Sam Marcy’s “In Defense of the L.A. Rebellion”(Solidarity With the Milwaukee People’s Resistance Against Police Terror)

Sam Marcy, the late Chairperson of Workers World Party (, wrote a pamphlet, “In Defense of the L.A. Rebellion,” in 1992 after the people in Los Angeles rose up against racist police terror. What Marcy wrote almost 25 years ago is still applicable today for Milwaukee and other cities where in particular Black and Brown youth are still rising up against racist police terror. Excerpts are reprinted here. For the complete pamphlet:

Marxism on violence

“…After every stage in the struggle of the workers and oppressed people, there follows an ideological struggle over what methods the masses should embrace to achieve their liberation from imperialist monopoly capital. There are always those who abjure violence while minimizing the initial use of violence by the ruling class. They denounce it in words, while in deeds they really cover it up. That’s precisely what’s happening now.

Yes indeed, they readily admit the verdict in the Rodney King beating was erroneous and unfair. But — and here their voices grow louder — “The masses should not have taken to the streets and taken matters into their own hands.” Their denunciation of the violence of the ruling class is subdued and muffled — above all it is hypocritical, a sheer formality. It’s an indecent way of seeming to take both sides of the argument when what follows is in reality a condemnation of the masses.

In times when the bourgeoisie is up against the wall, when the masses have risen suddenly and unexpectedly, the bourgeoisie gets most lyrical in abjuring violence. It conjures up all sorts of lies and deceits about the unruliness of a few among the masses as against the orderly law-abiding many.

Marxism here again cuts through it all. The Marxist view of violence flows from an altogether different concept. It first of all distinguishes between the violence of the oppressors as against the responsive violence of the masses. Just to be able to formulate it that way is a giant step forward, away from disgusting bourgeois praise for nonviolence. It never occurs to any of them to show that the masses have never made any real leap forward with the theory of nonviolence. Timidity never made it in history.

Indeed, Marxists do prefer nonviolent methods if the objectives the masses seek — freedom from oppression and exploitation — can be obtained that way. But Marxism explains the historical evolution of the class struggle as well as the struggle of oppressed nations as against oppressors…”

“…Insurrections throughout history

It is impossible to understand the nature and impact of the Los Angeles insurrection unless one considers that it is one of more than 200 rebellions reaching back to the days of slavery. Reporters Jones and Tobar try to divorce this relatively small community from the chain of historical evolution in the Black liberation struggle. This is impossible.

Just alluding to the 1965 Watts insurrection or the ones in Detroit, Newark and elsewhere is still inadequate. For a full-rounded exposition of the nature of the struggle, one has to view it in terms of class and national oppression. It is both a national liberation movement — a national struggle, to use the Leninist term — and a class struggle against capitalist exploitation and imperialist oppression.

Without seeing this dual character of the struggle, one inevitably falls into the trap of confining it to petty reforms and patchwork solutions. Moreover, the white workers must fully awaken to their responsibilities. Otherwise, they will sink ever lower and absorb more of the blows of capitalist oppression and exploitation, adding to the problems rather than becoming, together with the Black, Latino and other oppressed people, part of the solution.”

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