The protest movement sparked by the brutal police murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis has spread around the world. In over 20 countries, workers and youth marched and demonstrated against racism, both in the USA and locally. Comrades of the IMT have been participating in these protests, raising slogans for the revolutionary overthrow of the inherently racist capitalist system.
Anti-racism rallies took place across Canada in solidarity with protests in the United States sparked by the police murder of George Floyd.
Over five thousand people flooded the streets of Toronto on 30 May. The protest followed the death earlier that week of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black and Indigenous woman who fell from the balcony of her 24th-floor apartment while Toronto police were present. Protesters chanted slogans including “Justice for Regis”, “Not another Black life”, “Abolish the police” and “No justice, no peace.” Up to 5,000 people were in attendance at the height of the protest, mostly radical youth.
More than two dozen of our comrades joined the rally, which began at Christie Pits park. One IMT comrade made a powerful speech that attracted a large crowd and drew enthusiastic applause, then spent the next three hours leading chants on a megaphone as we marched. Hundreds of protesters repeated our slogans calling for revolution, class war and overthrowing the racist bourgeois state, which were connected to police killings in Canada and the USA. At the end of the rally, our comrade gave another speech and appealed for people to join us, bringing forward plenty of new interested workers and youth to help build the forces of Marxism in Canada.
In Montreal, an even larger anti-racism rally took place on 31 May, with approximately 10,000 people at its peak. IMT comrades from La Riposte socialiste and Fightback came out in force, displaying banners and signs with anti-racism slogans that linked the fight against racism to the class struggle. Comrades handed out flyers in English and French, and led chants, some of which proved quite popular and led many people to join our contingent.
The general mood was very militant. This was not the same Black Lives Matter movement from a few years ago, but represented a qualitative leap forward in consciousness for many young people who are looking for ideas. The growing openness to Marxism was evident at the end of the demonstration when our tables were swamped by people, many of whom bought our literature and asked to get involved.
In Calgary, thousands marched through the streets on 3 June in the city’s third protest against police brutality and racism since the death of George Floyd. The solidarity march began in the Kensington neighbourhood and continued to city hall. Our comrades marched with signs and handed out flyers linking the fight against police violence with the need for socialist revolution.
Similar rallies took place in cities and towns across Canada. Because this movement is taking place in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, each of our comrades at the rallies wore a mask the entire time and will self-quarantine for 14 days. Our contingents also brought supplies of hand sanitizer and extra masks. The willingness of so many thousands of people to rally in these conditions is a testament to the growing militant mood in society, particularly among the youth.
Comrades of Revolutie, the IMT group in the Netherlands, were present at the solidarity demo in Amsterdam. Neither the organisers nor the mayor and police had expected more than a few hundred people for a demo that was organised about 24 hours before. Instead, we witnessed over 5,000 people on the central Dam square.
There were people from all kinds of backgrounds, but most were young, and there were many black youth present from the working-class and poor neighbourhoods of Amsterdam. Of course, the protest was in solidarity with the uprising in the USA and to show the disgust for racist police violence, but many signs and speeches made clear that racism is a big problem too in the Netherlands. Police violence is less in general than in the USA, but still the Dutch police are rife with racist behaviour and have their own track record of lethal violence against people of colour. The most infamous was the police killing of Mitch Henriquez in the Hague in 2015, who was strangled and beaten, leading to riots afterwards.
There were some concerns about the use of social distancing, as the density on the square meant the 1.5-meter distance could not be maintained. At least 90 percent of the protesters wore face-masks and tried to keep their distance, but at a certain point the square was too full. This could have been prevented by turning it into a walking march to the much-bigger Museum Square. The movement should expose the hypocritical bourgeois politicians who have failed in providing sufficient protection in the last period and are pushing for re-opening the economy, but now want to blame a 'second wave' on this demonstration. At the same time, it should seek preventive measures and call demos at the biggest open squares, because the mood has changed and more people are ready to be mobilised!
