Wave of Conservative rulings from Supreme Court
By Sam Skinner
Protests have erupted across the U.S. since the Supreme Court issued a series of rulings attacking the civil rights of working people—most notably the reversal of Roe v. Wade which guaranteed a legal right to abortion nationwide. Many states have spent the last few decades attacking abortion access and legality. The Supreme Court ruling against abortion rights on a federal level will accelerate attacks against reproductive rights, including bans on abortion in many states.
This ruling will ruin many working people’s lives. Abortion will still be available, for now, in some states. It is clear that rich people in ban states will be able to buy reproductive care under the table or get to a state that still allows abortion. Many working-class people, however, will be forced in some states to carry dangerous and/or unwanted pregnancies to term.
On top of other recent Supreme Court rulings, this attack on workers’ rights is just the beginning. Justice Thomas suggested that the Court should revisit key decisions regarding contraceptives, gay marriage, and LGBTQ+ rights. Former vice-president Pence and others have even raised the possibility of a federal abortion ban in the near future. While the Republican party must be severely criticized, condemned, and opposed for leading the charge against reproductive rights, the Democratic party also deserves a fair share of the blame for this ruling.
The right to abortion has been under attack over the last decade, and the Democrats have not taken action to defend abortion rights or prevent Roe’s overturning. For example, a quarter of abortion clinics nationwide closed during Obama’s second term. In 2019, Biden promised to make Roe the “law of the land,” and with a majority in Congress, he could have but didn’t. The same was true for Obama, who also promised to codify Roe when his administration and the Democratic Party controlled all three branches of government for part of his first term.
Despite having almost two months between the memo leaking on May 2 and the final Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade on June 24, the Democratic party made zero serious attempts to fight against this decision, either legislatively—including ending the filibuster—or through an executive order that takes direct action to expand abortion access. Instead, they made token efforts like “establishing an interagency task force” and “[ramping] up outreach and public education efforts,” as in Biden’s Executive Order on July 8.
The Democratic Party, a political party controlled by corporate funding and with no membership, is, like the Republican Party, an electoral tool for the capitalist class and so fears mass protest movements. The Democratic Party responded to the Supreme Court decision tearing down Roe V. Wade with empty rhetoric and an appeal for donations to add to their bloated war chest for the midterm elections. The solution to attacks on our rights is not voting for Democrats. The Democrats will not protect our rights.
We need a mass movement, independent of the two capitalist parties, that can channel our anger into defending and extending our rights, including a woman’s right to choose. Today, because of a lack of a militant movement or working-class political party, the state has stripped the right to abortion from almost half the country. Despite a majority (around 60%) of Americans supporting Roe v. Wade and the right to an abortion, five unelected supreme court judges were able to make a unilateral decision that flies in the face of the popular will of working people in this country.
Roe was won in 1973 under the far-right reactionary Nixon regime, when well-organized mass movements for women’s rights, civil rights, against the Vietnam war, and more, were active. The Supreme Court is not immune to public pressure, and with mass protests and rallies, Roe was won.
Yet the legal right to an abortion and the actual right to an abortion are two different things. If you cannot get to an abortion clinic, if you have to go for pre-abortion counseling that discourages you from getting an abortion, or if you don’t have the money or health insurance for an abortion, then you do not have the right to an abortion because it is inaccessible. Since the original Roe ruling, with Democrats or Republicans in power, real abortion access continued to decline.
Roe Decision Part of a Larger Attack on Working-Class People
This most recent decision by the Supreme Court is only one in a series of rulings that have laid bare the true nature of the court system and the entire state apparatus under capitalism, which relies on undemocratic bodies like the Supreme Court, Senate, and Electoral College.
A day before the ruling on Roe dropped, the Supreme Court also ruled that the police can no longer be held accountable for not informing someone being arrested of their Miranda Rights – their right to remain silent, to an attorney, etc. In a country where the police routinely lie to working people about what rights they have, this decision makes it even easier for the police to entrap and abuse working people, putting workers into positions where they feel like a false confession is the only way to get the pressure off them and get some sort of a deal. Another recent ruling on the fate of death-row inmate Barry Jones has made it easier for the state to murder citizens.
In 2018, Barry Jones’ 1995 conviction for murder in Arizona—for which he was set to be executed—was overturned. After further evidence not present at Jones’ original trial was brought to light, the Federal Court that overturned his conviction ordered the state of Arizona to give Jones a new trial. Many experts believe this trial would find him innocent.
