Workers Vanguard No. 887

2 March 2007


We Will Not Forget Sean Bell, Victim of NYPD Terror

For Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

We print below a presentation, edited for publication, by Karen Cole at a February 17 New York Spartacist League forum.

On December 16, comrades of the Spartacist League and the Labor Black League for Social Defense joined the huge Fifth Avenue rally to protest the November 25 undercover cop killing of 23-year-old Sean Bell on his wedding day and the wounding of Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman in a storm of 50 bullets. Nicole Paultre Bell, Sean Bell’s fiancée, told the truth when she said, “They barricaded him in and they executed him.” In racist capitalist America, another young black man has been cut down by the cops, the thugs in blue, in the prime of his life. In the aftermath of the killing, the cops rampaged through Queens and the Bronx, lying about looking for a gun in a frenzied attempt to blame the victims while the killer cops were put on a paid vacation.

Tens of thousands of working people and youth came out because they were furious at the kill-crazy cops who maraud through the crumbling inner cities terrorizing black and Latino men, women and children. The ruling class grinds down poor, minority and working people and then unleashes their cops to harass, humiliate, beat and kill—on the street like Sean Bell, in their building lobby like Amadou Diallo, where they work like Ousmane Zongo, on the rooftop like Timothy Stansbury, and in their home like Alberta Spruill. The hard truth is that the only way to eliminate police brutality is to do away with the whole system of racist American capitalism. The Spartacist League fights for a class-struggle program for black liberation as an inseparable part of the fight for the emancipation of the entire working class from capitalist exploitation.

What’s called for is mass protest headed by New York City’s integrated labor movement—independent from the capitalist bosses and their political parties. A small taste of the kind of working-class action that’s necessary was seen in New York City in 2005, a little over a year ago, when the Transport Workers Union (TWU) defied the no-strike New York state Taylor Law and crippled the finance capital of the world for three days. That strike was enormously popular with working people in New York who wanted to see a real fight, and workers watched it across the country. Wall Street billionaire and NYC mayor Bloomberg denounced the heavily black and immigrant striking transit workers as “thugs.”

The transit workers demonstrated the social power that can be mobilized in defense of the oppressed. But just as the transit workers were crippled by the pro-capitalist, pro-Democratic Party TWU bureaucracy that demobilized the strike, workers as a whole are held back by the existing labor misleadership from striking a labor-centered blow against racist cop terror. Mass labor-led protest—for example, a one-day citywide strike—would send a much more powerful message to the capitalist rulers than any number of photo-ops for Democrats Al Sharpton and Charles Barron.

The Democrats and union bureaucrats who organized that December 16 rally and their reformist hangers-on peddle cop reform schemes and thus reinforce dangerous illusions that the capitalist state can somehow be pressured to serve the interests of its victims. But the capitalist state—made up of the cops, armed forces, courts and prisons—is the violent enforcer of the exploiting class’s rule over the workers. This state cannot be reformed; it has to be smashed and replaced with a workers state. The black Democratic Party hustlers are enemies of black liberation, serving as front men for the white ruling class. Militant, independent class struggle requires a political fight against the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy, which chains workers to the Democratic Party and the brutal capitalist system. We need a new, class-struggle labor leadership!

The rally participants were overwhelmingly black—a snapshot of how racially segregated this country is, how deeply racism is embedded in American capitalism. But the massive outpouring also showed that although the determination of the oppressed for a real fight is palpable, the front men for capitalism work overtime to derail struggle. Our task is to build a multiracial revolutionary vanguard party, like the Bolshevik Party that led the October 1917 workers revolution in Russia, to lead the fight for working-class power, for international proletarian socialist revolution.

Capitalist Rulers’ War on Blacks

On February 2, the NYPD reported that they had stopped and frisked over a half-million individuals in 2006—a more than 400 percent rise from what was reported for 2002. Over 55 percent of those stopped were black and over 30 percent were Hispanic. And that’s just what was recorded. The 1991 sadistic LAPD beating of Rodney King seen by all on video cameras captured what goes on all the time. “Stop and beat” has always been part of life on the city streets. In the weeks after the killing of Sean Bell, the NYPD shot five more men, killing Timur Person and Anatoly Dmitriev. And on January 7, 38-year-old black Brooklyn resident Blondel Lassegue died after police shocked him with a high-voltage Taser gun.

