NYPD Celebrates May Day

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

So just as I was good and irritated with the Occupy crowd for co-opting the official holiday of a political ideology responsible for 100 million murders . . . the NYPD goes and makes me feel some sympathy for them.

In anticipation [of May Day protests] Monday, the FBI and NYPD raided the homes of protesters.

“There were a number of visits between 6:00 and 7:30 in the morning and at other points in the day that appeared to target people that primarily the NYPD, but in one instance the FBI, wanted to ask certain questions to,” Gideon Oliver, a spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild, which often represents Occupy protesters, told Buzzfeed. “Questions included things like ‘what are your May Day plans?’ ‘Do you know who the protest leaders are?’ ‘What do you know about the May Day protests?’ and such.”

Gawker reports that Zachary Dempster said 6 officers broke down the door of his Bushwick apartment at 6:15 AM, reportedly executing a warrant for the arrest of his roommate on a 6-year-old open container charge. Dempster believes, however, that cops used the raid as an excuse to question him about May Day.

And an hour later in Bed-Stuy, one of Dempster’s activist friends’ apartment–which he shares with 6 other Occupy protesters– was also paid a visit by 6 of New York’s finest. From Gawker:

The activist said police used arrest warrants for two men who no longer lived there as pretext for the raid. The officers ran the IDs of everyone who was in the apartment, then booked our source when they discovered he had an outstanding open container violation. Police never asked about Occupy Wall Street or May Day, but our source said the message was clear: We’re watching you.“We’re experienced at accommodating lawful protests and responding appropriately to anyone who engages in unlawful activity, and we’re prepared to do both,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told Bloomberg.

Presumably that doesn’t include the unlawful activities of NYPD.

Think about what just happened, here. On a day strongly associated with the old Soviet bloc, armed government agents staged early morning raids on the homes of suspected political dissidents, detained them, then interrogated them about their plans and political affiliations. And of course this isn’t the first time this has happened. There were similar preemptive raids ahead of the 2008 RNC convention in Minneapolis. Almost none of the charges resulting from those raids stuck, and the city has since been handing out settlement checks like parade candy.

Bonus bit of May Day trivia: American Cold War presidents responded to the commie May Day celebrations by declaring May 1st “Loyalty Day.” Because nothing celebrates “freedom” like a presidential proclamation encouraging the citizenry to declare their loyalty to the government!

Bonus, bonus bit of May Day trivia: The old Catallarchy blog had a tradition of using May Day to commemorate the victims of communism. Here’s a particularly good entry from 2005.


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114 Responses to “NYPD Celebrates May Day”

  1. #1 |  SamK | 

    Dammit Radley, you just did “no true Scotsman” as if you don’t know what it is. You’re better than that.

    Crony capitalism is an inherent part of the execution of capitalism. It happens. It’s like saying you can set up a retail operation and not have shoplifting. Nearly your entire problem with communism isn’t the philosophical idea, the utopia of perfect distribution of resources, but how it’s executed. Communism isn’t based on mass executions, so by what you just wrote about crony capitalism it’s not communism’s fault that Stalin or Mao killed millions of people.

    Of course the shit we’re talking about isn’t free market! It’s the real world result of capitalism hitting reality. The free market doesn’t exist and isn’t going to exist in the modern world. It’s right up there with the communist utopia…neither of them have *ever* existed except in the tiniest moment in the tiniest bubble of political accident that vaporizes in history. The things you bring up hating about communism are the same damned thing in a different country…they’re not the a pure philosophy, they’re what happens when you try to effect it.

    You’re not arguing that an actual, full-blown, 100% free market society has ever existed are you? The US sure as hell hasn’t been that country, so why are we discussing capitalism at all? If the purity of a culture is necessary before we can discuss a political philosophy’s impact we’d come to a full stop because NOTHING HAS EVER BEEN PURE.

    We can argue all day about whose murderous history is worse, but I get the feeling you’re just going to keep saying the US is better because we didn’t kill as many people “directly”.

    Are you really saying that capitalism is *inherently* incapable of producing purges, massacres? That a 100% free market would be devoid of cultures that commit genocide? That human beings wouldn’t wipe out their enemies right and left, women/children/elderly, cackling as they do it, simply because their industrial capacity was free of regulation? Maybe if we had a free market then everyone would have everything they want and we’d all live in a utopia without aggression and war?

    You haven’t said that…but you’ve repeatedly said that “nothing in US history remotely approaches…”. This specifically suggests that the horrors ascribed to the system you hate don’t happen in “our” system.

    So let me distill it then. My question is this: Do these things happen in our system or not?

    Not “do we murder fewer people”, not “are we less evil when we suck the resources out of a culture and people starve to death”, not “fewer people starve to death when we steal from them”, but DOES IT HAPPEN IT ALL.

    I say it does.

    We can move from that to: Is it significant? Is it anything more than an aberration?

    Yes.

    Was Stalin worse? Sure.

