Adam Beltz and Nina Gunić, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT),
"The land of the free" is an insult not only to the reality of us workers, but also – as the whole world has watched in the last few months – for our Afro-American brothers and sisters. Formally, apartheid might no longer exist in the US, in reality it has never ceased to exist.
Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot by a police officer. Twelve shots were fired at Michael Brown, seven of which hit his body! The grand jury has nevertheless decided not to press charges against his killer.
Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father who suffered from asthma, settled a scuffle and … was attacked and chokeheld by police. He died of an asthma attack during the arrest, his last words now shake the entire United States: “I can not breathe.” Again, no charges were filed against his killers.
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old, unarmed teenager was shot on mere suspicion by a neighborhood watch patrol and self-appointed sheriff. Trayvon’s “offense” was that he had dared to travel with a bottle of ice-tea and sweets in the late evening. The murderer of Trayvon Martin was acquitted, but only a short time later he was reported to the police because of domestic violence. George Zimmerman had threatened his wife with a gun.
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child, was playing in a playground with a toy gun when a police car drove up and shot him dead within two seconds.
Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old mentally disabled young man, was executed in the street by police for no reason. Like all the other examples mentioned, he was unarmed. Neighbors told the police, that the victim was a mentally disabled man, who was known by everyone in the neighborhood.
These are just a few examples of a truth, a reality, an unwritten law with which each of our black brothers and sisters is growing up: It does not matter who you are, where you come from, and what exactly you do – as an Afro-American you’re constantly in danger of being arrested or killed, while your murderer (unless he also is a black man) will not even face a trial.
It does not matter what you do. The crime of Michael Brown was his allegedly having stolen cigarillos and then walking in the middle of the road. The crime of Eric Garner was not accepting his arrest as an innocent person. And Trayvon Martin dared to wear a “hoodie” (a hooded sweatshirt). According to FOX and other right-wing TV networks, this is supposed to be the internationally known way of identifying “thugs“! The Afro-American US actress Danièle Watts (known for her role in the film Django Unchained) was arrested because she dared kiss her partner, who is white, when out in the street. In the eyes of the arresting police officers this was suspicious behavior since it might have been that of a potential prostitute! And Tamir Rice was simply doing with a toy what kids usually do with them: playing in a playground. Ezell Ford was just walking down the road, unarmed in his own neighborhood.
Oppression on All Levels
This is the reality: as an Afro-American you cannot wear a hoodie; you must take care when walking out on the street in the evening, at night, or during the day; or kissing someone in public, let alone settling disputes or playing with toys. And that’s just part of a long list of rules of conduct that apply to black people in the US.
No wonder our black brothers and sisters are so often harassed and arrested by the police! One out of nine Afro-American males between the ages of 20 and 34 is incarcerated. Every second Afro-American male below the age of 23 has been in jail at least once. There are more black brothers and sisters in prison than there are studying in college or the university.
The oppression of the Afro-Americans is evident on all levels of the capitalist society. More than half of Afro-American households live on less than $35,000 a year, while the same can be said of a third of whites. At the same time, a quarter of all white households have an income of more than $100,000 a year. Among black people, the figure is less than one-tenth. White babies, therefore, have a life expectancy of four years more than black babies. No wonder: a quarter of all Afro-American households live below the poverty line. Among whites, the figure is one-tenth.
Since the events following the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, the US seems finally to have woken up, and a wave of class struggle, from below, is shattering the country. There have been street battles with the police in Ferguson, as well as mass protests in New York, Los Angeles, and other US cities – and now even in Britain. In Ferguson itself, there were already violent clashes with the police in August of this year. At that time, journalists were even prohibited from reporting on the spot about the events. After all, killer cops had to be protected from bad publicity. But the protests flared up again after it was announced that the Grand Jury would not indict the killer-cop.
One spontaneous reaction was the storming of St. Louis’s city hall. Today, protests are taking place throughout the entire country, and they have become a popular movement. Everywhere so-called “Die-ins” are being stage. People come together and collectively lie down, holding signs and wearing T-shirts with Eric Garner’s last words: “I can not breathe.” Even more privileged sectors of the society – e.g., future physicians in Chicago, church representatives, in New York, and even NBA players – participate in these protests.
Highly respected bourgeois institutions like the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) and the UN Convention against Torture have spoken out against the verdict in the case of Michael Brown. This shows how wide-spread the indignation is among the working population, that it even forces institutions so closely associated with the capitalist system to protest against police brutality.
The United States is a reactionary place, but as we could already see with the August Uprising of 2011 in Great Britain, the oppression of blacks and migrants is not limited to North America, but is an international phenomenon that also applies to countries in Europe.
It is high time that we build self-defense units of Afro-Americans, in cooperation with the workers’ movement and all progressive forces, to defend us against the killers of our brothers and sisters – the police and all self-appointed sheriffs. This is the only way to drive the police out of black neighborhoods.
It is also necessary to establish a close relationship with other oppressed national minorities (especially the Latinos), as well as trade unions and other organizations of the workers’ movement. Let us not forget that after 1968, the Black Panthers were a strong inspiration for other oppressed national minorities and led to the establishment of similar militant liberation organizations. A similar development could take place again now.
A common movement of workers and the oppressed should combine the struggle against racism and police brutality with a program of social, anti-capitalist demands for the abolition of poverty and unemployment.
What we need is a revolutionary black liberation movement which, together with the entire workers’ movement, fights for the overthrow of this class system, capitalism.
Likewise, we must fight against all forms of racism towards our black brothers and sisters inside the labor movement itself.
The time has come for the building of a revolutionary black liberation movement! Every communist, every revolutionary, even every simple democrat must understand this need and support all steps in this direction!
Excerpt from the RCIT’s International Program:
Black people form an important minority in several imperialist countries (especially the USA, Britain and France). While in the USA they were brought into the country under the most terrible conditions during the 17th and 18th century and exploited as slaves, most black people in Britain did not come until after the Second World War as migrants from oppressed nations of the British Colonial Empire.
The black people in their struggle against oppression have created a number of organisations and movements. But these remained mostly under a bourgeois or petty-bourgeois leadership. Even the greatest and most heroic movement of the black people in the USA – the Black Panthers – could not overcome the limits of petty-bourgeois nationalism. Bolshevik-Communists support the building of a revolutionary movement of the black people and are in favour of the closest possible cooperation with the workers’ movement.
* For a public employment and education program under the control of representatives of the black community and the workers’ movement - paid for by the capitalists profits! For a massive program for the construction of housing!
* An end to the widespread practice of the bourgeois state, to condemn black people and migrants en masse to long prison terms. Recall all court cases in which black people and migrants were convicted, before democratically elected trial by jury, of which at least half of it are members from the national/racial minority of the accused!
* For the formation of armed self-defence units of black people and their support by the entire workers' movement!
* Local self-government of areas with a high proportion of black people! Special consideration to the wishes of the black people in defining the borders of self-governing regions! Financial support by the state!
* For a revolutionary movement of black people as part of the 5th Workers’ International! For the right of caucus for black people in the unions and the organisations of the workers' movement!