This has been confirmed positively by other solidarity demos. Protests were held in the Hague, Groningen, Rotterdam, Maastricht, and are planned for Utrecht, Eindhoven and Tilburg. All of these had hundreds of people, and the one in Rotterdam was at least as big as the one in Amsterdam. All this in a period where people don't use public transport between cities (in a small country where you can reach all the main cities in the hours), so it's really the local youth who got mobilised. This shows the movement in the USA has been a focal point for the radicalisation of new layers, even in countries like the Netherlands. There has been a fundamental change in the situation.
On 31 May, thousands marched from Trafalgar Square to the US embassy, protesting against the racist murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of the police. Though these names are new to us, the problem is as an old one. As a result, the protest was not just about Floyd and Taylor’s deaths, but more generally about police brutality.
In their own words, Black Lives Matter activists are “demanding acknowledgement and accountability for the dehumanisation of black life at the hands of the police. We call for radical, sustainable solutions that affirm the prosperity of black lives.”
This broad aim was reflected on the demo, with people chanting “Say my name, George Floyd”, “I can’t breathe”, and “Black Lives Matter”.
The crowd was young, diverse, and energetic. Many bus drivers beeped in solidarity with the movement; a clear sign of workers’ support, even though their routes were being disrupted.
There were some chants of “one solution, revolution”, but the focus was primarily on the institution of the police.
In an attempt to calm the crowd, police officers came to the gates of Downing Street, in order to try and talk with activists. Unsurprisingly, this didn't calm the situation down, but led to an angry chant of, "Say his name! Quit your job!"
The demonstration was peaceful, and few arrests were made. However, there are many videos online of police provoking incidents with protestors, causing the situation to escalate, no doubt looking to justify arrests.
I saw one such astonishing incident with my own eyes: as the protests were dying down, a police officer walked straight into a protesters’ sign, then proceeded to try and grab it from him. As the protester held onto the sign, the policeman became more aggressive and angry, and started to shout. Luckily, the remaining crowd told the officer to calm down and he walked away.
The Met initially claimed that five arrests were made: three of which were for breaching COVID-19 social distancing regulations. This is a complete farce: almost all of the protestors were wearing masks, yet not a single police officer was wearing one. As ever, the police believe they are above their own laws.
Several hundred people also gathered in St Peter's Square, Manchester, demanding justice for George Floyd, and an end to police brutality and racism.
Considering that the demonstration was called at a day’s notice, and in lockdown conditions, the attendance was very impressive. Protestors wore masks and tried to maintain social distancing.
The demonstration seemed to be a completely independently organised grassroots action, led by a handful of young black people, and consisting overwhelmingly of younger people - black and white - with homemade placards.
At the beginning, we bent down on one knee in a moment of silence, before marching round the city centre. The mood was very energetic, with chants of "black lives matter" and "no justice, no peace". Placards and speakers called for solidarity with black people in the US, as well as pointing out the racism of the British state.
The protest provided a small hint of the ferment building in society, which has accelerated over the past weeks. That an incident across the Atlantic was able to draw out a large, energetic protest of fresh faces, even during lockdown, is an indication of this mood of anger.
Any illusions in reforming the system are being rapidly burnt away. The conclusion being drawn is increasingly clear: the whole system needs to be toppled. As Socialist Appeal activists inscribed on our banners, in the words of Malcolm X: "You can't have capitalism without racism.”
On Wednesday 3 June, tens of thousands gathered in London’s Hyde Park, with a procession that marched all the way to Downing Street. The most common chants were: “Justice for Belly Mujinga”; “Say his name, George Floyd”; “Say her name, Breonna Taylor”; and “Black Lives Matter”.
The demonstration was well-attended by Socialist Appeal activists from London, who took part to show support for the insurrectionary movement in the USA against police violence. We distributed hundreds of leaflets, quoting Malcolm X and other black revolutionaries, linking the question of racism to the capitalist system.
One comrade had a sign that said “end racism = end capitalism”. This led to lots of people coming up and asking to take a photo of it - an unmistakable sign of the radical mood on these demonstrations.
A group of young men interviewed by Socialist Appeal showed further evidence of this, stating that “as long as you have a capitalist system there is gonna be racism. It’s time for us to f**k s**t up!”
This shows how revolutionary consciousness has become, especially amongst the youth. But also that the movement still requires leadership to show the path to a positive alternative.
