The Fire This Time I

Black Lives Matter Uprising Shakes America & the World

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The killing of George Floyd on 25 May, and failure of government to immediately bring the culprits to book sparked an historic uprising which swept through the United States and across the world. This global anti-racist and anti-police brutality uprising has helped millions of working-class people and youth to draw the connections between racism, policing, and capitalism. And these included many who were drawn into radical action for the first time.

In the United States alone, up to 26 million people took part in demonstrations across 4,600 cities, towns, and even rural areas. Black, brown, and white, men, women, trans, and youth – everybody marched together for #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, #BlackLivesMatter, and indeed a better world. The wave of working-people’s anger did not end with demonstrations on the streets. A massive “Strike for Black Lives” was organised by trade unions and the Black Lives Matter movement on 20 July.

Demonstrations also took place in over 60 countries. Some of these drew tens of thousands of people. The protests were in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. But the demands and anger of poor working people and youth in each country – against racism, police brutality and the capitalist system –  was expressed, as the masses in different ways demanded justice and a fundamental social change.

Racism is a class question. As Malcolm X said, “you can’t have capitalism without racism”. This exploitative system was built on the backs of enslaved black women and men. This was the origin of the ideology of racism. It was meant to disguise and justify the inhumanity of slavery. For how could it have been “inhumane” the early racist would have told himself, if the slaves were less human than their slavers?

And racism has continued to serve as a tool for the furtherance of capitalism till date. It is used to divide poor working-class people. The white boss uses this to make the ideologically backward sections of workers who happen to be white think that, “at least I’m better than those niggers”. Racism is institutionalised and made systemic in several ways in the United States. This includes poor job opportunities, criminalisation, and incarceration.

Blacks constitute just 12% of the population but comprise 34% of those in prison. Blacks are more likely to be stopped, searched and, as we have seen time and again, killed. Meanwhile, the underlying causes for some turning to crime (and crime is not restricted to any race), which includes generational poverty and less job opportunities are dismissed.

Thrice the proportion of whites that got infected from COVID-19 in the United States and Britain were Blacks (and in Britain other “minority ethnic” groups, like Asians). This is not due to any genetic or natural cause. It is because of underlying health and poverty conditions.

The anti-capitalist struggle must thus also be anti-racist. And for us in countries like Nigeria, it must be anti-ethnicist. We, as working-class people, must combat any and every ideology and practice which divides instead of uniting us.

As we fight to overthrow capitalism and defeat racism, we learn that struggle is the way to victory. Already, there have been a few wins in the still unfurling anti-racist and anti-police brutality rising in the United States.

Within the first month of the uprising: George Floyd’s killer was fired and all the cops involved in the killing were charged, several cities have begun defunding the police to different degrees, the statues of several slavers have been torn down, a restraining order limiting the use of rubber bullets and teargas was passed, class consciousness of working-class people of all colours have been raised, and stronger ties of solidarity have been established between several organisations of radicals, revolutionaries and the working-class.

This shows us that when we dare to struggle, we dare to win. Much more still has to be done to bring down capitalism and racism. But this moment will always go down in history as a major turning point, as the fire this time which scorched the earth under the bosses’ feet. This will inspire millions of working-class people and youth, as we march into the greatest battles of our lives,with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to further global explosions.

by Baba AYE

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