Workers Vanguard No. 864
17 February 2006
The Cop Killing of Dudley George
Canada: Racist Hell for Native Peoples
We reprint below an article from Spartacist Canada No. 146 (Fall 2005), newspaper of the Trotskyist League/Ligue Trotskyste, Canadian section of the International Communist League.
Nine years after the brutal killing of Native activist Anthony Dudley George by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) riot cops, the Ontario government launched a public commission of inquiry last July. Georges family has fought for hearings since his death on 6 September 1995, hoping that the full truth would finally come out. Smelling an electoral opportunity, the Ontario Liberal Party quickly seized on this demand in their campaign against the then ruling Conservative government of Mike Harris. Predictably, the NDP [social-democratic New Democratic Party] and the reformist left have saluted the Liberals cynical maneuver as some form of justice.
Whatever the information revealed or token rectification offered, such public inquiries always serve a political purpose—to refurbish the image of the racist, capitalist state. Writing about U.S. congressional hearings on the FBIs COINTELPRO program (which targeted black and leftist radicals during the 60s and 70s for surveillance, frame-up and assassination), former Black Panther and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal explains:
While they provided a riveting show, a thrilling political performance, a scripted pantomime of the workings of democracy, they remained, after all was said and done, mere performance. When the curtain came down on the show, the real world, with its painful ambiguities and chilling truths about power, race, and violent white supremacy, remained unchanged. Revelation is not transformation—it only looks like it.
—We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party (2004)
Over 350 years of history lie behind the bullet that ended Dudley Georges life. Beginning with colonial conquest, Canadian capitalism was founded on the destruction of the pre-existing aboriginal societies and terror against Native peoples—from the bloody pacification campaigns by the Northwest Mounted Police and innumerable broken treaties, to the kidnapping and imprisonment of aboriginal youth in residential schools and the forced sterilization of Native women. Only revolutionary struggle against the capitalist system, led by the working class, can open up the possibility for the emancipation of Native peoples and all of the oppressed. But such a struggle is impossible so long as the majority of working people and the downtrodden still see the capitalist state as a potential ally, or believe that it can be made accountable through mass pressure and public exposure.
Racist State Terror and Government Lies:
We Will Not Forget!
The events at Ipperwash were the legacy of one of the numerous racist atrocities committed by the federal Liberal government of Mackenzie King over a half century ago. In 1942, invoking the War Measures Act, the King government seized the Chippewa reserve at Stony Point near Ipperwash to build a military base. Native houses were destroyed in a few hours, their occupants forcibly displaced without warning. Other houses in the area were untouched. It was only in 1995, following a determined two-year occupation by Native militants, that the army finally withdrew from the base.
On 4 September 1995, the day after the end of tourist season and the closing of Ipperwash Park, some 30 Native activists occupied land that had once been part of their reserve, demanding the return and protection of an ancestral burial ground that had been seized by the government. After a three-day standoff, a phalanx of riot cops marched down a darkened road, opening fire on the unarmed protesters, killing George and wounding two others. One protester was beaten until his heart literally stopped. OPP sergeant Kenneth Deane later received a slap on the wrist—a conviction of criminal negligence and two years community service—for pumping a bullet into the young Native activist.
Now in power, the Liberals in Queens Park [location of Ontario government] are hanging full responsibility on the flagrantly right-wing and racist Harris regime. Indeed, Harris cries for Native blood took even the OPP trigger men running the operation aback. In a conversation recorded hours before George was killed, OPP inspector Ron Fox ranted: Were dealing with a real redneck government. They are f---ing barrel suckers. They are just in love with guns.
But the Ipperwash siege involved every level of the state apparatus, from the federal Department of National Defence on down to the local cops. If tapes played at the inquiry show that orders for a brutal assault came directly from Queens Park, it was the Liberal federal government who equipped the OPP with armoured personnel carriers and machine guns capable of firing 800 rounds a minute. The Feds knew that the protesters were unarmed and peaceful because they had a CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service] plant among them the entire time posing as a Native activist (Hansard No. 126, 2001). The Department of Indian Affairs and the provincial government both had evidence that the activists claims regarding the burial grounds were true, and concealed it until after the fact.
