The anger in Baltimore

baltimore-protests-turned-riots-ap-640x480by The Spark (May 2, 2015)

The six cops who killed Freddie Gray in Baltimore have been charged.

Freddie Gray isn’t the first person that cops put in the back of a van, expressly to injure him. No seat belt, hands cuffed behind his back, feet shackled, he was left to bounce off the van’s walls. Others have been gravely injured, even paralyzed. And Freddie Gray is not the first man to die in Baltimore like this.

Protests lead to first cops in Baltimore ever being charged for such killing

And yet, this is the first time any Baltimore cop has been charged for the crime.

Isn’t it obvious? If young people hadn’t gone out into the streets on Monday night, the cops would not have been charged.

And yet, Maryland’s governor, Baltimore’s mayor and the President of the United States all called these young people “thugs.”

These hypocrites preside over a system in which cops have killed poor young people on the street with no consequences. Let the hypocrites call the young people what they will. The young people themselves know why the murderers were charged.

With good reason

“Thugs”? No! The young people of Baltimore revolted with good reason. They are denied an education and a job. They are penned in by the police, rounded up for standing on the streets where they live. Many have been railroaded into prison. Some have been shot. Most know someone who was killed. Why shouldn’t they erupt in rage?

They are revolting against a society that has made conscious decisions to toss them on a scrap heap before they even have a chance to live.

Obama said these young people need to be treated like “criminals.” The fact is, they already are treated like criminals – and not just in Baltimore. The police everywhere enforce a vicious order on a society that cannot provide enough jobs.

War on workers

For more than four decades, American capitalism, in pursuit of profit, has been throwing a growing proportion of the working age population onto the scrap heap. That means growing poverty. It means young men denied any chance for a life, denied any chance to provide for their children.

The possibility that they might fight back and pull other people with them has always made them a potential problem for an American capitalist class focused on amassing more profit.

The solution to that problem, originally devised in the 1970s by Nixon’s attorney general Edwin Meese, was to criminalize and imprison a large share of the people that capitalism could not provide jobs for. Under bogus pretexts.

Criminalisation of working class blacks

In fact, it was a campaign very consciously aimed at the black population, which had been at the head of struggles in the 1960s and early ’70s. Nixon’s chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman explained it this way in one of the diaries he kept for Nixon: “The President emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

Nixon’s “system” was the so-called “war on crime,” “war on drugs,” and the buildup of the prison system, aimed at the black population, “while not appearing to.”

Nixon’s “system” – a system of terrorism used against the population – has been built, refurbished and used by every administration since the 1980s: from Reagan up through Obama.

US has one quarter of entire world’s prison population

Today, one quarter of the whole world’s prison population rots behind bars in the U.S. The number killed by police in one big American city in one month is many times the number killed by police in any West European country in a year.

No one should believe, just because six murderous cops were charged, that “justice” will be done. Not in Baltimore, not elsewhere. The problems are much bigger than just the cops. The police are only enforcers of a system built on exploitation, unemployment and racist oppression.

The confrontations in the streets of Baltimore Monday night won’t change all that. But the knowledge those young people gained in confronting the cops may well serve them in the future fights that remain to be made. The whole working class needs to pay attention.

The Spark is a US Marxist group whose national centre is Baltimore.  The article above appeared as the editorial in their current fortnightly round of workplace bulletins.  See here.