    There, we’ve covered the whole thing. Stalin was worse. God I’m proud of not being as bad as Stalin. It must be because we’re not communists.

  2. #2 |  Radley Balko | 

    Dammit Radley, you just did “no true Scotsman” as if you don’t know what it is. You’re better than that.

    If you point to a Japanese man and declare him a Scotsman, it isn’t a fallacy for me to point out to you that no, in fact, he isn’t a Scotsman. You’re trying to blame slavery on free market ideology. The word free is part of “free markets” for a reason. The mere fact that money was exchanged for human beings in the slave era doesn’t make slavery free market. Sure. There was a market for slaves. But it fails to meet the free test because, you know, they were buying and selling human beings..

    Crony capitalism is an inherent part of the execution of capitalism.

    You could just as easily say it’s an inherent part of government interference in the economy. You can have crony capitalism without capitalism. It’s called fascism. You can’t have crony capitalism without heavy government involvement in the private industry.

    Are you really saying that capitalism is *inherently* incapable of producing purges, massacres?

    Am I saying that governments in capitalist countries aren’t capable of atrocities? Of course not. I’m saying there’s nothing about capitalism or its implementation that would make a government prone to such things. Free markets are about leaving people alone to engage in voluntary, mutually beneficial transactions.

    Communism makes every citizen the property of the state. That requires a significant amount of coercion. It also requires a mass conceit that government planners know best, and a willingness to sacrifice lives, which the government can do when it owns them, for the greater good. There’s a reason why mass famine and starvation have followed every communist “5-year plan.” And there’s a reason why every attempt at a communist government has been totalitarian.

    That a 100% free market would be devoid of cultures that commit genocide? That human beings wouldn’t wipe out their enemies right and left, women/children/elderly, cackling as they do it, simply because their industrial capacity was free of regulation?

    You’re not arguing honestly, here. The grounding principle of free markets is that every individual owns his own body, and owns the product of his own labor. Those of us who advocate for free markets don’t advocate for anarchy. There would still be laws against murder, raping, and pillaging. You would still have a government to enforce those laws.

    The things you bring up hating about communism are the same damned thing in a different country…they’re not the a pure philosophy, they’re what happens when you try to effect it.every attempt at communism has resulted in totalitarian government, mass human misery, mass murder, and mass suppression of individual rights.

  3. #3 |  Radley Balko | 

    As someone who’s spent the last 20 years studying and living/working in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union I’d also argue that it’s intellectually lazy to impugn Soviet citizens in relation to the holiday. The entire population of the USSR was not sitting around for 70 years rubbing their fingertips together, mwahaha’ing and concocting nefarious schemes. For most people, it was/is a day to rightly celebrate their achievements in work (or just have damn day off). Tarring everyone with the evils perpetrated by the Party is akin to saying everyone in Tennessee is racist because the Klan used to be a big deal there.

    Who the hell is impugning the evils of communism to the citizens of the Soviet Union? Seriously. Show me where I’ve even come close to doing that. The citizens of the Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc countries were the victims of communism. I mean Jesus. That’s the whole fucking point.

    My guess that the citizens of those countries celebrated in state-mandated May Day activities because they were mandated by the state. When there’s a gun in your face, real or implied, you do what you’re told.

    I find the choice of May Day irritating because it has become historically linked to those mandated celebrations in totalitarian countries. Yes, symbolism matters. The left seems to understand this in other contexts. There are lots of dates on which to celebrate the contribution of labor that don’t carry the same historical baggage.

  4. #4 |  SamK | 

    >every attempt at communism has resulted in totalitarian government, mass human misery, mass murder, and mass suppression of individual rights.

    This is all we’re arguing about. So has every attempt at capitalism and free markets, communism has just been worse. I’m only looking for you to say that free markets and capitalism aren’t a panacea that eliminates the horrors of humanity as expressed by communism. That’s all.

    …ok, and the idea that slavery isn’t capable of being a free market result is blithering foolishness. The freedom of the cattle isn’t the freedom of the market. You define it that way, but a completely free market provides what is desired and slaves were desired. You’re arguing for a market restriction on selling slaves. That’s not 100% free market, it’s your personal beliefs.

  5. #5 |  SamK | 

    I’ve spent a fair bit of time in old Eastern bloc countries, def not 20 years, but most of them could have cared less about communism vs what’s in place now. They were the victims but they were the communists too…much like us, to them politics was just bullshit that the few pushed on the many.

    They celebrated holidays because they were human, not because they had a gun to their head. I’m sure North Korea’s different.

  6. #6 |  Radley Balko | 

    You’re arguing for a market restriction on selling slaves. That’s not 100% free market, it’s your personal beliefs.

    Are you being willfully stupid, here? You can’t have a “free market” in buying in selling human beings, because a “free market” is entirely predicated on the idea that people own their own bodies and own the product of their labor. Free markets are about voluntary transactions between individuals. You can’t have a voluntary transaction between individuals that’s contingent upon the involuntary servitude of another individual. This isn’t that difficult of a concept.

