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
May 24, 2021
May 25, 2020, one year ago, George Floyd was murdered. In the days that followed, a social explosion quickly transformed into a vast outpouring of anger. The mobilization extended, despite the lockdown of society imposed by the American state in response to a new virus. And it broke through decades when the population had seemed unable to express and organize itself. All those people in the street gave the lie to the old myth, “no one will ever do anything,” repeated so often, many people had actually come to believe it.
People did things. Every big city, and almost every medium-sized one saw people in the streets. So did the suburbs, so did rural areas very far removed from the big cities.
Black people came out, once more reminded how easily their own or their child’s life could be taken away by a cop too quick to pull a trigger—or too ready to murder at an agonizingly slow pace. But this time, Blacks were joined by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of other people: Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, Whites.
It wasn’t just because the murder of George Floyd was so horrific—although it was. Nor that the full nine minutes and 29 seconds of its horror had been recorded on video. There had been horrifying murders before, murders recorded on video before.
In fact, the murder of George Floyd, as horrible as it was, was normal, every-day normal, standard-operating-procedure-for-the-police normal. This is what made the murder so truly horrifying.
This is what pulled people into the streets, what gave voice to their moral outrage. Moral outrage imbued their demands for justice.
If there ever was a time when people might have hoped that moral outrage—expressed by a large majority of the population—could force capitalist society to change, it was in those days and weeks and months following the murder of George Floyd, when social protests engulfed the country.
Capitalist society did not change. Its police continued to act as they always had. Despite the outpouring of outrage, there was no let-up. The long list of people killed by the police continued to get longer, more names were added, men and women, old and young, White and Black and Latino and Native American and Muslim, but above all, out of all proportion to their numbers in the population, Black.
Oh, yes, for a short while, even police chiefs and sheriffs around the country had mouthed words of support for those who protested.
But moral outrage was not enough to put an end to violence by cop. It could not, because the violence carried out by the police, widely against the poor population and specifically against its black vanguard, does not stem from individual, particularly vicious police officers, and certainly not from the fact they carry guns, nor from the military mentality inculcated in police departments as part of their training. All of those things—which have become the focus of attempts to “reform” the police—are only consequences.
The every-day violence which the police inflict stems from the writ which police are charged with, that is, not to “protect and serve” the population, but to protect “private property,” and serve the capitalist class that drains ever larger shares of wealth out of the whole economy.
Today, we continue to live under this system where “private property” and enormous accumulations of wealth are guarded by the police, just as they were before the movement broke out.
But one thing is enormously different. Millions of people went out into the street. Millions expressed their outrage at what the police have done. Millions discovered that they were millions, that is, that they were not alone, that others could be counted on.
It’s with such experiences that the black population has long developed an awareness of its own capacities. May 25 was a turning point for very many people. Now the problem is to become conscious not just that people, other human beings, have capacities to do so many things. We need to become aware that the glue that holds this whole repressive system together—its racism, its violence, its exploitation—is capitalism itself. When capitalism is rooted out, the police will crumble to pieces like the tin soldiers they have long been.