The New York Times cited commentators saying that perhaps the cops hadn’t been reporting stop-and-frisk stats because this is not a priority in the “age of terrorism.” Cops have been given even more leeway to assault people on the street, recalling the 1857 Dred Scott decision that black people “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” We said that the American ruling class’s never-ending “war on terror” that first targeted the most vulnerable and isolated immigrants would ultimately target black people and the entire working class. The mounting attacks on the rights of immigrants, blacks and workers are the domestic reflection of the brutal, racist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. imperialists, the world’s biggest terrorists.

This past June in Miami’s impoverished Liberty City ghetto, cops set up and then arrested seven poor young black men on bogus terrorism-related charges. Regarding the racist frame-up legal system, a Florida lawyer observed: “We used to have agents and confidential informants creating drug deals in Liberty City. Now it looks like they are creating homegrown cells.”

We must burn into the consciousness of the working class the hideous examples of barbaric capitalist class rule and the urgent necessity for class struggle against the entire capitalist system. One of the most outrageous displays of capitalist state violence in the U.S. was the firebombing of the Philadelphia MOVE house on May 13, 1985, in which eleven men, women and children were burned to death. This occurred under black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode in collusion with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Philly cops. It was a bloody signature of the Reagan years.

Today we continue to raise the racist atrocity of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina as an expression of the need for black liberation through socialist revolution. In the period immediately following Katrina, the dispossessed survivors who weren’t left to die were shot at and criminalized. Now the people who managed to make it back barely have any jobs, hospitals, schools and housing, and black Democratic Party mayor Nagin is beefing up the police, including by having more sheriffs patrol the streets, and setting up police checkpoints, while cops randomly beat and shoot black men.

We have called on the labor movement to fight to win union jobs at union wages for all, to organize the unorganized, to fight against the oppression of black people, and to enlist the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the rebuilding of New Orleans alongside immigrant workers. A massive program of federally funded public works is required to rebuild New Orleans and the rest of the devastated Gulf Coast. Katrina’s aftermath exposes that the capitalist profit system is irrational, anarchic and a barrier to human progress—there is an urgent need for an international socialist planned economy.

U.S. “Democracy”: Capitalist Dictatorship

The liberals and reformists chant, “No justice, no peace.” We live in a society based on the private ownership of the means of production, where capitalists squeeze all they can out of the exploited, non-possessing workers. So the question is posed: justice for whom and peace on whose terms? There is no justice from the capitalist state because its job is to hold down the masses so the capitalists can freely exploit. “American democracy,” which the reformists embellish and plead for the capitalists to “live up to,” in reality is the two-party political shell for the dictatorship of the U.S. capitalist class over the working class and the poor.

Friedrich Engels explained in 1884 in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State how the rise of state power was bound up with the development of class society, noting that the state arose as an instrument by which the exploiters suppress the exploited. As Engels wrote, the state “is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel.”

Engels explains how class society needs a state apparatus, pointing to

“the establishment of a public power which no longer directly coincides with the population organising itself as an armed force. This special public power is necessary because a self-acting armed organisation of the population has become impossible since the split into classes.… This public power exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons and institutions of coercion.”

The capitalists maintain class domination not only through their control of cultural, religious, educational institutions and through the bourgeois family, but ultimately with raw violence.

Lenin took this up again in 1917 in The State and Revolution. Lenin was fighting anti-revolutionary opponents in the workers movement, like the Mensheviks and the bulk of the Social Revolutionaries and anarchists who opposed the struggle for proletarian revolution. Lenin pointed out that Marx only found one point from the 1848 Communist Manifesto that he considered out of date. Based on the experience of the Paris Commune of 1871, Marx wrote that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.” Lenin continued, “The working class must break up, smash the ‘ready-made state machinery,’ and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it.” The working class must rule with its own state, the dictatorship of the proletariat; that is, workers soviet democracy—democratically elected workers councils that administer a collectivized socialist property system. Lenin had to interrupt completing State and Revolution to help lead the Bolshevik Revolution.

