A Statement by M. Lupoli (I.O.D.)
Yet another brutal murder of a black man by a policeman has triggered a wave of protests, involving thousands of protesters in the USA and beyond. As always, the bourgeoisie uses violence, racism and repression against workers and anyone who protests against its order. Although there are widespread and radical demonstrations, expressing widespread discontent, every revolt is condemned to be exhausted by the system in absence of the revolutionary party.
“You stupid henchmen! Your “order” is built on sand.”
(Rosa Luxemburg) **
“I can’t breathe”, George Floyd repeated on the ground. Words coming out of his throat choked by policeman Derek Chauvin’s knee, as the henchman looked at the victim and the person rushing in with an air of omnipotence. Three other officers were present; two helped to lock the man down on the ground, the third one acted as a watchdog keeping those trying to intervene away. George passed out after less than six minutes. But that was not enough for the torturer. For another three interminable minutes he remained motionless, his knee on the neck of that 46-year-old African American, accused of buying cigarettes with a false twenty dollars bill. Eight minutes, 46 seconds. For George Floyd, there was no hope. He died under that knee, under that look. “I can’t breathe.”
Someone filmed the scene. Between the 25th and the 26th of May the video went around the world. While several newspapers have denounced the racist matrix of the murder, groups of exasperated African Americans have taken to the streets. Joining them are protesters of every ethnicity and origin. A protest movement began across Minneapolis. Police cars were destroyed, demonstrations were held the city center, products were lifted from supermarkets and redistributed to those in need.
The demonstrators reached the third police district, the barriers that the officers raised to defend themselves were torn down and soon the building was set on fire.
The protest did not stop, but continued for days; 13,000 soldiers from the National Guard came in to bring their stinking “order” back to the city. The real snakelike terror, reinforcing the bilious reaction of the dominants, was all here: that we do not stop to display signs to claim civil rights, that we are not content with burning candles. “I understand the anger, but this is not about the death of George Floyd, nor the inequalities, which are real. This is chaos.”, said the upset governor of Minnesota Tim Waltz.
Minneapolis has not become the only center of the movement. From Los Angeles to Philadelphia, from New York to Portland to Washington, D.C., the protest have spread. The White House was under siege, forcing Trump to take refuge in the presidential bunker. On the other side of the world, in New Zealand, thousands of people have been joining the protests.
Meanwhile, the autopsy commissioned by the authorities denies that death could be due to asphyxiation caused by that knee. The reaction throughout the world is immediate, yet another obvious cover-up of police violence. It only takes two days for the independent autopsy demanded by George Floyd’s family to disprove the official one, demonstrating the unequivocal responsibility of the policeman.
The protest has continued to spread like wildfire. National Guards have been stationed with thousands of uniformed men in 26 American states, in 40 cities curfews have been imposed.
Trump became increasingly angry, just as the United States mounted an international campaign in defense of “civil rights” against the equally bloody Chinese imperialism, and growled against the stars and stripes governors: “You must dominate, if you don’t do it you waste your time and they will overwhelm you by making you look like idiots.” (1)
The head of the Minneapolis Police Union, Bob Kroll, has publicly branded the protesters as “a terrorist movement”. Arrests have been increasing by the hour and deaths are being counted. Even the bourgeois press is under a squeeze. (2)
The strength of the movement born from this assassination is evident. It stems from a long and brutal history of racist violence by the US police. If your skin is black, in the USA you have a two and a half times higher risk of being killed by a policeman, in a country where in 2019 alone the police killed more than 1,000 people. (3) “For young men of color, police use of force is among the leading causes of death”, the National Academy of Sciences of the USA writes in its magazine. (4)
According to the newspaper of Confindustria, “the spiral of protests and unrest has thus reopened, as periodically happens, an unhealed wound in America, the ‘color line’ of discrimination and racism identified by generations of exponents of the struggle for civil rights from the late nineteenth Century to today”. (5)
But it’s improper to speak of a wound that has never healed. Racism is not a wound, but a weapon that the bourgeoisie has always used against workers. The letter to S. Meyer and A. Vogt is famous, in which K. Marx, addressing the Irish question, writes:
“And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the “poor whites” to the Negroes in the former slave states of the U.S.A.. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker both the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rulers in Ireland.
This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this.” (6)
And again, in Capital he would write that “labor in white skin cannot emancipate itself [in a country, the USA], where it is branded in black skin”. (7)
The importance of the issue requires special attention to the understanding of the determined and specific forms in which racism takes place in various contexts around the world.
However, our class must not allow itself to be crushed by the issue of racism as a sectoral and partial struggle. Anti-racism is not the way to defeat racism. In order to deal with this phenomenon of capitalism too, it is necessary to wage war on the capitalist mode of production and on bourgeois domination as a whole. It is in their bosom that racism is generated, reproduced and used.
