Socialist Worker

This uprising has won gains—keep fighting

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2709

A black lives matter protest in Washington

A Black Lives Matter protest in Washington


The great Black Lives Matter uprising is far from over. But already it has made history.

Normal politics has been torn apart and many objectives that seemed impossible are now on the agenda.

It is the broadest protest movement in US history, reaching beyond the main cities into over 750 places.

So terrifying was the revolt that more than 17,000 members of the National Guard were mobilised ready to support local law enforcement. That was the same number of active duty US troops deployed in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

As Martin Luther King said about the 1960s, black people have “slammed the door shut on a past of deadening passivity. These are our bright years of emergence.”

The uprising has transformed opinions. One of the many revealing opinion polls came a few days ago. It found that “In the last two weeks, American voters’ support for the Black Lives Matter movement increased almost as much as it had in the preceding two years.”

It is winning hard cash from reluctant politicians. In Los Angeles, the city council is moving to redirect up to £120 million from the police budget to the most deprived sections of people.

Cases of gross injustice that were previously spurned have suddenly been re-examined. The governor of Washington state has ordered a new investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis, a black man who died more than three months ago in police custody.

Officer

A video shows Ellis screaming, “I can’t breathe sir. I can’t breathe,” followed by what sounds like an officer saying, “Shut the fuck up.”

Only now, after protests involving millions, is there the slightest chance of justice.

Never say resistance is futile, or that the power structure cannot be moved.

But there is still a long way to go. Racism is deeply embedded in all the structures of US society. 

The capitalist system that inevitably delivers low pay bad housing and early death as well as police violence has strong roots.

President Donald Trump, seeing his support nosedive, will provoke and seek violent racist polarisation.

Faced with Trump’s brutality, many will say the only “realistic” approach is to use the energy and fury of the last few weeks to propel Joe Biden into the White House. 

The Democrats’ ability to co-opt and tame revolt should not be underestimated. 

But their pull doesn’t work with everyone, especially in the middle of a movement of such scale and depth.

Many of those taking part know that they will be used by Democratic politicians and then the promises of change will be blunted or forgotten.

Enough

As Philadelphia activist Dennis Maurice Dumpson told The Washington Post newspaper last week, “We’ve seen enough to know how this goes and how this plays out.

“I’m tired of going into the same old room with the same old council member and the same state representative who have the same old mind-set.”

There need to be more angry protests. Those energised by the call for a great reckoning for the murder of George Floyd need to stay on the streets, not be led off into the wastelands of conventional politics.

The focus has to be not the individual behaviour of police but instead the system that encourages and protects them.

I’m tired of going into the same old room with the same old council member and the same state representative who have the same old mind-set

The best hope, and one that has to be actively worked for, is that many more people will be open to revolutionary arguments. There is plenty of reason for that to happen.

This uprising comes as 40 million in the US are unemployed and over 115,000 are dead from coronavirus. 

It’s time to follow the revolutionary Angela Davis when she said, “the only true path of liberation for black people is the one that leads toward a complete and total overthrow of the capitalist class in this country and all its manifold institutional appendages which ensure its ability to exploit the masses and enslave black people”


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