January 3, 2014

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio And His New Police Chief

On the west coast socialists and their supporters were celebrating the victory of Kshama Sawant’s election to the Seattle City Council.  In the midwest we were celebrating socialist activist Ty Moore’s 42% of the vote in a very close race against establishment favorite Alondra Cano for a Minneapolis City Council seat. In Lorraine County, Ohio the rank and file union members pressured the Labor Council to run independent Labor Party candidates against the Democrats and succeeded in winning 24 Labor party council seats.

But the silence from the Liberal/Progressive mainstream press, television, websites and blogs was deafening during these campaigns. After the victory of Kshama Sawant there was finally some coverage. Even the close race in Minneapolis had a radio black out of the city council position in which Cano won a close race.  It was generally thought that the radio stations were concerned that if they interviewed Cano (the victor) they would have to point out how she almost lost to a socialist activist.

On the other hand the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City was proclaimed the agent of real change as he had campaigned against Stop-And-Frisk and against economic inequality in the Big Apple.  He received 97% of the Black vote.

So those who believed in his campaign promises must have been shocked when their new mayor announced that he was appointing Bill Bratton as Police Chief.  They knew him.  He had been police chief under Rudy Guiliani 1994-1996. An Amnesty International 1996 report on Bratton’s NYPD found “A serious problem with police brutality and excessive force.  Racial disparities appear to be most marked in cases involving deaths in custody and questionable shootings.”

In a December 5, 2013 New Yorker interview Bratton talked about Stop-And-Frisk. “Stop-And-Frisk is a basic tool of policing.  If cops are not doing Stop-And-Frisk, they are not doing their jobs.  If you do away with Stop-And-Frisk the city will go down the chute as fast as anything you can imagine.”

Both Bratton and Stop-And-Frisk are hated in communities of color.  In June 2012 there was a protest of New York City policing policies. Five thousand marched to Mayor Bloomberg’s home. On December 27th there was another protest this time it was against the new mayor’s appointment of Bill Bratton.  And this time it was in Harlem on 125th street. It was sponsored by Parents Against Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization Of A Generation. Nellie Bailey an activist with the Harlem Tenant Council “This is a confirmation of the neoliberal pact that Mayor de Blasio will pursue.  This reassures the plutocrats that he has matters firmly in hand with the Black community and people of color...Bratton was the architect of Stop-And-Frisk”.

There were more shocks to come for those hoping for meaningful change from the Bloomberg administration.  Alicia Glen, a Goldman Sachs executive was appointed Deputy Mayor Of Housing And Economic Development.  The only response the mayor gave to his confused supporters was, “I don’t care about stereotypes or assumptions”.

For Budget Director, De Blasio chose Dean Fulsein who is experienced in negotiating many cutbacks in public services for past Democratic and Republican governors. He will begin negotiating with city unions, who are seeing $7 Billion in retroactive pay on long expired contracts.  De Blasio proclaimed himself “a fiscal conservative” at a meeting of business leaders.

Some people will say the new Mayor has to do all these things. But we know that is not true. We have an example in Seattle of a different way of governing. Someone who is unapologetic about being an advocate for the working class and understands that social change happens when social movements are independent of the two major parties. This was illustrated today when the new mayor-elect of Seattle announced that he was going to grant by executive order a $15 floor for city workers. Socialist City Councilor-elect Kshama Sawant quickly issued a statement congratulating him on his action but reminding everyone that this was only happening because of the growing movement to fight for $15. She then went on to say that this new floor for city workers should also be extended to all city contractors.  And by the way we are continuing to work to see a city wide minimum wage of $15 an hour for every worker in Seattle.  It is clear that we will see someone who will govern the same way she campaigned.  And this is why we should all support her calling for 100 independent working class candidates to run for office across the country in 2014.


Bob Rossi said...

So here's the news: fresh from running a "revolutionary socialist" on a liberal platform in Seattle and attempting to block a progressive Latina from breaking the color bar in the Minneapolis City Council elections the Trotskyites now turn their fire on the liberal de Blasio and the progressive and anti-racist coalition around him before the man has put in even one week in office. Somehow and somewhere along the line a liberal or progressive agenda got rebranded as socialism. One might see an evolving pattern here.

It's all to the good that Sawant got elected in Seattle and that there is a real conversation taking place around wages in the Seattle and Sea Tac areas. At the same time the tactical loss at Boeing this week and the misplaced calls from parts of the left to use eminent domain there point out some real limitations of the struggle and some potential dangers of misleadership.

