Divided, led by a demented and out-of-control president who is absolutely despised and has no credibility whatsoever among wide layers of society, with out-of-control police forces across the country, the US capitalist class is rapidly sliding towards its greatest crisis since the US Civil War.
Prosecutor collaborating with Chauvin
With the eyes of not only Americans but of the world upon them, Minneapolis law enforcement is setting up the defense for Derek Chauvin. In the charging document against him, they write: “The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.” This comes after the prosecutor in effect is claiming that Chauvin did not intend to kill George Floyd. (Such intent would mean a charge of second degree murder rather than the third degree with which Chauvin is charged.) reveals that even at this time, County prosecutor Mike, “evidence no crime happened” Freeman is still collaborating with Derek Chauvin and the Minneapolis police department. They are now setting up Chauvin’s defense, which will be that George Floyd did not die from extreme pressure on his throat and carotid artery for nearly nine minutes; he died of natural causes.
Freeman is also resisting charging Chauvin’s accomplices, although he will probably be forced to do so ultimately.
A few bad cops?
Nor is it possible to claim that Chauvin was simply one of the proverbial 5% of “bad” cops. In the first place, what were the other four cops doing? Second, Chauvin has a long, long record of criminal behavior. Why, then, did the entire chain of command allow him to remain? Not, it’s the entire police force from top to bottom. Even those who might not brutalize and murder will protect those who do. Even a former head of a black police officers’ association explained on CNN that even the black cops will do so.
Nor is it just Minneapolis law enforcement. The state police even went so far as to arrest a CNN camera crew. While Minnesota governor Tim Walz apologized, the state police actually justified the arrest by simply saying that the crew was released once their identity was confirmed. Not only were they clearly identified all along, they had also been complying with the police orders at the time of the arrest. This is not the sort of thing that a police force does if it cares in the slightest about its public image.
US capitalism is caught in a conflict of its own making. White supremacy has been essential to the rule of US capitalism from its inception. Having held black people down for so long, they have to let the cops run wild in the streets of the black community. But every once in a awhile, when the eyes of the rest of society are on them, they want to restrain those same cops. Then it is too late.
“Thou shalt not rule by fear alone”
The mainstream of the US capitalist class cares very deeply about that image. They know that rule by outright coercion is inherently unstable. Among black people, that form of rule has been much more prevalent, but even there a degree of persuasion has been used. That is what is represented by the promotion a whole layer of black officials, including the head of the Minneapolis police department, a prominent CNN commentator, and the former President of the United States. The murder of Floyd and the surrounding events are ripping to shreds this long-term effort to build a base among black Americans.
Then there are the white youth, whose economic prospects are performing a magic disappearing act. The base of the mainstream of the US capitalist class is disappearing among those youth as well.
One aspect of the protests that is of huge importance is their multi-racial composition. There were similar uprisings after the police assailants of Rodney King were let off. In that case, though, they were nearly 100% black and at least in South Central LA the protesters assaulted any whites who happened to be caught in the area, such as a Teamster who happened to be driving his truck through. This time, racial solidarity is taken for granted.
The strategy of the mainstream of the capitalist class seems pretty clear: Faced with generalized outrage at this wanton murder, and knowing that they could not control their thugs in uniform, they kept the police away from the protesters and even off the streets. This allowed their media to replace the image of the murder with an image of rioters, arsonists and looters. Once that image was implanted, they would then turn the police loose to put the protests down.
That strategy was almost immediately crippled when the Minneapolis police unleashed a volley of tear gas on a peaceful crowd in that city, while a CNN camera crew was standing right there. After having had their crew arrested a few days earlier, CNN did not hesitate to comment on this over and over again – peaceful protesters assaulted by police tear gas.
The demented president is in a bind. His first and instinctive reaction was to revert to his racist roots. “Looters create shooters” he tweeted. Why did he then turn around and back off and why has he been relatively silent since, rather than whipping up his white supremacist base? The reason is that part of his reelection strategy is to win 10-15% of black voters.
As for Trump’s white supremacist base, there is growing suspicion that they are infiltrating the protests. Payday Report, for example, reported that a reporter for KDKA was knocked down and repeatedly kicked by four white “protesters” and was only rescued from possibly life threatening injuries by some black protesters. There is also a video of a suspicious-looking white man breaking windows with a hammer. When confronted by a black protester, the white guy flees… towards the police lines.
The capitalist media is also in crisis. On the one side, the most popular media outlet – Fox News – is as discredited with millions as are the police. The crisis of the rest of the media is demonstrated by the wailings of Don Lemon on CNN, who seems to be demoralized. Last night he spent nearly his entire show bemoaning the divisions in US society, talking about the need for America to heal, complaining about the out-of-control police and president.
And all of this doesn’t even take into account the most serious health crisis in over 100 years, one that will only get worse.
Nor does it take into account what was a slow-moving economic crisis that is now also out of control.
This crisis also adds to the weakening of US imperialism in relation to its two main rivals – Chinese and Russian imperialism. The main rival – Chinese imperialism – was seriously weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic, which originated in China. That fact was added to the cover-up of the Chinese regime for several weeks or longer. It seriously weakened the credibility of that regime, especially in the ex-colonial world. Now, this crisis of US capitalism is going to overtake that.
In short, US capitalism is rocking down the rails towards its greatest crisis since the US Civil War. Greater even than that during the 1930s? Then, the economic disaster was stronger and the working class was better organized, but they had the outlet of a new world war. This time, because of the level of weapons of mass destruction, a new world war would threaten to wipe out human society.
Where are the unions?
Such a crisis is a moment of extreme danger, but also of extreme opportunity. In this moment, where is the organized working class? Where are the unions? Strangled for decades by their own leadership, they are missing in action once again. In the same way as the leadership betrays its own members on the job, they are betraying the wider working class in society as a whole. The unions for public transit bus drivers is now telling its members to refuse to transport those arrested in the protests. That happened after the drivers themselves started to take action. Will the rank and file now start to organize? Will this crisis lead them to break that strangle-hold? That will be the key that opens the way forward.