CUNY Internationalist Marxist Club
“A year since Ferguson, racist terror continues,” declared the call for a Speak-Out Against Racist Repression. CUNY Internationalists organized the protest outside Hunter College on 2 September. Approximately 80 students and workers participated in the resistance against the ongoing repression that led to Sandra Bland’s death in police custody. Pulled over by a police officer in Prairie View, Texas, the African American education worker and activist refused to bend to intimidation. Video footage showed the fate Bland suffered from being violently arrested by police. And what happened during her confinement and three days later opened the national conversation about whether Bland actually hung herself in the holding cell. Authorities attempted to pass it off as suicide. But Bland’s family denounced the attempted cover-up by considering Bland’s recent excitement in getting a new job at her alma mater as well as her well-known activism against police brutality. Given this background, the Speak-Out Against Racist Repression had to consider that a year since Ferguson, racist terror continues. Having stopped and jailed Sandra Bland for “driving while black,” lynch-law terror cut short her life on 13 July, 2015.
Participants in the Hunter Speak-Out held placards and joined in chants like “From Ferguson to New York, Stop Racist Terror” and “Sandra Bland, Michael Brown – Shut the Whole System Down.” Signs featured names and faces of Bland and others targeted by racist repression and police violence. Among them stood Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Samuel DuBose, and Amadou Diallo. Other posters showed faces and names of transgender women, mainly African-American and Latina, who have been murdered this year. They included London Chanel, Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, and Ashton O’Hara.
Placards declared solidarity with the abducted teachers and college students of Ayotzinapa, Mexico; supported the defense of immigrant rights in the face of Donald Trump’s hate campaign and Barack Obama’s record-level deportations; and voiced opposition to Democrats, Republicans and all capitalist politicians. Internationalist speakers called for building a revolutionary workers party, linking this to appeals to “uproot racism” and achieve women’s liberation through socialist revolution.
Students, immigrant workers, and adjunct professors spoke with fervor. One new Club member said:
“The thing that scares me the most is that it’s coming from the NYPD, from people we’re told are there to protect us. But they’re not, they’re against us, and they kill us every single day. And we have to watch them kill us on YouTube and on Facebook every single day, and there’s no justice! Hearing [Eric Garner] say ‘I can’t breathe’ eleven times, and still nothing. You all watch them die. No justice.”
When she ended her speech with “Only Revolution Can Bring Justice!” – a chant the Internationalist Club brought to recent protests – the crowd took up the call. An electric feeling filled the air.
Parents of the forty-three abducted Ayotzinapa students sent a special statement to the rally. Police and army troops “disappeared” their sons in the state of Guerrero on the night of 26 September 2014. The parents, who had just addressed a mass meeting on their struggle organized by the Grupo Internacionalista at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, sent “greetings to the struggle of the teachers, students and workers of CUNY…in their fight against the privatization of education and against the racist murders orchestrated by the same bourgeoisie that, at the international level, carried out [these] attacks. From Ferguson to Ayotzinapa, it’s the same struggle!”
At the Speak-Out, an immigrant worker from Mexico connected the message of internationalism to the recent seventy-fifth anniversary of Leon Trotsky’s assassination in Mexico City: “Trotsky told us that the revolution must be international, because the capitalist system extends its claws internationally. In the country I come from, the oppressed people are living on the border with that monster. They have a wall against us, but we must build a bridge uniting the working class of all countries to defeat imperialism and the ‘national’ bourgeoisie.” That is the only way to eradicate racism and all forms of oppression, he said.
Workers from the taxi and food industries (including the Hunter cafeteria) participated in the Speak-Out, together with low-paid adjuncts and others who spoke about the need to link labor struggles to the fight against racism. Several speakers demarcated the contrast between revolutionary class politics and liberal “identity politics.” They emphasized the importance of mobilizing the enormous potential power of the working class in the fight against oppression. As an example, they referred to this year’s May Day when the dock workers union (ILWU Local 10) shut down the port of Oakland, California, and marched on City Hall to protest police terror, and union activists marched in Portland, Oregon, in the “Labor Against Racist Police Murder” contingent.
Many speakers at the Hunter protest addressed the inseparable connection between capitalism and racism in the United States. A rally organizer emphasized that racial oppression is “fundamental to the nature of this capitalist state, born in the blood of black slaves and the genocide of native peoples.”
“That is its legacy in the United States of America: human lives in exchange for profit. The police were not created to protect human lives, but to enforce this ruthless equation, to act as the armed fist of the capitalist state. The origins of modern-day police forces lie in the slave patrols of the South. The first uniformed police force was established in 1783 in Charleston, South Carolina to control the local slave population.”
In his classic State and Revolution, she noted, Lenin defines the state as an organ of class rule that “legalizes and perpetuates oppression.” She stressed: “We can’t afford to indulge in illusions of pressuring capitalist politicians to the left”; any real fight against poverty, war and racism means breaking from “subjugation to the Democratic Party,” whether its candidate be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. “We need a revolution. That’s the only way we’re going to end this racist violence.”