The task going forward is to continue to explain that the only way to fight systemic racism is with socialism.
Following the massive protest in central London, activists organised a rally and mass meeting outside Hackney Town Hall in the evening. The demonstration was organised at very short notice by local activists, and so publicity was very limited. And yet up to 1000 people came along (it is hard to tell, especially with social distancing), completely filling up the square.
An activist from the NEU spoke about racism in schools and the need for unions to be at the forefront of organising the fight against racism.
Well known anti-racist campaigner Patrick Vernon also spoke, and said that when the coronavirus crisis is over, we must build a new society free from all bigotry.
And Oktay Shabaz from the Kurdish community organisation DayMer gave an excellent speech, quoting Fred Hampton: “We're going to fight racism not with racism, but we're going to fight with solidarity.”
The size of the protest was an inspiration, showing how deep the anger at racism is, how international this movement is, and how much potential it has.
The outpouring of solidarity and the high turnout were energising. For the movement to push forwards, this energy now needs to be channelled into clear, radical demands.
On the one hand, the demand to end racist killings at the hands of the police seems straightforward, and was being made loudly on the protest.
But on the other hand, we must emphasise that this cannot be achieved within the capitalist system. This police violence and racism is a symptom of the violence and racism inherent within capitalism: a system based on exploitation and oppression.
Revolutionary demands are therefore necessary for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The anti-racist struggle should also be linked to the class struggle – with the BLM movement joining forces with the labour movement to kick out this racist Tory government.
The murder of George Floyd is a spark that has ignited all the accumulated combustible material of anger and discontent in society – in the USA and in Britain. The task now is to organise radicalised workers and youth – black and white - against the real culprit: capitalism.
We were demonstrating in solidarity with those protesting in the United States, in response to the killing of George Floyd. But that one death alone can not properly explain why thousands showed up across the world, including in London, to protest amidst a deadly pandemic. This was a protest against the rampant violence and racism seen under capitalism, and particularly from the police.
From 2013 to 2019, US police killed 7,666 people; and black Americans were 2.5 times more likely to be killed: the "UK’s not innocent". Although British police kill less often, they are a repressive force that is still often violent, and just as discriminatory.
We have become tired of empty words from public officials, who constantly claim that they won't let such crimes happen again; who claim that they are ready to bring about change. But nothing changes. Instead, we just get more of the same.
One of the main chants of the protest was "no justice; no peace". But what kind of justice should we be demanding? Is it the arrest and conviction of all four officers at the scene, and raising Derek Chauvin’s murder charge from third-degree murder to first degree murder?
This would certainly be a first step. But it won't be enough. This isn't a case of one ‘bad apple’ in a system that otherwise usually works. Instead, George Floyd's death was one of countless deaths caused by police brutality.
In order to achieve true justice, we need a complete transformation in society. Capitalism - and the institutions designed to defend it - are inherently racist. To see real, lasting change, we need to sweep away the corrupt, repressive force of the state, and the capitalist system that it serves.
50,000 marched in Vienna – which makes it one of the biggest demos in recent years (probably only surpassed by the trade union demo against the 12-hour working day in 2018). Even before the demo it was tangible that a different mood had gripped the whole nation. One comrade reported her colleagues went to work at H&M with “black lives matter” written on their shirts.
At the demo, the police acted quiet and almost invisible and even showed a “black lives matter” placard in a car. Their behaviour seemed planned well in accordance with the city government. The organisers were “anonymous” Socialist Youth activists and Social Democrats, while the speakers were artists and activists.
One of our Viennese comrades was supposed to speak on the main demo, but as it grew the organisers removed her, as there were “too many speakers”. The comrade gave the speech anyway with a megaphone, twice, and received a very good response by the surrounding crowd. The mass of attendees was unorganized, very young, and more proletarian and migrant in character compared to the climate strikes. The mood was in large parts of the demo very energetic, confident and vocal. Almost no organised left groups were visible with flags etc. besides us. The comrades sold a large amount of material, showing how well their revolutionary ideas went down with the crowd.
The movement in the US after the murder of yet another unarmed black man, begging for his life as he was choking to death at the hands of the police, has spread internationally. There have been demonstrations in the three largest cities in Sweden, with 8,000 participants in Stockholm, 2000 in Malmö and another planned in Gothenburg on Sunday.