Whitewash Hearings and
the Capitalist State
The capitalist rulers have a time-honoured strategy for dealing with public outrage. First, they lie through their golden teeth. Second, when anger persists, they stall. Then, if things still dont settle down, they reluctantly hold an independent public inquiry, staffed by judges, professors, priests or other loyal representatives of the ruling class, and perhaps recommending token punishment for someone involved. The more thorough the investigation appears, the better it serves its ideological purpose: to prove that the system works, that the state is accountable to the will of the people, and that justice has been served.
The police, military, courts and prisons are at the core of the capitalist state, an institution that was created, exists and is replenished for the sole purpose of protecting the power of the racist, exploiting class. The belief that the state can be reformed through grassroots campaigns, mass protest or public exposure is a deadly illusion pushed by those who defend capitalist class rule. As Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin writes in his classic State and Revolution:
According to Marx, the state is an organ of class domination, an organ of oppression of one class by another; its aim is the creation of order which legalises and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the collisions between classes.
It is possible to win limited concessions from the capitalists, such as wage increases or greater access to social services, through hard social struggle. However, short of a social revolution in which the working class seizes power and dismantles the capitalist state, such gains are temporary and precarious.
But public inquiries arent even a limited gain. They are expressly designed to refurbish the states credibility by blaming this wrong policy or that bad cop, deflecting attention away from the underlying system of wage slavery. Over the years, there have been scores of Royal Commissions and hearings documenting the brute dispossession of Native people. The ruling class knows exactly what Native people have suffered in the past, and it knows in detail the poverty and devastation they face today. The capitalists have absolutely no interest in any kind of meaningful rectification.
In fact, courts and public inquiries have let cops and racist thugs who murder Natives walk free time and again. In October 2004, an inquiry into the 1990 killing of 17-year-old Neil Stonechild (who froze to death in 28C [18°F] weather after being dropped off at the edge of Saskatoon) found that there was no basis to lay criminal charges. This was despite the fact that he was last seen in police custody, despite the fact that bloody marks found on Stonechilds face were caused by handcuffs, and despite the reports acknowledgement that the cops systematically lied to cover the whole thing up. The underlying message is lethal: its a license to murder aboriginal people.
The Reformist Left
But this is completely lost on the reformist left—from the International Socialists (I.S.) to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), from the New Socialist Group (NSG) to the anarchists—all of whom called for a public inquiry into Georges death. In the name of protesting the right-wing Harris government, they in effect gave a left cover to the electoral posturing of the capitalist Liberals and the maneuvers of the social-democratic NDP. These groups actually championed the ability of the capitalist state to deliver some kind of justice for Dudley George and other victims of police terror.
The I.S. is particularly blatant on this score. Their long-winded, academic article on Aboriginal Rights: The Backlash and Socialist Strategy by Valerie Lanon (Marxism No. 1, 2003) misquotes Lenin on self-determination and espouses hollow anti-capitalist rhetoric. But there is not a single word about the state as an instrument of bourgeois repression or the need for the working class to overthrow it. Instead, Lanon bemoans that the reforms called for by the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples went unfulfilled and indicts the Ontario government not only for Georges murder, but for then refusing to call for an independent inquiry into police action! Calling on the state to police its own is typical of the I.S., who recently advanced the asinine demand for a full public inquiry into CSIS (Socialist Worker, 23 March 2005). The only reason the Liberal government in Ottawa (or any other capitalist regime) would try to reform its secret police would be to make these hired killers more efficient.