American Capitalism and Black Oppression

Under capitalism, workers are compelled to sell their labor power or starve. One story: the U.S. Department of Agriculture has purged the word “hunger” from all their reports. Now according to official statistics, eleven million people who face a constant struggle with hunger are people with “very low food security.” Some of you remember when Reagan was president they called ketchup a vegetable. Joblessness, a crumbling infrastructure, homelessness and imperialist wars are all inherent within the boom-bust system of capitalist exploitation—that is, the exploitation of the many by the few. This is not a matter of “misplaced priorities,” as liberals and reformists put forward.

In America, class exploitation has always been wrapped in the envelope of racism. Black people in the U.S. are a race-color caste segregated at the bottom of society. At the same time, black people are disproportionately part of the organized working class. Won to a revolutionary Marxist program, black workers will play a leading role in the struggle to emancipate the black masses and all working people through sweeping away the entire system of capitalist exploitation.

We fight for revolutionary integrationism. This is a fighting program counterposed to both liberal integrationism—the false view that black people can achieve social equality within the confines of American capitalism—and black nationalism. The struggle for integration of black people into American society on the basis of full economic, social and political equality can only be realized through a proletarian revolution that uproots the rotting capitalist system and ushers in an egalitarian socialist society.

Race-color caste oppression will exist as long as capitalism exists—whether you are Fred Weary, the Houston Texans lineman who was tasered to the ground in November for changing lanes without signaling, or you are Michael Jackson or Barack Obama. Obama, the “articulate” and “clean” black candidate according to Democratic Senator Joseph Biden’s condescending racist statement, first earned these “credentials” at the 2004 Democratic Party convention, where his keynote address blamed black parents for the misery and hopelessness of black youth because, as he said, they don’t “turn off the television sets.” Obama just voted in September for a 700-mile fence for the Mexican border.

Barack Obama’s rapid career rise is based on the capitalist lies: the so-called “end of racism,” “it’s a level playing field now” and “if you’re poor, it’s your fault.” The resurgence of arguments in favor of accommodation to the racist status quo comes from both the white racist ruling class and their black lackeys and has been in the works since the rollback of the gains of the civil rights movement starting in the 1970s. It has accelerated with the bourgeois triumphalism over the capitalist counterrevolution in East Europe and the Soviet Union that was supposed to mean the “end of history” and the “death of communism.” The final undoing of the USSR, the world’s first workers state, was a huge defeat and has meant a global capitalist offensive against workers and oppressed. Working-class consciousness has been thrown back, and masses of workers around the world no longer identify their struggles with the struggle for socialism.

There is an inextricable link between the fight for black liberation and the question of socialist revolution. The 1917 October Revolution, led by Lenin and Trotsky, was the greatest 20th century victory for the world’s workers and oppressed. The Third (Communist) International, which came out of that revolution, insisted that the struggle for black liberation was key to the American revolution and demanded that the American Communist Party address the special oppression of black people. James P. Cannon, founder of American Trotskyism, said that the Bolsheviks instructed them that “the Negro question [is] a special question of doubly-exploited second-class citizens, requiring a program of special demands as part of the over-all program—and to start doing something about it” (The First Ten Years of American Communism [1962]). In those early years, the Communist Party’s aggressive struggle for racial equality and against the exclusion of blacks from the unions laid the foundations for the later successes of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in organizing mass, integrated industrial unions.

Despite its degeneration under the Stalinist bureaucracy, we unconditionally militarily defended the Soviet workers state and the East European deformed workers states against internal counterrevolution and imperialist attack and called for proletarian political revolution. Today we call for the unconditional military defense of the remaining deformed workers states of China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba. We fight to forge Trotskyist parties to struggle for workers political revolution to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracies and establish regimes based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.