This Wednesday, Revolution (IMT in Sweden) participated in the protest in Stockholm that, despite the pandemic, gathered 8,000 participants. One hour before the protest was set to start, there were already thousands gathered at Sergels torg. The mood was radical, almost electric. Most who joined the demonstration were young, and many were undoubtedly protesting for the first time in their lives. Facemasks and gloves were handed out. Chants such as “Black Lives Matter, “No Justice – No Peace", “Smash Racism” and “Fuck SD” (referring to the racist Sweden-Democrats) were echoing over the crowd. From Sergels torg, the demonstration moved out into the city, where it was met by applause from bystanders and cars that were honking to show support.
When the demonstration was over, the police attacked protesters who were taking the subway from the central station. They attacked unarmed 12 year olds with pepper spray and batons and threw one 15 year old onto a stone floor, giving her a concussion and several fractures. Two protesters gave their account on the state television SVT about how the police used pepper spray against their kneeling friends. Videos have spread on social media showing the police, with their neck protection up to hide the ID-numbers on their helmets, were chasing down dozens of fleeing youth with batons.
There has since been a big debate in the Swedish media regarding the fact that these protests took place despite the pandemic.
We understand fully that some healthcare workers feel it unwise to protest in the middle of a pandemic. At the same time, we have to say that there are far-worse problems than a group of mainly young people gathering for a couple of hours to protest racism. Many had facemasks, hand sanitiser or even gloves and attempted to maintain physical distance, which they were also encouraged to do in the Facebook events. They did what they could to restrict the risk of infection spreading, unlike, for example, some employers in elderly care and at hospitals that have threatened to fire workers if they wear face masks!
We therefore have no sympathy or understanding for the massive smear campaign against the protests that has taken place in the media and from the politicians responsible for cuts and austerity.
The Marxists have many times questioned how wise it is to maintain non-essential production. Why is Volvo Cars in Gothenburg, with 6,600 employees, maintaining production in the factory every day? Do we really urgently need more cars right now? Shouldn't the workers be sent home with pay? How many more billions do the owners of Volvo need to make?
Many equally big risk factors are staying open every day without any criticism worth mentioning, like crowded malls, bars and restaurants. It's self-evident that the restricted timetables that have led to overcrowded buses, trams and subway trains, and workplaces without adequate protective equipment are far-more dangerous than any individual demonstration.
The conservative Kristoffer Tamsons (Moderaterna party) wrote a sulphurous Facebook post saying that the demonstration in Stockholm was “idiotic”, “irresponsible” and that the police should have “taken a stand” more “clearly and early”. In plain language, he demanded that the police should have been even more violent.
In reality, Tamsons and other hypocritical right-wing politicians are the ones who are really responsible for the large number of deaths in Stockholm. The blame for the over 4,600 deaths due to COVID-19 in Sweden is with the government, the right-wing and the capitalist system they defend. They are the ones who have carried out privatisations and cuts that have caused chaos in healthcare and elderly care long before COVID-19. They have carried out policies that have forced public services to their knees, and who three months into a crisis they knew was coming still haven't been able to resolve the question of adequate protective equipment in health care.
Tamson’s friends in Moderaterna have gotten rich off the public contract to build the hospital Ny Karolinska sjukhuset. Tens of billions of kronor – in the world’s most expensive hospital – were squandered from the healthcare budget and went straight to a handful of rich parasites from the ruling class.
Those who are to blame for the many deaths are the politicians who have attacked job security, and in every way guaranteed a situation where one in four in elderly care in Stockholm is working on casual contracts. In this way, they have forced elderly people to meet many more people than necessary – which we know is a contributing factor to the high number of deaths.
In the same Facebook post, Tamsons tried to pretend that he is against racism. This is a laughable statement coming from a person who is a member of a party whose leader, Ulf Kristersson, the other day said that it's “rubbish” to not collaborate in parliament with the (right-wing and racist) Sweden-Democrats. A party that is yelling for more-repressive policies every other second and whose MPs have moved a motion to send the military into poor Stockholm boroughs. The just indignation and frustration of the working class is to be met with violence, violence and even more violence – in particular if they are from one of a series of named boroughs! This is the real meaning of their hollow talk about “law and order”.