We should not expect more of de Blasio than he is prepared to deliver. We can expect more of the coalition around him and hope that that coalition pushes him to the left, however.

To this point in time we can note some encouraging signs in the de Blasio coalition. There was de Blasio's attack on the Koch brothers during the campaign which was probably pushed on him by Harry Belafonte, a leading Black leftist. We can also note that the speakership of the City Council went to a progressive. Anti-racist and labor forces remain part of the coalition. The Working Families Party has rightly been given great credit for the coalition's win, but we must also point out that Occupy gets much of the credit as well. It's fair to say that a Republican lock on New York City politics has been broken, or is being broken. And it's also fair to say that liberal and progressive forces nationally feel energized by this win. We can already see that the too-modest tax proposals put forward by the coalition around de Blasio have drawn sharp resistance from a section of the ruling class and so the struggle around fundamental quality-of-life issues is moving forward.

On the downside, it's fundamentally more important to note that this was a low-turnout election (less than 25%) than the so-called failures of de Blasio given in the article above. It's fair to ask if the forces are in place to keep de Blasio and the coalition on track or not. We also can see a battle coming in talks with the municipal workers' unions. Tax policies and stop-and-frisk will be fought out and will test the coalition, but it should not be assumed at this point that those battles will be lost. The deciders will be the people at the heart of the coalition, not self-isolating "leftist" sects or appointed officials. Bratton, Gelen and the others denounced in this article are employees, after all.

New York City is not Seattle and a flexibility in tactics is needed. Late in the game the Trotskyites found Lorain, Ohio on the map and are drawing some lessons from what happened there. This is well and good, but they should be careful what they wish for. Without coalitions in place that are capable of pulling the center leftwards over time the call to run "independent" (whatever that means) working class candidates in 2014 may either fall on deaf ears or end in disaster.

Ann Montague said...

Just a couple of points. The myth around Cano being a progressive. Although it depends on how you define it I suppose. She did not support $15 Minimum wage, was not involved in struggles around foreclosures, occupy or more importantly picketing in support of SEIU labor struggles. Ty Moore was on the front line on these and immigrant rights struggles which is why all SEIU unions in Minnesota endorsed him as well as immigration rights activists who held a press conference to make clear why they were supporting Moore.
There are important issues to be discussed in terms of socialists and electoral work but name calling and using terms like "self isolating sects" is laughable when they received almost 100,000 votes in Seattle and received 42% against an establishment candidate with big money backers

Bob Rossi said...

It's ironic that I am accused of "name calling" by someone who calls Bill Fletcher "a member of the Black misleaership class" and who posted a piece by a Trotskyite who labels most everyone he disagrees with as "leftists," the quotes being his and the intent being to insult and degrade.

Note also that my my "self-isolating 'leftist' sects" comment was made about groups in New York, not Seattle.

The main body of what I said went unaddressed, of course. For the Trotskyite section of the left it is common to do "drive-bys" and raise slogans and not deal with substance. This substitutes for analysis and organizing.

I have not seen anything from Cano's side that says that she did not support the $15 minimum wage. I have heard from other sources that she was involved in the fight against foreclosures. And does it seem rational that picketing in support of SEIU labor struggles is "more important" (Ann's words) than almost anything else?

I'll take the word of local UFCW leaders that Cano was involved in the immigration fights and the word of local leading Greens that she is progressive. Are these people lying?

Of course the lynchpin words here are words like "support"---how and when does someone "support" an increase in the minimum wage, the foreclosure fight and a union struggle? And did she refuse to do these things? More to the point, if she was bad on these issues was there an effort to win her over or contrast whatever positions she took with those stated publicly by the DFL?

My intention is not to support Cano or attack her, of course. The facts of her candidacy are up for debate but recede in importance with time. My broader question is this: is it okay for a white male to run against a person of color under current conditions in a political race where there is a color bar or not?

It should really be an easy question for people who think about race and class. And it speaks volumes that the Trotskyites think that it is apparently and indeed okay for this to happen.

Likewise, we can read between the lines here and in Sawant's recent interviews that it's okay to mislead people in the Puget Sound area with calls for the use of eminent domain in the Boeing situation. Is that kind of misleadership okay?

The original thrust of this article was to attack de Blasio, his coalition and the struggle that replaced a Republican mayor of New York City with a Democrat, and a mildly progressive one at that. Is it okay to attack a liberal administration with a strong anti-racist component before it has even one week in office or not?