Politics of Crime and Economic Change

Max Sawicky sawicky at epinet.org
Mon Mar 8 08:59:27 PST 1999

Well, at least one other person hasn't tried of this subject, so I'll return Yoshie's latest serve.

In accepting the possibility of moral justification for executing those guilty of heinous crimes, we are quite a ways from the persecution of vagabondage.

> Marx wrote in _Capital_, vol.1:
> *** The proletariat created by the breaking up of the bands of
feudal retainers . . .

Nor need one be indifferent to the political uses of criminal justice to come back to a justification for capital punishment. Note that even a kind of principled support for the death penalty has no necessary implications for one's support of the current size of the prison population or for the current policy of punishment across the board.

As I mentioned before, you are trying to debunk a position by loading all sorts of extraneous, odious freight upon it.

> In the above passage, Marx is commenting on primitive
accumulation and how it caused both certain working-class behaviors and laws that criminalized them, and criminalization helped the ruling class to contain the threat of masses of unemployed men and women _at large_, roaming freely, unsubsumed by factory discipline, making trouble.>

yeah yeah yeah. ( zzzz-zzzz-zzzz )

> Since the early 1970s, something comparable has taken place in
the United States. The post-WW2 boom was over, . . . >>

By this logic, we ought to have seen a reversal of policy by now. But the reactionary role of the crime issue is plain enough. A better question is what to do about it.

> That's exactly the point, or one of the main points of politics
of criminalization & incarceration, along with the making of a new hegemony based on attacks on social rights & labor rights + plus emphases on 'personal responsibility.'>

But the first politics need not be associated with the second.

Here's a different vantage point, if you want to talk cold-hearted politics, rather than sentimentality: no matter what you or I say, when a person commits heinous crimes -- not "vagabondage," for god's sake -- and is not dealt with severely, this has a profoundly unsettling impact on the working class. Their ire is directed towards the public sector and the whole gamut of proposals for social betterment that appear to be focused on the poor. Left politics in general becomes stereotyped as advocacy of mercy for those who don't deserve any. An indifference towards retribution is interpreted as one towards public safety (though this is admittedly a different matter). This is marginalizing in the same way as an indifference towards reform. This sort of ultra-leftism has no future, what-so-ever.


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