On May 25th, a man was lynched. Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin pinned George Floyd to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, including for three minutes after Floyd stopped responding. What was remarkable about this particular incident? Absolutely nothing. The lynching of Black people is a routine affair under this hypocritical and racist capitalist democracy. Events prove over and over again not only that the constitutional due process rights of Black people are systematically violated—that these rights are worthless in reality—but also that the perpetrators of these violations, up to and including extrajudicial killings, consistently get away with murder.
The looting and destruction of property by protesters is an entirely rational response to the state’s disregard for the civil rights of Black people. It is the practical expression of the simple truth that George Floyd’s life was incomparably more valuable than any commodity or building. It is the propertarian logic expressed in George Wallace’s now famous quote “When looting starts, the shooting starts” which is irrational, criminal, and perverse.
Frey’s Cop, Not Trump’s Cop
George Floyd’s murder is also an unmistakable condemnation of the Democratic Party and its decades of governance in most of the major cities in this country. Elected in 2017 on an extensive platform of so-called “police reform” and “restorative justice,” Jacob Frey is the sixth in a continuous line of Democratic mayors in Minneapolis that goes all the way back to 1978. This is the fruit of four decades of Democratic mayorship: a Black man lynched in full view on a city street. Chauvin isn’t Trump’s cop—he is Frey’s cop. Furthermore, the current Minneapolis City Council consists of 12 Democrats and one Green Party member (Cam Gordon). The city has not had a single Republican council member since 1998. Yet, none of these “progressive” municipal cretins could stop the murder of George Floyd.
The story of the Democratic Party and its culpability does not end there. Frey was an early endorser of the presidential bid of Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota’s senior senator and the favored candidate, alongside Elizabeth Warren, of the New York Times. This liberal bourgeois mouthpiece predicted that under a Klobuchar administration, the people would have “the best chance to enact many progressive plans.” Less than two weeks ago, the press reported that Joe Biden was vetting her as a running mate. However—only now, after Floyd’s death—the world is hearing about Klobuchar’s failure to bring charges in cases of officer-involved shootings during her eight years as the county prosecutor in the jurisdiction that includes Minneapolis.
Attorney general of Minnesota Keith Ellison was recently assigned to the case against killer cop Derek Chauvin. Ellison was a US congressman from 2007 to 2019 (succeeded by Ilhan Omar) and is a longtime ally of Bernie Sanders. In 2016, he was endorsed by the Democratic “Socialists” of America (D“S”A) to chair the DNC. It is no surprise that the D“S”A’s commentary on Floyd’s lynching attributes the crime to certain generalities such as “the deeply entrenched pattern of violence, anti-Blackness, and oppression upheld by policing,” but stops short of identifying the dominant and responsible political force for decades in Minneapolis, which is effectively a one-party city. If these “progressive” elected officials are powerless to control the actions of their Trumpian municipal police departments and their inflammatory police “unions” (recall the NYPD turning their backs on de Blasio in response to his “anti-cop rhetoric” when a grand jury declined to indict Eric Garner’s murderer) — isn’t this an indictment of capitalist democracy and every organization that participates in its charades, competing to become the petty local managers of its state?
For these reasons, we should not be fooled by the crocodile tears of the Democratic Party. These politicians are not sorry that George Floyd was murdered. They’re sorry that it was caught on video. They’re sorry that their authority is now in crisis.
Real Democracy Comes From the Working Class
The murder of George Floyd took place on Memorial Day, a national holiday first known as “Decoration Day” in honor of the Union soldiers who died fighting in the Civil War. The Civil War marked the formal completion of the bourgeois revolution that was left unfinished in 1776. Although chattel slavery was abolished, the struggle for democracy and Black liberation was far from over. The army of Lincoln fought in a business-like manner with the goal of restoring the Union as it had existed before the conflict, failing to effectively crush the resistance of the slave-owning class. It was this inconsistent character of the Civil War that made the Jim Crow era of reaction possible and created the necessity for hard-fought struggles to democratize the state that continued into the 20th century. Such is the way with bourgeois revolutions—they can never be anything more than disappointing caricatures of what they promise to be. The self-seeking and cowardly bourgeoisie can never be consistently democratic. Today, it is only the working class which can lead the struggle for complete equality and consistent democracy.
There are two trends in the fight for complete equality and democratic rights for Black people: the bourgeois-reformist trend which clings to electoral illusions and statolatry; and the working-class position of consistent, independent, and revolutionary class struggle against the class enemy. In the face of popular uprisings, the bourgeoisie uses a policy of granting tactical concessions without fundamental change. They give piecemeal reforms like body cameras and “community policing.” They hire more Black cops who then inflict the same terror on working people. These methods temporarily quell popular unrest and strengthen the position of the bourgeois-reformists. We see the results: a 21st-century lynching in one of the “most progressive cities” in America.
Why do we identify the enemy as a class enemy in this struggle? Because US capitalism is fundamentally interested in the all-round oppression and exploitation of Black working people as a condition for extracting profits. George Floyd teaches us, once more, that there is no future for Black working people under this system.
Contradictions between Black workers and white workers are real and must be overcome through common struggle. When white workers see themselves as members of a superior “race,” they become the stupid tools of capital, and strengthen capitalist domination over themselves. These contradictions are kept alive and intensified by the press, the government, and the whole ideological apparatus of the bourgeoisie, according to the needs of the class struggle. Racist ideology sows weakness in the working class and is one of the great tools by which the bourgeoisie keeps its power.
A people which oppresses another people cannot itself be free.