Given all the police murders that Giuliani has sanctioned, and all the opposition to this racist anti-worker Mayor in this city, we should all be asking two questions. How is it that not one current political leader has done what is necessary and possible to force Giuliani out? And how is it that while there are millions of angry people in this city who want Giuliani thrown out, the protests up until now have only rallied thousands, at the very best?
Prayer vigils and token civil disobedience are no substitute for the full mobilization of the masses. Why hasn’t that happened? It’s simple. The big leaders who could mobilize tremendous numbers, more than what we’ve seen so far, don’t want to. Nevertheless it is very possible.
What is needed is a leadership which would call out and organize all the people who are fed up with Giuliani and his mad dog police. A mobilization which would bring out people from every community that has been a target of the cops and Giuliani’s racist anti-worker policies. It must be a mobilization to force Giuliani out of office.
We believe that the current crop of well-known anti-Giuliani leaders won’t do the job – and that a new revolutionary party leadership of the working class must be built. Year after year we get more of same tired proposals – civilian review boards, federal monitors and other claptrap answers that cover up the same old murderous police. Workers’ revolution is the only real solution! But we should force the current lot of leaders to mobilize in defense of the masses, until we have the power to kick them out altogether.
The serial torture and murder of innocent Blacks, Latinos and immigrants by the NYPD has been igniting the rage of millions of working class people. The majority of New Yorkers, mainly working class and poor people, oppose the growing wave of police atrocities. Every day now even greater numbers are rejecting Giuliani.
Of course, the cold-blooded murder of Patrick Dorismond particularly ignited the Haitian community. After the funeral procession, police attacked the angry demonstrators. After all, people had refused to roll over and play dead like the cops wanted. They had refused to be divided by barricades. “Giuliani, Rache manyrk ou” (pull out by the roots) was a principal call during the spirited marches that occurred during both the wake and the funeral for Patrick Dorismond. Not by accident since everyone knows that Giuliani is the real Chief of Police!
A particularly exciting result of this mass pressure is the initiative taken by the Haitian Coalition for Justice, focusing on the goal of taking on Giuliani for once and for all. Thus the Haitian Coalition for Justice has called this march today under the leading slogan: Mass Mobilization to Oust Giuliani. This is a tremendous opportunity.
The goal of forcing Giuliani out would best be served by using today’s march to build a powerful crusade for a million people march. The working class has the power. But it can not be exercised simply based on the calls of relatively small anti-racist, progressive and socialist groups – despite their most sincere efforts. Every community must be rallied en masse to shut down City Hall and all of lower Manhattan. This means American Blacks and Latinos, Haitians, Africans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and every other sector representing people of color should be at the forefront. Anti-racist white working class people must also participate. In short, people from Brooklyn, the Bronx and every other borough must be out in FULL FORCE. Today is a critical start but we need an even more powerful demonstration that mobilizes the whole working class as well as the youth.
But how can this happen? To mobilize real masses of people we must demand that every leader and organization that says they oppose racism, that every leader that says they stand for the rights of working people, mobilize all followers for a massive action to shut down the city government and Wall Street. This would include the unions, churches, and groups from the NAACP to the National Action Network to the Nation of Islam. Leaders of all these organizations must be on the radio and other outlets telling everyone to come. This would mean a march of hundreds of thousands. Indeed a million people is a real possibility in this situation, not just rhetoric.
People are desperate for leaders who even appear to be standing up to racist outrage. For this reason large numbers of Black, Latino, immigrant and working class people have looked to Reverend Al Sharpton, above all, to lead the struggle. In our view no political leader that supports capitalism or any capitalist party can effectively lead our struggles. But Sharpton remains the single most influential figure in the movement today. As long as large numbers of people look toward him for direction, we emphasize that it is necessary to demand that leaders like Sharpton take real action. If influential figures like Rev. Sharpton had put out a serious call for April 20 – and if other big leaders like Dennis Rivera of Hospital Union 1199 and Willie James of Transport Workers Union Local 100 had mobilized their ranks – the demonstration happening today would be even more massive and powerful than it is.