Today the mass of black youth are no longer even a reserve army of labor but, in the eyes of the racist rulers, constitute a surplus population. Decrepit, overcrowded, segregated schools are the holding cells on the way to prison. Under Democratic president Clinton, the prison system population soared, today reaching over two million. Others are recruited to be cannon fodder in U.S. imperialism’s wars, like the murderous occupation of Iraq. In the name of the “war on drugs,” black youth are swept into the prison system and, if they get out, they can’t get jobs, they’re ineligible for education aid and in many cases can’t vote. Their families have been destroyed.

The capitalists are determined to have a monopoly of violence, and that’s why they push gun control as a supposed solution to the misery and desperation of urban life. In November in Atlanta, 88-year-old Kathryn Johnston managed to fire several shots in self-defense before cops with a “no knock” warrant broke down her door supposedly “looking for drugs” and killed her. We are for the decriminalization of drugs. We oppose gun control and are for the right of self-defense.

Black women workers face triple oppression. Between 1977 and 2001, there has been an almost 600 percent increase in the number of women jailed; a third are black and 16 percent are Hispanic. The California state assembly is discussing building 15 new so-called “mini” women’s prisons. Both black men and women are disproportionately the victims of neglect and prejudice over HIV/AIDS, as well as the mass destruction of public housing, the axing of welfare and the attacks on health care. Attacks on abortion rights hit young black women hard. We are for free abortion on demand as part of free quality health care for all and fight anti-gay bigotry. For women’s liberation through socialist revolution!

Racism and anti-immigrant chauvinism are essential weapons in the ideological arsenal of the ruling class to divide and weaken workers. White workers as well as black workers and immigrant workers lose when the bosses pit sections of the working class against each other, aiming to choke off joint action against their common enemy, the capitalist class. In the course of militant class struggle, like on the picket lines, workers learn who are their real allies and enemies, and the need to rely on their own strength.

Many immigrant workers have a history of social struggle in their countries of origin and are a living link to desperately needed international working-class solidarity. The working class as a whole must take up the fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. At Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, North Carolina, there has been more than a decade of struggle by the United Food and Commercial Workers to organize the largely black and Latino workforce. Up to 500 black and Latino workers walked out or didn’t come to work on Martin Luther King Day this year demanding that it be made a company holiday. Black rights, immigrant rights and the rights of the entire working class go forward together or go backward. Working people need a party that fights for their interests, a workers party that fights for a workers government.

Finish the Civil War!

The American bourgeois order was born in violence against the indigenous population, which was largely exterminated, and continued through indentured servitude and the brutal forced-labor system of black chattel slavery. In the South before the Civil War, policing was geared almost entirely toward the maintenance of slavery. “Patrollers” were the most visible police force, employed to track down fugitive slaves. They could search slave dwellings for weapons, break up gatherings and look out for so-called “suspicious” activity. Any adult white male could be conscripted to put down a slave revolt. The violent punishment of the black population was codified, for example, in a 1723 Maryland law that called for cutting off the ears of blacks—slave or free—who struck a white person.

Some 200,000 ex-slaves and Northern black freedmen fought in the Union Army in the Civil War. And, following the defeat of the South, Radical Reconstruction was the most democratic period in U.S. history. But the victorious Northern capitalists betrayed the promise of black equality. They looked at the devastated South and saw opportunity for profitably exploiting both resources and the freedmen. With the Compromise of 1877, the last of the federal troops were pulled from the South, symbolizing the end of Reconstruction. Black people were disenfranchised, politically expropriated and kept at the bottom of society.

The institution of Jim Crow segregation began to take shape, marked by strict racial codes that returned the black population to a position of subservience. State repression was supplemented by the racist terror of the Ku Klux Klan. This was the era of lynch law. In many cases, police would release prisoners to lynch mobs, and then participate. Racist police terror in the U.S. is the legacy of slavery and lynch mob violence, and the death penalty is legal lynching. We say: Finish the Civil War—for a third American Revolution, a workers revolution!

