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First We Mourn, Then We Organize: A Letter to Weary Black Organizers Who Have Had Enough

Tyre Nichols, and all victims of police brutality, must be mourned. But we can’t stop fighting or give in to despair — we have to build an independent political party that clashes with the capitalists physically, politically, and ideologically.

Tristan Taylor

January 29, 2023
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Detroit socialist activist Tristan Taylor at a protest during 2020.

For anyone whose soul is weary from the continuous death and brutality caused by the police, know that it is okay. As a Black, working-class activist who has marched many, many times against police brutality, I feel overwhelmed and exhausted. The violence and cruelty displayed by the police against Tyre Nichols was way too much. He too called for his mom while being brutalized by police, just like George Floyd did. That Tyre Nichols’ murder happened in the same month as the death of Keenan Anderson, a Black school teacher who begged not to be “George Floyd-ed,” and that of Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, an activist fighting Cop City and defending the Weelaunee Forest, is way too much.

Their lives — and the lives of all victims of police brutality — deserve to be mourned. We deserve that moment to mourn. 

But we can’t stop fighting or give into despair. We must not lose sight of our need for justice or our knowledge that justice won’t simply come about by trusting the state or the Democratic and Republican Parties to deliver it. They have failed us too many times for us to believe or have hope in that.

We must remember that our actions from 2020 were powerful. So powerful that the effect from that moment still looms large. It was the largest civil rights mobilization in the history of this nation, but not only that: it was a militant display of power that received popular support. The burning of the police station in Minneapolis had higher approval ratings than Trump or Biden. The demands to defund and abolish the police, a pillar of the capitalist state, were the main slogans of the movement. Memphis released the Tyre Nichols tapes and fired those officers because of its fear of that power. Here in Michigan, where I live, the specter of BLM resulted in Christopher Schurr, a white officer who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya, being fired and facing second-degree murder charges.

The power of the 2020 BLM upsurge was not enough to defund or abolish the police, but it is something we can take lessons from and build on to achieve those goals. The only way for us to do that is by building organizations that are present and part of the class struggle taking place in our communities, schools, and workplaces. Organizations that understand the need for and power of taking action, like strikes, in our workplaces and schools around all the issues that affect us. Organizations that are prepared to mobilize in the streets. Those organizations need to understand the importance of building mobilizations and organizing on a national level, since an exclusively localist focus leaves us too isolated and limited.

From 2020 we learned that it’s not enough to just be part of the struggle. We have to build an independent political party that clashes with the capitalists physically, politically, and ideologically by challenging its state, its political parties, and its bureaucracies within the labor and social justice movements. Our party must be explicitly anti-capitalist with a revolutionary socialist program.

This will be hard. It will not only require sacrifice, but a deep commitment in thought and action to developing clear goals, strategic visions, and bold tactics. So, let’s take the time to mourn, but let’s then put forth an agenda to renew the movement and build organizations and a political party that are politically independent of the capitalists. Let’s also build a political strategy and program that expresses the power of the working class and oppressed through our methods of struggle like strikes and mass mobilizations to build independent power, instead of incremental and small programs or legal ”reforms” that can’t seriously address the problems we face. Our final goals are full Black liberation, abolition of cops, prisons, and racist borders that punishes Black and Brown people and restricts their freedom of movement, goals achievable only in a socialist society democratically controlled by the working class and oppressed. 

Again, I know that we are all weary, exhausted, and hurt. I am. In these moments, I think of Black peoples’ history of struggle and perseverance and the moralizing and healing properties of struggle. I think about Mother Pollard, an elderly Black woman in Montgomery, Alabama who participated in the bus boycott. When Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed concern about her continuing to boycott the bus and walk (she was about 72 years old), she replied that “my feets are tired, but my soul is rested.” I know it’s possible for us to win real liberation, so let’s stay in this struggle together.

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