But this isn’t what happened. Rather than focusing on the demand to oust Giuliani immediately and rather than mobilizing his broad constituency for that purpose, Sharpton actually went back to the civil disobedience actions. These actions FAILED to get a guilty verdict for the killing of Amadou Diallo.
The Carib News (April 4) points out that the appointment of a federal monitor of the NYPD by the U.S. Justice Department will almost certainly happen soon anyway. Sharpton makes the demand for a federal monitor his central call – rather than demand that Giuliani be thrown out now!
And look at the investigation that ensued into the practice of racial profiling in New Jersey. The result of that federal intervention was the signing of a toothless “consent decree” which didn’t mean the prosecution of a single cop or anything else real. The same result has occurred in other cities. (See our pamphlet Fight Police Terror for more details.)
Depending on a federal intervention tells a lie: it tells us to depend on the very system which is the source of police brutality, racism and anti-worker attacks! In Pittsburgh and elsewhere, these federal interventions became cover-ups for the same practices. Through its actions in late March, the Haitian community has said that the time is now for Giuliani to go. We must use Sharpton’s appearance today to demand on him that he take up the call to oust Giuliani now!
The union leaders in New York are really playing a criminal role in allowing police brutality to escalate. They have the power to wage a real class war against it. Thousands and thousands of workers of color are in these unions. All the New York City Central Labor Council did was put out a pathetic statement on March 27, which said that they were forming a “special committee to identify and implement specific actions that will diminish the fear and skepticism that working families have toward police policy in our city.” Brian McLaughlin, the President of the Labor Council, stated: “union members have strong feelings and an equally strong desire to support both the communities impacted by quota-driven policing and the police officers, themselves, most of whom share our community concerns and work in the interest of all of our city, every day.” Bullshit. At best this is a repeat of the same crap about “healing” between the police and the communities that has never and will never happen.
Past the two-faced rhetoric, there are specific cases of betrayal among labor tops. Last Wednesday, April 12, an LRP supporter raised the following motion at a mass delegate assembly of hundreds of hospital workers of the merged 1199/SEIU hospital workers’ division.
Whereas the acquittal of the murderers of Amadou Diallo, an immigrant worker, demonstrates the absence of justice for victims of the racist, anti-working class police,
Whereas the Central Labor Council of New York has now come on record on the need to do something about the brutal murder of workers by the police,
Whereas 1199-SEIU members assisting the funeral of Patrick Dorismond faced physical violence at the hands of the racist, anti-working class police,
Whereas the Haitian community has called for support in the struggle against police brutality,
Be it resolved that:
1. 1199-SEIU calls on the Central Labor Council and all workers to come out in support of the demonstration called by the Haitian Coalition for Justice on April 20 that will march across the Brooklyn Bridge and assemble at City Hall.
2. 1199-SEIU will send out a mailing to all union members notifying them about this motion and urging them to take the day off to attend the demonstration.
3. 1199-SEIU will initiate a call for a mass emergency conference of all workers and members of oppressed communities facing police terror to plan mass action to fight against police brutality.
The motion passed unanimously. Despite this, Dennis Rivera and 1199 turned around and endorsed only Rev. Sharpton’s civil disobedience and not the vital Haitian march. Is this an accident? Hardly, Rivera himself is a long-term Democratic Party official, dedicated to restraining mass struggle. But we shouldn’t put up with this betrayal but rather fortify the fight to demand that Rivera mobilize the workers for action, as well as every other union leader in New York.
All the leaders from Sharpton to Jesse Jackson to Rivera to Norman Siegel of the ACLU support the capitalist system. Democratic Party reformers like Rev. Sharpton and Dennis Rivera are looking for some changes in terms of getting rid of the most glaring excesses. Sure they don’t like Giuliani but they do support the capitalist system which creates the Giulianis of this city and every other. They really fear militant mobilization that might threaten to get out of hand and rock the system which they support. That is why they have tried to pacify us and why they’ll only mobilize if we force them to.
The kind of mass mobilization at City Hall that we are arguing for could pave the way for even more powerful forms of struggle.
