Workers Vanguard No. 1081
15 January 2016
Chicago: Emanuel Must Go!
Enough with the Democrats!
We Need a Multiracial Workers Party!
The arrogant labor-hating, cop-loving Democratic mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, is on the ropes. The seething anger of black people, Latinos, the working class and the poor at the misery of life in “Segregation City” burst into the open with the release of the chilling video showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being pumped with 16 bullets by a Chicago cop—most of them fired as he lay wounded in the street. But even more than this depraved execution, which was perpetrated in October 2014, it was the cover-up by the Emanuel regime that lit the fuse.
Facing a highly contested election in February 2015, with his job dependent on corralling the black vote, Emanuel wouldn’t have had a prayer if the video of McDonald’s execution had been released. All the stops were pulled out to bury it. Days after Emanuel won the runoff election, a $5 million settlement was paid to the McDonald family, who had yet to even file a lawsuit, with the explicit provision that the video not be made public. But the jig was up in late November when the city was finally forced to release the video.
Only hours before it was released, the Cook County state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, suddenly found cause to file first-degree murder charges against the cop who emptied his clip into McDonald. Daily protests immediately erupted demanding Emanuel’s head, and they haven’t stopped. In late December, a 55-year-old black mother of five was killed by the cops. She had simply opened her door to let the police in after her upstairs neighbor called them about a mentally distraught black youth, whom the police also shot dead. An article in the Washington Post (2 January) described the scene Emanuel faced when he was called back to Chicago:
“Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut short a family vacation this past week and returned to a city in crisis: On the North Side, more than a dozen people stood outside his house, hurling insults. On the West Side, a close aide was punched and kicked while attending a prayer vigil for a police shooting victim. And all week long, there were protesters, haunting one of Emanuel’s biggest political donors, haranguing his police force, beating a papier-mâché likeness of his face at City Hall.
“More than a month has passed since a judge forced Emanuel and other city officials to release a graphic video of a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times. But public anger over the fatal shooting of Laquan Mcdonald in 2014 has not dissipated. Instead, it has grown bitter and more personal.”
With Emanuel’s approval rating dropping through the floor, polls show that a majority of the Chicago population wants him out. Emanuel must go! But the point isn’t to replace this strutting bully with a “nice guy” face of Democratic Party rule in a city lorded over by this capitalist party for over 80 years. To quote Emanuel against himself, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” The crisis now rocking his regime and reverberating up to the highest echelons of the Democratic Party opens the door for our class—the multiracial working class—to launch some real struggle not only in its own interests but also in the fight against racist cop terror and in defense of all the oppressed.
Now Is the Time to Fight!
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), whose contract expired in June, is in a face-off with Emanuel’s City Hall, which is out to ax thousands more jobs while further slashing wages and benefits. The anger of the union ranks is palpable. In mid December, almost the entire membership cast ballots in a strike vote. Ninety-six percent voted to strike and are champing at the bit to hit the bricks. The 2012 strike by Chicago teachers was widely popular and supported by black and Latino parents whose children attend the segregated and decrepit schools that pass for public education. They continue to burn with hatred for Emanuel, who in the aftermath of the strike shut down 50 schools—the biggest school closure in U.S. history—most of them in Chicago’s ghettos and barrios.
With the city administration shaken, the CTU should seize the opportunity and strike in defense of public education. Such a strike could galvanize the seething discontent against Emanuel and his racist police marauders as well as provide the spark for other unions to fight. The largely black workforce in Chicago transit is working without a contract. Last month, the city’s bus workers union passed a motion declaring:
“ATU Local 241 condemns racist cop terror, as gruesomely displayed in the murder of a black youth, Laquan McDonald, by the Chicago Police. Our ATU Local knows firsthand about racist cop brutality. Local 241 takes a stand and will issue a statement to be sent to all area unions against the killing of Laquan McDonald and all racist cop terror, as well as the City Hall cover up. We urge all unions to do the same.”