NYC and Police “Reform”

The history of the New York City police underscores the “liberal” North’s key role in perpetuating black oppression. The NYPD was established in 1845 as the city’s growing economy attracted new immigrants who were squeezed into tenement districts. Irish and German immigrants battled with police.

There is a long history of anti-labor violence and repression in America, like the 1886 Haymarket massacre in Chicago. In New York, the cops attacked organized workers in the “Eight Hour strikes” of 1872, and in 1874 immigrant workers protesting joblessness were attacked by cops on horses in the Tompkins Square Riot. Is this just ancient history? No. In Houston, Texas, cops mounted on horses attacked striking immigrant SEIU janitors in November, severely injuring at least five people, including an 83-year-old New York janitor who had come to Houston in solidarity. But the janitors prevailed, winning a three-year contract. Cops and security guards—scab herders during strikes—as well as prison guards are not workers and should be ousted from the unions. Phony socialists like the Socialist Alternative group, which considers cops and security guards part of the labor movement, are feeding deadly illusions in the class enemy.

Special commissions and civilian review boards, committees and investigations, petitions and community speakouts against cop brutality—they have all happened time and time again. The underlying purpose of such “reforms” is to bolster the police and clean up their bloody image, and the reformist left keeps pushing such schemes. In the protests over the Sean Bell killing, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) has repeatedly called for the firing of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, fostering the illusion that if the city’s top cop changed names that would be a victory. That’s a lie. Some time after the Amadou Diallo shooting, Giuliani appointed a new police commissioner, his thoroughly vile and corrupt crony Bernard Kerik. The ISO even claims that replacing Kelly would be comparable to the “victory” of Donald Rumsfeld resigning. But that just cleared the way for Bush to increase the number of troops in Iraq.

New York has had no lack of investigations into “police misconduct,” starting in 1894 with the Lexow Committee, continuing with the 1970 Knapp Commission and the 1994 Mollen Commission. Civilian complaint review boards date back to 1953. Democrat David Dinkins, NYC’s first and only black mayor, bragged that he carried out the largest increase in the police force in the city’s history. The character of the police doesn’t change no matter who runs them. In 1992, in response to his call for yet another version of a civilian review board, he was treated to 10,000 armed cops rabidly besieging City Hall, an event that launched Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral campaign.

Self-Defense Against Racist Terror

Black people are not just victims and have organized to fight against racist attacks. After World War I, masses of black people were moving out of the South into Northern cities. Racist mob and cop attacks exploded, some sparked by racists horrified at the sight of armed black soldiers returning. Black people began to organize self-defense, many inspired by the recent victorious Russian Revolution. In 1920, at the Second Congress of the Communist International in Moscow, John Reed, one of the founders of the American Communist Party and author of Ten Days That Shook the World, reported that “among the negroes themselves a great racial consciousness arose.” Reed noted, “Defense societies were organized everywhere by the returned negro soldiers for resistance to white lynchers” (see “Early Communist Work Among Blacks,” Young Spartacus No. 21, January-February 1974).

The racist rulers are okay with begging, weeping and praying, but when they see black people defending themselves, they treat it like a slave revolt. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, black veterans and others organized. These included the courageous Robert F. Williams, Marine veteran and author of Negroes With Guns in Monroe, North Carolina, and the Louisiana-based Deacons for Defense and Justice. They armed themselves against the Ku Klux Klan lynchers, saving black lives. Williams’ NAACP chapter was expelled by the national office because he organized black self-defense. The Spartacist League raised money for the Deacons for Defense, an effort embodied in the slogan “Every Dime Buys a Bullet.” While we supported self-defense, we pointed out the contradiction in the political programs of these groupings. For example, Charles Sims, leader of the Bogalusa Deacons, looked to the federal courts and government and the Democratic Party.