As workers we are the force that makes this city run and put profits into the pockets of the ruling class. We can use this power to hit the ruling class where it hurts. A general strike in New York would stop profit-making and bring Wall Street to its knees. “Shut the city down” has become a popular slogan. But this is the way we can actually do it! The youth can take part with student strikes in alliance with the workers’ strikes as well as building the workers’ picket lines. This is the earth-shaking response that we need to fight for.
In our view, workers and students gathered together in great numbers will see that when we are truly unified we are extremely powerful. It will be an opportunity to build toward action such as the general strike we advocate.
The League for the Revolutionary Party for a long time has advocated the notion of a one day general strike to protest police atrocities. If the cops knew that whenever they commit such atrocities there will be massive consequences, they’ll be forced to be more restrained. The threat of having their profit-making shut down would force the ruling class to put a leash on their mad dog cops.
And now, if such a movement can force Giuliani out of office it will really drive the point home. Further, if the working class can succeed in ousting Giuliani, there will be the realization that our class has tremendous power and there will be an upsurge in confidence for the even bigger battles ahead.
The fight for a general strike should be taken up everywhere, but most importantly, in the working class’ only mass organizations, the unions. After all, it was only a few months ago that Giuliani tried to put transit workers under a state of siege, instigating injunctions and threats of arrests against union workers who wanted to exercise the right to strike. The fact that President Willie James now refuses to mobilize his ranks against police brutality is all the greater crime because of the fact that the transit workers really hold the power to shut down not just lower Manhattan but the whole city.
Additionally, now unions representing over 100,000 city workers are negotiating contracts with this same pit bull Mayor. The unions have everything to gain by mobilizing against police brutality, which affects their members daily, and against this hated racist anti-union figure at the same time.
Nevertheless union leaders in this city have barely ever lifted a finger to mobilize the ranks of workers in the struggle against police brutality. But unions in this city – from the hospital to the transit to the public sectors – represent large numbers of Blacks, Latinos and immigrants – who are the main victims of police brutality. The union ranks must fight against these do-nothing leaders and demand action as part of the fight to get rid of them altogether.
The day after the Diallo verdict was announced, Rev. Sharpton called for a boycott of businesses who donate to the Policeman’s Benevolent Association (PBA). The Black Radical Congress has since focused on a citywide boycott of the GAP & Old Navy stores “because of their ties to the NYPD and the Giuliani regime thru their owner: the Fisher Family.” Reverend Sharpton, the Nation of Islam, and many other well known Black leaders are pushing the boycott idea – especially of Easter Shopping – instead of fighting for workers’ strike action.
Boycotts appeal to the common sense understanding that the pursuit of profits is at the heart of what makes capitalism tick. If the capitalists feel our pressure, then they will pressure Giuliani and the NYPD for more restraint. This is true enough but a boycott – as opposed to mass action on the streets and especially a general strike – is an extremely weak form of pressure. Boycotts have been tried many times, by unions and other organizations who are trying to avoid mass militant action. They rarely work at all. Boycotts, which focus on what we do as consumers is a much more passive form of action than when workers and student walk out and take strike action Boycott talk is popular now because it allows political leaders to talk tough talk while actually encouraging more passivity instead of collective action. Strikes, not boycotts, are what can really shut down production and hit the bosses in their pockets.
Some leaders point to South Carolina. The threat there was the mass protest of 50,000 and a ban on organization and celebrities going to that state. It is nothing like the consumer boycott advocated here.
Besides the boycott, the main way the politicians preach passivity is through electoralism. That’s why we’re getting lectures about voting for the likes of Hillary Clinton, a candidate so craven that she apologized for having called the four cops who killed Diallo “murderers.” In that very statement she also emphasized her support for the death penalty in cases where cops are killed (but not where cops are the killers!) Yet people of color are supposed to be “grateful” to the Clintons. This is crap. We don’t need our rage against the system turned into votes for the Democrats to run the same racist anti-worker system.
Like the Republicans, the Democrats are a party of racist “law and order.” Bill and Hillary Clinton like to act as if they are “sensitive” to racism. But many of Giuliani’s most hated policies are of Clinton’s making – more cops, the racist “war on drugs,” slashing welfare and “workfare” slave labor programs. Clinton’s policies have bolstered a prison system where the majority of the two million prisoners are people of color! They haven’t lifted a finger to stop police brutality in New York or anywhere else in the past eight years – and they sure have the power to do so.
