THIS POST IS A RESPONSE TO: http://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/justice-for-oscar-grant-a-lost-opportunity/
Though I agree with the central points of this article, I think the way the author(s) examine(s) the issues is not as useful as it could be if we are to be serious about winning any kind of change.
Though the article addresses WHAT we want to win with the struggle surrounding Oscar Grant, it does not sufficiently pose, let alone answer, the question of HOW to win.
The article does seem to be in favor of “militant action” in one form or another, but it does not explain for example how high school student walk outs will create change (do they qualify as being militant?). This problem which can be also found in the author’s citations (namely, Bob Avakian and Gramcsi) of theoreticians and not social scientists. Basically, anyone can theorize about change, and how to accomplish it but it does not make it a social reality. A philosopher can think of a logical way in which sipping coffee can turn into a revolution. This does not help those of us who actually want change.
Those of us who actually want change are going to need to put down our books on theory and pick up a book on social movements.
So what solutions do we have from a social science perspective? Well an important lesson we can learn is that if nothing else, militant forms of protest allow groups such as CAPE to more easily win their struggle for small changes within the police department by making using that group as a acceptable negotiator.
Another important thing to learn from the social sciences is the cost-benefit analysis the state will make in how it judges the Mehserle trial and proceedings. George Ciccariello-Maher’s article “Oakland is Closed!” does a good job in explaining the tactical benefits of the militant protests of the Jan 7 rebellion. Basically, the city of Oakland, at that time had to decide whether or not to arrest Mehserle and what to charge him with. There’s a good argument for the police charging him based on the idea that it would pacify the irate protesters from further property damage. This same theory can apply to Mehserle’s conviction and sentencing but due largely to the lack of rioting it seems that Mehserle, thanks to the powerful police union behind him, will be acquitted.
So what kind of systemic change would we see if Mehserle is indeed convicted? Likely none, but more cops would think before they pulled the trigger and this victory is no laughing matter.
The radical, systemic change which the article tries to argue for is one that takes a long time to win and one where the protest aspect is necessary but insufficient. (For more on this you can read Bill Moyer’s book “Doing Democracy” or check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17iITob04t4). It requires lots of consciousness raising and issue framing (See George Lakoff) in order to appeal to moderate and even conservative people.
This process does not stop with the Oscar Grant issue and therefore cannot be centered around his murder. But if we return to the argument that the property destruction creates gains, however liberal, then we need not care whether they are started by anarchists or is organic, nor should we necessarily care whether or not Oakland residents approve of such tactics. (A small survey results found all those surveyed to view property destruction as negative and violent regardless of how they perceive the Oscar Grant issue.) The militant tactics hurt the image of Oakland and brings in national media coverage that, despite showing the protest as being a horrible band of anarchists, also so the city of Oakland as a dirty, violent place. This image hurts every Oakland elite politically and therefore they want to pacify them either by force, which may lead to more protest and outrage, or by appeasement.