The following statement was released June 2 by David Rosenfeld, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota.
The police killing of George Floyd has been met with outrage and protest throughout Minnesota, across the country and internationally. The mass protests forced the government to arrest and charge Derek Chauvin, the cop who killed George Floyd with a knee to the neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd and bystanders pleaded for his life. They have the potential to grow and accomplish more. While all four cops involved in the death of George Floyd have been fired, we must continue to demand that they all be arrested and prosecuted.
The widespread looting and violence by a small minority who tie their agenda to the protests are a deadly obstacle to building the fight to end police violence and the struggle to defend working people.
No reforming the police
Cop brutality is not an aberration. It is endemic to the capitalist system. The role of the police — part of the capitalist rulers’ criminal “justice” system — is to mete out intimidation and punishment to working people, fighting unionists and disproportionately to African Americans.
The police cannot be reformed. No amount of “community policing,” “diversity training,” or citizen review boards can change the nature of the cops. They exist to protect and serve the interests of the wealthy rulers.
What we need
It will take a powerful, disciplined, militant working-class movement to win the fight against the violence and brutality that the police inflict on workers and farmers. The mass Black-led movement that overthrew Jim Crow segregation in the 1950s and ’60s, as well as the fighting Teamsters union movement here in the 1930s, are powerful examples of the kind of movement and leadership that can and must be built.
Unions have spoken out against the cop killing of George Floyd — including the Amalgamated Transit Union, United Steelworkers, United Auto Workers, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, UNITE HERE, and many more. The bus drivers’ union in Minneapolis has called for “A [new] civil rights movement that is joined with the labor movement and independent of the corporate establishment’s political parties” to fight for “our collective liberation as working people.” The unions should mobilize members and other workers to join the protests and use the power of organized labor to draw more working people into this fight.
The cop killing of George Floyd — and of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as the vigilante killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia — take place as working people face a broad social crisis, with millions thrown out of work by government lockdowns. The bosses are organizing for a profitable “recovery” on our backs.
Working-class struggles against these attacks — joblessness, police brutality, attacks on our wages, unsafe working conditions and racist discrimination — will deepen. The capitalist rulers will continue to turn to the police to keep us in check.
In the face of this we must build a labor movement that acts as the champions of all working people. The protests today point to the possibility to build a broad working-class fight that can effect changes in the interests of all the exploited and oppressed.
But the nightly burnings, looting and destruction by groups of provocateurs, anarchists, opportunists, and those driven by frustration and demoralization give the government a handle to blame protesters, not the cops and their ruthless brutality, for violence. It deters working people from joining the mass protests — militant, peaceful and legal actions — that can put real pressure on the government to prosecute killer cops.
The consequences of the looting and destruction are not only disrupting the lives and livelihoods of many workers, farmers and small proprietors, through the closure of grocery stores, pharmacies, schools and various businesses and the shutdown of public transit. They have given an opening to the government, which is responsible for defending the rulers’ system of exploitation, oppression and violence, to bring in more cops, National Guard, and active-duty military forces, to shut down many cities. Over 60 million are now covered by a variety of curfew orders.
It is along a course independent of the bosses’ Democratic and Republican parties that we can build our own party, a labor party, to help lead a struggle for a workers and farmers government that will provide working people the mightiest weapon possible to wage the ongoing battle to end Black oppression and every form of exploitation in class-divided society.
Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement set an example for workers and farmers everywhere by organizing them to overthrow the U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in 1959. They transferred political power to working people, transforming society as they transformed themselves. Cuban workers and farmers built and continue to defend their own government, one built on new social and moral foundations in the interests of all.
One of the first steps of the revolution was to abolish Batista’s police and army, replacing those hated servants of the dictatorship with proven revolutionary cadres from the July 26 Movement. That is the road to ending police violence once and for all here as well.