Again. Rev. Sharpton and Dennis Rivera are anti-Giuliani but they haven’t called for serious mass action to force Giuliani out of office. They fear that through sustained militant struggle the masses would realize their own power and figure out that they don’t have to rely on either capitalist party. So rather than having built mass action which could force Giuliani out, instead they are telling us to wait passively and vote for Democrats.
In fact, many of the leaders that show up at demonstrations against police brutality do so because after they let us vent our anger – they can preach to us about the virtues of voting for Democratic candidates!
Police brutality and other racist and anti-worker attacks are happening all across the country, under Democratic Mayors as well as Republicans. Our hatred for Giuliani must not be used by Democratic Party hacks to build illusions that the Democrats are really better. We must use these struggles to build a new leadership for the working class, a revolutionary working class party that can stand as a real alternative to both the Republicans and Democrats. Not a single vote for the Democrats or Republicans, the two parties of racism, imperialism and anti-worker attacks!
The cold truth is that reliance on the so-called “justice” system has derailed the mass struggle and allowed the ruling class to get away with one atrocity after another. In the case of the Louima torture, the circumstance of the federal trial, rather than a New York state trial, did produce a partial conviction. While no real justice or compensation for what happened to Louima was achieved, many people were understandably relieved that at least the savage thugs didn’t get away with it completely. However, in reality it was the mass movement against the Louima atrocity that had pressured the feds to take the case in the first place. Only mass struggle can set the cops back, even temporarily. As revolutionaries, we say openly that the police cannot be reformed in any essential way. They’re the hired thugs of the capitalists and their government. They are racist and anti-working class by nature, just like the system which hires them for its protection. Cops can be temporarily restrained if there is enough mass pressure. But it will take a revolution to seal their fate.
Racist police brutality is an inescapable product of the system in which we live. In this capitalist society dominated by the few who make their profits by exploiting the vast working class, the rulers hide the nature of the system by dividing and conquering the masses. Racism is the key to this, turning whites against Blacks, Latinos and immigrants. Forcing people of color into the worst conditions of poverty and exploitation is supposed to make whites feel lucky they haven’t got it so bad.
Police repression is central to keeping people of color in their oppressed position and it’s no coincidence that as the capitalists seek to exploit the working class more, police brutality is increasing. To raise their profits, the ruling class has been attacking the working class with budget cuts to education and health care, the slashing of welfare, and the replacement of full-time jobs with part-time low-paying jobs. And the ruling class knows that if this plan is to work, people of color must be kept in a state of permanent intimidation, too cowered to fight back. That’s what’s behind all the “law and order” policies of the Democrats and Republicans, and the rise in police brutality.
This explains why all of the various attempts to reform the police, from civilian review boards to affirmative action, have failed to end police brutality. Racist brutality is engraved in the very nature of the police force.
A campaign of mass struggle can show workers the power they have as a class – the power to overthrow this entire system and build a new world free of exploitation and oppression. There is a real alternative to capitalism. The world economy long ago developed the technology and productive power to produce an abundance of all we need. Homelessness, starvation and every other form of suffering are unnecessary. The problem is that the economy remains in the hands of the capitalists. For as long as this continues, humanity will be wracked by injustice and oppression and will be plunged into worse economic crises and bloody wars.
While reforms can be won, it will take revolutions by the armed and organized working class around the world to seize power from the capitalists and build a society free of exploitation and oppression.
We cannot afford to let our struggle remain under the control of Democratic Party politicians, trade union misleaders or any other liberal or militant sounding leadership or organization that supports capitalism. All these will inevitably betray us. The most politically conscious workers and youth must join together in a revolutionary political party that can take our immediate struggles forward. Building revolutionary leadership is the key question both for now and for the future struggles ahead. Help us convince our fellow workers about the true nature of the system and how it can be overthrown. Join with us in the daily battles against the capitalist attacks and the effort to build the revolutionary leadership our struggles need. We have no time to waste!