Racially motivated police murder sparks uprisings across the United States

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
03 June 2020

There is a full-blown revolt under way in the United States. Every day hundreds of thousands of people are demonstrating in dozens of cities across the country. The National Guard has been deployed in about 20 states, 5,000 people have been arrested. But on June 2, protesters were still braving curfews and were not calming down.

It’s indeed impossible not to be outraged by the terrible murder carried out in cold blood and publicly by police officers. The man they killed was handcuffed and lying on the ground, shouting his distress and saying he was going to die. What George Floyd suffered has been suffered by countless black people in the past. The segregation and the lynchings meant dying at the hands of white people, for not being docile enough or simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The police officers who choked George Floyd for nine interminable minutes did as many others before them have done, including recently. If their crime had not been filmed and broadcast, their false report mentioning a "medical incident" would have been the only evidence. It took days of mobilization before a first police officer was charged and imprisoned. In the vast majority of cases, the murdering police officers don't even have to answer for their crime.

The United States, a country that is often presented to us as a model, was built on slavery. Then segregation and the fierce exploitation of free labor took over in order to build modern capitalism. Today, racism and discrimination still weigh down on black working people, who get the hardest jobs and lowest wages, live in the poorest housing and neighborhoods, when they don’t end up in jail. They have been hit harder than others by the coronavirus. In a way, white workers are also the victims of racism, because big business has used and still uses the division between poor whites and poor blacks to perpetuate its domination.

This racial division is perhaps less general today than it was in the past, as shown by the participation of many young white people in demonstrations. But it remains pervasive, as Trump's presidency illustrates. The son of a Ku Klux Klan supporter, Trump was elected by castigating blacks and migrants. In recent days, he has been provoking protesters, issuing calls to shoot them. As the presidential election approaches, he is betting on the dirtiest racist and security demagoguery.

The current wind of revolt is probably also the result of the brutal degradation of the living conditions of the U.S. working class. George Floyd lived on odd jobs. He had been a truck driver, then a security guard in a restaurant. Since lockdown, he had been unemployed. He was killed not only because he was black, but also because he was poor. Tens of millions of people live in poverty in the richest country in the world. Six months ago, we were told that the U.S. economy was growing and had returned to full employment. Forty million Americans have since been thrown out of work and can no longer pay their rent or their loans. Some even line up for food aid. The coronavirus has exacerbated the war that the bourgeoisie is waging on working people, who are being thrown out on the streets to preserve capitalist profits. Today, the whole system is cracking.

The Democratic leaders are tailgating Trump. Following Joe Biden’s lead, they have condemned the rioters, one after the other, with harsher words than those they have used against the murderous cops. In the cities and states they lead, they are sending in troops against the demonstrators. Essentially, the Democrats and Republicans alternate in power and both run the barbaric state apparatus of the bourgeoisie. It’s their role to defend it. Under Obama, who was president for eight years, the condition of blacks didn’t improve at all. It's all exploding today.

Despite the differences that exist between the conditions in the United States and other countries, what is happening concerns all of us, in France and in Europe. Police brutality, racism and massive unemployment are the known ingredients of the riots in the United States. But anger is a healthy feeling because it can widen perspectives. At the root of racism and the oppression of black people, is the capitalist system, so let’s hope that the present revolt will find ways of attacking this system. If it does, it will bring immense hope to workers around the world. The workers of the United States, regardless of the color of their skin, as well as the workers on this side of the Atlantic, need to put an end to a bankrupt economic and social system.