However, Arizona prosecutors argued that Jones’ “innocence was not enough” to hold a new trial or stay his execution and brought an appeal to maintain Jones’ sentence to the Supreme Court. On Monday, May 23, the Court ruled 6-3 that despite significant evidence that Jones is innocent and his initial trial was unlawful, that was not enough to overturn his imprisonment or execution. This decision overturns previous precedent, which would have seen Jones’ given a new trial and likely set free. With this decision, the Supreme Court has made it even more likely that the state will execute innocent people, which already happens at shocking rates.
The United States is no stranger to using rushed and unjust trials to imprison and even execute innocent people, especially those who threaten the states’ interests.
In 1886, eight labor activists were hanged in Chicago after a sham trial that convicted the men of being responsible for the Haymarket bombing earlier that year. In the 1960s and 70s, sham trials were used to imprison students and anti-war activists like the Chicago seven. Even more recently, police arrested thousands of BLM protestors during the movement’s resurgence in 2020.
While many of the charges used to arrest and prosecute these BLM protestors were so laughable that the charges against them were dropped before they even went to court, hundreds still faced jail time and fines in front of judges. For example, in Worcester, Massachusetts, 19 peaceful protestors faced charges such as “failure to disperse from a riot,” which in reality meant that these people had been found within the vicinity of a peaceful march that the police had attacked and declared a “riot.” For more on how workers in Worcester were able to wage a solidarity campaign to get those charges dropped, head to independentsocialistgroup.org.
The so-called “justice system” in the United States is a tool of the capitalist state to maintain its rule over society. Throughout this country’s history, laws have been written and twisted in whatever way necessary to crack down on the rights of workers, women, people of color, and all other groups oppressed under capitalism.
By terrorizing our communities with militarized police forces, ensuring our court system favors whoever can afford expensive bail or the best high power attorney, and locking us up in prisons, the capitalist class uses the power of the state to protect their private property and to repress any working-class movement which they worry might interfere with their profit-making.
The State is Not Neutral
Historically, the state has only existed in societies with opposing social classes. Our egalitarian hunter-gatherer ancestors did not need any police force or court system. (For a more in-depth analysis of how classes and the state formed in the first place, head to independentsocialistgroup.org).
Around the world and through history, slave societies were divided mainly between slaves and enslavers, and in feudal societies, mainly between nobles and serfs. Under capitalism, which has been forcibly spread to almost every corner of the globe, society is almost entirely divided between capitalists and workers. In all of these cases, the state has been an essential tool for the oppressor class. It has enabled a small minority to maintain a privileged status and power over the rest of society at the majority’s expense.
Without state power, there would be no way for any ruling class to maintain an exploitative system that directly harms the majority of society. Without the police, there would be nobody to evict working-class people from their homes or prevent some of the 17 million vacant homes in the U.S from being used to house working people struggling with homelessness. Without a massive military presence around the world, there would be no reason for poorer regions to export vast amounts of expensive and rare materials for cheap to the United States while their own people live in inhumane conditions. Without a judicial system to criminalize abortion, a police force to find people performing or receiving abortions, and a prison system to lock up and torture these people, there would be no reason to fear the opinion of 5 individuals regarding reproductive rights.
However, to blame all the problems workers face around the world under capitalism on the mere existence of the state stops short of fully understanding the situations we find ourselves in. The state serves the interests of the oppressors because capitalists control it. Armed with legal and judicial systems which mainly protect the rights of large corporations and individual capitalists, and with a military, police force, and prison system which can be used to force people to follow unjust laws, the capitalist class can ensure that the vast majority of us are forced to work for the capitalists when they want, how they want, and for whatever wage they want.
With a government run by working people, we could turn the entire global system of exploitation on its head. Instead of being a tool for a tiny minority to oppress the majority of society, a workers’ government could be a tool for working people to end the rule of the capitalist class and organize an entirely different world economic and political system–a socialist system.
Only Workers Can Beat the Capitalist “Justice” System
The United States is the largest jailer in the world, holding 25% of the entire world prison population while making up only 4.25% of the world’s population. Mass incarceration in the United States is a tool the state uses to terrorize working-class communities, especially communities of color, which account for 60% of those imprisoned.
Rather than addressing the real roots of crime in the United States—poverty, lack of healthcare, lack of education—capitalist politicians from both parties rely on the power of the police, the courts, and the prison-industrial complex to lock up millions (2.19 million) of people. Incarcerated people are then subjected to inhumane conditions and extreme violence and exploited for cheap forced labor.
