Within a week of the killing of George Floyd by US police, the social explosion which began in the United States had spread across the globe. From the impoverished banlieues of Paris to the annexed territories of the West Bank, the Black Lives Matter movement has resonated with the anger of millions of oppressed youth everywhere.
In Britain too, militant demonstrations have taken place in every major city, as well as numerous small towns and villages.
The movement’s scope reflects the widespread sense of suffocating injustice experienced by millions. The same racism, police violence, and poverty are to be found everywhere. This is a global struggle – a class struggle – that can only be victorious if we overthrow capitalism.
Capitalism and racism
For hundreds of thousands of youth, it is not about tinkering with the system. It is about tearing down the whole system, and destroying racism and oppression at its foundation. The BLM movement poses the question point blank: how can systemic racism finally be uprooted?
The reason racism is systemic is precisely because it is woven into the fabric of our socio-economic system: capitalism.
This hasn’t stopped the capitalists themselves from trying to piggyback on the movement. From the Premier League to Ben & Jerry’s – all of them are getting in on the act. Even the CEO of the bank JPMorgan Chase took the knee with his staff. This is the very same bank which pushed tens of thousands of poor (and disproportionately black and Latino) Americans into taking subprime mortgages before 2008, only to foreclose on them after the crisis!
These ladies and gentlemen – whatever the colour of their skin – are our class enemies. It is their system which is responsible for racism in all its forms. In the words of Malcolm X: You cannot have capitalism without racism.
Exploitation and oppression
Capitalism is in terminal decline. It is no use trying to patch it up. Like the foul stench of a decaying corpse, this yet-to-be-buried system emanates the poisonous fumes of racism.
The COVID-19 crisis has made this clear as day. As these lines are being written, a second wave of the virus is already beginning. The epicentre is in East Leicester, where two-thirds of the population are considered BAME.
At the heart of the outbreak are Leicester’s so-called “dark factories”. In these sweatshops, thousands of predominantly South Asian women are employed for as little as £3-4 per hour, with no social distancing or PPE.
Leicester's sweatshops have been an open secret for years. Central government knew; local government knew; retailers knew. Now the bill for inaction has come due. https://t.co/YCdteGJAgR— Sarah O'Connor (@sarahoconnor_) July 3, 2020
The billionaire owners of the big fashion firms profit from the exploitation of these workers. Yet they likely do not consider themselves racist. They might even donate to anti-racist charities. But their system and their blind pursuit of profit condemns thousands to poverty and premature death; and at the same time reproduces the racist oppression they pay lip-service to fighting.
Question of leadership
A clear class approach is needed to take the movement forward. In its early days, the spontaneity of the BLM movement was a strength. It meant that it was beyond the power of any conservative, bureaucratic leader to hold the movement back.
But we must now ask: can we advance further without organisation? As the movement has developed, its lack of leadership has emerged as a weakness.
When the far right mobilised in London, the leadership mistakenly retreated in the name of “maintaining peace”. Unopposed, this simply meant that the far right were able to threaten and abuse any passer-by they could get their hands on. A genuine mass mobilisation, by contrast, would have demoralised these racist thugs, and swept them off our streets for years to come.
In a number of places, meanwhile, the lack of a clear organised expression for the movement has given the bosses the opening they need to pour confused ideas into the movement.
This has allowed self-appointed ‘community leaders’ and black businessmen to put themselves at the head of protests. By calling for “support for black businesses”, police reform, and gentle, moderate persuasion of Tory politicians, they have acted to pour cold water on the movement.
Abolish the police
The liberal ‘friends’ of BLM take the slogan ‘abolish the police’ and retreat from it. They reassure the ruling class that they only want to divert a bit of police funding to social projects.
Instead of retreating from the instinctively revolutionary slogan of ‘abolish the police’, we must draw the logical conclusions that flow from it. We believe that if we say ‘abolish the police’, we have to add: ‘abolish the system the police were formed to defend!’
The police cannot be legislated away, for the same reason that the ruling class will not allow their property and wealth to be legislated away. Only the organised working class can ‘abolish’ the police in the sense of disarming the bosses’ police force, and replacing it with a force that is under the control of workers, accountable to our class.
But a democratic, workers’ state can only be formed on the basis of the expropriation of the banks and giant corporations, and the creation of a socialist plan of production. This would lay the basis for ending all want and poverty.
This is the way to end racism: by uprooting not only the state, but the want and misery of capitalism.
To distract from the real, systematic problems in society, the capitalist class pits groups of workers against each other in the fight over crumbs. This super-rich elite, meanwhile, sit at the peak of the capitalist pyramid, hoarding society’s wealth for themselves.
