Workers Vanguard No. 1051

5 September 2014


Cops Are Not Workers!

New York City:

Cops Bash Unions Over Garner Demo

In the face of a concerted backlash by three cop “unions,” some 8,000 integrated anti-police brutality protesters rallied in Staten Island on August 23. Cosponsored by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the NAACP, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the 1199SEIU health care workers union, the protest featured a march from the spot where a gang of NYPD thugs fatally strangled Eric Garner with a choke hold on July 17. The Sharpton-led demo was a tightly run affair and had a clear agenda to steer anger over the killings of Garner, Michael Brown and others into impotent demands for police reform. The blowback from the cops in advance of the rally took special aim at the unions. Even so, several unions turned out.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) honcho Patrick Lynch attacked UFT president Michael Mulgrew in an August 17 letter to the New York Post for getting “involved with a march that has nothing to do with teachers or his union.” With Lynch organizing an online protest against Mulgrew, the heads of the Detectives’ Endowment Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association chimed in. One railed against the UFT for “aligning themselves with extremists like Al Sharpton,” and the other denounced any union participation in the protest. Meanwhile, the Post ran a series under the banner “The War on Cops,” and the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the NYPD added to the frenzy by advising businesses along the march route to close up shop in anticipation of unrest.

Although despised by the cops, former FBI fink Al Sharpton is simply a loyal operator for the Democratic Party, to which the pro-capitalist trade-union tops tie the fortunes of labor. Under such leadership, the demo was never going to be an expression of militant opposition to racist cop terror, especially not with union-supported Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio staunchly defending the NYPD “broken windows” clampdown on petty crimes—of which Eric Garner is a casualty. In contrast to the elemental outpouring of anger in Ferguson, the NYC rally was consciously staged to be respectable and “peaceful.”

In an attempt to appease the cops, an official 1199SEIU sign was introduced on the eve of the rally reading, “Support NYPD. Stop Police Brutality.” From the podium, Mulgrew offered: “Everyone wants to live in a safe community and work with the police who are there to protect and serve them.” This sentiment was in line with keynote speaker Sharpton, who decried the NYPD’s supposed few “rotten apples,” concluding: “If you don’t take the rotten apple out, it’s going to rot all the other apples.”

Such arguments are rotten to the core, yet these lies are widely accepted and reinforce illusions in phony reform schemes like civilian review boards, federal investigations and cop body cameras. From Rodney King to Eric Garner, no video can save you from the depraved blue-shirted thugs. Cameras worn by Albuquerque cops have done nothing to stop their killing spree.

The police backlash against the August 23 rally is a vivid expression of the fact that cops are not workers: they are the guardians of the system of capitalist exploitation and proven enemies of labor. The unions were built in hard, often bloody, struggle against the bosses and their cops, Pinkertons, National Guard, etc. The job of the cops is to defend capitalist rule and profits by violently suppressing workers struggle and terrorizing the poor and oppressed. As a Spartacist League sign at the August 23 rally expressed: “Cops Are the Armed Thugs of the Capitalists—Enemies of Workers, Blacks, Immigrants! Cops Out of the Unions!”

It is criminal that the sellout misleaders atop the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations accept the framework that the hired guns of the class enemy are “workers in uniform,” a refrain repeated by the reformists of Socialist Alternative. In What Next? (1932), Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky polemicized against suicidal illusions in the police: “The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.” Cop “unions” are not organizations of workers but of shock troops for racist “law and order,” constantly pushing a bonapartist agenda of more cops, more pay, more guns and fewer constraints in going after labor, blacks, immigrants and radicals. Many victims of cop terror in NYC such as Garner, Sean Bell and Ramarley Graham, come from union families. When miners used to sing the old labor anthem “Which Side Are You On?”, there was never any question which side the cops were on.

The fight for justice for the countless victims of cop terror demands the independent mobilization of the working class and the oppressed against the Democratic and Republican parties of capital. As we wrote in “Outrage over Cop Choke-Hold Killing of Eric Garner” (WV No. 1050, 8 August):

“Racist police brutality is an integral part of the capitalist system. But a massive mobilization of labor could give the cops pause. To achieve this requires a political struggle against the craven labor bureaucracy, which has shackled the potential power of the unions.”