The United States is also one of the few highly industrialized countries which still has the death penalty. As a result, dozens of people are murdered by the state every year, something which will become even more common with the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Jones case. This decision makes it even easier for the state to stick someone who threatens their authority with a death sentence (like Mumia Abu Jamal, various Black Panthers, and other historical anti-racist and labor activists) and keep them on death row no matter how much evidence suggests that they are innocent or did not receive a fair trial.
From the Jones decision to the decision reversing Roe v. Wade to the Janus decision, the Supreme Court has repeatedly made it clear that the justice system serves the wealthy capitalist class and that working-class people will never be given a “fair” trial under capitalism.
The Democratic Party is using these recent Supreme Court decisions to solicit donations and to rally people behind their old battle-cry of “vote blue no matter who,” arguing that with enough people in Congress, the Democrats will be able to reverse some of these decisions and deliver on their empty promises of police, prison, and judicial reform.
However, the Democratic Party is just as responsible as the Republican Party for the current state of mass incarceration, the militarized state of the police, and the biased court system. Right now, Biden has the power to add more justices to the Supreme Court by executive order, allowing the right-wing majority to be overwhelmed. Although a more significant Supreme Court would not be a solution to the pro-capitalist and undemocratic nature of the Court itself, adding judges to the Supreme Court is only one of the many things Biden and the Democrats could do with the executive branch and a majority in Congress.
However, because the Democrats are a capitalist party, they will never attempt ambitious reforms. Doing so would undermine not only their power but, more importantly, the power of the wealthy individuals and corporations that fund the Democratic Party.
We don’t need more Democrats in government–we need an independent party of the working class, backed up by the power of organized labor and a mass movement of workers. This party would draw in organizations fighting against poverty, racism and police brutality, sexism and anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, and organize workers who have been politically inactive because they don’t see their interests represented by either of the two corporate parties.
A workers’ party could help organize the working class and initiate mass campaigns to put real pressure on the judicial system to take back these recent rulings, as well as longer-standing ones like the Janus decision, which hurts organized labor in this country. A workers’ party could help revitalize the anti-racist movement that the Democrats helped kill back in 2020. A worker’s party could have turned what was largely an unorganized series of protests into an organized mass movement for real police and prison reform.
With enough of the working class behind it, this party could lead the charge for larger reforms such as the replacement of the Supreme Court with an elected judiciary accountable to working people, as well as organize for the abolition of the Senate, which exists primarily as a way for the capitalist class to further prevent popular legislation from coming into law.
Legal, state, and judicial power flow from economic power. Under capitalism, the total control of the economy by the big banks and corporations ensures that the state serves the interests of the capitalist class at the expense of working-class people. Once workers have political independence in the form of their own party, our next goal must be total independence of the working class and the replacement of capitalism with socialism, where working people will democratically plan and run the economy and the government and eliminate the injustice and violence that capitalism requires to survive.
On the way towards socialism, the Independent Socialist Group demands:
- Abolish the Supreme Court and replace it with a nationally elected judiciary, where justices serve terms and are subject to instant recall.
- Abolish the death penalty! End mass incarceration and for-profit prisons!
- The abolition of the Senate, a body that serves to keep the more representative House of Representatives in check for the benefit of the capitalists.
- The abolition of the electoral college and for all elections to be determined by popular vote alone.
- Expand democratic rights. All workers, including the millions caught up in the violent capitalist prison system, must be given the right to vote. Lower the voting age to 16 to enfranchise the millions of politically active youth fighting for their future! End gerrymandering and all other methods used by the two corporate parties to disenfranchise working people – for voting districts drawn up by democratic and representative committees of working people!
- Defend and expand abortion rights through fighting for comprehensive, publicly owned, and LGBTQ+ inclusive universal healthcare, along with a massive expansion of healthcare infrastructure. Provide good union jobs by building and staffing clinics, hospitals, and the infrastructure necessary to get people to healthcare facilities.
- For high-quality and publicly owned childcare and extensive paid parental leave for all parents. For a cap on rents, gas prices, and food prices to make raising a family a real option for working-class people, who deserve a real choice on whether or not they want to raise a family.
- For a mass movement of workers and youth to fight for and win these reforms! Unions and labor federations like the AFL-CIO must mobilize their membership to take action in their communities and workplaces to win the demands working people need.
- For a workers’ party: create a mass membership party of working people, independent of corporate money and control, backed up by the power of unions and grassroots organizations to help organize working peoples’ fight against capitalist exploitation and oppression.
Image Credit: Adam Fagen via Flickr // CC-BY SA 2.0