Amid the Covid-19 pandemic and on the verge of a global economic depression, the capitalist state is demonstrating the racist and lethal nature of its repressive apparatus. The world was shocked by the video of the repugnant murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, by police officers in the city of Minneapolis in the United States. It shows Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck as he begs for air, repeating over and over that he can’t breathe and that he is in pain all over. The video also shows Tou Thao, Chauvin’s partner, just standing there as Floyd struggles to breathe until he passes out, while witnesses shout for Chauvin to lift his knee. Four policemen in total were present at the crime. It is a macabre scene: Chauvin keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for about 10 minutes, even after Floyd has passed out.
Floyd died shortly thereafter in the hospital. Ever since, anger has spread through social media and has led to global outrage, with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter top-trending on Twitter and giving rise to massive demonstrations not only in the streets of Minneapolis but also in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington, and elsewhere. The mobilization is taking on a national character, as scenes of revolt expand against symbols of financial power (such as the U.S. Treasury building) and the media (such as CNN headquarters in Atlanta).
Floyd was sentenced to death. His “crime” was to be Black within the structural racism of the U.S. imperialist state. “I can’t breathe,” his last words as he suffocated, inevitably echo the final words of Eric Garner, who was suffocated by the New York Police Department in 2014. The murders of Trayvon Martin in 2013 in Sanford, Florida, Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in 2014 gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, a wave of mobilization against racist violence during the Obama administration that saw record numbers of police killings.
This state-sanctioned murder thus takes place in a context of incessant killings of Black people by the state and its police. Floyd’s murder adds to a growing list of cases brought to light in recent months: Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, and Breonna Taylor — all have had their lives cut short by the state’s hatred of Black workers and youth.
We condemn these atrocious crimes of imperialist racism. They are aimed at deepening the subjugation of Black people and establishing a regime of permanent coercion, which contains potential outbreaks of class struggle against the evils projected on the horizon of capitalism in crisis. Big business and its governments are taking advantage of the pandemic to expand layoffs, company shutdowns, furloughs with wage cuts, greater precariousness, and changes in working conditions. This misery is the reality in the face of a “front line” of workers (often Blacks, immigrants, etc.) and popular struggles that are taking shape in several countries, foreshadowing the phenomena that could develop once the peaks of the pandemic have passed and its social, political, and economic consequences are revealed even more starkly.
The Trump Administration: An Aggravating Factor in U.S. Structural Racism
Donald Trump is a notorious agitator of racism within his extreme right-wing base and can be considered the main ideological leader of this new barbarity. He called on the forces of repression to “shoot” protesters who attack supermarkets, police stations, and other official buildings in reaction to Floyd’s murder, repeating the 1967 statement of Miami’s racist police chief Walter Headley, who said that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” This shows Trump’s contempt for the lives of the Black working population, and more broadly the immigrant and Latino populations. Trump’s racist story is quite long: He called the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville in 2017, carrying Ku Klux Klan flags, “very fine people.” He called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries.” In his ongoing polemics with Black politicians, he said one of them, a member of Congress from Baltimore, should return to the district he represented, describing it as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and “the worst run and most dangerous [district] anywhere in the United States.”
This rhetoric criminalizing Black communities is typical of the American bourgeoisie, which enslaved Black people and subjected them to the worst tortures on its own soil and oppresses them in Africa, Asia, and around the world. Trump therefore encourages extreme right-wing demonstrations (a posture similar to that of his lackey, Jair Bolsonaro, the extreme right-wing racist president of Brazil), such as those we saw in Michigan, with armed white paramilitaries threatening health care workers and demanding an end to social isolation.
