Workers Vanguard No. 1109
7 April 2017
Remember Timothy Caughman
Fascist Murder in Manhattan
On March 20, white-supremacist James Jackson stabbed 66-year-old Timothy Caughman in the chest and back with a 26-inch sword. Caughman was able to stumble into a police station but died of his wounds at Bellevue Hospital. Jackson had come to New York City from Baltimore three days earlier with the express intent of killing black men, and chose the city to get maximum media coverage. When he turned himself in a day after the killing, he boasted of being a member of a white-supremacist group. The authorities are protecting the fascists by refusing to release the name of the group or any information about it.
Caughman was collecting recyclables a few blocks from Times Square when he was murdered. A longtime resident of the area with many friends, he loved Motown music, collected autographs and had been a coordinator of a basketball youth league. Caughman himself had noted the recent rise of fascist groups and posted a link to an article about it on his Twitter account following the November elections. The fascist killer struck Caughman down in cold blood to send a message of terror to all black people. Many black and minority New Yorkers have expressed the fear: it could have been me.
Donald Trump’s campaign emboldened the fascists, who have become even more brazen since his victory—though he himself is not one. He came to power through the regular mechanisms of American bourgeois democracy, not the mobilization of fascist gangs. In the first three months of this year, there have been 35 attacks on mosques. Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. In December, Giants football player Nikita Whitlock’s New Jersey home was trashed and KKK threats were scrawled on its walls. In February in Manhattan, fascists brutally attacked two graduate students outside a Lower East Side bar after seeing that one of them had an anti-fascist sticker on his phone.
Boasting of his hatred of black men, Jackson said he was motivated especially by hatred of interracial couples. He told a Daily News reporter that he wants America to be like the 1950s again. This is the era Trump evokes with his slogan “Make America Great Again”: the era of official segregation in the South, before black people had won formal civil rights, when Communists had to keep their heads down, women stayed home with the kids and everyone knew “their place.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo called Caughman’s murder “an attack on all New Yorkers,” while Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was an assault on “our diversity.” Who are they kidding? Timothy Caughman was murdered for being a black man in racist capitalist America. De Blasio’s talk of “diversity” was intended to mask the reality that New York is a race- and class-divided city in a society based on exploitation and inequality. Timothy Caughman lived in a single-room-occupancy hotel; de Blasio’s best buddies are the real estate developers who destroy working-class neighborhoods to build high-rises for the rich, while the mayor makes speeches about “affordable housing.” It was his racist cops who choked Eric Garner to death and gunned down Akai Gurley in the stairwell of an apartment building.
Like the fascist Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston two years ago, Jackson is being treated in the media as a lone deranged individual. In fact, racist murder is the program of the fascists. A military veteran of the U.S. imperialist war in Afghanistan, Jackson bragged that his military training helped him plan to kill black men.
Fascists are paramilitary action gangs whose purpose is the destruction of the workers movement and racial genocide. In the U.S., that means they have black people, above all, in their sights. Homegrown American fascism, the KKK, was born out of the defeat of the slaveowning Southern ruling class in the Civil War. The fascists represent a deadly threat to the rights and lives of black people, immigrants, gays and all those they target. They must be crushed in the egg by mobilizing the power of the multiracial working class to smash them.
Fascists like Dylann Roof and James Jackson are auxiliaries to the far more powerful murder apparatus of the capitalist state—the cops, prisons and the military. It is the cops who are the main source of racist violence against New York City’s black and Latino communities. Remember Eric Garner, Deborah Danner, Ramarley Graham, Akai Gurley! When the cops gun down black men and women, they are doing their job, which is to defend this racist system against the working class and those seen as sources of unrest.
A workers movement worthy of the name would organize forceful actions of solidarity with the black population against police brutality and fascist atrocities. But the labor “leadership” in this country is committed to the capitalist order, which itself breeds the fascists, and has hitched its wagon to the Democratic Party, no less the class enemy of working people and the oppressed than the Republicans. To mobilize the unions and oppressed in opposition to the fascists is elementary self-defense, but it requires a political struggle against the Democrats. When the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee have been involved in mobilizing anti-fascist actions in the past, we have always had to go up against the Democratic Party, which preaches that the fascists should be ignored and that the forces of racist state repression will “protect” us.
There have already been many demonstrations of hostility to Trump and his racist agenda. But the Democratic Party is clearly the animating force behind this “resistance.” When demonstrators say that Trump “is not my president,” we say that for us neither was Obama, the Deporter-in-Chief, nor, for that matter, Bill Clinton, the father of black mass incarceration. Opposing all representatives of the capitalist class, we seek to build a revolutionary multiracial workers party that fights for a workers government.
It took a bloody Civil War, the Second American Revolution, to smash the chains of black chattel slavery. Two hundred thousand black troops, guns in hand, played a decisive role in crushing the Confederacy. But the promise of black freedom was betrayed by the Northern bourgeoisie, which allied with the Southern propertied classes against the aspirations of the black freedmen. It will take a third American Revolution—a proletarian socialist revolution that breaks the chains of capitalist wage slavery—to finish the Civil War. The only path to black liberation is through uprooting the basis of black oppression—the whole capitalist system of exploitation and racial oppression. For black liberation through socialist revolution!