Terrible surge in murder in the United States
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 17; Spring 2021)
In the past year, the United States has experienced an unprecedented increase in murders and serious crimes: a provisional estimate of 30% in the cities, which would make it the highest increase in over 50 years (1). In Chicago, a city already known for its violence, the increase in the number of murders was 56%, reaching the figure of 774, almost three times more than for the whole of Italy. In New York, murders have jumped by 45% (and shootings by 97%!), by 36% in the San Francisco area, by 19% in Washington, etc... (note that police crimes, which caused 1127 deaths in 2020, are of course not included in the total) (2). The same thing can be seen, albeit in a less pronounced way, in small towns (more than 20% increase in cities with less than 10,000 inhabitants) and rural districts (almost 15%). And the first months of 2021 confirm this trend.
This increase is all the more striking since a decrease had been recorded for the last twenty years (50% decrease in homicides from 1993 to 2019). Criminologists are lost in conjectures to explain it. Some blame the forced idleness of young people due to the pandemic, which would have facilitated the « escalation » of conflicts between them; but many put the responsibility on the demonstrations of protests against police violence following the murder of George Floyd, which would have « discouraged [the cops] from proactive policing » and undermined confidence in the police! For these people, protesting against police abuses and crimes is already, if not a crime, at least an encouragement to crime!
In reality, the intrinsic violence of social relations in bourgeois society, which in rich countries is more or less masked in periods of prosperity by a battery of social buffers, is revealed in periods of acute crisis. In the United States, the most powerful capitalist country on the planet, the social buffers are less developed than elsewhere because historically the bourgeois class has not been as directly confronted with the proletarian threat as in Europe: as a consequence, the violence of capitalist relations has always been more manifest there. It is not by chance that the number of people in prison there is the highest in the world, both in terms of gross figures and in proportion to the population (this prison population being mostly from the proletariat, black in particular). And when a deep crisis erupts that deprives millions of proletarians of their jobs, plunges them into poverty and puts them under the threat of being thrown out on the street, it is not surprising that this translates into an increase in crime in general.
Describing in 1844 « The Situation of the Working Class in England », Engels explained the increase in crime by the aggravation of social tensions ; and he deduced: « In this country, social war is under full headway, every one stands for himself, and fights for himself against all comers (...).And this war grows from year to year, as the criminal tables show, more violent, passionate, irreconcilable. The enemies are dividing gradually into two great camps – the bourgeoisie on the one hand, the workers on the other » . This announces « a universal outburst of that which manifests itself symptomatically from day to day in the form of crime ».
But for this general explosion of social antagonisms to open the way to the possibility of a victorious revolution putting an end to capitalism and all its deadly consequences, it will be necessary for the proletariat to rediscover the path of its class political organization, directing its struggle on the basis of the authentic communist program.
(1) The Economist, 27/3/21
(2) https://mapping police violence. org/
International Communist Party