A guest post from Steve L, from fellow Revolutionary Socialist Network affiliate Seattle Revolutionary Socialists. Steve writes on the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict and what it exposes.
The Rittenhouse trial is a trial of U.S. politics. It is a trial of the U.S. “justice” system.
It will again answer the question: Is right wing assassination of anti-racist activists going to be given the stamp of legality? Can Fascists and quasi-Fascists arm themselves, deliberately go to anti-racist protests and hunt down and kill activists? Can they claim self-defense when they started the offense?
Though we wait for the verdict, the answer was never in doubt. The answer was given long ago in the racist practices that founded the U.S. The genocide of the Native population was legal. It was approved by violated treaties and Supreme Court decisions. The enslavement of Black people laid the basis for the U.S. economy . Black people were legally enslaved for 200 years. Their slavery actually continued after the 13th amendment and under the 13th amendment. It continues today in the prison system.
The right of a slave owner to kill a slave was foundational to slavery. The right of the state to kill a prisoner, “guilty” or innocent is guaranteed by those who wear the august robes of the Supreme Court. The right of the police to kill civilians is sacrosanct. It resides in “qualified” immunity laws. As the Black Lives Matter movement has shown so well, police use their right to execute disproportionately against Blacks and other people of color. The right to kill for profit is also enshrined in U.S. “foreign policy”. Mass murder in war is legal when individual murder is not.
The Constitution of the U.S. officially guarantees free speech, press and the right to assemble. The “neutral” state protects the rights of all in theory. In practice the state protects Nazis and the Klan from the justifiable wrath of the people. Under “Stand Your Ground” laws it allows white racists to kill Black people. It rarely if ever allows Blacks to defend themselves. When the right wing has the upper hand militarily , the state excuses their right to attack and kill.
This is the American system!
This was the American system when Congress suppressed free speech under the Alien and Sedition laws in the 1790s . It was the American system when states outlawed abolitionist literature in the 1800s. It was the American system when the legislatures and courts outlawed the Industrial Workers of the World in the early 1900s. At the same time, they deported thousands of immigrants as socialists , communists, anarchists and syndicalists. The Red Scare of 1919 was repeated in McCarthyism of the early 50s. In response to the movement of the 60s, the FBI etc. attacked leftist movements with Counterintelpro. The most horrific part of this was the military attacks and assassination campaigns against the Black Panther Party. This alone killed dozens and jailed many more. When Occupy threatened the status quo, the Obama administration organized a concerted repression campaign with the full cooperation of Democratic Party mayors.
As H. Rap Brown said “ racism is as American as cherry pie”. The right of police and racist vigilantes to kill people of color is well established. But there is another issue often underemphasized: They also have the right to kill anti-racists and other system opponents of all races. To enforce racist divisions, the state has the right to repress and kill left wing opponents. Obviously, white people have the “privilege” of being killed less than Blacks by the police. However, to enforce racism, the state needs to repress anti-racists. This was shown clearly in the military response to the BLM protesters. This repression was wide spread even in liberal Democratic cities like Seattle and Portland.
The state repression of anti-racist and other rebellion against capitalism goes hand in hand with allowing right wing vigilantism. The cops repressing the rebellion in Kenosha let Rittehouse walk free after he killed two BLM supporters and wounded another. While Rittenhouse walked free, Ahmaud Arbery was killed for jogging while Black. The police have long condoned armed right wingers on the streets. They tolerate rightist militias. In California, the legislature only passed gun control when the Panthers started carrying guns.
The murder of George Floyd brought police racist assassination of Blacks to the fore. Likewise, the Rittenhouse case brings right wing vigilantism to the fore. Both are prime examples of a centuries long trend.
There can be no justice under this system. Obviously, Rittenhouse should not get away with murder. Justice would require severe punishment. But there can be no justice for his victims, no matter how much he is punished. The conviction of Chauvin for the murder of Floyd was a good thing . It might have given some cops pause in killing Black people openly. However, it did not bring back George Floyd. It did not bring real justice. Nor did it stop the spate of police killings. Likewise, even severe legal punishment of Rittenhouse will not bring back his victims or bring real closure.
Capitalism relies on the exploitation of labor to survive. To maintain that rip off of workers, it tries to divide them on race, gender , sexual orientation, gender identity and nationalist lines. Racism is foundational to modern capitalism. It cannot be done away with inside the current system. Likewise, the repression of anti-racists and other opponents is also necessary to the system. We will not abolish racism or right-wing vigilantism under capitalism. As long as there are concentrations of wealth at the top, the wealth holders will use their state and vigilantes to suppress opponents of their system.
Instead, we will need to fight for a system that is founded on anti-racism — a system founded on the solidarity between ordinary people in organizing to meet human needs. In fighting for a humane system, based on democratic control of resources, we will need to confront the state and the right-wing vigilantism it fosters.
Grab whatever justice we can now, but understand that there is no real justice under capitalism