Both the Public Health Authority and our Social Democratic Minister of the Interior Mikael Damberg have criticised the demonstration as “irresponsible” and “illegal”. One might ask the Public Health Authority – who is speaking on behalf of the government – which has now stated for many weeks already that we will soon reach herd immunity in Stockholm: what responsibility do you have if people don't take your recommendations seriously?
Racism is not just about the risk of suffering police brutality, which the Christian-Democratic leader Ebba Busch-Thor made abundantly clear when she said that the high number of deaths in the poor boroughs Rinkeby-Kistas and Spånga-Tensta was due to “cultural differences” and illiteracy. This attempt to paint the working class from the boroughs of the large cities as a hopeless flock of idiots in reality only exposes the sender of that message.
A five year old can understand that many hard-working people live in the boroughs – nurses assistants, cleaners and bus drivers – who through their labour carry a large part of society on their shoulders. But these workers have jobs where you can't “work from home”; they live where lack of housing leads to cramped living conditions, and poverty increases the risk of falling ill. That so many have been infected in these areas is simply yet another brutal expression of Swedish class society. No wonder that many who participated in the protests are from these areas.
Also in Sweden, police routinely harass youth from the boroughs with the “wrong” look or skin colour. And here also, the police get away with it. Only a fraction of the complaints against the police lead to anyone getting charged. And as the TV programme Dokument inifrån has shown, police who have committed murder can often get away with it if only they claim that it was self-defence.
It has been publicly revealed in the media that racist jargon is rife within the police. For example, one police officer said in the police canteen that “we should put all Afghans in an air-plane, fly over Afghanistan and throw them out”. Not one of his colleagues reacted. In 2009, it was revealed that, in the internal educational material of the police in Skåne, they used names such as “Neger Neggerson” and “Oscar the Neger” (the n-word in Swedish).
In Sweden, just as in the US, racism is a poison that the ruling class in every way tries to use to split the working class. The protests in Sweden are therefore about much more than only the solidarity with the struggle in the US. It’s about racism also at home. What the Minister of the Interior Damberg said about the irresponsibility of the protestors is therefore the height of cynicism. While they do little to save lives, this Social-Democratic government is preparing to carry out a much more racist policy than before. They recently appointed a commission to make it easier to order non-citizens who are convicted of crimes to leave the country. And a committee working on behalf of the government has proposed a law to make migration laws harsher, including such things as making residence permits temporary as a rule, the possibility of using an electronic tag for people ordered to leave the country and that people who got their request for asylum denied should not be able to apply again for 10 years. The message from the government and the right-wing is: let us continue carrying out policies to destroy the lives of ordinary workers – and don’t you dare protest it!
The movement in the US has united people from different races and backgrounds, protesting the racism that they perceive as the common enemy, even as it affects black people more severely. The movement has inspired the oppressed all over the world – starting with Europe and the Americas – to unite and fight back. Racism has to be fought forcefully, if we are to defeat the small minority of capitalists that are getting rich from our labour. We refuse to fight over breadcrumbs from our rulers – we demand the whole bakery! Revolution (IMT in Sweden) is therefore participating wholeheartedly in the protests – and just like everyone else we do it with face masks, physical distance and a sense of responsibility.
To healthcare workers we say: “These protests under the pandemic are a necessary evil. But we have to fight against the system that has allowed the pandemic to get such devastating consequences. To fight COVID-19, we need more resources for healthcare and elderly care, as well as protective equipment – not a ban on demonstrations.” To the politicians we say: “You will not fool us, and don’t try to pass blame to others. It’s your cuts and privatisations that have led to this high number of deaths.” To the capitalists we say: “Your system is doomed. We can see through your racist lies, and we will continue to expose your exploitation and oppression. Workers carry all of society on their shoulders, while you rich are nothing more than parasites and thieves. The US is only showing the beginning of the real revolutionary potential of the working class and youth. We will learn from this movement, and sooner or later we will take the next step. In the same measure that you fear the movement, it inspires us with confidence and hope. Your time will soon be up. Socialism will win.”