19/08/2014 by socialistfight
LCFI statement on the police murder of Michael Brown
Michael Brown brutally slain by police Officer Darren Wilson on 9 August
“The Social-Democrat’s (i.e. Revolutionary Socialists before 1914 – LCFI) ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.” Lenin. [i]
Eighteen year old Black man, Michael Brown, was murdered on August 9, 2014 by Officer Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri. He was unarmed and shot multiple times by Wilson. The details are given by his friend, Dorian Johnson, 22 as related by Trymaine Lee:
“…Brown and Johnson took off running together. There were three cars lined up along the side of the street. Johnson says he ducked behind the first car, whose two passengers were screaming. Crouching down a bit, he watched Brown run past.
“Keep running, bro!,” he said Brown yelled. Then Brown yelled it a second time. Those would be the last words Johnson’s friend, “Big Mike,” would ever say to him. Brown made it past the third car. Then, “blam!” the officer took his second shot, striking Brown in the back. At that point, Johnson says Brown stopped, turned with his hands up and said “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” By that point, Johnson says the officer and Brown were face-to-face. The officer then fired several more shots. Johnson described watching Brown go from standing with his hands up to crumbling to the ground and curling into a foetal position. [ii]
Brutal police slayings of Black men in the US are frequent but only some provoke the reaction that this one did. The severe beating of Rodney King in 1992 provoked far wider and more violent protests, as Steve Argue relates:
“In the case of Rodney King, despite videotape showing the cops using enough force to kill a man, the police were acquitted in their first trial. In that case it took a mass six day uprising in 1992 that destroyed over a billion dollars in property to win a new trial for the criminal cops. In the subsequent trial, two cops, Koon and Powell, were found guilty. For a change, two brutal cops went to prison for their crimes. In addition, the 1992 uprising forced the resignation of LA’s Chief of Police. On a small scale, property was also redistributed through “looting”. Yet, the people paid a heavy price for this action with all kinds of repressive government forces mobilized in the streets including the Marines, 53 people were killed, around 2,000 people were injured, and nearly 20,000 people arrested.” [iii]
The Los Angeles riots of 1992 were the worst in the USA terms of death toll after the New York City draft riots in 1863. They were an incoherent outburst of rage at the terrible oppression of the Black and Latino communities. The majority of the dead were Black, but it included some 15 Latinos and 10 whites + a few Asians. They came in the wake of world historical events globally, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the break-up of the USSR and the obscene crowing of the neo-liberal establishment about the “end of history”. Wiki elaborates:
“The End of History and the Last Man is a 1992 book by Francis Fukuyama, expanding on his 1989 essay “The End of History?” published in the international affairs journal The National Interest. In the book, Fukuyama argues that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government. “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Fukuyama’s position contradicts that of Karl Marx, who imagined that antagonistic history would end with communism displacing capitalism.” [iv]
We may be sure that the 1992 uprising was not a conscious response to these international events but we are equally certain that that was the material basis and objective driving force which was reflected in at least a very deep sense of foreboding unease in the consciousness of the masses who saw what was happening. The ruling class of America were predicting oppression and exploitation without end or opposition of every nation on the planet and the working class in the US and everywhere else. Whilst the USSR stood there was a hope that what was a distorted and bureaucratic opposition, but was nevertheless an opposition, might hold back and even defeat their oppressors. It was gone now but nevertheless the Los Angles oppressed gave them their answer to the question “will they fight?” George Bush’s New World Order was going to be challenged not only politically and in foreign wars but on the streets of the cities of the USA itself.
Appeal, successful, for race and class unity in the Lost Angeles uprising in 1992
Therefore, since humanity can only liberate itself from global capitalism and its modern expression, Imperialism, by slaying the beast in its lair, how the US working class goes about their historical task and if they succeed is of vital importance. Los Angles did succeed in driving back the offensive for a period but the altogether different political circumstances and response to the killing of Michael Brown has shown that that offensive has now taken a new and more deadly and threatening aspect than even 1992. To understand this we must take the global circumstances into account, we must take the US political circumstance into account and, most importantly, we must get the relationship between racial oppression and working class oppression right by understanding how this has evolved in the USA.