The history of the civil rights movement has been rewritten to make icons of the pro-Democratic Party liberal-pacifist wing of that movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. and others, who relied on the federal government and the Democratic Party. What is buried or distorted is the history of those who opposed cringing appeals to the racist rulers, those like the Deacons, Williams, Malcolm X and many militants attracted to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers. When the civil rights movement swept into the North, the bankruptcy of the liberal legalistic perspective of its leaders was quickly exposed, as it collided head-on with the cold, hard reality that black oppression is rooted in the foundations of American capitalism. The important and real but partial gains for black people during this period were largely in the realm of formal legal equality. But the Northern ghetto masses had lived for some time with so-called “equality under the law”—at the end of the unemployment lines and the barrels of cops’ revolvers.

The bankruptcy of the liberal-led movement led to the explosions of black anger across the Northern cities. In Harlem in 1964, an off-duty police lieutenant shot and killed a 15-year-old black youth. The cops used the resulting protest as an excuse to launch a pre-emptive strike against unrest in the ghetto. A demonstration at Harlem’s 28th Precinct two days later was repeatedly pressed back by the cops, who hurled racist slurs and eventually charged into the main body of the protest. In the ensuing days, wave after wave of tactical cops swept through Harlem beating and terrorizing all who crossed their paths.

Afterwards, black nationalist groups, the NAACP and the Democrats joined together in a Unity Council. With our small forces we worked for a while in the Harlem Defense Council, a group led by Progressive Labor’s Bill Epton, urging residents to organize block by block for self-defense. We initiated the Harlem Solidarity Committee, which organized a mass rally in the downtown garment district around the slogans: “Remove the rioting cops from Harlem” and “Support the right of the citizens of the ghetto to defend themselves.” In 1964 as now, we have consistently sought to link the anger of the ghettos and barrios to the labor movement’s enormous potential power.

The Black Panther Party formed in 1966, describing themselves as “revolutionary nationalists,” a contradiction in terms. The Panthers shared with the rest of the (predominately white) New Left a rejection of the centrality and strategic social power of the integrated labor movement in the struggle against oppression and capitalism. This further isolated the Panthers and facilitated their destruction.

These days you will not hear how the Panthers offered to send their members to Vietnam to assist in the fight against U.S. imperialism, about how they initially organized independently of the Democrats and Republicans. Now they are portrayed either as good guys who organized breakfast programs or as a bunch of criminals. The Panthers represented the best of a generation of black militants who courageously stood up to the racist ruling class. They sought to strip away the deeply felt powerlessness of the black population in relation to the cops, who were gunning down black people in the streets of Oakland and the rest of the U.S. with impunity. Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s foremost class-war prisoner, says in the video From Death Row, This Is Mumia Abu-Jamal that as a teenager he was beaten by the police into the Black Panthers.

In his 1973 autobiography Revolutionary Suicide, Huey Newton describes how the Panthers were inspired by the Louisiana Deacons and Robert F. Williams. He wrote that his comrade Bobby Seale had collected Malcolm X’s speeches from the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Speaks and from the Militant, the newspaper of the once-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP). The rightward-moving SWP during that period was tailing uncritically both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and abstaining from actively intervening in the civil rights movement. In the ’60s, militant black youth were reading everything they could get their hands on to find a strategy to fight black oppression. The SWP’s criminal abstention meant that a historic opportunity to recruit young black militants to fight for authentic communism and socialist revolution was squandered.

In 1968, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover vowed, “The Negro youth and moderate[s] must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teachings, they will be dead revolutionaries.” Under the ruthless FBI COINTELPRO program, 38 Panthers were killed and hundreds more railroaded to decades in prison hellholes, including Mumia Abu-Jamal. Others made their way into the Democratic Party, like New York’s Charles Barron.

Mumia Abu-Jamal has been imprisoned for over 25 years, sent to death row after being falsely convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Mumia is an innocent man, and the struggle for his freedom is central to the interests of the entire working class. He must be freed now! Abolish the racist death penalty!

Build a Revolutionary Workers Party!

