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Tequilx_Wolf wrote

Does anybody know a succinct short argument for police abolition that would appeal to leftists generally?

I'm talking like two paragraphs of concise stuff.

If not, do you know anything good anyway - can be longer?


bloodrose wrote

I find when I'm talking about police, the most important thing I can do is to try to convince people that police do not keep them safe and are not designed to. I like to point out that they are there to protect property, not human lives and as I'm in the US, I can point to a Supreme Court ruling where it was so-ruled that they had no obligation to protect people. The number one thing that keeps people clinging to police is fear for personal safety. Pointing out that before police, personal safety was still handled within communities helps.


Tequilx_Wolf wrote

Yeah this is what I have been thinking so far, it seems the best way to go, the problem is it's not easy to be airtight with arguments in such a small space, which is what I usually try to go for.


[deleted] wrote


Tequilx_Wolf wrote

Best case scenario this would cause them to read more about police abolition or deeply challenge their beliefs further.

I'd be more than happy with that I think. I'm just used to writing things that I understand to be stronger so I'm trying to find the best language and rhetoric people have used.


cammie wrote (edited )

I think it is hard to find a really pan-leftist take on why the police should be abolished (as opposed to just reformed), because much of the left is not opposed to authority, and to me it seems like an important part of the problem is the position of authority that the police occupy. And many of the supposedly pro-abolition arguments just amount to abolishing the police and then simplistically replacing them with an institution of equal cause for concern, where they do all the same things as police, but they wear different hats or something.

For me the only really convincing arguments against the police are the anarchist ones, which is not to say that people from the non-anarchist parts of the left won't find them convincing, it's just that if they do then they might be considered anarchist-leaning lefties, and so it would still not be a truly general leftist argument.

Anyway, here's what I just threw together, more for my own entertainment. I'm not suggesting it's good, there are better pieces out there of course, and I'm sure it could be made more concise and there are a few bits i don't like, but I've got to put it down and sleep, so consider this a draft i guess. Feedback welcome.

The primary purpose of the police force of a state isn't to keep people safe, it's role is to safeguard state power (for which capital is a proxy of under capitalism.) The police force only keeps people safe insofar as doing so protects capital. An effect of this is that the people with more capital are the ones kept more safe, those with less are less safe, and those that are deemed to be a threat to capital are the primary opponent of the police force and as such are unsafe.

This forms a sort of calculus of safety in which someone with a lot of capital that does something seen as a minor threat to capital will retain a level of safety that someone without the same capital would not have. This, in combination with systemic racism, ableism, sexism, and homophobia, amongst a litany of other forms of discrimination, leaves us with a police force that only really provides safety to a subset of rich white people.

But even if it were possible to reform away the discrimination, including the discrimination inherent to the primary role of the police, then it would still leave the police force as a group of privileged individuals with special powers that give them the exclusive authority to use violence against the people of the state, and that authority needs to be guarded against corruption, but the state can only do so by further applying authoritarian means of control, which only moves the problem further up the chain of command. Every issue averted at a lower level is compounded and moved upwards. So by this process, eventually responsibility falls to the heads of state, and so the matter of policing becomes a matter of government accountability.

In addition to the problem of managing the authority of the police, there is the ethical question of what sort of things are considered unsafe enough that the police need to protect people from them.

So the matter of policing becomes a matter of government accountability and ethics. If there is some way for the people to hold the government accountable to their will, and some way for the people to define the ethics by which the police should operate, and some way for the people to all completely agree on what both their will and ethics are, then that is the way that the police can be made to keep the people safe. But it is demonstrably impossible for a large and diverse group of people to share a common will and ethics to the degree that is required to make the police safe. So it is better to have no police force than to have an unsafe police force. There are other solutions to the problem of community safety that do not involve providing special powers to privileged individuals in the hopes that they share a common will and ethics, and are incorruptible.


zoom_zip wrote

sorry for self promotion i guess, but this is about as condensed as i could get my thoughts on it:

i pretty much wrote this for the same reason. i was having these discussions but couldn’t find a really concise resource that explained the position.


Tequilx_Wolf wrote

I enjoyed thinking about ways of structuring it as I wrote it. Our contexts are different and one of my key things is going to need to be the genealogical argument, which there isn't a lot of information on here.