A Word on the Meaning of Political Self-Empowerment for Our Movement
Editor’s note: Frank Chapman wrote this statement to call for unity in struggle by Black, Latino and working-class communities.
Chicago saw great victories earlier in 2023 through a united front under a Black and Latino leadership, with the first-in-the-country elections for democratic civilian oversight of the police, and the election as mayor of a trade unionist, Brandon Johnson. Johnson defeated a racist who was backed by the Fraternal Order of the Police, Paul Vallas. Vallas is known in Chicago history for introducing neo-liberal policies, which included major attacks on funding for public schools. 90% of Chicago Public School students are Black and Latino.
The unity that helped win these advances has been under attack. Political turmoil has emerged after the arrival in Chicago of 25,000 asylum seekers.
Alderperson Jeanette Taylor told a gathering of activists in her 20th Ward in October, “The Republicans are trying to divide us by sending thousands of immigrants here.” She explained, “We have more in common with each other than we do with those racists.”
Yes, we did it! Here in Chicago, we broke the chain of neo-liberalism that has held us in economic bondage for over four decades, from Reaganomics (trickle-down lies of the Eighties) to the present crisis in housing, the depression of real wages, and the rising tide of unpayable debt.
Our victory with the election of Mayor Brandon Johnson on April 4th created a crack in the system that has the potential of unleashing the most powerful democratic upsurge of the masses since the Sixties. It is because of this reality that “the powers that be” have gotten super busy in creating cracks in the coalition that got Mayor Johnson elected in the first place.
Seven months after the inauguration and we are still struggling to consolidate our victory in order for Mayor Johnson to make real the reforms he promised. At a time when we should be closing ranks to become a formidable force for progress, there are tendencies to shatter our unity, tendencies dividing our ranks and creating circular firing squads in the movement. The phase we are in now is that we must unite and fight our common enemy or lose all that we have gained up ‘til now.
Our focus in this phase should be to regroup and reeducate our forces to the reality that we must unite and advance or we will be defeated. The main question then is how we bring together the people – the working class and oppressed Black and Brown people – to the playing field with the mayor so we can move forward together to consolidate our gains and start building a real people’s movement for jobs, housing and a better life for all Chicagoans. Building a people’s movement for justice that will free the wrongfully convicted and bring the police (who are the cutting edge of mass incarceration) under community control in terms of regulating police misconduct by the Police Board, COPA and the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability. We must build a united peoples movement for immigrants and asylum seekers bringing families out of the shadows of a police state.
Like Fred Hampton said, politics is war without bloodshed. What we are engaged in now is war and in war we must remain true to our principles and be willing to win by any means necessary.