The real prospect of overcoming racism and destroying its conditions is that of the internationalism of the proletariat, the only truly international class without fatherlands and races. Proletarian internationalism unites workers all over the world in the battle for world revolution, with the vanguard role of the communist Party, that is itself international.
It is the practice and the horizon of the proletariat as a class that make it possible to tackle the issue of racism not in the indefinite future, nor in the courtrooms or the bourgeois parliaments, but in the living fire of the unifying struggle of communist internationalism.
The deepest and proper character of our class is also our strength and our strategy.
If the U.S. police, or the police of any other country, moreover, would lose its clear racist characteristics, would it change its nature? Would a conviction of Derek Chauvin bring someone “justice”? Are the cops, who knelt in public to express solidarity with George Floyd, different from racist cops from a class point of view?
This is not so. Reforming the police, democratizing it, arresting or firing “rotten apples” would not change their class nature. For the workers, the police is nothing else than part of the apparatus of domination and oppression of the bourgeoisie.
Marx clearly identifies in the “standing army, police, bureaucracy, clergy, and judicature” the organs of “centralized state power” (‘The Civil War in France’, 1871).
Taking up Engels, Lenin wrote with identical clarity that “a standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power.” (‘State and Revolution’, 1917).
“(…) their entire state apparatus with its laws, police and army is nothing but an apparatus for capitalist terror!”, Trotsky also wrote with equal power (‘Why Marxists oppose individual terrorism’, 1911).
For workers, neither justice, peace nor protection of their interests, even the most basic ones such as survival, can come from these organisms. What is relatively protected today, because it allows for a certain maintenance of social order, will be denied tomorrow in the name of the same order. Because it is the order of bourgeois domination, which the workers are called upon to overthrow and destroy, not to invoke and defend.
“The working class must be able to learn a lesson from the events that years of accepted and deliberate legality have brought before it; to understand that there is no legal body to defend it, that there is no neutral state and superior justice to appeal to, and that from the tyranny of those two forms of bourgeois violence which are law and force, the proletariat can only protect itself by creating its own political bodies of defense and offense”, wrote Onorato Damen (‘Bourgeois Violence and Proletarian Defense’, 1946). (8)
The proletarian energy that is exploding in the U.S. riots is condemned to disperse and to never take up a perspective towards autonomous class objectives. This is not because of the peculiar characteristics that the protests in question have. There is never a “pure” movement. But it is also never possible that a social movement, even if proletarian, can spontaneously arrive at the conquest of political power by the working class. The absence of a world party of the communist revolution makes this perspective missing: “every revolt is exhausted by the system if the revolutionary party is missing”, wrote Onorato Damen, leaving carved in one sentence the great question that is still posed today in its absolute topicality.
In order to get out of the narrow, and still bourgeois, conscience and perspectives that in themselves are generated by the daily and practical experiences of the proletariat, even when they are struggling for their own living and working conditions, it is necessary to rise up from specific conflicts, and theoretically understand the historical movement as a whole. This is the specific field in which the Party’s work is indispensable.
The Party is “where the formative elements of class consciousness are reworked to be brought back to a political synthesis to be returned to the class in order to favor the process of production of class consciousness for itself”. (9) Its very specificity makes its role as vanguard of the proletarian struggles possible, against this inhuman society and for the liberation of a new world from its rubble. It is for these reasons that we maintain that the battle for the communist program and the world party of revolution is the crucial battle for the future of humanity.
Mario Lupoli (IOD), June 2, 2020
Translation by H.C., June 4, 2020
1 Source: Huffington Post (here re-translated from Italian).
2 Laura Hazard Owen, June 1, 2020: U.S. police have attacked journalists more than 120 times since May 28.
4 Cf. Edwards, Lee & Esposito; PNAS, August 20, 2019: Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex.
5 Cf. Marco Valsania, Il Sole 24 ore, May 30, 2020: Vittime razziali e scontri di piazza: l’America si confronta con un problema mai risolto. (“Racial victims and street fights: America faces an unresolved problem”)
7 Capital Vol.1, Section 3, The production of absolute surplus value, Ch.8: The labor day.
** The quotation is from: “Die Ordnung herrscht in Berlin”, Die Rote Fahne no. 14, January 14, 1919. “Order reigns in Berlin” was the last article written by Rosa Luxemburg, denouncing the bloody repression of the – premature – January uprising in the German capital, provoked by the SPD under the social-chauvinist leadership of Ebert, Noske and Scheidemann. See “The Workers’ Councils in Germany 1918-23” (part I.), also in ‘A Free Retriever’s Digest’ Vol.2#6, December 12, 2018. (Editor’s note)