The Urgent Question of Strategy And Tactics in Building Our Movement

By Frank Chapman

Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

How are strategy and tactics determined in waging political struggle? In the historic social movements of the racially oppressed and the working class the question of strategy and tactics is always urgent. To understand why this is important we must look at the basic characteristics that define social movements.

For the purpose of this discussion let us characterize social movements as either spontaneous or organized. Spontaneous social movements arise out of the objective social relations (i.e. social savagery) of capitalism. Driven by profit and greed, the vulture capitalism perpetrated by the 1% creates untold misery and suffering for the masses of workers and oppressed communities of color. Widespread unemployment, poverty and racist and political repression create social unrest and spontaneous rebellion.

These rebellions arise independently of the conscious will of the people expressed through their various organizations such as unions, community based organizations, and organized grass roots political struggles. They have no strategy or tactics. Spontaneous uprisings cannot be stopped or started by organizations. They can be scientifically studied and taken into account in other ways, but they cannot be regulated or determined by subjective evaluation. Unconscious unplanned rebellion takes many forms, even in an uprising as we witnessed in Ferguson. No matter what form it takes, spontaneous rebellion is characteristically blind precisely because it is not guided by an aim or a strategy for liberation.

Social movements, on the other hand, become conscious when the people awaken to the need for organized struggle and resistance in fighting their oppressors. That is how social movements transition into conscious organized struggles. Our struggle for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) represents the conscious, subjective side of the movement in that it is organizing towards a definite goal, the enactment of a law that will empower the people to hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit. This is organized struggle demanding a systemic change that will empower the people to hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit. We fight for power at this stage by making people aware of the systemic nature of the problem and then engaging them in a political struggle to change the system. In this phase of our movement the need for strategy and tactics is urgently clear.

Strategy is determined by scientifically assessing objective social conditions, the moral and political climate and the relationship of forces. The moral and political climate has been dramatically changed by the Ferguson uprising. When we say the police are the cutting edge of mass incarceration and political repression in oppressed communities we are talking about the relationship of forces. You have to be arrested and prosecuted before being sent to prison. Racist police repression, under the cover of draconian drug laws, diminishes the organizing space for people to fight for social and economic justice. We must also look at police repression of the Occupy movement and of the Peace and Solidarity movements. The police will be increasingly used to repress the trade union movement as it grows more militant in organizing the unorganized. We must also acknowledge the repressive role of the FBI and National Security police under the guise of fighting terrorism and keeping our borders safe.

Our strategic goal is community control of the police as it is spelled out in our proposed CPAC legislation. The principal tactic for achieving our goal is organizing a mass support base of voters and residents in those areas hardest hit by police crimes and to organize a mass march of 10,000 to converge on the Federal Building and City Hall August 29, 2015. We already have over 10,000 supporters and some 200 volunteers. Through petitioning, canvassing and reaching out to other community based organizations and movement organizations we believe we can have a total of 100,000 supporters by August 29, 2015 coming mainly out of those communities hardest hit by police crimes.

We believe that this is the most effective way politically and socially to address the distrust and long standing antagonism between oppressed communities of color and the police. The fight for a democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council has strategic importance to the overall fight for democracy in our country. Move this spoke, and we move the wheel.