Socialist Alternative

Mural of George Floyd with the text 'I can't breathe' next to it

Two years on from George Floyd’s murder: No justice, no peace!

It has been two years since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked the explosive George Floyd rebellion. The vivid, horrific video of Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck as he suffocated to death reminded millions of the horrifying police brutality that is inflicted on black and brown working people on a daily basis.

The failure of capitalist ruling classes across the globe to prevent the COVID pandemic and its later economic mayhem had primed millions of working people to throw themselves into the class struggle, and George Floyd’s death was indeed the spark for this process. Millions of people around the around mobilised in response — with mass rallies, blocking critical highways and infrastructure, as well as workplace actions such as walkouts. 

The George Floyd rebellion was an important moment for the working class internationally as it showed the refusal to tolerate naked police repression and racist violence. Protestors in Nigeria involved in the “#ENDSARS” movement and experienced grassroots BLM activists exchanged strategy and perspectives over the role of police in the repression of working people.

Youth across Europe and the US tore down statues for genocidal capitalist rulers who are known for their vitriolic racism. Young and working people recognized the importance of a movement that is international to defeat racism and police repression.

Two parties, one response to protests

In the United States, both Democrat and Republican politicians launched a vicious assault on George Floyd protestors. Capitalist politicians knew very well the threat posed by a multi-racial mass movement engaged in militant struggle to obtain justice for victims of police brutality. It’s during the course of such a struggle that working people can obtain real lessons of how racial oppression is linked with the overall system of capitalism.

In order to prevent such lessons being learned by millions, the political establishment rushed to crush the rebellion. Police violently arrested, beat and tear-gassed protesters across the United States. The National Guard was mobilised in almost every major city in the United States whose purpose was to intimidate working people from taking to the streets. 

Unfortunately, this assault against the mass movement proved effective, mainly because of an absence of mass organisations of the working class capable of directing the rebellion to reach new heights of struggle, such as strikes and a national day of action. NGOs like Black Lives Matter Global Network (BLMGN), founded by Patricia Cullours, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi, provided little to no leadership besides riding the coat tails of Democrats like Joe Biden by organising canvasses for him instead of organising mass protests!

Since 2020 it has been revealed that BLMGN spent the majority of their money on stocks, mansions, and consultants rather than giving a dime to grassroots BLM organisers. The failure of the NGO leadership to take the movement forward, with the devastating revelations of the BLMGN, has been deeply demoralising for millions of people.

Decisive and militant leadership needed 

Seattle city councillor and Socialist Alternative member, Kshama Sawant, was one of the few who showed what type of leadership is necessary by taking only the average worker’s wage of her district and using the rest of her salary to support social struggles and workplace organising. Kshama used her council office in the height of the George Floyd rebellion to mobilise thousands to Tax Amazon for housing and green public transport – both things incredibly important to black working people. Socialists armed with a sharp program like Kshama can connect the fight against racial oppression and police brutality to a struggle against capitalism. 

Despite their active role in crushing the rebellion, Biden and the Democrats pretended to be on the side of black youth and protestors, solely for winning the 2020 US Presidential Election. Biden is notorious for his role in creating the current mass incarceration system via the 1994 Crime Bill. Democrats ran on a lesser-evilism ticket laced with identity politics, waving their finger at anyone who didn’t “vote blue” as abandoning the most “marginalised” sections of society – i.e. people of colour, women and trans youth. 

Biden’s ‘Law and Order’

Two years since the election of Biden and a Democratic legislative majority has resulted in zero material gains for working people. Instead, what we have seen is the crisis of inflation provoked by raging imperialist conflicts and a continuation of the global process of decoupling between the US and China. The price of every day necessities going up month after month is devastating already impoverished black working-class communities.

Biden has called for more police funding and a national recruitment drive for police officers. He even suggested taking CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) stimulus money meant to pay for essential services and giving it to police departments! Across the country, funding for police departments has since returned to normal, and in some cases increased. Biden and the Democrats have fully embraced “law-and-order” rhetoric in an effort to distance themselves from “radical” politics and to reinforce the strength of the state, in preparation for the coming explosion in class struggle. 

Poor living conditions and rampant police brutality on black working people will lead to another uprising in the near future. What is vital for a multi-racial mass movement against racial oppression and police brutality to be successful is the creation of mass anti-racist organisations that use class-struggle methods such as strikes.

These organisations could coalesce, along with unions and other community groups, into a mass party of the working class that can be a vehicle for struggle. Ultimately, the struggle against racial oppressions means overthrowing the capitalist system altogether, replacing it with genuine working-class democracy — socialism.