17: Ocasio-Cortez victory; Alex Vitale on the end of policing

July 2, 2018

In our intro, we talk about DSA member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning defeat of Democratic incumbent and party boss Joseph Crowley in the June 26 primaries in New York. We discuss how Ocasio-Cortez’s victory shows the desire for an alternative to the establishment Democrats as well as a tide of enthusiasm for socialism. We also talk about the challenges she’ll face as a socialist trying to navigate the shark-infested waters of the Democratic Party.

We touch on some of the debates among socialists about how to approach the Democratic Party, and how and whether we need to create our own party. Our intro ran longer than usual this week, but we hope that this will be the start to an ongoing discussion around the elections in the coming months.

In our interview, we talk to Alex Vitale about his book The End of Policing (Verso Books) (http://bit.ly/VitaleBook). Vitale is a professor of sociology and coordinator of the policing and social justice project at Brooklyn College. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, New York Daily News, USA Today, the Nation and Vice News. For more information about his writings, as well as his public appearances and other news, check out his website (http://bit.ly/VitaleWeb).

The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has produced widespread recognition of police abuse and prompted demands for reform. At the same time, groups like the Black Youth Project http://bit.ly/BYPBOR) and the Movement for Black Lives (http://bit.ly/MBLBOR) have questioned the relationship between intensive policing, structural racism and deeper patterns of inequality. Vitale argues that we should question the very nature and purpose of the police as an instrument for social control. He suggests that the answer is not better policing, but an end to policing itself.

In our discussion, we talk about why the various reforms being proposed do not address the problems with policing. Vitale recounts the origins of the modern police as part of England’s colonial subjugation of Northern Ireland and the need to monitor the free movement of urban slaves in Charleston, South Carolina. We also talk about why policing has become even more intensive and violent in the last few decades as part of a bipartisan political project, and in response to heightened levels of inequality. Vitale argues that if we want to address the real issues that policing purports to address, then we need large-scale structural reforms to address inequality and racism.

In the last part of our discussion, we get into the strategic questions about how to build a movement against the criminal injustice system, how calls for prison abolition fit into that, and the work and demands that some of the organizations leading around this issue are raising.

For additional reading related to our interview, check out:

Alex Vitale in the New York Times talking about the new super-predator myth (http://bit.ly/VitaleNYT)

Alex Vitale in Jacobin on why body cameras and more training aren’t enough (http://bit.ly/VitaleJacobin)

Episode 6 of this podcast, in which we talk about the intersection of mental health and policing

The Movement for Black Lives Platform (http://bit.ly/MBLPlatform)

For additional related to our intro on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, check out:

SocialistWorker.org article on “How far can the left go in the Democratic Party?” (http://bit.ly/AOCSW)

Jacobin article on “Why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won” (http://bit.ly/JacobinAOC)

Lance Selfa’s The Democrats: A Critical History (Haymarket Books) (http://bit.ly/Selfa)

Music in this episode:

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)
Cardi B, “I Like It Like That”
Solange, “Mad” ft. Lil Wayne
KRS-One, “Sound Of Da Police”
Vic Mensa, “16 Shots”
Bruce Springsteen, “American Skin (41 Shots)”
N.W.A., “Fuck Tha Police”