By Tom Eley
1 May 2012
Protests spread throughout the US in the aftermath of the killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin in February. The killing of Martin found a point of connection with broad popular anger over injustice, inequality, and the promotion of right-wing, vigilante laws. Martin’s parents played a central role in raising awareness of their son’s killing, and in demanding the arrest and trial of his killer.
The political establishment in the United States also mobilized in response to this anger, bringing forward certain individuals and organizations that make it their profession to manipulate and redirect popular anger. The aim always is to keep opposition within acceptable parameters, to try to ensure that it does not pose any threat to the capitalist system and its political representatives, Democrat and Republican.
The professional politicians of race, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, played a particularly cynical role. Together with their supporters in the International Socialist Organization and other pseudo-left groups, Jackson and Sharpton used the Trayvon Martin killing as an opportunity to insist that race, not class, is the fundamental issue in American society. The more immediate aim is to prepare the ground for the reelection campaign of Barack Obama, who is now presiding over a massive assault on the working class of every race.
It is worth reviewing the political pedigree of Jackson and Sharpton, two individuals who personify the decay of the civil rights movement and the cultivation of a wealthy black elite that is fundamentally hostile to the social aspirations of workers, both black and white. In the course of their services to capitalist politics, both have become multi-millionaires, even as the conditions of life for the vast majority of black workers and youth have deteriorated. These are not, in any meaningful sense of the term, individuals on the “left.”
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