriminatory intent can face federal charges, as well as state charges, for murder.

  • Any officer who stands by and does nothing against the excessive use of force can be prosecuted as an accessory to the crime.  

  • A city that hires officers who abuse their powers against a community can be ordered to pay damages to the victims’ families.  

 

3. Demilitarize the police. End mass incarceration. Stop criminalizing the poor. This means:

  • End the 1033 program and redirect funding that sends military equipment to local and state law enforcement. End all programs that provide military training for local and state police.

  • Ban the use of force as a punitive measure or means of retaliation against people who are unarmed and of no danger to anyone but themselves.

  • End cash bail, predatory fines and fees on the poor. When state and local governments are in fiscal crisis, they rely on cash bail, fines, fees and filling jail beds to raise revenues.

  • Instead of criminalizing the poor to raise state and local revenues, raise taxes on the corporations and the wealthy and direct federal resources to state and local governments for unarmed, civilian public health, mental health, EMT and social services emergency responders.

  • Demilitarize immigration and border enforcement. Resources for ICE, CBP and the border wall must be redirected to reunite families, secure appropriate documentation and ensure that immigrants are able to live, work and move freely without fear of exploitation, detention, deportation or death.

  • Stop locking people up for non-violent crimes and misdemeanors by replacing prison sentencing with community service and substance abuse treatment. Draw down the current population of people who are in detention centers.

  • End the easy access to firearms that has contributed to the increased militarization and weaponization of our communities.

  • Redirect funding in federal, state and local budgets for the military, policing, incarceration, and immigration enforcement, including any resources for new prisons, jails, detention centers and unnecessary police equipment, toward the real security of our communities: quality public schools, universal health care and decent jobs with living wages.

 

4. Establish real security by taking care of our health needs in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond and address the poverty and disinvestment in our communities that brought us to this point. This means:

  • Ensure universal health care for all. Poor, black and brown people, including undocumented people and native communities, are facing higher rates of infection and death with fewer resources and infrastructures. We demand free and affordable testing, treatment and hospital care for all. Everybody must have access to health care during a pandemic, without fear of the costs, incarceration, deportation or detention.

  • Reopen hospitals. Hospitals in black, brown and poor communities that have been closed during this pandemic and the last ten years must be reopened.

  • Expand Medicaid. Our government must expand Medicaid in every state. We must also fully fund and expand resources to Indian Health Services.

  • Essential protections for essential workers. People of color and the poor are disproportionately represented among the workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis, including in health care, childcare, elder care, grocery and big box stores, janitorial and cleaning services, public transit, fast food and other sectors of the economy. All workers must have paid family leave, paid sick leave, hazard pay, PPE, living wages and the right to form and join unions.

  • A permanent, guaranteed and adequate annual income/universal income. This includes rapid, direct payments to all low-wage, temporary, laid off and unemployed workers for the duration of this crisis and a universal income that provides economic security to us all. It also includes an income for care providers whose work is critical to our health and economy.

  • Secure access to social welfare and unemployment. Social welfare programs like SNAP, housing assistance and unemployment insurance must be fully funded and expanded to meet the needs at hand.

  • Guarantee housing, water and utilities for all. Even during a pandemic, poor, black and brown people are being evicted and losing access to water and utilities. All evictions must stop immediately, including encampment sweeps and the towing of vehicles of unhoused communities. Tax foreclosures and rent hikes must also end. Federal resources must be directed to open and prepare vacant and habitable buildings to house and provide adequate care for all people who are homeless. All water and utility shut offs must also be ended and late-payment charges must be waived. Services that have been turned off must be turned back on. We demand a national affordability plan for water and utilities to secure universal access to these basic needs and federal resources for expanded water, sanitation and utilities infrastructure.

  • Debt relief: The racial wealth gap must not be worsened because of debts that have been accumulated through this pandemic. Mortgages, rents, water, utilities and student debt that cannot be paid must be canceled.

  • Fiscal support: As the pandemic triggers a deep economic crisis, we demand an infusion of federal resources to state and local governments to prevent cuts to health care, education and other social welfare programs. Federal support must be conditioned on prohibiting any increases in state and local police and incarceration budgets, ending all evictions, expanding Medicaid and stopping all water and utility shut offs.

  • End sanctions that serve no purpose except to hurt poor people: We must lift economic sanctions, which are keeping life-saving medication, food and other resources from millions of people in a global pandemic.

 

5. Working with frontline movements and impacted communities, establish a National Truth Commission on the violence of systemic racism. This model of truth-telling draws on the history of grassroots and community-based responses to state-sanctioned terror in this country and around the world. We demand that frontline and impacted families and communities’ experiences and insights direct federal policy on these injustices. This means:

  • A National Truth Commission that is organized around grassroots and community-based forums to lift up the stories of suffering from impacted families and communities and their solutions on how we right these injustices. Their cries of pain must turn into the power to transform and reconstruct our society. 

 

These demands are part of the Moral Agenda of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and reflect our policy priorities. They were first released in April 2018, have been delivered to Congress and state houses and read aloud in mass meetings, hearings, marches and bus tours in more than 40 states. Lawmakers and legislators — Republican, Democrat and independents — have been put on notice that the Poor People’s Campaign is holding them to account to this agenda.

What is Systemic Racism?

Systemic racism is more than an individual act of hatred. It is state-sanctioned violence that dehumanizes all people of color. Whether through police brutality, mass incarceration, denial of democratic rights, health inequalities or generations of dispossession, systemic racism has denied the humanity of black, brown and indigenous people since the very founding of this country. It has taken the lives of millions of people and criminalized those who assert our humanity.

The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sean Monterrosa, Ahmaud Arbery and others have prompted hundreds of thousands of people to take action together. Generations of injustice are coming to bear on our streets today. Out of this pain, we are also seeing a new and unsettling force rising up to disrupt a system that is killing our people, smothering our communities and disregarding our basic needs in a global pandemic.

The truth is that while our government was totally unprepared for this pandemic, and is taking months to deliberate over whether black, brown and poor lives are deserving of housing, health care and economic security, it is fully prepared to quickly mobilize to wage war against us. Over the past decades, the U.S. military’s budget has increased to over $738 billion, taking up more and more of our federal resources, while funding for basic needs like education, housing, food security and water has declined. Military spending is 30 times greater than the federal public school budget, 14 times greater than the federal housing budget and 81 times greater than the EPA budget. Our federal government also spends $100 billion every year on policing and another $80 billion on incarceration. Through the 1033 program, local and state law enforcement agencies have received over 450,000 items, worth $1 billion — rifles, tanks, military aircraft and more — of military equipment from the Department of Defense. Some local law enforcement agencies have received tens of millions of dollars of weaponry.

This is why police are equipped like soldiers and essential workers are wearing garbage bags. This is why our national guard is deployed within hours to multiple cities to protect property, but we still don’t have protection against a virus that has killed over 100,000 people, including approximately 60,000 people of color. While hundreds of millions of dollars were sent to federal, state and local law enforcement to address heightened needs during the pandemic, 20 million people still have not received their stimulus checks, 30 million people remain uninsured, 40 million people are unemployed, 50 million people will face hunger in the weeks ahead and 60 million people do not have living wages.

All of this has a disproportionate effect on people of color, who face higher rates of unemployment, poverty, infection and death. George Floyd had lost his job and survived the coronavirus before he was suffocated on the ground by the police. Breonna Taylor was an emergency medical technician on the frontlines of this pandemic, saving the lives of others before her own life was taken.

We have been facing the pandemic of systemic racism for too long. We have the right to protect our ourselves and our communities from a system that is killing us.

We will not stop until we can all breathe.

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