Workers Hammer No. 239
Racist killer cops on the loose
The racist capitalist police took the lives of three young black men in little more than a month this summer. Edson Da Costa died in hospital six days after cops in Newham, east London, stopped the car he was in on 15 June and sprayed him with CS gas. In early August Edson’s mother, Manuela Araujo, who lived in Portugal, collapsed and died, tormented by unanswered questions about her only child’s death. On 10 July, 32-year-old Darren Cumberbatch was arrested, assaulted and Tasered in Nuneaton. He fell into a coma and died nine days later. And on 22 July, 20-year-old Rashan Charles was assaulted by cops in Hackney. CCTV footage of Rashan’s arrest shows a cop apparently putting him in a headlock while another man kneels on his back until Rashan stops moving.
In each case, protesters have taken to the streets and the devastated families have demanded answers about the killing of their loved ones at the hands of the state. All the families are told is that the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) are investigating the young men’s deaths. Known to many, especially black people, as the Independent Police Cover-up Commission, it was the IPCC which grotesquely proclaimed that Mark Duggan was killed in a “shoot-out” with police when he was stopped in August 2011 in Tottenham. It was later forced to retract this bald-faced lie after it became widely known that Duggan was the victim of a carefully planned police operation and had no gun. Duggan’s killing and the abuse to which his family members were subjected as they sought the truth were the sparks for the riots which convulsed English cities in the week that followed.
This August, the Met police waged its annual campaign of racist fear-mongering and repression in the leadup to the Notting Hill Carnival. Over 300 people were arrested and police bragged of having confiscated nearly 200 knives and 20 firearms. The racist cops even announced that the seizure of a kilo of heroin in Catford, more than twelve miles from Notting Hill, was linked to the Carnival. As Stormzy responded to the Met tweet announcing the seizure, “How many drugs did you lot seize in the run up to Glastonbury or we only doing tweets like this for black events?” For decades the Carnival, a vibrant expression of Afro-Caribbean culture, has been targeted by the capitalist state; in 1976 it was subjected to a full-scale cop riot.
After the IPCC reported that the original police account of Rashan Charles’ death was a lie, Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott pleaded to “rebuild trust and links between the police and the community”. What black people can “trust” getting from the cops is stop-and-search, CS gas, Tasers, beatings and killings. The arrogant rulers of British capitalism have long regarded workers and the poor, and especially their black and Asian components, as an “underclass” deserving neither education nor training, worthy only of state repression. A Ministry of Justice study released in August shows that black youth are nine times more likely to be jailed than young whites.
Racist oppression is a direct product of capitalism. In this country it has its origins in centuries of imperial rule, the slave trade and the subjugation of colonial peoples. Racism is used to divide the working class in order to impede class struggle and to help maintain the rule and profits of the bourgeoisie. Their role as defenders of capitalist class rule means that the police are necessarily racist. Schemes touted by liberals and reformists to make the police force more “accountable”, or to purge it of racism, are doomed to failure. The capitalist state, of which the police are at the core, cannot be reformed to serve the interests of workers and the oppressed; it must be shattered by workers revolution and replaced with a workers state.
After the latest killings, Met commissioner Cressida Dick pushed for even greater use of stop-and-search. Dick was immediately applauded by Tory home secretary Amber Rudd, who claimed, “Police are targeting the right suspects better than ever before.” As one speaker put it at a 29 July protest outside the Stoke Newington police station in Hackney, “If you’re black, you’re already a suspect” (socialistworker.co.uk, 29 July). The cops target black people with stop-and-search at least four times more than whites. Already this year more people have died as a result of police actions in London than in any full year since 2008, and Dick recently announced that the number of London cops armed with potentially deadly Tasers will be increased by nearly 50 per cent.
Cressida Dick was in charge of the July 2005 operation in which cops fired seven bullets point-blank at the head of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian electrician whom they had deemed a “terror suspect”. The cops were exonerated for the killing and Dick was promoted. Since that time, the number of operations being carried out by cops carrying firearms in England and Wales has continued to grow.
The “war on terror”, which has licensed a carnival of anti-Muslim bigotry and racist attacks, serves as a cover for massively increased state repression at home and imperialist terror abroad. One of its sinister components is the Prevent programme. First introduced by the Blair Labour government and vastly expanded since, Prevent mandates that teachers, NHS workers and other public sector workers become cop auxiliaries and finger Muslim youth supposedly at risk of being “radicalised”. Although targeting Muslims in the first instance, the “war on terror” is used to regiment the whole population and repress opposition to racist British imperialism.
Alongside constant degradation and racist cop brutality is the economic hopelessness facing many minority youth. Black lives manifestly do not matter to the tiny class of exploiters who own and run Britain. With the bourgeoisie having gutted much of Britain’s industrial base, large swaths of the minority populations are consigned to dead-end, low wage jobs. Black workers earn up to 20 per cent less on average than do whites with comparable qualifications; black and Asian people are unemployed at double the rate for whites.
The workers and oppressed throughout these isles — black, Asian, white; immigrant and native-born; English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh — share a common interest in opposing capitalist exploitation and racist oppression. Rage against the rampaging cops must be turned into a struggle against the social order they defend — a struggle to make the working class the rulers of a new society. As we noted in the aftermath of the whitewash inquiry into the police cover-up of the racist killing of Stephen Lawrence: “Racial minorities are not defenceless victims of racist injustice, they are a vital component of the proletariat which has the social power to bring down the rotten system of capitalist exploitation and oppression. The fight against racial oppression can only be advanced through social struggle welding together the defence of minorities with the struggle of the working class as a whole against the capitalist system” (“For workers revolution to overthrow racist capitalism”, Workers Hammer no 167, March/April 1999).
The essential factor in leading such struggles to a successful conclusion is a multiethnic revolutionary workers party modelled on the Bolshevik party, which led the proletariat to power in Russia 100 years ago. We seek to build such a party, which will be what Bolshevik leader VI Lenin called the “tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression”. In fighting against every instance of racial oppression as part of the fight for workers rule, the revolutionary party will memorialise on its banners the names of Rashan Charles, Edson Da Costa, Darren Cumberbatch, Mark Duggan and the legions of others killed at the hands of the capitalist state.