The Immediate Post-Election Moment
The presidential race having gone to the Biden/ Harris ticket last weekend, we at Critical Resistance are engaged in reflection and analysis about what this means for the fight for prison industrial complex (PIC) abolition. After four years of a regime that emboldened and consolidated a right-wing, proto-fascistic bloc in concert with other regimes such as those in Brazil, India, and Hungary, a Biden/ Harris electoral victory is rife with contradictions.
In the immediate, we must contend with the Trump administration challenging the electoral process, continuing to escalate his base, and threatening to bring about a period of increased violence and political disarray. Even with Trump out of office, the white supremacist ideology that initially propelled him to power has in fact grown more wide spread and become more consolidated amongst his base. The GOP, which has wedded itself to Trump’s ideology over the last four years, has made electoral gains in other branches of government that will have impact for years to come. We see the potential for a continued conservative majority in the U.S. Senate and an increase in conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Supreme Court recently swore in Amy Coney Barrett, securing majority of conservative justices. The federal government is not a monolith and the incoming presidency will be negotiating bodies of law makers hostile to providing the life affirming resources organizers demand. The right-wing bloc isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
What We Can Anticipate in the Years to Come
A Biden/Harris administration itself will present its own challenges. Anyone familiar with Joe Biden or Kamala Harris is well aware of their proficiency in expanding the reach of the PIC. Biden’s legacy legislation as a U.S. Senator is the infamous 1994 Crime Bill, which continues to pipe millions in federal funds to the state and local level for prison expansion and pro-police reforms.
We assume Biden will attempt to return to an Obama-era playbook of consent decrees, technocratic tweaks and police task forces – with an aim to strengthen policing under a liberal guise. Given Harris’ dismal record as the District Attorney of San Francisco and the California Attorney General, we anticipate rigid law and order moves under the veneer of progressivism. We foresee no lessening of anti-gang criminalization of people targeted by law enforcement and an increase in extreme imprisonment policies. This will also likely include an expansion in rates of deportations, caging at the border and a bolstering of military presence internationally as they attempt to rescue the neoliberal project.
During ever-worsening climate conditions, a fiscal crisis, and the ravages of a global pandemic, it remains clearer than ever that the neoliberal project is failing and will be forced to rely more and more on the PIC to maintain its rule. We can see examples in the continued imprisonment of millions as COVID-19 swells within prisons and jails, and the policing that has notched up its presence and repression in response to the rebellions of the summer.
The neoliberal forces that supported a Biden candidacy are already vehemently working to isolate the Left, despite the fact that it was social justice organizers who prevented four more years of descent into fascistic rule through tireless organizing. In other words, those in power are attempting to squash the organizing and legitimacy around the key issues that communities have been energized around: defunding police, challenging imprisonment, combatting ICE, achieving healthcare for all, fighting climate disaster, all while resisting income inequality and capitalism’s war on the working class.
The Opportunity and Need for Abolition
However, we see many opportunities on the horizon. As the neoliberal interests are scrambling to stand on a crumbling status quo of the past decade, and right-wing forces are moving confidently to a more openly white supremacist agenda—our task is to build and strengthen movements who are unwilling to accept either of the above. This year, abolition has spread across the popular imagination like never before, and it is on us to ensure that we make our imaginations a reality. We must build on the movements that exist, develop new and creative alliances, and mobilize the new and unprecedented energy for liberation.
We are inspired by the immense and broad coalition and unaligned grassroots forces that defeated Trump. We are inspired by the sweat and tears of grassroots campaigners and organizing in Black, Indigenous, communities of color, and working class communities who mobilized voter turnout and grassroots passion in the midst of a demoralizing and tragic year. We KNOW this is what we are capable of—organizing against the odds to defend life and land!
We must remain committed to our resistance and our fight to abolish the prison industrial complex. We have made incredible gains under such harrowing conditions – strengthening and resourcing mutual aid networks and practices, shifting the political terrain around policing, and pushing for the mass release of our folks inside cages. Just as we’ve done under a neoconservative fascist regime the last four years, we will continue to shrink the repressive violence of the state–while dreaming, creating, and building upon resources and infrastructure that bring life, self-determination, and power to the people.
Now more than ever we must continue to push our demands even farther and harder. Our current projects for liberation also need to be rooted in a rigorous practice and struggle of solidarity and internationalism. In this time of political instability, there is much yet to be determined, and it is imperative that we double down on our work of building a movement to dismantle the cages, walls and cops that stand in the way of freedom.