Expressions of hatred toward Blacks are innumerable in the Trump administration, and they take place in the context of the coronavirus, most of whose victims are Black and poor. In Chicago, where Blacks make up a third of the population, they account for 73 percent of coronavirus deaths. In Milwaukee, Blacks account for 26 percent of the population and 81 percent of deaths. In the state of Michigan, where Blacks make up only 14 percent of the population, they account for 40 percent of deaths. In the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, New York, the proportion is no different — which shows that not only in Republican-led states but also in those governed by Democrats, bourgeois politicians have no consideration for the lives of Black people. Segregation is expressed in living conditions: while 14 percent of the U.S. population is Black, 40 percent of the homeless population is Black, and 21 percent of Blacks live below the official poverty line — a rate 2.5 times higher than that of whites, making these communities highly vulnerable to the pandemic. Economically, it is Blacks and Latinos who are risking their lives in essential services, in precarious jobs with no labor rights or health protections (as shown by the strikes in Amazon warehouses), and who are among the 40 million workers who have become unemployed since the beginning of the pandemic so the capitalists can maintain their profits.
But this atrocious crime of the imperialist state against George Floyd has been met with an explosion of outrage in the streets. In recent days, tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in Minneapolis to denounce the forces of repression and the state, clashing with police, destroying cars and police stations, and even setting fire to government buildings. Beyond Minnesota’s largest city, there have been demonstrations in Los Angeles, New York, and other cities to condemn the murder. The slogan of Black Lives Matters has resurfaced as a tremendous social force capable of bringing explosive scenes of class struggle back to the forefront in an election year marked by the health and economic catastrophe organized by the capitalists.
The struggle of the Black population could go beyond the confines of bourgeois legality and confront the U.S. political regime, which would give a new impetus to workers’ struggles across the country.
The Democratic Party Seeks to Contain and Deactivate the Social Explosion
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke on social media, thanking Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey for arresting the police officers involved and calling for an investigation. But the facts are clear; nothing needs to be investigated. The cynicism of the Democratic candidate and Obama vice president hides the fact that he was behind the very crime bill that paved the way for the further criminalization of Blacks and defended their segregated school busing.
This policy of has been common to all the figures in the Democratic Party. Nancy Pelosi considered it appropriate to wait several days before making a statement, and then settled for a vague promise that the Congress was committed to finding solutions to avoid such crimes. Notorious Democrat cops Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar limited their criticisms to the murder itself. Even Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of the party’s progressive members of Congress, limited her demand to “investigating” the case. Bernie Sanders, a former presidential candidate who now supports Biden, called for “reform” of the police and for an investigation by the racist state itself, which acquits its own agents involved in the crimes.
Moreover, Floyd’s murder took place in a state, Minnesota, that for years has been run by Democrats. For days, the Democratic government refused to arrest Derek Chauvin and the three other cops present at the crime scene, claiming incredulously that there was “not enough evidence.” Only after several days of protests and mounting popular pressure did the Democratic Party in Minnesota finally decide to arrest Chauvin, in an effort to calm the streets, while leaving his accomplices free. It was the Minneapolis mayor, Jacob Frey, and the state governor, Tim Walz, both Democrats, who ordered the National Guard into the city — a real scandal.
The Democratic Party, while orchestrating a crackdown on protesters in Minneapolis, is trying to hide the need to punish those responsible for the crime, calm the streets, contain the explosion of anger against structural racism in the United States, and channel social outrage into the very institutions of that state. This is how it seeks to preserve the stability of the political regime that protects the racist crimes perpetrated by its repressive apparatus. This is what the Democrats have done in recent years, including since the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, trying to neutralize it. It is no alternative to Trump.
For Independent Politics to Confront Capitalist Racism and Win Justice for George Floyd
The murder of George Floyd rekindles the flame of the fight against state-sponsored racism, fueled by the bipartisan imperialist regime controlled by the Republicans and Democrats. It is more necessary than ever to build a mass movement in the streets and workplaces to strike in a unified way against the brutality of state-sponsored racism. This means uniting the movement for justice for George Floyd with the struggle of workers on the front lines of the pandemic, who demand basic health protection rights. It also means demanding that the trade unions lead the fight against racist police violence.
This coordinated effort — the united front of workers, youth, and Black communities, led by the unions, through strikes and in the streets — could develop into an unstoppable movement, as evidenced by the anger being expressed today in Minneapolis, fighting back against the racism of the capitalist system where it hurts the most, pitting a unified force against the repressive apparatus of the state.
