As U.S. Convulsed Over Racist
SL Silence = Capitulation to the Democrats
Decaying American capitalism is mired in deep crisis. In the half-year since mid-March, 200,000 people have died of COVID-19, the worst plague in a century, due to the inability of the U.S. medical system to protect the population. Since April, over 50 million people have lost their jobs, and now temporary layoffs are becoming permanent unemployment. For more than four months, the country has been in uproar over the unending pandemic of racist police murder: 1,235 civilians killed by cops so far in 2020 (as of September 29), 760 since George Floyd was asphyxiated in Minneapolis in May.
On top of this, we are now deep into a putrid election campaign in which the Democratic and Republican parties vie over who can best carry out racist repression, imperialist aggression and the continued political subjugation of the workers and oppressed. The Democrats have answered mass protest against cop terror by presenting the “law and order” ticket of Joe “Shoot ’Em in the Leg” Biden and Kamala “Top Cop” Harris. Exploiting mass revulsion against Donald Trump’s bigotry and threats, they have gone into overdrive to line up labor, black people, Latinos and youth behind the pro-cop duo. Most of the left goes with the flow. For those who lay claim to the program and heritage of revolutionary Marxism, the onslaught of bipartisan capitalist reaction makes more urgent than ever the fight for the political independence of the working class1
So who has been fighting against the Democratic Party and its “left” adjutants’ attempts to channel outrage over racist repression into bourgeois politics and fakery about “reforming” the police, and fighting for a revolutionary workers party? The Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the League for the Fourth International, has done so since Day One of the current wave of anti-racist protests, in our press, in polemics, placards and banners, in chants and speeches in mass marches. See, for example, our articles “To Uproot Racist Oppression: Socialist Revolution” and “‘Abolish the Police’ Under Capitalism?” in The Internationalist No. 60, May-July 2020; and “Only Revolution Can Bring Justice!” in Revolution No. 17, August 2020).
Contrast this with the Spartacist League, which once upheld revolutionary Marxism (and still claims to do so today) but has had nothing to say about the momentous events convulsing U.S. society. Activists familiar with the U.S. left keep asking us: What on earth is going on with the SL? How is it that their shameful silence continues month after month? There is talk of a faction fight, but that is hardly an excuse for the sepulchral silence from the moribund SL. Politically, their absence from the battlefield destroys any remaining pretense of providing leadership, much less revolutionary leadership. These ex-Trotskyists turn their backs on youth seeking to fight racist oppression. The latter-day SL provides no opposition to the Democratic Party. On its epitaph, we can read: when the U.S. blew up over racist cop murder, they did nothing.
Back in June we wrote:
Amid the most massive protest movement in decades, as it has continued week after week, the Spartacist League has not published a paper, put out a leaflet or posted a single statement on its website on the killing of George Floyd or the mass protests against racist police terror. And this despite the fact that the core issue posed is black oppression, which the SL, from its inception, crucially emphasized as key to proletarian revolution in the citadel of imperialism. Their silence speaks volumes: the SL’s abject abdication is a declaration of political bankruptcy.”2
Internationalist contingent in in Brooklyn in June 19 march against racist police violence.
That was more than three months ago. Since that time, the SL/U.S. still has not uttered a peep. That certainly takes some doing, given the intensity and importance of political events throughout this period. In rare encounters with downcast SLers who go through the motions of sheepishly peddling months-old issues of their paper, a few have now ventured a new claim: that marching with revolutionary slogans (including, prominently, “Democrats are the bosses of the racist killer cops”) in mass protests against racist police terror means backing the Democrats. They are drilled to repeat this cynical sophist blather to justify failing to fight bourgeois politics. So where were you, SL, when Democrats were misleading millions into a dead-end, with a little help from their friends on the opportunist left? Answer: the SL was AWOL.
How has the Spartacist League abdicated the elementary duty of even the pretense of putting forward a revolutionary position? Let us count (just some of) the ways. Since the May 25 cop murder of George Floyd this has included:
- Silence on the continued protests against police terror and racist “justice” in the cases of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Jamel Floyd, Jacob Blake, Dijon Kizzee and innumerable others, all in cities governed by Democrats. The SL has not had a word to say on any of this.
- The occupation of Minneapolis and other cities by the National Guard, called in by Democratic governors, together with Democratic mayors, bringing massive police repression to bear against anti-racist protesters from Rochester to NYC to Chicago to Portland, Los Angeles and innumerable other cities across the country. Ditto.
- Murderous provocations by racist and fascist groups in Portland, Oregon and in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a racist vigilante murdered two anti-racist protesters and wounded a third. Ditto.
- Trump’s military mobilization against anti-racist protesters in Washington, D.C.; federal “snatch squads” and occupation forces in Portland; a federal kill squad’s blatant assassination of an anti-fascist activist from Portland. Ditto.
- Amidst the mass protests, concerted efforts by the Democratic Socialists of America and innumerable reformist leftists to snare newly politicizing youth via illusions in “defunding” the police (or “abolishing” capital’s repressive forces under capitalist rule). Ditto.
- As election season has heated up, the Democrats have escalated saber-rattling threats and provocations against the Chinese deformed workers state, while lining up support for Biden-Harris among the military and intelligence “community,” including talk of the armed forces intervening if Trump tries to steal the election. Ditto.
As we noted in our June article, the SL has been undergoing yet another phase in its endless internal crisis. Is its paralysis partly the result of the downward spiral of its ever more wacked-out internal life? No doubt about it. Does its utter incapacity to respond to what’s happening in the real world outside its endless internal fever dream display stunning incompetence by its leadership, and the emptiness of their claims to be building a revolutionary party? Self-evidently.
But the root of it all is politics. The SL’s inability to put forward a class program to fight racist capitalist repression is there for all to see. As we have detailed in prior articles, this comes on top of one capitulation after another to “their own” imperialist bourgeoisie, as they have embraced nationalism and outright chauvinism.3 From the SL’s vile “anti-American” baiting of the Internationalist Group for our Leninist call to defeat U.S. imperialism in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (2001-2003); to its social-imperialist support for Democrat Barack Obama’s invasion and occupation of Haiti (2010); to its grotesque opposition to calls to “Let Refugees In” (2017); to its silence amid mass anti-racist protests sparked by the cop murder of George Floyd and its utter prostration in the face of the Democrats’ and reformist left’s drive to herd workers and youth into the “law and order” campaign of Biden-Harris today, the politics behind the SL’s months-long silence is capitulation to the Democratic Party of U.S. imperialism. ■
- 1. See “Democrats’ Pro-Cop Ticket Vies with Trump Over ‘Law and Order’,” The Internationalist, September 2020
- 2. “Silent Amidst Mass Upsurge Against Racist Oppression: Spartacist League Declares Bankruptcy,” The Internationalist No. 60, May-July 2020
- 3. See, for example, “As ‘Chauvinist Hydra’ Devours SL/ICL: Some History Ex-Trotskyists Would Like to Keep Hidden,” The Internationalist No. 59, March-April 2020.