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Jun 9, 20

We Don’t Want to Be Gravediggers: Abolition also Means Self-Defense and the Creation of Revolutionary Popular Assemblies

A call for abolitionists to expand the current rebellion to include communes, general assemblies, and collective forms of power.

By Chicago Abolitionists on the Front Lines

We would like to first acknowledge that we write this statement on the sovereign lands of the Council of the Three Fires: Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Nations,and many other tribes, in colonized Northern Illinois. We are a group of Black, Brown, and white abolitionists claiming militant solidarity with the Black freedom struggle and demand escalation of the diversity of tactics permitted by the People in this coalescence of movements to abolish anti-Black/racial carceral-police violence, and the global prison industrial complex.

We want to communicate to all abolitionists and freedom fighters in the streets or elsewhere to never fall for the tricks of this white settler government, duping you into thinking that they will disband their regime of anti-Black carceral and police violence in your interest.

Looking back on Black, Global South, and Indigenous uprisings and social revolutions throughout the history of this New World order, it has always been a strategy of the white supremacist state to fool the masses by legalizing certain concessions (and criminalizing others) as a tactic to demobilize anti-state, anticapitalist popular insurrection. We saw the deradicalization of the movement happen during the Sixties, and then again in the Seventies. Even back then, it was not only COINTELPRO and historically unprecedented repression that destroyed the movement for Black liberation, but efforts of an entire settler society to regain territory and stamp out proletarian revolt through (often carceral) “Civil Rights” reforms and concessions from a foundation-funded Non-Profit Industrial Complex.

When the People begin to demobilize, when the looming storm of insurrection recedes into the cold waters of a uniquely American pacifism, these colonizers always manage to reestablish the very same regime of violence that enabled their supremacist dominion as before. There is a famous saying that follows: “Those who make revolution half-way only dig their own graves.” Since what we are seeing is indeed a revolutionary process emerging in the United States and other fascist police states across the planet, let’s do the best we can to not dig our own graves.

It is completely sensible to assume that this Settler government would permit and grant certain measures of reform over others to divide and demobilize the People. We imagine if they are to “defund” or “disband” the police, we will see the intensification of fascist paramilitaries and private armies form up to retain the fundamental oppressive apparatus. This after all was the central function of white citizens militias and fraternal orders for the last two hundred years, to which we today now have—no thanks to reformers—THE POLICE.

We see this happening most especially if the People do not force the government to transfer all arms to the People, and certainly if the People do not proceed to arm themselves and take painstaking efforts to convince state and national guards to stand down, join us, or prepare for escalation from a coalition of militant tendencies in the movement to abolish the prison industrial complex. We want ABOLITION NOW! How this might happen is up for the People to decide, but it is of vital importance that the People do not demobilize, under no circumstances. Do not stop marching or showing up. Solidarity means attack! Keep exhausting the oppressive apparatus to give cover for more liberatory organization to develop!

Any time a concession is made (real or not), this is the exact moment to dig deeper, to cut our knives further into the throat of fascism, as George Jackson once famously said, and push beyond the existing horizons of what we imagine possible.

In the U.S. settler context, the means power must be placed into the hands of Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples, Queer and Differently Abled, and all survivors of American state violence through our latent organs of popular power: mass popular assemblies. It is in these assemblies where we begin speaking less from a standpoint of “demanding” and more to a mentality of taking and (re)claiming without permission from these illegitimate anti-Black and colonial institutions. From the prisons, to the police, to ICE, to the DEA, to the FBI, to the CIA, to all the COs and police upholding the violent sham of “representative democracy.” We do not need to negotiate with these occupying forces which we never consented to in the first place.

Furthermore, we must remember that one of the fundamental causes of carceral society is our anti-Black programming, our racialized and gendered relationships, and the sociology of a humanity divided into species and classes.

We are divided into those who make the rules and those who do not but carry them out. We must eviscerate this division of humanity to restore ourselves and push forward. And we see the real danger also coming from our willingness to give up our self-determination without even thinking about it.

And so, we urge ourselves to go deeper in our abolitionism by making a different set of demands of ourselves: to create revolutionary popular assemblies, worker cooperatives, and communes or caracoles on every block and in the streets of every hood. Though probably an insufficient term to use, we say this is the collective learning of direct democracy: the conversion of people from passive, isolated order takers into the collective basis of all social creation and administration in federated, horizontal harmony, with assemblies all throughout the land.

As the assemblies mature we suggest they:

– federate and declare themselves the only power in the land;
– arm the People, especially Black and brown queer and femmes;
– order the dissolution of the prisons, the dissolution of the police and of the standing army with transfer of all arms into the authority of the communes and caracoles;
– proclaim the expropriation of capitalists and government wealth, passing all buildings, lands, and resources into the authority of the communes and caracoles;
– order the dismissal of all managers in government, corporate, and nonprofit workplaces, passing over all managerial functions to the workers themselves organized into worker cooperatives.

To be clear: we wholeheartedly condone any-and-all forms of revolt and insurrection against global anti-Blackness, white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy. What is needed furthermore is a consciousness of proletarian solidarity that is deliberately antipatriotic and against all forms of U.S. nationalism.

By no means would this fatally divert energy from current mobilizations. Mass assemblies would in fact give our visions of abolition more legitimacy, add a firmer social foundation, and serve as a catalyst. The teaching and learning of abolitionist practices can also begin to take root more firmly in public spaces through these assemblies. We do not hug cops at such things, and we expect they will show to intimidate us. We collectively chant “Fuck 12” as we plan for their removal from our hoods.

We must also urge special caution against capitalists and nonprofits of color who are derailing many energies, who have a history of calling the cops on our movements and who are today working hand-in-hand with cops to control the people’s discontent and divide us between “good” and “bad” protestors without sufficient solidaric sentiments in their bones, though we are fully aware of how white supremacists are certainly attempting to sabotage marches and protests to harm people of color. It is important to continue to build relationships to distinguish between the real saboteurs and the authentic revolutionaries.

It is vital that initiatives are born independent of capitalists and nonprofits. The good workers we know in the nonprofits who mean well will join us as we chart an independent path. We must also caution against the lack of independent initiative among freedom fighters old and new to put on marches without permits (easy to do in Chicago without repercussions), the lack of initiative to build new relationships in the street, to recruit, and the unwillingness of some freedom fighters to deceive the boss to miss work to keep the positive social transformation going.

Do not be demoralized by any lulls. Demoralization and inertia do us no good. Take the initiative!

This is the vigilance and constructive work that we think awaits abolitionists and other revolutionists, whether the settler government concedes to our demands or whether the assemblies can force them through decree and force.

We are proceeding in this work, which is slowly gaining ground, and we shall embrace you in the streets, parks, and through digital media. Everyone has a role. It’s one struggle at base.

Don’t stop!
Free the prisoners!
Assemble your people!
Long live the communes and caracoles!
Abolition NOW!

Chicago, IL, USA
8 June 2020


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