The Truth About Kenosha
On Sunday, August 23, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer. A Rally, Comrades! correspondent who participated in the uprising provides the following on-the-scene account:
“I went to Kenosha the day after the shooting took place. At Civic Park in front of the courthouse, five city trucks sat on their wheel rims where they had been burned out or smashed in the previous night’s protests. A protest rally was underway at the town’s police headquarters, with several hundred people, mostly local. On Monday evening, Kenosha police used tear gas and pepper balls to drive from Civic Park, a crowd of primarily young people from all backgrounds and ethnicities who were marching and echoing the calls for ‘Black Lives Matter’ that have mobilized the country since the murder of George Floyd last May.
“The neighborhood where Jacob was shot is not primarily a Black neighborhood – it is poor. Latinos, Blacks, and whites live side by side. The overwhelming majority of white workers in Kenosha identified with Jacob, and the police were an isolated force. You wouldn’t know this from Fox TV. This is not a Trump town. I returned on Tuesday. Even after the burning of buildings Monday night, I saw strong support for the movement among white people as well as African Americans.
“That evening even more heavily armed and equipped Kenosha police forcibly cleared Civic Park again, forcing hundreds of protesters into nearby streets. As has been widely reported, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white 17-year-old obsessed with guns and a fervent supporter of the police, arrived in Kenosha with a group of armed vigilantes, self-appointed “law enforcers” who were welcomed as allies by the police. Near midnight, Rittenhouse fatally shot two protesters and grievously wounded a third. (All three victims were white.) Rittenhouse then walked untouched directly through Kenosha police lines with his automatic rifle strapped over his shoulder, even as witnesses shouted that he had just shot protesters. He got into a car reportedly driven by his mother, and together they fled home to Antioch, Illinois, just over the state line nearby. Later, Antioch police arrested Rittenhouse and held him for extradition to Wisconsin. Rittenhouse’s mother and the rest of his armed troupe in Kenosha have not been arrested.
“On the afternoon of Saturday, August 29, a march and rally were organized. Featured speakers at the rally included Jacob Blake’s father, Jacob Blake, Sr., his sister, Letetra Williams, and his uncle, Justin Blake. Also speaking was Fred Hampton, Jr., the son of NAACP activist and Illinois Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. The march brought the message that the Freedom Movement, dealing with the legacies of slavery and continuing oppression, are still alive. Where the week had begun with loosely organized crowds protesting and clashing with the police, the week ended with a march and rally that was structured, orderly, and well marshaled. Again, the diversity of the people joining the Saturday march was very telling. It fits with other accounts of ordinary white Americans not just applauding the banner of Black Lives Matter, but actually holding the banner themselves. Their demands reflected the accumulated frustrations of not only unrestrained police violence, but the pandemic, unemployment, and the climate crisis.”
Why is Kenosha Important?
The events in Kenosha in the days after Jacob Blake’s shooting showed how the ruling class is moving to divide and defeat the gigantic multi-national, multi-racial movement that is fighting for justice for African Americans and all of those who are part of an impoverished class being targeted by the ruling class.
The facts on the ground in Kenosha prove that the movement is unifying at the very time that Trump is intensifying his attack on Black Lives Matter and African Americans, in an effort to maintain racial division under the pretext of law and order. Trump’s visit to Kenosha was a dangerous escalation of a fascist offensive, a tactic intended to divert attention from housing, unemployment, and COVID-19. Trump’s actions, and the police support for right-wing vigilante attacks, are trying to drive a wedge into this unified social force to separate the issue of racial oppression from the fight for basic needs and puts the workers on the defensive.
That ploy will not work the way it used to. Robotic production has created a new class that was already barely subsisting on low wage jobs and unemployment before the pandemic. It does not see its future in this system.
The police murder of George Floyd opened the eyes of millions of especially white workers to abuses experienced by Black workers for centuries. Many white workers began to sense that if African Americans are not safe, then they are not safe either and that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Millions put themselves at great risk marching and demonstrating during a deadly pandemic against the lethal force of a police state. The new class acting within this movement as a social force was able to do something individual organizations alone could not do, to put defunding the police on the national agenda as a class demand. Special federal forces were actually deployed in Portland and Seattle. It is not an accident that the attacks were concentrated on areas where so many white workers rose in solidarity with African Americans.
Rising poverty in Kenosha and throughout the Rust Belt, as well as throughout the nation, has brought people together in the struggle for their basic needs. The expansion of electronic, laborless production has driven down costs worldwide and spurred a relentless global search for cheap labor. GM left Kenosha for Mexico, where wages amount to less than $10 a day, and Kenosha lost its auto manufacturing base entirely in 1988 when the Chrysler plant closed, and thousands were laid off. “Kenosha is now a far more economically polarized city,” observed one local commentator. “Instead of the union jobs at Chrysler lifting up wages throughout the community, and creating a sizable middle class, the supply of ‘middle-income’ jobs in Kenosha has shrunk in recent years, and more families are subsisting on low-wage service jobs.” (Isthmus, July 4, 2008.)
Where Do We Go From Here?
The strategic character of the movement rests on the fact that its demands will require public control and ownership of our resources in a society organized on a cooperative basis – a reconstruction of the economy around meeting human needs instead of corporate profit. White supremacy has been baked into capitalism since the inception of the country. It cannot be stopped without abolishing private property. The Sanders campaign became a vehicle for articulating some of the revolutionary demands of the movement for basic needs.
In this period of end-stage capitalism and corporate dictatorship, the only way for the ruling class to preserve its private property is to destroy democracy. The methods used historically to suppress the vote of African Americans are now being used against the whole country, especially in the swing states of the Rust Belt because of the crucial role they play in the election.
Everything now is a battle about which way the working class is going to go. On the streets, at every level of the electoral arena, we are engaging in a fight for democracy itself. Voting against Trump, and for Biden – and defeating any Trump plot to steal the election or refuse to leave office – is essential to resisting the formation of an openly fascist regime that depends politically on white supremacy, because it has nothing else to offer. This is a tactic and not at all an endorsement of either Biden or the Democrats. No revolutionary could take that position. It is about using the electoral arena to fight for what we need, and the key to everything we need right now is to get rid of Trump. It is crucial to vote against Trump. Nothing could illustrate this more clearly than the events in Kenosha.
Published: September 28, 2020
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011