By Alex Krehbiel
The ongoing protests against police brutality and racism that have been taking place in numerous cities and states across the country in response to the murder of unarmed African-American men is a progressive and hopeful phenomenon. This multi-racial movement has taken to the streets in large numbers to vociferously denounce these killings and the race-based inequities in our legal system, including mass incarceration. They demand an end to these murders. That the perpetrators be brought to justice, and that mechanisms like community control of the police be implemented to stop future abuses. Growing numbers of people are becoming aware that there is something seriously wrong with our judicial system, and for some, the entire system.
While this nascent movement is a necessary step toward ending racism, there needs to be a deeper social, political and organizational orientation imbued into the movement if it is to achieve its goals. Specifically, we should understand that while anti-racist and anti-police brutality movements are vitally important, most are still single-issue campaigns. They must link up with other progressive movements, and go deeper to expose the roots of the discriminatory and predatory nature of this system, which is capitalism. All forms of discrimination and predatory acts have their roots in the capitalist system, because capitalism is inherently discriminatory and predatory. Itís a system based on exploiting the many to enrich the few. As more people understand this, the anti-racist movement ñ and all other progressive movements — will be stronger.
Gains made on progressive single-issue campaigns are always subject to being rolled back if the super-structural institutions of society are not changed. We see today that right-wing extremist counter-insurgencies are intent on rolling back by 40-60 years civil rights gains, affirmative action, collective bargaining, and voting rights, victories won by the people in their hard-fought struggles. A key component in uprooting discriminatory practices is to uproot discriminatory ideas from peopleís consciousness. To do this we must fight against all forms of discrimination, all predatory practices, and all disparate inequities in society. That means in addition to fighting racism we need to fight against sexism, anti-worker and anti-labor actions, ageism, homophobia, anti-immigrant sentiments, climate injustice, and all others, and find ways to link these struggles together.
Capitalism inevitably produces class-divided societies and class antagonisms. Racism and other forms of discrimination are used to divide and weaken people, to enrich and empower the top capitalists. Racism, exploitation, oppression and degradation of African-Americans has been a major weapon of capitalism since the first days of slavery in the American colonies. While blacks suffer the most, others are hurt too. In the southern states, the inhumane and brutal system of slavery and Jim Crow has lowered the wages and living standards of both blacks and whites below that in the rest of the country.
The hierarchical production apparatus of capitalism, led by large private profit-making corporations and banks, creates disparate material realities, which produces social inequality.
We can learn a lot from past movements, both successes and mistakes. Where these movements did not go to the root of the problem, it was easier for the capitalists to derail them. For those who understood capitalismís role, they persevered. They knew that only by replacing capitalism with socialism could we begin to create a truly humane society.
Building alliances is key. There is strength in numbers. Every time I come to your aid to assist you in your struggle, I win a fellow warrior for my own liberation. While there are different issues, there is only one righteous struggle ñ against all forms of discrimination, for equality, justice, respect, and cooperation ñ ultimately, socialism.
Alex Krehbiel is a young African-American man incarcerated in a California prison. He is a member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. There are 2.3 million people behind bars in the US. Nearly one million inmates are African-Americans, while African-Americans make up just 13% of the US population.
Racism and Police Brutality Have Roots in Capitalism
By Alex Krehbiel