Capitalist crisis, Ferguson and state repression
Nov. 22 — Whatever happens with the Darren Wilson case, one thing is certain: The rebellion and resolve of the people in Ferguson, Mo., particularly the African-American youth, are not an accident. The Black population of Ferguson has been subject to all the forces bearing down upon the workers and oppressed in the U.S. In Ferguson, however, these forces, driven by the present crisis of capitalism as well as by the history of racism and national oppression, have been magnified in intensity.
The capitalist system is at a dead-end stage. That means it remains stagnant, with slow growth or even recession. Five years after the government declared a “recovery,” the profit system is still at a stage where it cannot grow.
If capitalism cannot grow, the rate at which it hires workers slows down. To make matters worse for the working class, over the past decades the bosses have been switching to more and more automation. This further reduces the need for workers. It also lowers the skills of workers and reduces wages.
This brings about the growth of what Marxists refer to as a “reserve army of unemployed.” This army is growing all the time as people drop out of the work force. And this army of unemployed and underemployed has grown especially among the youth, with no end in sight. The youth have no future under capitalism at a dead end. These are the youth leading the rebellion in Ferguson.
What the ruling class fears
The reason for the monstrous overreaction of the establishment to resistance in Ferguson is that the capitalists and the ruling class have no solution to the crisis. They have no intention of doing anything to deal with the profound problems affecting the masses — especially of the youth — in the U.S. as a whole and Ferguson in particular. The ruling class needs the cops to enforce injustice and national oppression. That is why the establishment will always sides with the police.
That is why Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has created a state of emergency by calling up the National Guard. That is why all the police agencies and the big business press have waged a campaign of psychological terror, with endless threats to use massive violence if anyone exercises the right to rebel against racist violence. And that is why the federal government, through the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is bringing in SWAT teams.
They have deployed a coordinated, combat-ready army to threaten and deliver an actual police terror campaign. There is enough firepower being amassed to fight a war — only the “enemy” is the civilian population of Ferguson, struggling for justice.
Everyone in the establishment knows that the only way to diffuse the long-term crisis in Ferguson and the thousands of Fergusons around the country is to give people jobs and income, education and housing, affordable, quality health care and a decent life free of oppression. This would mean getting the racist police occupiers out of the community.
But capitalism, because of its crisis, is going in the exact opposite direction. It is taking away what little the people have and forcing them into a life of either intense exploitation or the idleness of unemployment.
National poverty rate high, Ferguson even higher
The official poverty figure for the U.S. has grown to a high of 15 percent. In Ferguson, the poverty level is 25 percent — one fourth of the families. Nationally, the unemployment rate is extremely high at 9.6 percent, if you include the 6 million “missing workers.” In Ferguson the unemployment rate is 19 percent. The number of people living on food stamps in the U.S. has risen to 50 million. In Ferguson, with 21,000 people, 800 households now rely on food stamps.
Above all, the people of Ferguson have been living in a virtual racist police state. This racism is deeply rooted in slavery. White cops kill and beat Black people with impunity. The cops are never arrested or charged. The cops and the racist courts make the rules. They make arbitrary arrests. Of the tens of thousands of traffic tickets issued every year in Ferguson, 86 percent of them are to African Americans. Many lose their licenses, lose their jobs and suffer financial losses.
Public education has suffered nationally, as the capitalists do not want to pay to educate poor youth, especially Black and Latino/a youth. Public education was once a way to give training to working-class youth so they could enter the job market and bring some level of skill to the bosses.
Now the capitalists, because of automation and de-skilling, have no need to train the children of the working class. They primarily want a smaller, more elite workforce. So they have underfunded the public school system, moved to charter schools and made the education system a profit plum by privatizing schools. In city after city — Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and across the urban landscape — hundreds of public schools have been closed and charter schools have mushroomed.
In Ferguson, the main high school for the Black community, Normandy, has been totally neglected. Grade scores went down and the school lost accreditation. Meanwhile, the elite white schools are well funded.
Poor youth regarded as surplus population
To the capitalists, many of the African-American and Latino/a youth are regarded as surplus population — a population to be employed in the lowest-wage jobs or not at all. African-American youth, especially men, but a growing number of women, are being transferred from the school system to the prison system through the school-to-prison pipeline.
Also in line with the latest phase of capitalism, the prison system has been privatized, and prisoners wind up being super-exploited as they work for wages of 25 cents to $1.35 an hour. This is in addition to being brutalized by racist guards.
In Ferguson, Emerson Electric, which is number 121 on the Fortune 500 list, Boeing, Express Script and other giant corporations thrive, while the community lives at survival level. This is what the new dead-end phase of capitalism brings with it: extreme wealth growing even wealthier alongside dire poverty, unemployment and hardship, which is deepening.
Indeed, Ferguson is a microcosm in which the crisis of capitalism is playing out with great intensity.
The capitalist class has always used racism for two purposes. First, politically, to divide and conquer, to keep the working class from uniting against its common enemy — the profit-making corporate bosses and the financiers and bankers who live off the labor of the people. And second, financially, utilizing racism and discrimination to be able to make extra profits by super-exploiting Black, Latino/a and other oppressed people.
The only conclusion to be drawn from the way the ruling class uses racism is for whites in the working class and labor movement, white youth and progressive people everywhere to come to the defense of the heroic youth and all the people of Ferguson, who are in a determined struggle for justice.