More on crime rates
The article on protests against police brutality in New York City (March 22 Militant) included one sentence that I think is misleading, or at best unclear, about crime and cops in capitalist society. It stated: "the supposed drop in `crime rates' has been reached not by changing social conditions but by locking up a record number of U.S. residents."
The massive increase in jailings is a fact. According to the U.S. Justice Department, a record 1.8 million persons were behind bars in U.S. jails and prisons in 1998. The rate of incarceration has more than doubled since 1985, to 668 inmates per 100,000 residents. And the total prison population is almost six times higher than in 1972.
People in jail can be counted. But all statistics on "crime rates" are of doubtful accuracy - most are compiled by the cops - and even more dubious significance.
"Crime" in such reports of course never includes the murderous violence of the cops themselves, or the killing and maiming of workers on the job, or the atrocities of imperialism against workers and peasants around the world, or the daily robbery of the working class by the capitalists.
What is usually called crime comprises the smaller scale antisocial acts - muggings, murders, assaults, burglaries, etc. - by individuals or small groups. According to various statistics, the rate of such crimes has declined in recent years. This is certainly contrary to the attempts by capitalist politicians and the media to convince workers that crime is our biggest problem - but exactly what the decline means is open to debate.
I am certain, however, that the jailings of hundreds of thousands of working people has contributed exactly nothing to reducing crime.
It is vitally important for class-conscious workers to explain, as the Militant has done over the years, that more prisons, longer sentences, more power to the cops, fewer rights for accused persons, more hollow-point bullets, more executions - none of these will do anything to curtail petty crime. And that's not their aim. The real target of these repressive measures is not criminals (with whom the cops are closely tied) but the ability of the working class to resist the big-scale crimes of capitalism.
Crime does not result from poverty, but from the breakdown of solidarity, the loss of identification with other human beings, among people who have thoroughly absorbed the dog-eat- dog values of capitalism.
Only the growing unity of working people, our ability to fight for our common interests instead of "looking out for number one," offers a road to eliminating small-scale crime-in the course of eliminating the criminal capitalist system.
George A. Rose
Iraqi pilgrims aren't fake
I am writing to call your attention to what I think is an error in the April 5 Militant "In Brief" section. The first article, "Tensions bubble in Mideast over sustained bombing of Iraq," notes the fact that the Iraqi government had broken the imperialist-imposed "no-fly zone" when it transported Muslims from Iraq by air to Mecca for the annual Haj. The article referred to those who traveled there as "pilgrims" - in quotes. There should be no quotes around the word. Putting quotation marks around a word or phrase which is not a quotation from someone often implies that something else is really involved, that the meaning of the word or phrase is open to doubt when used in the context it appears. It is analogous to inserting the phrase "so-called" before the word or phrase.
But the Muslims who boarded the Iraqi planes bound for Mecca were not "so-called" pilgrims. They were pilgrims. They were individuals who went to Mecca on a religious pilgrimage. We don't have to believe in Islam to understand the significance for a believer of making such a trip.
At different times the Saudi authorities have challenged Muslims coming to Mecca for the Haj from Iran and other places, attacking them on political lines and subjecting them to police harassment and repression during their stay. We don't want to imply that some who go to Mecca are suspect, or more to the point, that the Militant would know whether any of them planned on making the pilgrimage with aims or intentions other than performing their religious obligations.
This may seem like a small point, but I think it is important that our use of commonly used literary devices not imply things that we really don't know to be true.
An anti-snitch stand
I was disappointed that the Militant did not mention the most courageous anti-[Elia] Kazan actor at the Academy Awards - Black comedian Chris Rock.
When Rock was on stage to present an `Oscar,' he made the most defiant (and funniest) joke of the evening. He warned Kazan to stay away from actor Robert DeNiro because, "You know how he hates rats." DeNiro is best known for his (always incredibly similar) roles in gangster movies.
Rock made his joke in front of a televised audience of over a billion people, and a live audience containing some of the most powerful people in Hollywood. I thought his actions merited mention, along with the actions of Nick Nolte, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, and others.
One final point. The award for Kazan was not the only televised, telltale sign of the Academy's reactionary politics. In a pre-Oscar show, the security van that transports the actual awards was shown. The company name on the side of the van? Pinkertons - the name of one of the most notorious strikebreaking security firms in the world. Just thought that it was worth mentioning!
Vancouver, British Columbia
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