Marx21 sees the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who murdered George Floyd, as a victory for the Black Lives Matter movement and for oppressed people all over the world.
This verdict cuts against the historical status-quo in the United States, where racist acts of violence by the police and vigilantes are treated with impunity. But, along with these acts of violence, Black people in the US have fought heroically to seek justice for crimes against Black lives—and though faced with extreme obstacles and resistance, have not fought alone.
The verdict is a taste of what justice is available through our court system, through massive struggle. But it does not bring George Floyd back, and while it may make some racist cops think twice, it does not stop racism or police repression in the street.
Marx21 is working on a fuller account of the case and its political lessons, to be published later.
In summing up, the prosecution made the statement “this wasn’t policing, this was murder.” While we are glad that Chauvin, who killed George Floyd with cruelty and indifference—and had a long history of similar racist encounters—was found guilty of all counts, we disagree. What Chauvin did, and what many officers have done, stretching back to the origins of the police force, was both policing and murder.
It was the re-explosion of the movement for Black lives in the streets after the murder of George Floyd that pushed the state to first suspend Chauvin, then kick him off the force, and finally indict him on second degree manslaughter, and second- and third-degree murder. It is the echoes of that movement that pushed the court into this obvious, but still unusual, verdict of guilty on all three counts. This proves how ordinary working people can affect change in our society through mass struggle, but also what it takes to achieve victory.
The movement has already resulted in some police reforms across the country, and created momentum for further reforms and defunding that years of behind-the-scenes lobbying would not have accomplished. But we all know that is not enough. As socialists, we understand that the police in our society are here to enforce the capitalist status-quo, and part of that status-quo is racism. We are in favor of all reforms that redistribute resources and weaken the police. The full abolition of an oppressive policing function is impossible under the structure of the capitalist state, but it is still what we must aim to attain.
“This is not an anti-police prosecution,” said the prosecutor, Steve Schleicher, “It’s a pro-police prosecution.” That was, unfortunately, true. It is the movement in the streets that will continue with the larger fight against the police. Each victory shows how we can move forward in the struggle for racial equality and socialism. This struggle has made more and more people aware of the racist nature of our society. People are recognizing and acting on the unbreakable connections between forms of oppression and capitalist exploitation. We are seeing through our own experience whose side the state and ruling class are on. We must work together to create the power that can dismantle the entire policing function, and with it the whole system it protects.