Today the global economic and political crisis leaves no room for illusions about the “end of history”. Wars are raging in Libya, Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine, chaos, broken states and plans for war against Iran, Russia and China are afoot to hold together US hegemony of global Imperialism. US ‘recovery’, far better than Europe or Japan, is essentially at the expense of their rival Imperialist powers and the semi-colonial world. Falling global profit rates is driving WWIII as the objective laws of capital impinge on the consciousness of the Republican Neo-Cons and Democrats alike. It impinges on the consciousness of the far left too but many are taking the side of Imperialism over its wars, Ukraine being the latest example. Our faith is in the working class and the new forces that are emerging to represent them in a revolutionary way.
Why the reaction to the Killing of Michael Brown was so violent
The riots in Ferguson were initially about the killing of Michael Brown and probably would have only lasted one night or might not have turned violent at all but for the extreme and violent reaction of the police. It is reported that people from Gaza were tweeting people from Ferguson on how to protect themselves from tear gas. Press photographers were instructed to stop taking pictures and leave the scene and two reporters were arrested. But it was the military riot gear deployed at what were initially peaceful protesters against what all knew to be a brutal police murder that amazed everyone. Jelani Cobb, a writer for the New Yorker, noted: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you have a tank every protest looks like an insurgency”. As Press TV reports:
“Slowly, every police department in the United States, at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security, is being trained by Israeli groups. As part of this training, there is an increased move to use of military uniforms, armoured vehicles, heavy weapons, illegal surveillance, lying to the people, press and courts and systematic interference in the electoral system. They are becoming “Israeli.”” [v]
Lest it be thought that Press TV are alarmists who only report in a sensationalist way we have the objections of a Republican Senator:
“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action,” Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky wrote today in a column for Time, calling for police agencies to be demilitarized. Another U.S. Senator, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, has said local law enforcement officials need to “demilitarize” the situation in Ferguson…Given the images from Missouri, some veterans have observed that they patrolled foreign combat zones equipped with less armour than the police in Ferguson, which is northwest of St. Louis. [vi]
For those leftists who think in their backward and syndicalist what that what happens in Gaza, Ukraine and Iraq is nothing to do with the working class in the US or UK and we can fight austerity through our trade union structures and “force the left bureaucrats to fight” by enough grass roots pressure here is the answer. The ruling class have prepared their answer; they have psyched up their police forces and given them enough military hardware to silence every protest. And they are again playing the race card in the USA, as ever.
“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action,” Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky
Was the slaying of Michael Brown Race or Class?
Both, of course, and it’s how the dialectical interrelationship of the two plays out in the USA that makes the difference between commentating and leading politically. Unlike the 1930s today the vast majority of industrial workers in the USA are black. They make up a disproportionate section of the prison population, of the unemployed and ghetto poor. But an even more oppressed section are the “illegals” the 12 million + Latino workers who do all the menial tasks for dirt wages and who cannot complain or properly unionise because of their immigrant status. But their cause can only really be defended by the organised working class and the state’s prime object is to keep the class divided on race, sex, immigration and any other issue it can dredge up. The War on Terror never replaced race, it was rather a refinement of it as is the current anti-Immigrant children brouhaha on the Mexican border.
Let us affirm now that this was a racist murder, it was also an attack on the entire working class and oppressed so it is a class issue too. Only those lost in hopeless syndicalist dogmatism would make a rigid counterposition between the two in the USA in particular with all its history of Black slavery and Jim Crow lynchings and the Ku Klux Klan. Socialist Fight polemicised against David North WSWS/SEP on the killing of Trayvon Martin on just this point:
“This brings us to the posting on the WSWS site on 5 April by Joseph Kishore entitled, The killing of Trayvon Martin and racial politics in America. The piece seeks to prove that it was class and not race that motivated the murder and those who were trying to impute racial motives to George Zimmerman were defending the capitalist system and trying to divert the anger of the masses away from its real cause and into the blind alley of ‘identity politics’. Zimmerman, the killer, was not motivated ostensibly by a white racist agenda and the fact that Martin was black – this very likely had nothing to do with the case. We must be sure of this – because Kishore informs us:
“Racial prejudice may have played a role in the killing of Martin, who was African-American. The initial public reaction, however, did not focus on race, but rather on the gross injustice involved. As Martin’s mother, Sabrina Fulton, put it, “It’s not about black and white, it’s about right and wrong.”
