MINNEAPOLIS — Supporters of Socialist Workers Party candidates Doug Nelson for mayor and David Rosenfeld for City Council in Ward 12 here had a successful weekend June 5-6 campaigning with workers on their doorsteps and collecting signatures to put Nelson on the ballot. Several party members from Chicago joined the effort, capped by a Militant Labor Form where the candidates addressed the recent rise in shootings, assaults and robberies in working-class neighborhoods across the country — a topic campaigners have found is on the minds of many working people.
At the end of the weekend some 260 signatures were in hand, over half the requirement of 500. Campaign supporters plan to go well over that by the beginning of July to assure Nelson’s spot on the ballot.
Campaigners went to several neighborhoods across the city, including Powderhorn, where George Floyd square is located, a center of protests against police brutality and the site of a memorial for Floyd, who was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. During the protests parts of this area were hit by arson and looting, which shut down groceries, pharmacies and other stores that employed and serviced many from the neighborhood.
“During the riots you would wake up in the morning and see that the gas station that was on the corner was gone,” Powderhorn resident Jean Marshall told this reporter at her doorstep. “You would go to work in the morning and come home at night and find the corner store burned to the ground. And the people who did this don’t live here. I’m also not for getting rid of the police. I don’t see how that would work.”
While virtually every block of the city is dotted with signs supporting the fight against police brutality, SWP campaigners have found opposition widespread in working-class areas to calls by some liberal politicians, middle-class radicals and Black Lives Matter misleaders to disband or “defund” the police.
“Because workers have to deal with the consequences of the real world and its contradictions on a daily basis, they can’t afford to act as if they live in a ‘woke’ fantasy,” Nelson said at the forum, attended by a couple dozen workers and youth, including some who learned about the event from campaigners.
“Crime is defined by the capitalist rulers to maintain their power and privileges,” Nelson said. “Their laws and the way they’re enforced are designed to keep workers in line and to brand substantial layers of us as criminals, particularly those who are Black or from other oppressed nationalities. To the bosses and landlords in power, all workers are viewed as potentially dangerous.
“What is of great concern to workers, however, is anti-social violence within working-class communities,” he said. “In addition to the immediate consequences for those affected, it breeds fear and demoralization; it saps workers’ confidence and tears at social solidarity. This in turn feeds into more anti-social behavior and spreads the infection of capitalist dog-eat-dog morality. The rulers’ cops and courts are aimed against us, but it is far better to live under their rule of law than without it, where warlords, gangs and vigilantes fill the gap.
“One of the obvious factors in the recent rise in violent crime has been the systematic withdrawal of police in certain working-class neighborhoods, particularly those with the highest crime rates,” Nelson said. “The effect was no surprise to anyone, least of all the government officials who organized it as part of the rulers’ political responses to the broad popular demonstrations that exploded across the country following the death of Floyd, as well as the unpopular and anti-social rioting and looting. They decided to sacrifice some beat cops responsible for Floyd’s death, and to have the police pull back from many of our communities.
“Calls by some capitalist politicians to ‘defund’ or remake the police were always phony. It is the police force of the class they support, not ours, and they will pay them and use them wherever they need them. At the pickets against the Marathon Petroleum lockout in nearby St. Paul Park, the oil bosses pay local cops handsomely to act as strikebreakers. In this capacity the cops are fulfilling their primary role, a fact that is less obvious today in the absence of big union battles,” Nelson said.
“During the big union organizing drives described in Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs that took place here in the 1930s, the capitalists faced growing popular resistance that posed a threat to their political power, unlike today,” he said. “Following a mass demonstration of 40,000 against a cop killing of a worker, the city quickly transformed its police into a force capable of meeting out violence against the strikers. They systematically weeded out every cop who could not be relied upon to shoot workers on order, and augmented this by organizing thugs to carry out extralegal violence.
“Since the police exist to protect the profit-driven system that breeds crime, there is no ‘policing policy’ solution to it,” Nelson told the forum. “In decades past, the rulers encouraged ‘broken windows’ policing, stop and frisk, and the massive railroading of workers to prison for longer and longer sentences. Crime statistics declined, but at an enormous social and moral price for working people.
“Communists are for dismantling the capitalist police, but only when the workers have taken political power and have forged experienced class-conscious combatants to replace them. This is precisely what workers have done every time they have taken power and set up their own government — from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro in Cuba, where gangsters, cops and government henchmen terrorized workers and peasants until these forces of repression were replaced by the Rebel Army and a new revolutionary police force that eliminated the vast majority of anti-social violence and other crime.”
People must wake up to their worth
Rosenfeld talked about the legal violence of capitalism and social consequences for the breakdown of the family it breeds. There is no pat solution to stop violent crimes and shootings under capitalism and its dog-eat-dog values of competition that undermine solidarity and working-class consciousness. The normal workings of capitalism result in over 2 million deaths and disabling injuries worldwide of workers on the job every year as a necessary part of production for profit.
One forum participant described attending a funeral in which the ushers were armed, and asked, “What can be done about the proliferation of guns among youth?”
“We have to fight for social solidarity and draw the broadest numbers of people into supporting the strikes and social struggles that exist today and will grow,” Rosenfeld said. “This may not seem realistic to some, yet it is the only realistic solution.”
Rosenfeld described how anti-social crime fell by 75% during the sustained mobilizations against Jim Crow segregation in Cambridge, Maryland, in 1964 led by Gloria Richardson.
“Strengthening working-class solidarity and organization in struggle is our answer to those who prey on other working people, as well as to cop violence, until we can make a revolution, take power into our own hands and begin to rebuild society based on our morals, not theirs,” Rosenfeld said.