Another murder by the police. Another young black man dead. On August 13, Sylville Smith was killed by a police officer in a sequence of all-too-familiar events that began with a “suspicious car.” This time, it is the people of Milwaukee rising in indignation against racist police. As the economic basis for the social inertia of the past disintegrates, brute force must be resorted to by the state to keep down discontent. The capitalist system couldn’t last a single week without its courts, armies, and police terror. More importantly, it could not continue to rule if the labor leadership actually led the working class majority in a concerted struggle for economic and political power.
Sedan Smith, the younger brother of Sylville Smith, had this heartfelt but deeply insightful appraisal of the situation: “[The violence is] not us. It’s the police. This is the madness that they spark up. This is what they encourage. This is what they provoke. This is what you get . . . You get a lot of people that’s hurt, and they can’t vent the right way.”
The bourgeois media are quick to dig up every bit of trivia they can to cloud the real picture. We can read in article after article about Sylville Smith’s criminal record, and how “suspicious” his car was. This is an excellent example of how the media serves to justify the system, speculating endlessly on the criminal character of the dead. The specifics of the Sylville Smith murder become irrelevant.
The police killed over 500 people in the first half of 2016. Not every killing led to a social explosion. However, in certain circumstances, a combination of factors led to the anger boiling over. More than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Milwaukee, Wisconsin is more divided than ever and widely known as one of the most segregated cities in America. Four out of five black children in Wisconsin live in poverty; the state incarcerates a higher proportion of black men than any other; only 45% of black men in Milwaukee have full-time employment; Wisconsin spends more on prisons than on higher education.
Milwaukee Country Sheriff David Clark is notorious among local and national Black Lives Matter activists. Although black, he is seen as a de facto white supremacist, accused by many of being an "Uncle Tom." He is known nationally as an “expert” who shows up on Fox News to talk about how “black on black” crime is the real problem. To add to his credentials, he was a speaker at the Republican National Convention. He blamed the recent spontaneous outpouring of grief and violence on "single moms," "questionable lifestyle choices," "tribal behavior" and the "law of the jungle." He added that he wouldn't be "satisfied until these creeps crawl back in their holes." This kind of disrespect only adds fuel to the fire of people’s resentment towards the police, and rightfully so.
People are angry, but calling for the indictment of police officers is clearly insufficient. Hundreds of people are killed by the police each year, and yet it is extremely rare for any to be convicted. The state, which exists to serve the ruling class of society, is not willing to be used against itself. When one arm of the state (the police) is abusing power, we cannot expect its other arms (the courts and the laws) to be used against them. There is no true "impartiality" before the law. In fact, anyone who has gone through the legal process can tell you that these arms work rather well together. It is not for nothing that protesters chant, “The whole damn system is guilty as hell!” This system, which is based on exploitation, oppression, racism, and immiseration of the majority, has got to go.
Perhaps electing more "progressive" politicians can solve the problem? The mayor of Milwaukee is a Democrat and works hand in glove with the Republican governor, Scott “Hosni” Walker. He allowed the National Guard to enter the city and enacted a tight curfew. It is evident which side the Democratic Party is on when real struggles affecting workers and the poor erupt. They are complicit with the Republicans in their defense of the racist law and order of the system. They control the ten cities in the country with the highest rates of poverty and unemployment. They preside over mass incarceration and deportations. Many have tried to reform the Democratic Party from within. Bernie Sanders's supporters learned the hard way that this is a dead end. In fact, the Democratic Party is one of the main institutional obstacles we face in the fight for a better world. Only a mass socialist party based on of the unions can break the political monopoly of the Democrats and Republicans.
In his interview with the media, Sedan Smith said, “It’s not going to end today. I can’t tell you it’s going to end tomorrow." Smith has hit upon a profound truth. The violence of capitalism won’t end as long as we live under a system that needs violence to perpetuate itself. Join the IMT and start organizing to end capitalism and its hard-wired racism once and for all.