Self-organization at the grassroots level — unity in struggle between whites and Blacks, between natives and immigrants — is fundamental for the working-class population to confront this regime that protects the killers and ensures that none of their crimes go unpunished. Without placing any confidence in the odious police institutions, who are the guardians of private capitalist property, it is up to the workers’ movement, Black movement, and the entire Left to demand that all police officers implicated in the murders of Blacks be charged and arrested, whether it be the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Sean Reed. It is essential that a commission of inquiry be established completely independent of all those bodies allied with the murderous police. We must force the Department of Justice to use in any trial evidence from this independent investigation, not from the police and intelligence agencies that are the open enemies of the Black community. Also urgent are papers for all migrant workers and the closure of all the detention centers — even more so in the context of the Covid-19 crisis.
A common battle of this sort would be a tremendous opportunity to fight for the unification of the absolutely legitimate banners of Black people with a program of political independence for working people, directed against the capitalists. During the pandemic in recent months, we have seen pockets of struggle by workers throughout the United States against work being made precarious and against the sacrifice of their lives because of the lack of basic health protections. Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Instacart, General Electric, and other multinationals have been rocked by protests for labor rights. Workers in the health sector have also mobilized against racist violence. There is a growing sense that a new period of workers’ struggle is opening, precipitated by the catastrophic scenario caused by the pandemic and unemployment.
This could become a unique opening for socialists to organize in our workplaces, build militant currents in our unions, and — most importantly — to politicize the workers who lead these struggles. Revolutionary socialists must — contrary to what the Democratic Party demands — encourage this social anger and help transform it into politically organized class hatred.
In solidarity with the pain felt by these sectors of the masses, we must spread a powerful idea: that our society is fractured by class interests, and that to combat state-sponsored racism it is necessary to build a socialist and revolutionary party of the workers that can raise the banners of Blacks, Latinos, women, LGBTQ+ people, and all the oppressed. We need an independent workers’ party to fight against the capitalist system, one that will not be seduced into the Democratic Party’s “graveyard of social movements.”
The development of independent politics in the United States, with such an agenda, could encourage responses from workers around the world. At the same time, the revival of mobilizations in the United States against racist police crimes could give new impetus to the movements against police violence, often aggravated by racist motives, in other countries of the world such as Brazil and France, which have seen an increase in police repression in the recent period.
The current crisis is an attack against the working class and people across the planet. It reveals that every one of our conquests — working conditions, wages, against layoffs, for universal quality health care systems, against the destruction of the environment caused by climate change, as well as for the rights of the Black population — will have to be uprooted through struggle, from an anticapitalist and socialist perspective.
We can destroy racism only by destroying capitalism, which feeds on the oppression of Black people (and other racial minorities in the United States, as in other imperialist countries) as a way to weaken our class and our allies. That is why our organization must go beyond national borders and target the major centers of world capitalism with an internationalist program.
As member and supporter organizations of the Trotskyist Fraction, we condemns the murder of George Floyd. We actively support the struggle of the youth and workers in the United States against state-sponsored racism. Along with our U.S. comrades of Left Voice, we place our international organization — which publishes newspapers through the international network La Izquierda Diario / Left Voice (in 14 countries and eight languages) at the service of the campaign for justice for George Floyd and all the Black and people murdered by the capitalist state.
May 30, 2020
For the Trotskyist Fraction–Fourth International
- Left Voice, United States
- Revolutionary Internationalist Organization (RIO), Germany
- Party of Socialist Workers (PTS), Argentina
- Revolutionary Workers League (LOR-CI), Bolivia
- Revolutionary Workers Movement (MRT), Brazil
- Revolutionary Workers Party (PTR), Chile
- Revolutionary Workers Current (CRT), Spanish State
- Revolutionary Workers Current (CCR), part of the NPA (New Anticapitalist Party)
- Socialist Workers Movement (MTS), Mexico
- Socialist Workers Current (CTS), Uruguay
- Workers League for Socialism (LTS), Venezuela
And the following sympathizing organizations:
- Socialist Organization (OS), Costa Rica
- Revolutionary International Fraction (FIR), Italy
- Socialist Workers Current (CST), Peru