Cops, Reformism & Black Liberation

Exposing Fightback’s Social Democratic Record

The following is an edited reconstruction, based on notes, of an intervention by an IBT supporter at a meeting on “Black Struggle & the Fight Against Capitalism” organized by Fightback, Canadian section of the International Marxist Tendency, in Toronto on 11 May 2016.

As Marxists, we have a duty to side with the oppressed. We condemn the killings of Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby, and likewise those of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice in the U.S., which sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.

We demand: an end to carding, jailing the killer cops and the release of the full SIU report, and advocate labor/black community resistance to cop violence, and ultimately black liberation through socialist revolution.

The Marxist movement has always maintained that the core of the capitalist state is made up of “special bodies of armed men/women” (i.e., cops, prisons, courts) committed to defending private property. Flowing from that is the understanding that they are not “workers” – they should be driven from the labor movement and smashed through social revolution. Confusion or compromise on this question leads to bad politics. For example, the IMT has a shameful line on the state. They argue that cops, prison guards and the lower ranks of the army are “workers in uniform.”

In 2008, Rob Sewell, a leading member of your British organization, wrote an article in support of the police when they threatened to strike in Britain. Here in Canada, in 2010, during the G20, your group blamed the cop violence and state repression on the protesters. And in 2013, during a wildcat strike by prison guards in Alberta, you wrote an article called, “Alberta prison guards’ wildcat: a lesson for the entire labour movement.” In that article you wrote:

“Some on the left found themselves uncomfortable during the prison strike, and had no straight answer to the question: ‘Should the prison guards and sheriffs be supported?’ We did not share their confusion. The workers in uniform were in conflict with the ruling class who uses them to oppress the rest of the working class. Why should we not have supported them in their struggle?”

In 1932, Trotsky had the following to say: “[a] worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.”

Susi [IMT supporter who delivered the presentation], while you gave a formally orthodox line on the state during your presentation, in reality this is not the position of the IMT.

I wonder how Fightback would engage with members of the Black Lives Matter movement. Do you think that the cops that killed Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby are “workers in uniform”? Should the labor movement support or oppose cops? And lastly, how do you fight racist cop violence and “smash” the capitalist state if ultimately you support them as “workers”?

While the presenter did not address our supporter’s questions in her summary, Farshad Azadian, a leading figure in Fightback, attempted to deflect our criticisms by caricaturing them and tried to give the IMT’s social democratic political record a Marxist gloss. The following are a few relevant articles we would invite interested readers to consult:

Britain: Bolshevik Bobbies,” Rob Sewell (IMT), 29 January 2008

Letter to Fightback (IMT) on the Black Bloc et al,” Josh Decker (IBT), 3 July 2010

Alberta prison guards' wildcat: a lesson for the entire labour movement,” Isa Al-Jaza’iri (IMT), 3 May 2013