Abolish the death penalty, a tool of capitalist oppression

February 1, 2021

Statement by Joanne Kuniansky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New Jersey governor Jan. 20.

“An enormous machine for grinding people up,” is how Cuban revolutionary Ramón Labañino described the capitalist “justice” system. Labañino was one of the Cuban 5, framed up and imprisoned in the U.S. for up to 16 years for acting to defend their revolution.

Nowhere can that be seen more clearly than in 13 federal executions carried out over the last seven months, after a 17-year hiatus. The two most recent were sanctified by a big majority of the black-robed “justices” on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Jan. 13 execution of Lisa Montgomery — a woman diagnosed with serious mental disorders and kept in solitary confinement since 2007 — is just one example of the barbarity of the capitalist rulers.

They use the death penalty as a class weapon to terrorize and break the spirits of workers and farmers. It has been used against working-class militants who stand up to bosses in decades past, like the Haymarket martyrs and Industrial Workers of the World militant Joe Hill. It will be used again in the future as workers and farmers defend ourselves and rebel against attacks by the bosses and their government.

Thousands more are sentenced to death by the dangerous speedup and working conditions imposed by the bosses in search of higher profits at factories, warehouses, construction sites and railroads across the country. All working people have a stake in fighting for workers control of production and safety on the job. And demanding an immediate end to the rulers’ use of the death penalty and joining actions to protest its use.

Alongside executions and the deadly violence cops mete out, the U.S. rulers incarcerate a higher proportion of the population than any other country in the world, overwhelmingly working class and disproportionately Black. Prisons, rife with the abuse of inmates’ rights, are tools of ruling-class retribution. The capitalist ruling families are only a small minority of the population. To maintain their rule, they use a court system rigged against working people.

Onerous bail terms ensure thousands languish in jail for months, and even years before trial. Prosecutors use threats of long prison sentences to force workers to cop a plea bargain so only a tiny fraction of those charged with a “crime” ever get to court. This is a blow to the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The injustices and brutalities inherent to capitalist rule can be checked for a time as a result of working people’s struggles. But the foundation for sweeping them away can only be established when we organize ourselves independently to fight in our millions to replace the dictatorship of capital with a workers and farmers government, as working people have done in revolutionary Cuba.

That’s the most powerful tool our class has to deepen the struggles necessary to wipe out all exploitation and oppression.

The Socialist Workers Party demands: End the death penalty!