Emanuel recently showed up at a Chicago transit garage to promote the Democrats’ union-busting slave-labor Second Chance Program for hiring ex-convicts to work for poverty wages and no benefits as evidence of his “concern” for those victimized by the criminal injustice system. A transit worker told WV that the bosses announced they were turning off the PA system, worried that workers would use it to chant “16 shots.”
All the raw material is there to launch a class-struggle fight that could fuse the power of labor to the anger of the ghettos and barrios. But sitting on top of this volcano are the trade union bureaucrats. For decades, they have kept a tight lid on labor struggle, subordinating the social power of the multiracial working class to the interests of its exploiters, particularly as represented by the capitalist Democratic Party.
This is equally true of the “progressives” who head the Chicago teachers’ union. While the hated Emanuel regime scrambles to stay in power, CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey, who is supported by the International Socialist Organization, offers Emanuel the opportunity for redemption. In an interview with Chicago Magazine (14 December) after the teachers had voted to strike, Sharkey opined that “if Rahm Emanuel is really the effective leader he claims to be”(!) he would be shaking down his banker and hedge fund manager buddies to shell out money to resolve the Chicago Public Schools’ budget crisis! Such an insane pipe dream could only be peddled by a true believer in the myth that the Democrats represent the interests of the “little guy,” as opposed to the capitalist rulers they serve.
On January 6, the CTU House of Delegates voted to demand the resignation of both Emanuel and State’s Attorney Alvarez, arguing that they “impeded the criminal justice system,” and thus eroded “public trust and confidence in their leadership.” As revolutionary Marxists, we welcome such erosion of trust. Kicking Emanuel and Alvarez out of office would be richly satisfying. Our purpose is to fight to translate the mounting anger and discontent into a conscious understanding that the working class needs its own party—not an electoral vehicle vying to be the administrators of the capitalist state and its cops, courts and jails—but a party that would play a leading role in a broad fight against the ravages of capitalism. Such struggle, drawing in the unemployed, immigrants and the poor, would include fighting for such demands as quality, integrated public schools and housing and decent jobs, public services and health care for all.
Obama Stands by His Man
The Chicago bourgeoisie, whose fortunes have been well served by the brutal austerity measures enforced by their snarling pit bull in City Hall, are worried that Emanuel may no longer be able to maintain control over the masses of working people, blacks and Latinos. Emanuel’s crisis extends all the way up to the Obama White House, where he served as chief of staff before landing the mayor’s job in Chicago, which he secured with the backing of America’s first black president. When Emanuel was floundering in the most recent elections, Obama helped secure his victory, including by flying in to Chicago to promote him.
A high-level operative in Bill Clinton’s administration, today Emanuel is being described as “political kryptonite” for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. With Clinton trying to woo Black Lives Matter activists, Emanuel is a liability and not just for covering up the crimes of the racist Chicago cops. He was an architect of Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill, which dramatically increased the number of cops and the number of blacks and Latinos rounded up and entombed in America’s prisons. With both Clintons now cynically apologizing for such “tough on crime” policies and Hillary trying to strike a populist pose, the despised Emanuel could be damaging. Even some candidates in the reactionary, racist circus that is the Republican presidential primary season are demanding that Emanuel come clean.
Obama is standing by his man, with his chief of staff announcing that the president has full confidence in Emanuel. Chicago Democratic Party politicians like Danny Davis and Bobby Rush are also working to shore up Emanuel’s rule. In a letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times (18 December), Rush, a former Black Panther, argues that he knows “better than anyone that emotions are running high and we would like to see change within the city.” But as a longtime loyal servant of the Chicago Democrats, he concludes: “If Rahm were to resign, Chicago would only move from one chaos to another chaos.”
