George Floyd was another worker murdered by the imperialist police state, the mortal enemy of blacks, workers and the oppressed of the world
The flagrantly racist May 25th murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has set off an enormous wave struggles in the United States, at least as big as those in the 1960s that were the culmination of the Civil Rights movement against Jim Crow segregation, the legacy of the defeat of reconstruction after the US Civil War abolished slavery. This struggle is against the results of decades of racist reaction that began at the end of the 1970s, with the rise of Reagan, neoliberalism, and the prolonged movement of American society to the right that carried on under Clinton, with its expanded death penalty and mass incarceration of blacks, deepening more under George W Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ militarisation of the cops, hardly dented by the first black Democratic President Obama, culminating with the openly racist Trump since 2016.
The murder of Floyd was captured in excruciating detail on a video as the white cop Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine whole minutes, so he died of asphyxiation. He narrated his own death, gasping “I can’t breathe” as the life was squeezed out of him. Two other cops participated in the murder by sitting on his legs as he was strangled; a fourth did lookout, menacing witnesses who protested. These thugs knew they were killing Floyd; there have been numerous similar murders by cops, infamously Eric Garner in July 2014 in New York, who was similarly throttled and also gasped “I can’t breathe” before he died.
This is common in the racist US; the ‘choke hold’ technique dates to the late 1970s when the post-Civil Rights racist offensive against US blacks gathered pace. The massive militarisation of US cops, giving them armoured vehicles and the like similar to those used by the US military, signify that the US bourgeoisie sees the US black, working class masses as enemies to be fought with similar methods as the wars it fights in the Middle East, Latin America etc. Trump’s ascendancy, fuelled by the support of backward white workers whose own defeats and impoverishment by neo-liberalism has thus far been successfully directed into scapegoating of minorities, posed this point blank.
He brazenly removed palliatives, such as ‘Community Policing’ investigations from the Obama period that gave some lip-service to trying to mitigate police racism. In doing so, he has finally torn off the sugar coating by which previous administrations have disguised their contempt for the black masses, and provoked what appears an even bigger anti-racist response than in the 1960s. One index of the sheer size and power of this movement is the response of many working class whites to it.
In the late 1960s, the black movement was part of the broader radicalisation triggered by the Vietnam War, and backward sections of the working class, for instance construction workers (‘hard hats’) were notorious for their hostility to it and their support for the reactionary demagogue Nixon. Hard hats got repeatedly into fights with anti-war protestors and black militants, whereas in the recent, much more racially integrated movement triggered by the George Floyd murder, many white youth and others have actively joined in the protests, and they have also been applauded by construction workers in New York.
Today’s civil rights movement is very powerful, but we can’t say it’s stronger than the 1960s. Even though the masses are ready and the struggle is real, the movement now lacks true leaders such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and others. The Black Lives Matter is a strong force, but the movement itself is still an organic cry that is manifested sometimes in 20 different protests in different parts of the same city, in NYC for example. Basically, it lacks leadership and organization. And because of that, their struggle, their fight ends up collaborating to demagogic political campaigns such as the Democratic Party. Joe Biden’s numbers are higher than Trump´s now. The big question is, what can African-Americans really expect from the establishment, if they win?
42 US cities have been put under curfew by State Governors, Mayors and the like and Trump has threatened to use the US military to crush protests, using the understandable looting, itself fuelled by racialised impoverishment, which has accompanied some of the protests. Trump has threatened he will send in troops if elected officials do not use National Guard troops to ‘dominate’ and crush the movement.This has raised the question of dictatorship and fascism in the US. But it does appear to have backfired and even split the army brass: most notably military insider and Trump’s former Defence Secretary James Mattis roundly denounced Trump’s threats, and his current Defence Secretary was at pains to distance himself from the idea. This after his participation in Trump’s bible-wielding photo-op at a Washington Church, clearing completely legal protesters forcibly out of the way, an action that has now given rise to a lawsuit against Trump by the American Civil Liberties Union and Washington Black Lives Matter.
The radicalisation has been fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic, which in the United States, as elsewhere, has disproportionately caused death and severe illness among oppressed ethnic groups, including the US Black population. Blacks have also borne the brunt of the economic depression that the pandemic has precipitated. Blacks are being laid off driven into penury in disproportionate numbers, being forced back to work in unsafe conditions in Trump’s drive to ‘save’ the capitalist economy over their corpses, and brutalised by racist police on top of all that.
