Workers Vanguard No. 1092
1 July 2016
No to Gun Control! No to Anti-Muslim Bigotry!
Orlando Anti-Gay Massacre
The toll of Omar Mateen’s June 12 rampage at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was monumental: 49 dead, 53 injured, many grievously, the victims overwhelmingly Latino. Terrified patrons sought refuge in restrooms, with some throwing their bodies in front of their companions to protect them—this while the cops took three hours to assure they were maximally protected from the lone gunman.
The brutal crime was the act of a man/monster who was a hybrid of the reactionary forces that abound in the U.S.: a wannabe cop who deeply resented the attentions the authorities paid him as a Muslim in post-9/11 America; a man educated in hatred for gays who was himself more than a little attracted to their scene; a subject of bullying who metamorphosed into a bully. And just as surely as the massacre was the product of the deep sickness of this racist, Puritan-rooted capitalist society, the ruling class and its political parties have seized on it to further their assault on democratic rights, as they did over the San Bernardino shootings six months ago and many other times before.
With the campaign for the presidency in high gear, Donald Trump accused Muslim citizens (almost 25 percent of whom are black) of being terrorist sympathizers and reiterated his proposal to ban immigration from Muslim countries. Last year, Trump’s anti-immigrant demagogy was followed by a spike in attacks on Muslims, with more of the same anticipated after Orlando. If the racist targeting of Muslims in this country is unopposed, it will lead to an increase in black people and others being gunned down by the racist police. Notably, efforts by media and political figures of both capitalist parties to whip up anti-Muslim bigotry in the wake of Orlando do not seem to have gained much traction among gay activists and spokesmen.
For her part, Hillary Clinton, sounding every bit like a neocon leftover from the Bush II presidency, pledges to go all out against U.S. imperialism’s enemies in the Near East. Hoping to follow President Obama as the Commander-in-Chief of the “war against terror,” she calls to add barriers to the right to buy guns by targeting those on the government’s “no fly” list—some 64,000 people. This is but a fraction of the more than one million people on government “terror suspect” databases who would be barred from gun ownership under a bill pushed by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, which Clinton supports. Who goes on these lists is anyone the government says belongs there.
In Congress, Democrats staged their sit-in on the Capitol floor in order to push for stronger gun control. All attempts to use the Orlando massacre as a pretense to disarm citizens or increase the government’s surveillance and control over its subjects must be opposed, without exception. The basic truth that used to be common wisdom is that if guns are outlawed, only cops, criminals and fascists will have them. That includes security guards like Omar Mateen, an employee of the G4S outfit of “anti-terror” contractors that has tortured and brutalized people the world over.
Had some Pulse patrons carried guns and been ready to use them, Mateen’s rampage might have been quickly stopped. In “The L.G.B.T. Case for Guns,” Nicki Stallard of the Pink Pistols gun club wrote in the New York Times (22 June): “If you’re gay or transgender, you can’t simply hope that laws will protect you. They won’t. And you can’t rely on the police.” Reporting a recent surge in gun sales to gays, Stallard called on “L.G.B.T. people to take their own defense seriously.” That goes for trade unionists, black people, immigrants and everyone else, too.
Significantly, the heavy mobilization of police force to supposedly protect vigils for the Orlando victims as well as this year’s Gay Pride events has met with angry protest from people outraged over cop violence. When NYC police commissioner Bill Bratton addressed thousands gathered outside the Stonewall Inn the night after the massacre, a portion of the crowd shouted, “You kill people!” and chanted, “End police brutality!” Black Lives Matter pulled out of its role as a grand marshal of San Francisco’s Pride parade, protesting plans for an increased police presence—at an event in which police contingents have long been prominent—as well as metal detectors that would help enforce “discretionary admittance.” Citing the cops’ “recent track record of racist scandal and killings of people of color,” the group declared in a statement:
“For us, celebrating Pride this year meant choosing between the threat of homophobic and transphobic vigilante violence and the threat of police violence. We had a tough decision to make, and ultimately we chose to keep our people safe by not participating in any event that would leave our communities vulnerable to either.”
Janetta Johnson, a black transgender woman who also withdrew as a grand marshal, put it bluntly when she told the Guardian (24 June): “I’m more afraid of police than terrorists.”
The cops—currently gunning down some 1,000 people a year, many for the “crime” of being black—are the armed guardians of a system based on vicious exploitation and racial oppression. American history is chock-full of examples of black people and Native Americans massacred by government forces and of strikers shot down for asserting labor’s right to organize. The most recent domestic government pogrom was perpetrated in 1993 against the racially integrated Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, some 80 of whom were incinerated upon the orders of Janet Reno, Bill Clinton’s attorney general, for the “crime” of possessing arms...in Texas.
Repression at home and military attacks abroad are integral to American imperialism’s drive to maintain and expand its power and profits. The U.S. military juggernaut has been involved, since the end of World War II, in an almost continuous series of wars, generating millions upon millions of corpses. With the decline of once-paramount American economic power in recent decades, the carnage overseas has found an echo in this country in the erosion of jobs, wages and living standards. Working people have, in this context, lost their appetite for sending troops to fight wars against their supposed enemies. They have also acquired a distinct distrust of those who rule, or aspire to rule, over them, as well as some revulsion for the mayhem passed off as law enforcement.
It has only been in recent years that gays have made progress in their struggles to obtain democratic rights. While welcome, these gains will not erase their stigmatization as threats to the nuclear family, which, along with religion, is one of the social bases of the capitalist order. Only three decades ago, government officials responded to the AIDS epidemic by condemning its victims as they lay dying. Having recently emerged from the miasma of hostility and contempt that was long endemic in god-fearing America, gays, lesbians, transgender people and others deemed “deviant” are still victimized and oppressed, as Orlando only too gruesomely demonstrated.
At the same time, the LGBT milieu has been particularly susceptible to the fawning pitches emanating from Democratic politicians, most of whom (e.g., Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) are recent converts to the notion of equal rights for gays. This is an all-too-easy game to play for those running against the likes of Donald Trump. But it was only two decades ago that the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act swept through Congress and was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s pious invocation in Orlando that “we stand with you today because we grieve together, and long after the cameras are gone will continue to stand with you as we grow together in commitment and solidarity and in equality” is an unctuous gloss on the government’s real intent. Faced with increasing discontent at the base of society, the capitalist rulers seek to strengthen their repressive apparatus in order to be able to extinguish outbreaks of working-class and social struggle.
It is necessary to break the political ties binding the working class and minorities to the capitalist class enemy—ties maintained primarily through the “lesser evil” Democrats. What must be done is to build the proletarian party necessary to lead the working masses and the oppressed to overturn rotting American imperialist rule through socialist revolution, sweeping away the entire capitalist state apparatus and replacing it with a workers state. That revolution will expropriate the bourgeoisie and construct a social order providing material well-being and justice for all, putting to an end the horrors produced by the decaying capitalist-imperialist system.