Glen T. Martin
Despite the very real danger of spreading the corona virus, there are hundreds of thousands of people in every large city in the USA, protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police and the institutionalized racism that has characterized US law enforcement since before and after the era of slavery. The protests have been going on for some 10 days without let up. Most of them have been peaceful (and hence legal) but there have been a few that have destroyed property, looted, or burned.
The reaction to the institutionalized racism of law enforcement in the United States is simultaneously a reaction to a racist, authoritarian, incompetent, and divisive President. Donald Trump represents what is lowest in the US system—the bigotry, the greed, the egoism, the elitism, and the authoritarianism. Trump was protected from impeachment by a Republican dominated Senate that represents the same superrich elite that supports the domination of wealth over justice in the US system. The same superrich class has colonized much of the Democratic Party as well.
Trump’s response to the largely peaceful social rebellion represented by these protests has been to call out the military to take action of “domination” against the protesters. “We must dominate the battle-space” he declares. He asserts that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The implication is that the looting and destruction of property is an offense that outweighs the right to life. Someone who endangers private property can be killed with impunity. The police and the military are there to enforce that domination.
Some US politicians have opposed Trump’s response by appealing to US founding principles such as “all men are created equal.” They have declared that these ideals must guide us to address institutionalized racist policing, judicial, and penal systems in an effort to make them fair, equal, and non-discriminatory. However, these values struggle side by side with another dimension of the US system: the dogma of capitalism, so-called “free markets,” private property, and the “right” to unlimited private accumulation of wealth.
The very nature of placing human beings into the commodity market, that is, making their labor another commodity along with pork rinds and kitchen pots is to institutionalize a principle that contradicts the ideal that “all men are created equal.” Human dignity is ignored when human life becomes just another commodity within an economic system directed to the private accumulation of wealth, rather than toward justice or freedom or equality. Under this system, the exploitation of human labor degrades the many in order to maximize the private wealth of the few.
The US was founded on contradictory principles, and these contradictions are manifest in today’s social rebellion ignited by the police murder of African-American George Floyd. The first principle includes the 18th century idea of human rights, human equality, and human dignity which animated some of the rhetoric of the founding fathers. The second principle, falsely embodied within the list of “inalienable rights” that the founders affirmed, was the principle of private property and the “right” to use that property to exploit others for one’s own personal gain. This is the fundamental principle of capitalism.
This latter principle in the 19th century led not only to the dehumanization of vast armies of workers in horrible factories, being forced to work 14 hours per day with nominal wages while their children as young as 7 and 8 years of age were forced to labor along side the workers in the “satanic mills” of the implacable capitalist system. It also led to the kidnapping and enslavement of millions of black Africans in tribute to this same satanic system: not only can private property make wage-slaves of penniless workers but it can turn human beings themselves into “private property,” the actual ownership and enslavement of other persons.
The institutionalized racism of the law enforcement system of the United States that the current rebellion within the US is protesting today, is the legacy of the system that idolatrously worships private property as more fundamental than human equality and dignity. Across much of the world there are protests in solidarity with the US rebellion, but the solidarity is not only with respect to institutionalized racism but also to a nation subjected to the criminal whims of President Donald Trump. Trump, who began his presidency by giving a huge tax break to the superrich corporations and bankers in the US, is not only the worst President in the history of a country that has had many terrible presidents. Rather, he has simply and clearly underlined the stark contradiction at the heart of the US system.
Trump does not care about people, but about his own and others private accumulation of wealth. He understands “domination” because that is what is necessary in a capitalist society. Despite the rhetoric about “equality and dignity” of citizens, the true function of law enforcement in the US is to protect the property of the rich from the poor. The institutionalized racism of law enforcement is only a legacy of the notion that even human beings can be enslaved as private property. The slaves were freed, but the worship of private property was never seriously questioned.
That is why during the coronavirus epidemic the US government is not forcing the big meat-packing plants and other industry giants to enforce social distancing and protection of their workers. In many cases workers are required to work in unsafe conditions, unprotected from virus exposure, or else lose their jobs. Private profit is more important than worker’s lives. And in many of these plants it is black and brown skinned people who are forced to take these wage-slave jobs.
The Constitution for the Federation of Earth transcends these contradictions because its fundamental principle is precisely the freedom, equality, and dignity of every person on Earth. It constructs the Earth Federation government on these principles and explicitly prohibits all forms of discrimination by class, sex, race, or religion. If the moral foundation of a system is correct, then its practical consequences will be correct. Our human condition around the planet is premised on contradictions rather than fundamentally correct principles.
One contradiction is between the worship of private property and the affirmation of human dignity. The two cannot go successfully together. Another contradiction is between the idea that the world can be divided into some 193 “sovereign” nation-states, recognizing no enforceable laws above themselves and the idea that we are all human beings with the same equality and dignity. These two concepts also cannot go successfully together. Either we are fragmented into “sovereign” lawless states, or we are one human family. We cannot be both. The Earth Constitution transcends the contradiction between so-called “sovereign nation-states” and our universal human dignity, just as it transcends the contradiction between the worship of the private accumulation of wealth and the equal dignity of citizens.
Global democracy, and a decent world for everyone on the planet, a world of peace, justice, and environmental sustainability flows from the fundamental principle that all people are brothers and sisters, with equality and dignity. The Earth Constitution, for the first time in history, gives us a set of governmental institutions not based on inherent contradictions. Uniting the world under this clear, single moral principle, is the only thing that can make possible a flourishing human future for our children. From this moral principle then flows pragmatic forms of politics and economics that empower and dignify people, rather than dehumanizing them.
The immense contradictions at the heart of the US system, exacerbated and manifested by Donald Trump and institutionalized racism, will never be solved as long as the contradictions are not dealt with. The US is a failed system precisely because it is founded on explicit contradictions. Our principle must be human dignity, not perverted and not adulterated by the irrational worship of private property and the unlimited accumulation of private wealth. The principle of unity in diversity behind the Earth Constitution gives us the fundamental model for true human liberation.