  7. #7 |  SamK | 

    I’ll even drop the slavery discussion / free market philosophy and eat “willfully stupid” if you’ll comment on:

    “…free markets and capitalism aren’t a panacea that eliminates the horrors of humanity as expressed by communism. “

  8. #8 |  Morning in America » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog | 

    […] On May Day 2012, some Occupy protesters, observing May Day with protests and occupying, had already experienced just how much like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany America has become, especially in New York. […]

  9. #9 |  Kevin Carson | 

    “But none of that is anywhere near as evil as… Pol Pot.”

    Some of that *was* Pol Pot. The U.S. backed Pol Pot’s regime against the Vietnamese invasion, and supported the Khmer Rouge guerrilla resistance against the subsequent Vietnamese puppet regime. And in fact the death toll inflicted in South Vietnam, Laos — and yes, in Cambodia — by U.S. strategic bombing and chemical warfare was comparable to that inflicted by Pol Pot.

    “Crony capitalism isn’t capitalism.”

    This is remarkably close in spirit to saying Marxism-Leninism isn’t true communism. I think “capitalism” is a good term for referring to the actually existing system of historic capitalism as it emerged from feudalism, and has existed for the past 500 years or so. And that actual social system has been characterized from the beginning by capitalists exercising power through the state and obtaining profits and rents on artificial property rights enforced by the state. I like to distinguish capitalism, in this sense, from the free market.

  10. #10 |  Jeremy Weiland | 

    You can’t have a “free market” in buying in selling human beings, because a “free market” is entirely predicated on the idea that people own their own bodies and own the product of their labor.

    I don’t think this is as cut and dry as you like to depict it. David Graeber explores how our Lockean concept of private property and liberty have their roots in Roman law surrounding slaves. For a taste of the argument, read this.

    No, this doesn’t mean that if you’re a libertarian you’re a crypto-slave-owner. It does mean that markets — free ones, slave ones, mixed economy ones, centrally planned ones, all of them — derive from the extra-economic, politically constituted rules set up for them describing what legitimate property is, what legitimate property isn’t, and what rights, privileges, etc. are conferred on somebody when they are said to “own” something. These rules are arbitrary and have changed throughout history quite a bit. They are not above moral reproach, and they are only self-evident when you’re steeped in a culture that assumes those rules from the get-go — let alone cultures where monopoly law codifies these definitions. In other words, the problem isn’t that there has never been a free market, but that *every* market has been “free” — subject to the mores of the time.

    As much as I appreciate the market concept as a system for allocating resources, there’s no magic sauce in it that makes it morally superior to other systems. Would anybody really argue that the Iroquois, a tribe that distributed resources through collective pooling, was automatically evil simply because other collectivists have committed atrocities?

    You can’t have a voluntary transaction between individuals that’s contingent upon the involuntary servitude of another individual.

    Sure you can: you just say the slave is not human. That’s how it worked in the past.

    Is that morally wrong? I’d agree with you that it is — but it isn’t wrong because it’s somehow a rejection of market principles. It’s wrong because it’s a rejection of our current mores about humans — mores that precede the economics. This libertarian essentialism clouds our thinking about these matters, especially at a time where property as a concept is under intense strain and flux.

  11. #11 |  supercat | 

    #101 | SamK | “Crony capitalism is an inherent part of the execution of capitalism. It happens. It’s like saying you can set up a retail operation and not have shoplifting.”

    The duties involved in running a legitimate business do not involve shoplifting. They may entail *dealing with shoplifters* or *coping with the effects of shoplifting*, and it may not be possible for a business to 100% prevent criminals from committing theft against it, but does that mean that the act of shoplifting would be regarded as part of a legitimate businessman’s duties.

    Free-market economics intrinsically rewards people who maximize their productivity and minimize their needs. There’s no need to force people to work as hard as they can or consume as little as they can. If someone would like to work less but consume less, that’s his prerogative. If someone else would like to have a more lavish lifestyle, he’ll have to spend more time working to pay for it, but that’s his prerogative too. Socialism and communism fundamentally distort the incentives which would be present in a free market, to the point that they no longer prompt people to voluntarily maximize productivity or minimize consumption. Absent such incentives, governments have to compel such behavior by fiat, because otherwise people would have no reason to do it.

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  13. #13 |  Pyrrhic Victory « The Honest Courtesan | 

    […] to steal the day from the communists by declaring it “Loyalty Day” in the US (because, as Radley Balko aptly observed, “…nothing celebrates ‘freedom’ like a presidential proclamation encouraging the citizenry […]

  14. #14 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @110 – Easier, simply argue that it’s acceptable for people to surrender certain rights by contract.

    Sadly, people will end up doing it in the next few decades if it’s legal or not, simply to have food and shelter, as capital continues to steamroller wages and people decide that they really, really need to eat more than they need liberty.

    @111 – It encourages people to keep as much of others productivity as they can, rather. Which is why we’re seeing the ever-smaller return on people’s labor.

    Also, to everyone – the Spanish Civil War.