Larry Krasner resoundingly defeated right-wing candidate Carlos Vega in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for District
Larry Krasner resoundingly defeated right-wing candidate Carlos Vega in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for District Attorney. A year after the George Floyd rebellion, this is a victory for all working people who have confirmed their rejection of a return to the “law and order” paradigm that dominated the city judicial system before. But at the same time we must highlight some key limitations.
Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of the Police (FOP) spent more than $150,000 against Larry Krasner to reverse modest reforms of his office. Mayor Kenney, along with the Philadelphia Democratic Party, refused to endorse Larry Krasner against Carlos Vega. It’s clear that the political establishment and the conservative wing of the Democratic Party want to wrestle away any gains represented by Krasner’s DA office.
Establishment Democrats who backed Vega, such as Ed Rendell, cited the horrific gun violence epidemic growing due to Krasner’s meager reforms as their reasoning. Working people rejected this charade, but not just because of the Krasner campaign. An outright racist DA candidate is a symbol of the mass incarceration system that millions just went up against in the George Floyd rebellion in the streets and workplaces.
Krasner’s reforms, while certainly positive, don’t go nearly far enough. Cash bail, while reduced, is still used throughout the city’s jails. Mass incarceration of young Black and Brown people has continued largely unabated. Mumia Abu-Jamal is still wrongly in prison, even though Krasner could likely exonerate Mumia by releasing all documents pertaining to Mumia’s case to the public.
Real justice cannot be obtained through the capitalist system or the ruling class’ courts. The systematic oppression and exploitation of working people, particularly Black working people, required the creation of prisons and police. Krasner running in the Democratic Party, a strategy Philly Socialist Alternative disagrees with, means he will face opposition at every step from conservative forces within his own party. Further, Krasner’s acceptance of money from Wall Street investors like George Soros hampers the building of a working class movement, as big business never gives a cent to any movement without seeking to control it.
Rather than engage in a prolonged, closed-door battle with the political establishment, Krasner must plainly identify this resistance and build an organization capable of challenging these reactionary forces. The DA's office itself is an instrument of the capitalist class; limiting his role in the movement to the office will result in no lasting gains. While Krasner was able to survive the right-wing onslaught, a truly effective campaign to solve problems of criminal injustice cannot take place in the Democratic Party, with its multitude of connections to the prison industrial complex. Democrats and Republicans, at the behest of big business profiting from incarcerated labor, created 8 new prisons from 1980-2012, leading to PA’s $2 billion prison budget. What is required is an independent party of working people led by multi-racial working class activists and socialists.
Krasner cannot simply begin his second term using the same tired strategies of accommodating the political establishment and the Philadelphia police department. To seriously challenge mass incarceration, racist policing, and gun violence means to build working class organizations rooted in communities and workplaces to fight for serious gains for all Philadelphians. Community control of the police along with mass community meetings to discuss how to implement public safety, stomp out racist policing, and taxing the rich to eliminate impoverishment, would be a leap in the right direction.
Krasner should immediately seize this victory as a mandate for independent organization and launch community-based action groups to make racial justice a reality in Philadelphia. Action groups would discuss issues, debate strategy and coordinate across the region an alternative to mass incarceration and the deep pockets of establishment politicians.