Statement on the 2020 Rebellion
Workers Power – USA, June 2020
For over a week now, US cities have been convulsed by an unprecedented wave of militant fightback precipitated by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN by Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. For almost nine minutes, Floyd, a black man, was held down by Chauvin’s knee on his neck in front of cameras while Floyd begged for his life. Even after he lay limp and unresponsive, Chauvin continued his torture of Floyd for several minutes more even though bystanders filmed the murder and begged the cops to get up and let him breathe. George Floyd died and will never breathe again. Another victim of a long, long line of death by cop for a black person in the USA.
But this time the reaction was different. For one thing, it was much more widespread with over 200 cities affected to date. For another, it was much more militant. Cities were rocked, commercial buildings were shut down and their goods expropriated, offices and stores saw radical graffiti and damage in varying degrees, and even a police station in Minneapolis was burned down as pitched battles were fought on the streets against the cops by the people. Another difference is that this uprising was made up of a racially and ethnically mixed group of protesters who weren’t exclusively black. White people, Latino people, as well as black people had obviously had enough of the police terror epitomized by the murder of George Floyd and they all fought back together.
The immediate reaction from the capitalist power structure, represented by the political class of both parties, was also different. They were forced to almost immediately fire Chauvin and the other three cops that abetted Floyd’s murder. When this proved not enough to calm the protests, on Friday May 29 Chauvin was arrested and charged with third degree murder. Eventually the other three cops who abetted in the murder of George Floyd were also arrested, albeit well over a week later.
When the cops in the various cities weren’t able to restore “order” in the face of such massive and militant resistance, the National Guard was called up to back up the bourgeois bullies of the police departments. Trump jumped in, not with “dog whistle” racism like his predecessors, but with blatant appeals to his white supremacist followers. Emerging from his White House bunker, he posed in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church waving a Bible after peaceful protesters had been tear gassed and clubbed out of the way. He told governors and mayors to “dominate the streets” and threatened to deploy the military if state governors didn’t do so. In fact, what he is threatening is little short of an outright dictatorship. His declaration of Antifa being a “terrorist organization,” even though Antifa is not an organization, instead being an ideology based entirely on confronting fascist terror in the streets, is proof that, instead of blaming the bi-partisan reign of terror on the killer cops who precipitated it, he’s going to blame the people for their justified reaction to their murderous repression. Between the tinpot would-be dictator in Republican Donald Trump, various Democratic Party governors, and Democratic candidate for President Joe “shoot them in the leg instead” Biden, the “bi-partisanship” of repression shows the need for a break from the political establishment. That political establishment is the one of the Republicans and the Democrats professing to be separate but, in reality, constituting a single party, bi-partisan in name only. In the place of our faith in the system we must favor and work towards a unifying US workers’ party and recent events have displayed this need in the starkest of terms.
After the National Guard was called up in almost half the country, the cops have gone on a rampage against protesters, peaceful or not, literally opening fire on protesters and killing a man in Louisville, KY and beating people everywhere else in a clear effort to intimidate anyone who might dare stand against them and their terror. This, coupled with the attempts to label this justified anger of the people as “terrorism,” does not bode well for the future of any peaceful efforts to change that system which led to Floyd’s murder and the subsequent horrid actions by police in their own selfish defense.
To be clear: that system which needs changing and which has caused this is a racist one. That cannot be mitigated in any way by anyone. We stand firmly on the side of the black residents of the USA affected by the police because of this. We stand firmly with them against racism in all of its forms, and we seek to expunge it from whatever organization, whatever structure, and whatever person it dwells in, including ourselves if at any moment we are found to be backwards or lacking.
In fighting racism we look to fight the very root of the issue, and it is there where we find capitalism. Not institutional racism in general and in the police force? Well, it is in fact both for they are one in the same. Capitalism is behind police racist terror in two major ways. Firstly, capitalist culture is a huge motivator of racism. 400 years of racism are embedded into the capitalist system. Why? Simply due to its constant drive to push down and over-exploit any sector of the population that it can so as to grow easy profits off the backs of the exploited. This special oppression makes the historically underrepresented and repressed black population a ripe target. There is also a dual purpose to the long history of exploiting the vulnerable: the ability to wage a war of intimidation in which the separated population becomes easier to control on the whole. Malcolm X said it best, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” They are twin evils that must be eradicated together because racism drives capitalism to be sustained, and capitalism in turn sustains racism for this purpose through its actors.