As if the two were counterposed. Again the gross reductionalism: all black people must forget about the history of Imperialist barbarism and slavery and get on with uniting with whites against capitalism.
Kishore, in directing his anger against the ‘ex-lefts’ makes the following outrageous counterposition,
“Toward this end, these forces have put forward a grossly distorted picture of American society, politics and history—one in which race, and not class, is the central issue.”
The history of the USA is about class and NOT race is it? Of course behind the Civil War and the Jim Crow laws is class, the divide and rule, the poor whites and the Ku Klux Klan but given this history then we absolutely cannot ignore, downplay or even dispute the racial content of this history or the racial motivation of the Zimmerman murder or we can justly be called racist ourselves.
…Every black workers is both black and a worker, they have a history of both race and class oppression and are experiencing it right now. To tell them to ignore the race and concentrate on the class, is itself lecturing, bordering on racism. To assert is is race and not class is equally wrong. [vii]
To counterpose race and class is very wrong “Every black workers is both black and a worker, they have a history of both race and class oppression and are experiencing it right now. To tell them to ignore the race and concentrate on the class, is itself lecturing, bordering on racism”. To assert it is race only and not class is equally wrong.
We have sought to prove that the slaying of Michael Brown and the reaction to it by both the police and protestors is an integral part of the global class struggle now being waged from Gaza to Syria to Libya to Iraq and the Ukraine to mention but the hot spots. These are the global class struggle just as much as a strike or a general strike itself. We opened with a quote from Lenin to show how backward and syndicalist the model of the English trade union branch secretary was, “the ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears”. From the combination of Lenin’s insistence of the essence of Imperialism the rule being global finance capital and the division of the world into oppressed and oppressor nations there arises not only the duty of Ferguson to rally to the cause of Gaza and Iraq and the Ukraine and also to their own ‘illegal’ migrant workers. And, as the opposite side of that the duty of all those to rally to the cause of Ferguson. We think we have seen enough of that internationalism in the global and US wide demonstrations for Gaza and Ferguson to be confident that the great heart of the global working class is still beating strongly and Internationalism is becoming ever more their watchword. In this we place out trust and from these we seek to reforge the Forth International, the World Party of Socialist Revolution.
- Justice for Michael Brown!
- Fight Police-State Terrorism!
- For Armed Workers’ Self-Defense to Protect Ourselves, Our Families and Our Homes!
- Towards a Revolutionary Party of the Multiracial Working Class
[i] Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, What Is To Be Done? Burning Questions of our Movement, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/iii.htm
[ii] Eyewitness to Michael Brown shooting recounts his friend’s death 08/12/14 By Trymaine Lee, http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/eyewitness-michael-brown-fatal-shooting-missouri
[iii] Underground America, Missouri: Direct Actions Challenge the Epidemic of Police Murders in the United States, August 14, 2014,By Steven Argue http://copsrcorrupt.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/missouri-direct-actions-challenge.html
[iv] The End of History and the Last Man, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Last_Man
[v] Press TV, American police now “Israeli-DHS trained,” precursor to dictatorship, http://www.presstv.com/detail/2012/08/10/255432/us-police-now-israelidhs-trained/
[vi] Bloomberg Business Week; A Federal Effort to Reuse Military Gear Turned Cops Into Commandos, By Justin Bachman August 14, 2014, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-08-14/ferguson-shooting-how-military-gear-ended-up-with-local-police
[vii] The killing of Trayvon Martin and David North’s SEP, By Tony Fox July 2012, https://socialistfight.com/2014/08/16/the-killing-of-trayvon-martin-and-david-norths-sep-a-backward-workeristreductionalist-political-current-by-tony-fox-july-2012/