This has produced a social explosion in the US, different from the gilets jaunes explosion in France, but with some important common elements. Its trigger was the George Floyd murder, but it was fuelled by the pandemic and caused by decades of racist, neoliberal offensive that devastated many lives. This upsurge, and the support for it by working class people, has the potential to unite the whole working class, which has up to now been divided by racism. The morbid expression of this was the rise of Trump, white supremacism and the ‘alt-right’. This can blow all that away.
The upsurge in the United States has enormous revolutionary potential, both within the US itself, and in terms of its potential to inspire revolutionary struggles around the world. For the struggle of US American blacks for real equality today is squarely directed against strategic features of US capitalism itself, which is the hegemon of imperialist capitalism worldwide. US capitalism cannot do away with the oppression of the black masses; capitalism cannot do without the huge inequalities of the world order where most of humanity is enslaved and impoverished to benefit Western imperialist ruling classes whose wealth was obtained through centuries of plunder.
Covid-19 is a by-product of climate breakdown induced by the inability of capitalism to plan resources for human need in a sustainable way that works with nature, as opposed to tearing it apart in the quest for profit. It brought this to boiling point. This is organic and inherent to capital; the only solution is to tear down capitalism itself. For that we need a revolutionary leadership that is able to consciously, and openly, lead the masses in the US and worldwide to overthrow capitalism and replace it with socialism: rational economic planning for social need.
Such a leadership must be created though the intervention of socialists in these struggles, through revolutionary regroupment, and recruiting and training a new generation of Marxists to replace those lost through neoliberal reaction and the terminal betrayals of Stalinism. Such a party must be armed with a programme of transitional demands, addressing both economic grievances and the many democratic questions posed by racist oppression, aimed at uniting all working class and oppressed layers into one big fist under the leadership of a revolutionary party, both on the national and international planes , to take state power from capital.
A key demand today, both in terms of basic democracy and the rights of black people, and the class organisation of the workers, is for an anti-racist working class militia, that must have a substantial representation of black militants, to defend the victims of police and other racist oppression and brutality. In terms of US social reality today, a revolutionary organisation would undoubtedly have a large proportion of black and other oppressed-group militants, a reflection the dynamics of its struggle to overcome the subjugation of the most oppressed, and potentially the most revolutionary, parts of our class.
Building a revolutionary leadership is not a simple task but requires both the highest level of theory, and the ability to sink roots into mass struggles like that in the United States. For that a revolutionary cadre must be developed from among the participants and potential mass leaders that these struggles never fail to throw up. The revolutionary working class organisations are building a revolutionary leadership out of those engaged in this struggle and many others as the only way to achieve the final liberation of humanity from such ferocious oppression.
Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores – Brazil
Tendencia Militante Bolchevique – Argentina
Socialist Worker League – United States
Socialist Fight – Great Britain
Trotskyist Faction of Socialist Fight – Great Britain
(all the above are sections of the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International)
Grupo Fronteira Vermelha – Brazil
Akash Mirza, for Socialist Party – Bangladesh
Anna Brogan, left militant and black activist, London – Great Britain
Luciano Filgueiras – MovLuta – Movimento Compromisso e Luta – Brazil
Nigel Singh, independent left militant, Oxford – Great Britain.
Alex Dillard, socialist activist, California – United States.
Curtis T, youth and socialist activist, Monrovia – Liberia
Mohammad Basir Ul Haq Sinha, President, Inter Press Network, Dhaka – Bangladesh
Fernando Gustavo Armas, militant of Revolutionary Socialism, Argentina.
Fernando Matos Rodrigues, Anthropologist and ICS Researcher, New University of Minho, Basic Housing Laboratory.
Frederico Costa, Professor and Director of the Teachers’ Union at Ceará State University – Brazil
Mário Maestri, Historian – Italy
Maurício de Oliveira, teacher of public education in Ceará – Brazil
Fernando Moyano – Socialist Militant – Uruguay
Emmanoel Lima Ferreira, professor at the Regional University of Cariri – Brazil