We do not simply decry the cruelty of the capitalist system. We fight to forge a revolutionary vanguard party that will bring a communist program based on the history of working-class struggle to the workers, a revolutionary program based on their objective interests in liberating all mankind. Wage workers engaged in particular struggles against their employers will not spontaneously see the necessity for overthrowing capitalism. History proves that the party must bring that consciousness to the working class. In explaining the necessity of a revolutionary party, Lenin wrote in What Is To Be Done? (1902):

“The Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade-union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.”

The Spartacist League is dedicated to building such a party, based on the fusion of declassed revolutionary intellectuals and class-conscious workers. And such a party can only be built through sharp political struggle against the misleaders of the working class.

Cases in point are the treacherous pro-Democratic Party NYC labor tops, like teachers union head Randi Weingarten and the TWU’s Roger Toussaint. While making appearances at protests against cop terror, they have not lifted a finger to lead their membership in class action in defense of the besieged ghettos and barrios. Toussaint and the leadership of the TWU are closely allied with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch! Trotsky wrote in 1940 in Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay about reformist-led unions “drawing closely to and growing together with the state power.”

The reformist Workers World Party offers its newspaper as a press release vehicle for Democratic city councilman Charles Barron, who has been using his credentials as an ex-Black Panther as a cover for feeding illusions that you can reform the cops. Workers World openly supported this capitalist politician for Congress in 2006. Barron has been mainly calling for Ray Kelly to be fired and has also pitched an appeal to the UN, portraying that den of imperialist thieves and their victims as a vehicle for justice. Trailing right behind Barron are the nationalist December 12th Movement and the Black Men’s Movement, which was formerly called the Black Men’s Movement Against Crack. The late Sonny Carson, who led a poisonous bigoted boycott of Korean grocers in Flatbush in 1990, had a hand in founding these groups.

A group called the New Black Panther Party has called for boycotting “nonblack” businesses. This separatist outfit is an offspring of the anti-woman, anti-Semitic demagogue Louis Farrakhan, whose reactionary 1995 “Million Man March” for “atonement” was lauded by the racist bourgeoisie because it forgave the oppressors and exploiters for their enormous crimes against black people, working people and the poor while blaming the oppressed for their oppression. The New Black Panthers have a record of poisonous denunciations of Korean shopkeepers. Farrakhan, the man who wanted Malcolm X dead, has his own security company, X-Men Security, offering his services to police housing projects. All black nationalist groups see the primary division in society as race, not class. Farrakhan and his ilk live off the despair of the ghettoized black population and sneer with contempt at the multiracial working class while pursuing their petty “black capitalist” schemes.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation, Workers World Party and Socialist Alternative all call for variations on “community control” of the police. Such calls are an echo of the 1960s. This demand combines liberal illusions in the nature of the bourgeois state with illusions that the oppression of black people can be ended through “control” of ghetto institutions. Community control is a cruel hoax, amounting to quibbling over “control” of the rotting carcasses of the inner-city ghettos.

The nationalist and reformist groups embrace sectoralism, an anti-working-class perspective that blacks, Latinos, immigrants—all sectors of the oppressed—must organize separately. This is a gift to the capitalist exploiters because it assists in perpetuating divisions in the working class. They accept the racial, ethnic and sexual divisions of capitalist society as unalterable. In practice, this means confining struggles to the boundaries of capitalism and fighting over pieces of a shrinking pie.

The U.S. is one of the most unequal industrialized countries in the world. To begin to put an end to poverty will require the expropriation of the bloodsucking capitalist class. Workers uniquely have power at the point of production. They can shut down capitalist production, pointing to their ability to seize the means of production and run society in the interests of all. When the profit system is swept away and replaced with a rational planned economy based upon workers councils, the vast wealth of this country can be utilized for human need instead of capitalist greed. Then we’ll be on the road to black freedom and the liberation of all the exploited and oppressed.

We are revolutionary internationalists. We stand in the communist tradition of the Bolshevik Party that led the Russian Revolution of 1917. Beset by civil war and faced with imperialist encirclement, the leaders of the Soviet workers state immediately sought to spread that revolution internationally. The Spartacist League, U.S. section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), stands for new October Revolutions, here and everywhere. Join us!