The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Dirty Truth about American Democracy:
Impoverishment Enforced by Violence

Apr 26, 2021

The following is the editorial from SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of April 19, 2021.

Even while the trial of the cop who murdered George Floyd was going on, police continued to kill people. Among their victims were Adam Toledo, in Chicago, and Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb.

In Chicago, a gunshot supposedly was picked up by a street-level “listening device.” Cops took off after the first people they found. Adam Toledo was chased down a dark alley by a trigger-nervous cop. Adam ended up shot, dead at age 13, barely out of his childhood. In Brooklyn Center, the cops stopped Daunte Wright, supposedly because he had an air freshener hanging from his rear view mirror. An air freshener! A little four-inch, pine-scented piece of cardboard. Daunte Wright had his life taken from him, dead at age 20.

Neither Adam Toledo nor Daunte Wright would have lost their lives if the cops hadn’t engaged in what they call, “aggressive policing.” In other words, stop people on any pretext, hassle them to see what they do—and shoot if they run or give any resistance to being manhandled.

The U.S. has more people killed by cops in a week or two than many other countries have in a year. Last year, 1,099 people were killed by cops in this country. The year before that, 1,004 killed. No other wealthy country comes close to this, neither in absolute numbers, nor in the rate of people killed compared to the size of the population.

The U.S. also leads the world in putting people behind bars. No other country dumps as many people in prison as does the U.S.; no other country keeps people locked up nearly so long.

Murder by cop and imprisonment—those are simply two sides of the same repressive coin. Both reflect a dirty truth about American “democracy.” It rests on impoverishment, enforced by repression.

The gap between the wealthiest layers of society and the majority of the population is enormous—and it continues to grow. As it does, repression continues to grow. The wealth amassed at one end of society rests on violence directed against the rest of the population. In its unending drive to drain ever more of the value produced by labor, U.S. capitalism requires violence, including the violence of its military, which serves as the world’s cop.

This is the reality that every “reform” of the police comes smack up against. This is the reality that no “oversight” of the police will change, no trial of a particularly murderous cop will overcome.

The cop who killed George Floyd may be convicted of something—and even this isn’t sure. But even if he is, the reality of capitalist society is shown by one fact, and one fact alone: the National Guard is stationed in Minneapolis, not to overhaul the police, but to block people from protesting.

It should be obvious that, in a country born in slavery and marked by racism, repression will fall more heavily on those who suffer all of racism’s injuries and indignities. Black people like Daunte Wright are killed by cops at a higher rate than anyone else. They are more likely to be stopped on invented pretexts like air fresheners. But they are not the only ones. Latino people like Adam Toledo are also killed. So are Native Americans. So are whites who are poor. Roughly half of all those killed by cops are white. There is a lower rate for whites, but this reflects the fact that a significant part of the white population is well off and ordinarily isn’t confronted by cops. But for less well-off whites, police violence is a reality.

Repression does not rest equally on the whole population. The poorer someone is, the more likely that person will end up in prison, or dead, killed by cop—even when they’ve committed no offense.

Official violence, prisons, the military—these are basic aspects of modern-day capitalist society; even more so, of modern-day American capitalism.

People who want an end to all this violence can only aim at and work for the end of this capitalist system that requires violence.