On the crucial question of the state, the politics of the direct action and anarchist groups are shown to be no different, whatever their lame assertions to the contrary. The first two slogans on the call for a 24 May 1997 demo at Queens Park were: Harris: Blood on Your Hands! Full Public Inquiry Now! Endorsers included Anti-Racist Action and OCAP. Along the same lines, the NSG presents the public inquiry as a victory: The fight for justice in Ipperwash has been a multi-pronged one, an instructive example of combining traditional advocacy (in the courts and the legislature) with grassroots agitation (Ipperwash 8 Years Later, New Socialist, November-December 2003). Instructive, indeed. As political strategies, grassroots protest/direct action and lobbying parliament are complementary. Both explicitly limit themselves to pressuring the powers-that-be. And neither does a damn thing toward ending Native oppression.
Canada: Apartheid for
Some 30 percent of aboriginal Canadians still live in Native reserve hellholes—a system once studied as a model by the South African apartheid state. Take the condition of the Ojibway community in Pikangikum, Ontario. Most of the homes have no sewers and the suicide rate is 36 times the national average. The only buildings with indoor toilets belong to government agencies, while the third party Indian agent imposed by the state to control the tribes finances makes over $10,000 a month. This was deliberately done by the Department of Indian Affairs, according to Stan Beardy, Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. They are starving them from their claim to natural resources (Sunday Sun, 11 April 2004).
While half of the countrys 1.3 million Natives now reside in cities, their living conditions are generally little better. An incredible 42 percent of urban Natives live below Statistics Canadas poverty line (as compared to 17 percent of all urban residents). Huge numbers are in prison, homeless, or ghettoized in poverty-stricken neighbourhoods like Vancouvers notorious Downtown Eastside, which has the highest per capita rate of HIV infection in North America. A recent investigation into the Saskatchewan police just scratched the surface of the sadistic torture of Natives by cops: an elderly woman dragged from bed, jailed, and forced to walk home in her nightgown; cops breaking a ten-year-old girls arm because she got in the way; the infamous starlight tours, where police drop off Native men on the outskirts of towns in the deadly cold of winter.
Defend Native Rights! We Need a Revolutionary Workers Party!
In our 1995 article Ipperwash, Gustafsen Lake: Murderous State Terror Targets Native Peoples, we wrote:
Most of the Native protests this year have been in rural areas, isolated from the working class and far removed from the integrated urban centers. Yet the cops who are reliving the Indian wars are the same cops who bust up picket lines and wage unremitting racist war on black people in Montreal and Toronto, and Asians and others in Vancouver
Under capitalism, Native people face the choice of poverty and isolation in the cities or squalor and deprivation on the reserves. The way forward lies through building a racially integrated revolutionary workers party which champions the cause of all of the oppressed.
—SC No. 106, November/December 1995
The central obstacle to this perspective is the social-democratic NDP. In 1995, the B.C. [British Columbia] NDP government led the largest RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] operation in history against the Native protesters at Gustafsen Lake. More recently, the NDP and the reformist left backed Larry Campbell for mayor of Vancouver; on his election, Campbell immediately ramped up police terror against Natives and immigrants on the Downtown Eastside. A revolutionary workers party will be built in sharp political struggle against the NDP labour lieutenants of capital and their supporters in the trade-union bureaucracy.
In this country, Native oppression provides a litmus test for the leadership of the working class. A party that does not inscribe the defense of the most downtrodden high on its banner will never succeed in leading the proletariat against its class enemy. We seek to build a revolutionary party that would fight for measures like aggressive recruitment and training programs, run by the trade unions, as a first step toward breaking the cycle of unemployment and social marginalization for Native people in urban areas. It would defend whatever autonomy Natives with a land base are able to wrest from the racist ruling class. It would mobilize the fighting power of labour, with its key immigrant component, against acts of racist state terror to make it clear that Native people do not stand alone in their struggles. It would fight to win workers to the understanding that every act of police terror strengthens the hand of their capitalist class enemy, and that every form of racism and chauvinism serves to divide the fighting unity of all of the oppressed. We say: There is no justice from the capitalist state! Stop racist state terror—Defend Native rights!