Workers Vanguard No. 1159
23 August 2019
El Paso: Democrats Exploit Racist Horror
Capitalist Rulers Set Sights on Your Rights
Raving against a “Hispanic invasion” of the U.S., a fascist gunman strode into a Walmart in El Paso on August 3 and let loose a barrage of bullets that murdered 22 people, overwhelmingly Latino, and wounded 24 others. Hours later, nine people, six of them black, were gunned down outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, by another white man, who was killed on the spot. These bloodbaths came on the heels of a shooting rampage by a white-supremacist at the annual garlic festival in the majority-Latino town of Gilroy, California, that killed three people, including a six-year-old child. As if to celebrate the carnage, hundreds of fascists led by the Proud Boys rallied in Portland, Oregon, on August 17 under police protection.
Democratic Party presidential candidates are cynically wielding these murder sprees as well as an earlier attack on a synagogue in Poway, California, to posture as defenders of black people, Mexican Americans, immigrants and others lined up in the sights of the genocidal killers. The Democrats send up a collective howl against Donald Trump for fanning the flames of racial bigotry, while seizing on widespread public fear in the wake of the attacks to ram through measures that would strengthen the capitalist rulers’ repressive powers and assault on democratic rights, particularly the right to bear arms.
That the Republican Trump is a raving racist who has emboldened white-supremacist killers and other racist psychos is hardly news. The fascists mobilizing in Portland cheered his call to label antifa “terrorists,” an ominous threat against anti-fascist activists. But what Trump shows is simply the raw face of U.S. capitalist rule, which is rooted in the racial subjugation of black people, the oppression of immigrants and ethnic minorities and the brutal exploitation of the multiracial working class. That system is equally represented and enforced by the capitalist Democratic Party. Behind the Democrats’ cries against “hate poisoning America” is the concern that Trump is damaging the democratic facade that masks the capitalists’ class dictatorship over the working class and oppressed.
Invoking Republican president George W. Bush’s call to “defend freedom” following the 9/11 attacks, the Democrats hark back to the bipartisan unity behind the imperialist mass murder of the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq and the onslaught against democratic rights at home. Washington’s war against “Islamic terrorism” vastly expanded the powers of the secret police to tap phones, data-mine computers, scour financial records, set up entrapment operations, and arrest suspects based on their associations and beliefs, without evidence of any crime committed.
The groundwork for this all-sided drive against the rights of the populace was laid by Bill Clinton, who, in the aftermath of the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, pushed through a “counter-terrorism” law that massively curtailed civil liberties and jacked up the FBI’s powers. And it was Obama who vastly extended the reach of the “war on terror,” both overseas and with stepped-up state surveillance domestically.
Now everyone from Democratic Party politicians to FBI agents is demanding that the spying, harassment and surveillance of U.S. citizens be legally codified and expanded, including through a sinister drive to further censor the internet. While ostensibly aimed at 8chan and other sites teeming with racists, in reality these powers would mainly be used to silence leftists, anti-racist organizers and others, such as the Palestinian journalists and publications that were shut down by Facebook in recent years.
The bourgeois rulers’ target isn’t the fascists. At bottom, these white-supremacist killers are the creatures of the capitalist class, which keeps them in reserve to be unleashed against social upheaval, including when its rule is challenged by an insurgent working class. The cops and fascists have always worked hand in hand, from the murder of activists during the civil rights movement and the 1979 Greensboro Massacre of five anti-Klan leftists and union organizers to the 2017 Charlottesville fascist rampage. The fascist killers are not exceptions to the rule of racist “law and order” but auxiliaries to the far more powerful murder apparatus of the capitalist state, whose cops, courts and prison system are the main source of daily violence against black people and minorities. It is this repressive state apparatus that both the Democrats and Republicans seek to reinforce and strengthen against what the rulers see as the real “enemy within”: the working class, black people, immigrants and other minorities, as well as leftists and anyone else perceived as opponents of capitalist imperialism.
No to Gun Control!
As always in the wake of a mass shooting, capitalist politicians and the media assert the state’s monopoly of arms by pushing stricter gun control laws. The Democrats argue that they are only proposing such “reasonable” measures as background checks, which give the cops and Feds greater power to determine who should be allowed to own a gun. Ultimately, the issue of gun control is: do you trust this racist capitalist state to make that decision?
Civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr., who preached “turn the other cheek” pacifism in the face of the terror of the Klan and Southern sheriffs, was denied a concealed carry permit in 1956 after his house was bombed. A decade later, gun control laws in California were aimed at disarming the Black Panther Party, whose members patrolled against cop terror in Oakland’s black neighborhood, guns in hand. Gun control laws are centrally aimed at disarming black and working people, ensuring that only the cops, fascists, strikebreakers and criminals will be armed.
We Marxists oppose gun control laws, including bans on semiautomatic weapons, which the Democrats push by portraying anyone who would buy such a rifle as intent on mass murder. It’s worth noting that the first ban on automatic weapons in the U.S. was enacted in 1934, when the ruling class was shaken by three victorious citywide strikes—centered on the Teamsters in Minneapolis, auto workers in Toledo and longshoremen in San Francisco. Led by avowed socialists and communists, the strikers prevailed in the face of armed strikebreakers and the forces of the capitalist state.
Any moves to curtail democratic rights and strengthen the state’s repressive powers against “extremists” will be turned against the labor movement, minorities and the left. In 1941, the government used a purported anti-fascist law, the Smith Act, to prosecute and jail leaders of the Minneapolis Teamsters strike as well as national leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party for their opposition to the interimperialist World War II. They were prosecuted under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that icon of Democratic Party liberals, not least the Democratic Socialists of America. FDR had earlier granted the FBI increased powers of surveillance supposedly to prosecute pro-Nazi organizations. J. Edgar Hoover would use those tools to hunt down communists and other militants and later to murder Black Panthers.