The capitalists represent a tiny minority. But they have at their disposal all of society’s resources: the media; the ivory towers of academia; the political parties; and, of course, the police. As Malcolm X correctly stated: “We aren’t out-numbered, we’re out-organised!”
To overthrow this formidable apparatus of oppression and exploitation, we must be just as organised, and clear in our ideas.
We believe Marxist ideas alone are capable of offering a clear explanation of the intrinsic connection between racism, police violence and the capitalist system. We must unite workers and youth – black, white or Asian; migrant or ‘native-born’ – around a revolutionary programme.
To tear up racism, we must overthrow capitalism. To do this, we must fight to build an organised, revolutionary movement of the whole working class against capitalism.
This is what Socialist Appeal is striving to build. We appeal to you to join us in this task and join Socialist Appeal today.
Capitalism is racist: Black Lives Matter
By the Marxist Student Federation
Black Lives Matter has been an international phenomenon. Sparked by the gruesome killing of George Floyd, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets all across the world to protest against police brutality and racism. In normal times, this would be a feat in itself. The fact that the movement has been so global, during the coronavirus pandemic is a testament to the power behind the movement.
It should come as no surprise that the Black Lives Matter movement has found a powerful echo in the UK – a country with its own deeply racist history; and where BAME communities are only too aware of the inequality, injustice, and oppression that is systemic within capitalism.
These explosive protests in Britain are yet another sign of the revolutionary mood developing in society – particularly amongst young people and BAME communities. And these layers, in turn, are like a weathervane, indicating which way the wind is blowing more widely amongst the working class and the oppressed.
Police brutality is not new. We recognise it as the final expression of a violent racist system that causes misery for the majority, while a minority of people live comfortably at the expense of the working class. Within that system, black people are brutally and doubly oppressed. Racism is a tool that the ruling class uses to divide the working class. This is because a united working class, that is conscious of its power, has the ability to transform and ultimately take control of society.
By fostering racial divisions, and perpetuating racist ideas that categorise black people as ‘violent’, ‘criminal’, ‘unintelligent’ etc, capitalism conveniently segregates working class black people from the rest of their class. It is a powerful weapon, that has been woven into the foundations of capitalism with the transatlantic slave trade. Therefore we recognise that the only basis upon which it will be abolished is through a complete removal of that system.
If the problem is systemic, the solution must be too. There is no path for the true liberation of black people under capitalism. In the words of the great Fred Hampton ‘ We don’t fight capitalism with black capitalism, we fight it with solidarity’. Our activists have been attending BLM protests putting forward our radical approach to ending racism.We must replace this barbaric world with socialism.
Reports from Marxist Societies
UEA Marxist Society
The UEA Marxist Society Facebook page was contacted by another UEA student who had taken over as organiser of the Norwich BLM demonstration after the original founders reached out for help. Knowing us as a politically active group on campus, the organiser asked if we could help organise the demonstration. Due to the ongoing pandemic and the particular effects of the BAME community, we decided to demonstrate in two separate areas, one where the speakers can talk safely, and another where we would put loudspeakers to broadcast the speakers. We would encourage people to stay at home and watch the livestream and give safety advice for anyone who felt the need to protest outside anyway.
Due to technical issues on the day, the second area of protest ended up being an open mic whilst the main area had planned speakers. The turnout at both locations was big for Norwich with roughly 2-300 at the first area and another 5-600 at the second whilst the livestream had an average viewing of 1500 across various platforms. The variety of speeches described personal experiences of racism both from the police and other state institutions but also other areas of society. There was a lot of anger and passion on display but also recognition that, despite previous struggles, there is still a large fight to be waged against the system as a whole.
Sussex Marxists organised a public discussion meeting on the topic ‘Protests, Police Brutality and Racism’, in light of the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests in the US and globally. We received an enthusiastic response from frequent attendees and a new layer of students and workers were keen to join us. The attraction to these ideas highlights the palpable thirst amongst this layer for radical answers. This is a direct reflection of the growing radicalisation and shift in consciousness amongst the youth and working class – a result of the decaying capitalism system being exposed for all to see.
A comrade introduced the discussion, providing an overview of the history and origins of racism and why capitalism requires it to function, the nature of the capitalist state and police brutality, and where next for the BLM movement. It is clear that racism is rooted in the capitalist system as a tool for oppression and division, to better exploit workers and prevent working class unity. To fight all forms of inequality, including racism, we need a socialist transformation of society to remove, root and branch, the capitalist system that perpetuates division and subjugation. For this, the organised working class is paramount, and this is the perspective for the movement: it needs a centralised leadership, capable of uniting the workers under the banner of socialism