Secondly and interrelated to the sustaining of capitalism, it is capitalist power that allows a standing body of armed and empowered men to carry out basically unrestrained repression against the black population. The state is bankrolled by big industries, supported by a culture of the wealthier owners of small business and a “bootstrap” mentality, and ultimately it comes to serve at the behest of the ruling class. The police, being the direct arm of the state through the executive branch of the US government in this circumstance, therefore are empowered by the capitalist class to enact repression for capitalist economic gains as well as in the service of a culture of racism and oppression and division that directly aids in furthering ruling-class control.
The best hope of changing the system, working just as intended for the owners but fundamentally broken for the rest of us, is in the working class and for that the working class needs to be organized and activated to take the leadership role in the struggle, not only against racism in individuals, but also against capitalism. This working class movement must bring black (and let’s not forget brown and other marginalized peoples!) voices to the forefront and leadership of the struggle in a way that no system that equates money with importance ever could.
As of now, we’ve seen a lot of pretty words from the unions and their federations but not much action. The transit unions and bus drivers have refused to transport some of the estimated 4400 people arrested to jail in some localities, and most of the major unions have condemned the actions of the cops complicit in these murders, but much more is needed. We need to use the power of the working class in strikes, local, statewide, and regional, leading up to a national general strike until the police terror is ended. Cop “unions” need to be driven from our labor councils as they only protect the “bad apples,” which makes them also “bad.” Anyone who protects a killer cop is also a “bad cop.” Since they all protect each other, they are all just a rotten bunch. Society can do without cops, especially when it’s obvious that the primary job of policing is protecting property and intimidating resistance, not protecting people.
This rebellion comes against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic that has shown the bankruptcy of capitalism in the economic sphere. With 40 million unemployed to date and states rushing to reopen their profit chain no matter how many people die, we have been clearly shown that none of us matter. The killing of George Floyd shows us, once again, that black lives especially don’t matter. Workers are considered “essential” until they ask for essential money, and then they are fired for asking. Nurses and medical personnel are considered “essential” and feted as “heroes” until they ask for personal protective equipment, and then they are fired for asking the means to protect their very lives. And in just about every profession black people are told they are viewed as “equal” until they ask for that to be proved and then they are thugs, impatient, uppity, ghetto, or any number of racialized epithets. Black people are given a harder time sharing in the wealth of society despite being equally “essential.” We are told that the black community is given “equal starting points,” but when this fundamental imbalance of reality and what we are told is revealed as a lie and black people decide they would rather not slave away for nothing, they are called lazy. This irony has not been lost on the black community, and for years it has been a joke that as soon as they stopped working for free as slaves they were called lazy. This is just another effect of capitalist culture thirsting for everyone to become profitable workers by playing on race and it has been evident to see as noted already by us, Malcolm X, and thousands upon thousands of others past and present.
Now this hatred for the perceived traits of the black community, even perhaps a fear of them, has led to more senseless killing of black people epitomized in George Floyd’s murder. It can’t be said enough. We do not matter to the ruling class. They will make their money even if it kills us. They will build their systems and culture of oppression even if it has to brutalize black people to do so. It cannot be said enough. None of us matter to the capitalist system and the police that protect it. When we stand up to this insane cruelty through protest or in our daily lives, we will be crushed. That is if we don’t do something about it together – something big.
The time is now to organize local, state, regional, and national councils of action to plan strategy and tactics for the coming battles. The working class, both organized and unorganized, need to take the leading role and put together a plan for fighting back against this terror that’s just a moment away for any of us. This movement needs to be led from below by black youth and workers committed to their own salvation. This is counterposed to the traitors and lawyers who will inevitably take these movements and rebellions and subordinate them to the Democratic Party who then make no substantial efforts to change the underlying substructure of oppression, repression, and death that’s baked into the system. DSA, Jacobin Magazine, and Labor Notes, all more or less mouthpieces for the reformist left in the US, have all been forced by the events of the past days into advocating for positions that are much more militant and revolutionary than they might have been comfortable with before. Times like these will put the ideas of all groups on trial in the eyes of the people. We can only encourage and pressure them to live up to their rhetoric.
With this basic, fundamental understanding of racism and capitalism and how it has built this situation, Workers Power USA’s statement can be boiled down to this:
An injury to one is an injury to all. It’s time we start to realize that, and even more, it’s time to act on it.