Urban Street Gangs: the Key to Revolution

The left is overlooking what could be the most strategic constituency in practical revolution: urban gangs.

There is little actual revolutionary preparation being pursued by anyone, no doubt because revolution is hardly imminent. Likewise, there are few who even contemplate the mechanics of revolt and social upheaval. Even most of us supportive of the concept spend little time in such analysis and speculation.

Perhaps we should.

At the very least, an understanding of the dynamics of revolution would be helpful for future revolutionaries.

Many leftists are pacifists, and embrace the view of nonviolent political change such as was engineered by Gandhi in India. I believe the dynamics of toppling an occupying colonial power to be quite different from unseating a domestic government.

Should violent revolution be in order, the primary defenders of the state will be local police. The second and third waves of state power will be the National Guard and the regular Army.

Sheer numbers alone might defeat the government, as American forces may be reluctant to raise arms against their fellow citizens. That would have been much more likely the case with troops who were not professional soldiers. US troops are now well-paid volunteers rather than the citizen-soldiers of years gone by.

The record of local police dealing with people of color in general, let alone in insurrection, suggests that brutal police violence is to be expected to any challenge to the status quo. Even peaceful protests by students, labor, gay activists, etc, have been met with brutal police responses and paramilitary tactics. There is little reason to suppose more enlightened policing will prevail in the face of public uprisings.

We cannot predict the future, but if revolution were to happen anytime soon, it would undoubtedly be touched off by police brutality against members of the African American community. The flashpoint for public outrage has come close in the killings of unarmed black men, from rural Ferguson, MO to cosmopolitan New York City.

The endemic hostility to minorities is rampant in police departments across the country. The recent disclosure of racist emails by cops in Fort Lauderdale, FL, suggests that black men are the targets of police departments everywhere.

Nearly every city in the nation is home to one or more urban street gangs. Crips, Bloods, Mexican Mafia, etc, these gangs are natural allies of any revolutionary movement. And they are already opposed to the local police.

Their opposition to police is less philosophical than expedient and defensive. Most gang members have been victimized by local police, whether deservedly or not.

Our purpose now should be to provide those gangs with philosophical and intellectual justifications to support social revolution.

Outreach to urban gangs should be as much a part of educational strategies as outreach to any other political constituency. And for those engaging in long term revolutionary planning, outreach to urban gangs should be the top priority.

The US is a prison state. While only making up 5% of the world population, the US imprisons 20% of the world’s convicts.

The US imprisons more people than any other country. More than China. More than Iran. More than North Korea.

The only jurisdiction in the world which incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than does the US is the state of Louisiana (part of the US).

A number of factors conspire to create the prison state: archaic laws; reactionary electorates; religious pressures; the War on Drugs; police and prison guard unions; a conservative judiciary; and a corrupt system of prosecution. But the biggest cause is capitalism and the for-profit prison industry.

The US imprisons a higher percentage pf its population than does any other country. And it adds convicts as it releases others. The result is a burgeoning number of ex-convicts among the general population. And a growing fifth column.

While many may be averse to aligning with criminals, it would be well to remember that the enemy we face is guilty of crimes several orders of magnitude more severe than those committed by even the most nefarious felons.

No one on Death Row anywhere in the country murdered more people than did Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, or any of the other war criminals of the Bush or Obama administrations. Indeed, by comparison, most criminals are guilty of traffic violations.

When it comes to theft, robbery, and other property crimes, convicted criminals are pikers compared to members of the boards of directors of most Wall Street enterprises, especially the banks.

I am fond of an observation I once read:

Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank.

Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

The numbers of potential revolutionary allies are quite impressive: There are over 5 million ex-convicts in the US, two million current prisoners, and about one million gangmembers. In contrast, the entire US armed forces comprises less than half a million troops, and there are about the same number of National Guards. Local police make up less than a million, about the same number as there are gang members.

The obvious advantages of the police and troops are organization, training, and weaponry. But ex-cons. prisoners, and gang members outnumber the fascist forces by 4 to 1.

Something to consider.


Please note that this article was originally published on the Armory as Trust a Crip. Not a Cop on March 27, 2015. It’s thesis is even more relevant today than it was then. I urge readers to share this widely. Thanks.

Roland Vincent



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