Where Rush finds “chaos,” we see opportunity in the fight to break workers, blacks, Latinos and others from the grip of the Democratic Party. For decades, this party has played on racial and ethnic hostilities to divide and weaken the working class and to strengthen the hand of the notorious killers and torturers in the Chicago Police Department. The race, gender or ethnicity of the mayor doesn’t matter; the job of the city’s chief executive is to enforce the rule of racist capitalism. In 1983, Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, came into office under the slogan, “It’s our turn.” Although his election was met with a barrage of racist reaction, it wasn’t long before Washington went after the very unions that had supported his election, including the ATU and CTU. Throughout the Washington years, and those of his successor Richard M. Daley, the notorious “midnight crew” under police commander Jon Burge continued to extract phony confessions from black men through such interrogation techniques as battery clamps to the genitals.
Today, many of the protests against the execution of Laquan McDonald have been headed up by a coterie of “progressive” Democrats, ranging from Jesse Jackson Sr. to Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who was Emanuel’s opponent in last year’s mayoral election. Their aim is to keep outrage within the electoral confines of the Democratic Party, and they call on people to register to vote. The union bureaucracy has also long been integral to building electoral support for the Democrats. During last year’s election, some unions supported Emanuel while others, most prominently the CTU, as well as the ATU, stumped for Garcia. Now, with hatred burning for Emanuel, these forces are trying to promote a “kinder, gentler” face of Democratic Party rule. The myth that the capitalist Democrats are the “friends” of blacks and labor has long served to tie workers and the oppressed to the class enemy.
For Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!
The Black Youth Project 100, an organization of black activists who have been prominent at many of the Chicago protests, raises demands to “defund the police and invest those dollars and resources in Black futures” as well as for “investments in Black communities that promote economic sustainability.” But the capitalist rulers are not about to defund the police thugs who serve as a front-line defense of their system, which is rooted in brutal exploitation and the forcible subjugation of the majority of the black population at the bottom of this society. Black oppression is structurally embedded in American capitalism. It is not going to be overcome short of a socialist revolution in which the working class rips the economy out of the hands of the racist capitalist rulers and reorganizes it on an egalitarian socialist basis.
The ruling class only throws money at black communities when necessary to douse the fires of rebellion. The last time was in the 1960s, when “war on poverty” programs aimed to quell ghetto upheavals; once they were quelled, the money dried up. The main beneficiaries of these programs were a thin layer of the black community, many of them former leaders of the fight for black rights. Like Bobby Rush, many were co-opted into the Democratic Party. Today everyone from George Soros to the Ford Foundation is courting the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, many of whom are rapidly getting pulled behind Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
In an article on socialistworker.org (15 December), the International Socialist Organization asks: “Will Rahm Pay for All the Black Lives Lost?” Their answer is to advise Chicago’s rulers: “Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on legal settlements for brutal cops, much less the vast sums devoted to police militarization and surveillance, the city of Chicago should devote resources to programs that create living-wage, union jobs.” The half billion dollars that the rulers of Chicago have paid to people killed and tortured by their cops over the past decade is part of the overhead they pay for the armed guard dogs of their system. It is only through struggle that the working people and oppressed will wring concessions from the overlords of capitalist America.
There is no question that the capitalists are sitting on mountains of cash, the ill-gotten gains of a system based on the exploitation of the many for the profits of a few. The problem is that you are not going to get your hands on this wealth by appealing to the rulers to reorder their priorities to serve human needs. The policies of U.S. capitalism are determined not by elections or by “pressure from below” but by the interests of the ruling class, as overseen by the Democrats and Republicans alike, and the balance of forces in the class struggle.
The crisis faced by Emanuel’s Democratic Party regime demonstrates the pressure that has been building up at the base of this society and that at some point will explode. The key to unlocking the social power of the multiracial working class is to break the political chains, forged by the trade-union misleaders, that shackle labor to its exploiters. What is needed to defend the interests of workers, blacks, immigrants and others against the bourgeoisie is a multiracial revolutionary workers party. Such a party would provide the vitally necessary leadership for struggle against oppression and exploitation. Through such struggles, the workers will be armed with the political understanding that if there is to be fundamental change, the entire system of capitalist wage slavery must be swept away. When the working class takes power into its own hands, the workers government will expropriate the capitalists’ productive wealth and establish a rationally planned, collectivized economy.