Communist Party USA

  A jury in Kenosha Wisconsin on November 19 acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old when he murdered two unarmed men and wounded a third. Rittenhouse was participating in armed groups of “volunteers” to “aid” the police and “protect property” from people protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was an unarmed African American man shot seven times by police as he got into his car and sought to take his children away following a domestic disturbance with the children’s mother. Globally, this was seen as yet another example of American racism, or “systemic racism,” the term which the Black Lives Matter Movement brought into the mass media. In the U.S., conservatives of all kinds continue to contend that racism had nothing to do with the Rittenhouse shooting, since all three of the men shot by Rittenhouse were white. Liberals and progressives of all kinds have blamed racism for the decision and the complicity of both the Kenosha police and the larger judicial system in bringing about an acquittal, which, given the context in which the killings took place, made Rittenhouse’s self-defense argument absurd. There’s no doubt that, had Rittenhouse been an African American man carrying a weapon at a conservative rally, the self-defense law on which Rittenhouse’s acquittal was based would not have been considered by a nearly all-white jury. Indeed, a trial would not have occurred because of the likelihood that an armed Black man would be shot dead by the police. Finally, the reactionary and neofascist forces inside and outside the Republican Party have hailed Rittenhouse as a “hero” and a model. This is reminiscent of the praise accorded Nazi storm troopers who were either acquitted or given short sentences for their crimes during the Weimar Republic. How should we Communists, Marxists of all kinds, and the broad left look at these events, and what should we call for? As a historian let me present my views to our readers. Armed vigilante groups have a long history that includes attacks on workers’ movements and especially racist oppression and repression. Before the Civil War, the number of official police was small because the slaveholder class did not want to pay for them. Slave patrols were widely used to capture escaped slaves, especially after 1831, when Nat Turner’s rebellion, the most important slave rebellion in U.S. history, terrified the slaveholder class. Abolitionists in the South were often driven out by such patrols, and their homes burned. In the North, armed vigilantes, often supported by wealthy merchant capitalists and bankers, attacked abolitionist newspapers and mobbed and sometimes murdered abolitionist activists. After the Civil War, the KKK in effect fought a guerrilla war of terror and murder to restore as much as they could the defeated slaveholder confederacy. It is important to remember that, while their primary targets were former slaves fighting for citizenship rights, they also focused their attacks on Southern whites who supported emancipation, whom they called “scalawags.” Northerners working for the Freedman’s Bureau, the first government social services agency in U.S. history, which sought to aid the former slaves in their transition to citizenship and freedom, were special targets. These Northerners were called “carpetbaggers” by the Klan terrorists. The century following the Civil War saw the defeat of the struggle to democratize the former slave states and the establishment — with the support of the federal government — of a system of segregation and disenfranchisement of Blacks, called Jim Crow. This turned the former slave states, a largely underdeveloped region, into a center for a reserve army of cheap labor, both white and Black. The Klan…

Read full article on Communist Party USA:
The long and sinister history behind the Rittenhouse acquittal