By Stephen Millies
Published Sep 29, 2011 9:40 PM
The capitalist class killed Troy Davis. That’s not a rhetorical statement. The U.S. Supreme Court could have stopped the execution. They let it go forward with a one-sentence statement.
Despite pleas from 51 members of Congress, Jimmy Carter and the Pope, the executioners in robes let the legal lynching take place in Georgia.
They tortured Troy Davis and his cancer-stricken sister, Martina Correia, for hours as the brother and sister waited for a decision following the 7 p.m. reprieve. If there was ever a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment,” it was this torture of Troy Davis waiting to die.
The five or more members of the Supreme Court who committed this torture are not just evil. They’re evil tools of a capitalist class covered with the blood of the African Holocaust, the extermination of Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, and 500 years of other horrendous crimes leading up to the NATO bombing of Libya and the anti-Black pogroms there.
Vince Copeland, a founder of Workers World Party, pointed out that of all the branches of government, the Supreme Court is the most reactionary. Its beauty is that a big capitalist grouping only needs to control five of the nine justices to make billions of dollars.
This amounts to direct rule by a handful of capitalist families. It’s a lot cheaper than buying up hundreds of members of Congress or the billions of dollars that a presidential campaign costs. The Rockefeller dynasty has traditionally used the courts — including judges on the U.S. Supreme Court — as one of its biggest clubs.
Weren’t the Rockefellers considered part of the “liberal bourgeoisie”? At the 1964 Republican Convention, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller attacked Barry Goldwater and said there was “a whiff of fascism” there.
Seven years later Rockefeller massacred the Attica prisoners, exactly 40 years and eight days before Troy Davis was lynched. Nelson’s brother David, the former head of Chase Manhattan, is a financial angel to the ultra-right “Manhattan Institute.” One of its “experts” is Heather MacDonald, who arrogantly dismissed the police shooting 41 bullets at Amadou Diallo as the killing of a “tube-sock salesman.”
Capitalists & Caligula
Millions of people around the world spoke out against the execution of Troy Davis. The Supreme Court gave the green light to the lynching at the very moment when world leaders were gathering at the United Nations in New York City.
Why would these judges want to present the ugliest feature of U.S. society — its profound racism and well-known history of lynching — to the rest of the world?
Wouldn’t a smarter tactic be for the Supreme Court to intervene at the last minute to issue a stay of execution and show 7 billion people that “the rule of law” prevails in the U.S.? Wouldn’t that be better news for Voice of America to broadcast?
The leaders of the capitalist class deliberately lynched Troy Davis in the face of 100 million oppressed people in the United States and billions of oppressed people on the planet. The capitalists aren’t concerned about public relations with the majority of human beings. They want to show who’s in charge. The Roman Emperor Caligula supposedly said, “Let them hate me, so that they will but fear me.” That could be the slogan of the U.S. military-industrial complex today.
The class struggle & the death penalty
Troy Davis was lynched because the relationship of class forces was not in favor of the working class. This is not meant to disparage the efforts of people here and around the world who worked ceaselessly to try to save his life.
It’s important to recognize that the working class as a whole has been thrown back around the world with the dire economic assault on their living standards due to this unprecedentedly global capitalist crisis. There will come a day when the workers will organize in their own interests on an international scale.
The lynching of Troy Davis took place at the same time as the imperialists are attempting to occupy the African country of Libya. The “masters of the universe” on Wall Street are deliberately letting hundreds of thousands of Africans starve to death in Somalia.
Like murdering Troy Davis, the starving of Somali children is considered necessary to show “who’s in charge.”
Here are two examples of protests that became decisive as a class force. As if it was a football game, Philadelphia Judge Albert Sabo was “running out the clock” on Mumia Abu-Jamal’s hearing in 1995. Everything seemed greased to take Mumia to the execution chamber. Then Sabo suddenly announced that Mumia would not be executed, “of course,” while the hearing was going on.
What was the cause of this retreat by the capitalist state? The vanguard efforts — a massive emergency protest in Philadelphia and international support — to save Mumia’s life were taking place at the same time as the Million Man March was being organized house-by-house throughout Black America, largely by millions of African-American women. The ruling class had really no idea what might occur when a million Black people showed up in Washington, D.C.
More importantly, the struggle to save Mumia’s life in 1995 was taking place just three years after the Los Angeles rebellion. Now that was certainly a class force. Despite the fact that the capitalist class wanted to silence Mumia forever, they were halted in their tracks.
Attack on affirmative action
The wealthy and powerful never wanted affirmative action. The Bakke case gave them the club to set it back. Their California Supreme Court — the Bank of America’s Supreme Court — had already backed this racist attempt to abolish any promise of equality.
All the U.S. Supreme Court had to do was have five judges agree with the bigots in California. It was rumored that Jimmy Carter’s friend and U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell was planning to back racist Bakke.
Then the April 15, 1978, mobilization to overturn the Bakke decision came to Washington, D.C. More than 35,000 people marched. WWP played an outstanding role in helping to build this action. This was possibly the largest mobilization of Black students up to that time.
This occurred before 30 years of wholesale deindustrialization. Hundreds of thousands of Black workers were still in dozens of steel and auto plants and thousands of other factories. This was a real class force that the capitalist class had to consider in its deliberations. Attorney General Bell was compelled not to support the Bakke decision. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell’s decision threw affirmative action back, but didn’t abolish it. Even this mixed result was a product of class struggle.
‘Georgia Justice’ & ‘New York Justice’
The South is the capital of capital punishment. It’s not accidental that three-fourths of the executions since 1977 have taken place in the 11 states that formed the confederacy. Slavery is fundamental to U.S. political culture. Virtually every state’s prison system is called a “Department of Corrections.” “Correction” was the term used by so-called “slave masters” to describe whippings and other punishments carried out against enslaved peoples.
“Georgia Justice” lynched Troy Anthony Davis. ‘New York Justice’ let the cops who killed Sean Bell with 50 shots go free. “New York Justice” allowed the former head of the International Monetary Fund to go free after sexually assaulting an African hotel worker.
The state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis in a case where there was no physical evidence. New York City’s District Attorney let Dominique Strauss-Kahn go free despite having the physical evidence they needed to convict him.
“New York Justice” includes the New York Times, which printed a fairly decent editorial against the execution of Troy Davis on the day of his lynching. However, the Times didn’t conduct an intense campaign before the day of his execution to save his life.
Troy Davis didn’t die in vain
What will become a real class force is the courage of Troy Davis and his family. Sharon Black, an organizer of the “Abolish Capitalism” conference in Baltimore on Sept. 24, told this writer of the deep feelings in that city after the execution. Troy Davis will not be forgotten.
Tens of millions of people are asking themselves how this atrocity could have happened. Many must be wondering what we can do to stop another lynching. Our job is to go to people with our socialist program, as activists did at the Baltimore conference, which was dedicated to Troy Davis.
People stopped me while I went around New York City with signs to save Troy Davis’ life. Millions of people have loved ones locked up in prison. “Troy Davis” will be the watchword for a struggle sure to come to abolish the racist death penalty and to bring millions of prisoners home.
The capitalist class hopes this lynching will intimidate the people. But any intimidation will certainly turn into organized fightback. The courage of Troy Davis will help wake up our class.
Long live the memory of Troy Davis.