Today, the FBI Agents Association demands that Congress make “domestic terrorism” a federal crime, with former Bureau chief James Comey intoning that “violence aimed at people by virtue of their skin color is terrorism.” But while fascist gangs were loading their guns in Charlottesville, the FBI’s counter-terrorism unit was gunning for so-called “black identity extremists.” One of their targets was Rakem Balogun, a black man in Texas whom the FBI deemed a “threat” for his political views and advocacy of armed self-defense. Balogun and others like him would be prime targets of proposed “red flag” laws, which would enable the state to seize weapons from anyone it labels a threat.
In short, in the name of fighting white-supremacist terror, the state is out to augment its powers against the one force in this society with the social power to strike a blow against the racist killers: the working class. And the rulers are served by the treacherous labor misleaders, who for decades have held that power in check, shackling the workers to the aims and interests of their exploiters, particularly as represented by the Democratic Party.
News reports following the El Paso massacre described how Latino families flocked to gun shops to buy weapons for self-defense. Many of the victims in El Paso were U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. Several others were Mexican nationals doing routine shopping. They were gunned down within eyesight of the Mexican border, a line marked with the blood of generations of Mexicans and their U.S. descendants.
The tears of capitalist politicians shed over the dead and wounded in El Paso are, in the words of black abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass, “a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.” The whole border region has an especially violent history of racist terror going back to the secession of Texas from Mexico in the 1830s. The “Texas Revolution” was carried out by American slaveholders to defend their “peculiar institution” in defiance of the Mexican government, which had abolished slavery in 1829. By the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, about half of Mexican land was in U.S. hands, although the Texas borderlands remained hotly disputed long afterwards.
The overlay of slavery with a history of land theft made Texas the center of murderous violence against the Mexican-derived population as well as against blacks and Native Americans. The state accounted for nearly half of all lynchings of Mexicans in the U.S. between 1848 and 1928. This is in addition to the hundreds, possibly thousands, more killed by the Texas Rangers and vigilante outfits.
Subjected for decades to “Juan Crow” segregation, Mexican Americans are still specially oppressed, discriminated against in jobs, housing, education and other services, with many locked in deep poverty. Our aim as Marxists is to build a revolutionary workers party—overwhelmingly made up of and led by black people, Latinos and other minorities—that combats all forms of such discrimination, fighting for bilingual education and low-cost, integrated housing and schools and other necessities. The history of Texas as a slave state demonstrates the link between black oppression, which is the bedrock of American capitalism, and the oppression of Mexican Americans, who occupy an intermediate layer in this country’s racial and ethnic hierarchy. Ending racial oppression and achieving genuine social equality require workers revolution to uproot the racist capitalist system and replace it with a planned, socialist economy.
The revulsion over the El Paso killings in Mexico as well as the U.S. speaks to the links between the working people on both sides of the border. For the overwhelming majority of Mexican Americans, the struggle posed is one for equality and integration. But in the immediate border regions, much of the Spanish-speaking population remains in fact Mexican while residing in what is formally the U.S. We are for the right of self-determination in those contiguous border areas—i.e., it is for the population there to decide whether they should be part of the U.S. or Mexico.
Our internationalist pledge is that a workers government in the U.S. would redress the historic injustice of the Mexican-American War by returning certain border regions that were seized from Mexico. This would include the Nueces Strip between the Nueces River and the Río Bravo/Rio Grande. That land was not part of Texas when it seceded from Mexico, but was nonetheless claimed by the U.S. and used as a casus belli to launch its pro-slavery invasion of Mexico. With the handover of these territories, residents can then decide whether to remain on the land and become Mexican or opt for settlement in the U.S.
For a Workers Party That Fights for a Workers Government!
Only four days after the El Paso slaughter, I.C.E. agents carried out one of the biggest single-state anti-immigrant raids in U.S. history. Busting into seven chicken processing plants in Mississippi, agents rounded up some 680 Latino workers. Two of those plants are organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. In the aftermath, a union spokesman declared that “workers across this country are too scared to stand up for their rights.” They wouldn’t be if union leaders mobilized workers’ social power in some actual struggle against the bosses and their government!
Today, many Latinos toil away in food processing and other plants in the South, where they have played an important role in such labor struggles as the unionization of the Smithfield meatpacking plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, in 2008. The UFCW leadership had wasted time and resources on legal maneuvers and a toothless “corporate campaign” against the company. What won union recognition was the determined action and unity of the workers—black, white and Latino—who repeatedly walked off the job to protest wages and working conditions. That included walking out for two days after the company fired 75 immigrant workers and threatened the jobs of hundreds more on the pretext that their Social Security numbers did not match government records.
Such actions have been all too rare over the past several decades, as the labor misleaders surrendered to the capitalists waging war on workers and the poor. A campaign to revitalize the labor movement through organizing the masses of unorganized workers will take a leadership that fights it out class against class, championing the cause of black freedom and demanding full citizenship rights for all immigrants. That includes mobilizing the unions at the head of all the fascists’ intended victims to sweep the racist killers off the streets.
While fascist killers rampage and capitalist politicians chip away ever more at the hard-won rights of the population, working people and the oppressed groan under declining wages, union-busting, unemployment, racist police terror, anti-immigrant reaction—the one-sided class war waged by the rulers under both capitalist parties. What is desperately needed is to build a revolutionary multiracial workers party that would unite the employed and unemployed, the ghetto poor and immigrants in struggle against the capitalist class enemy, culminating in the establishment of a workers government. When those who labor rule, this system of wage slavery and the fascist scum that it creates and nurtures will be relics of a barbaric past.