"Vicarious Liability"--Who Are the Real Criminals?

by Bob Avakian

Revolutionary Worker #926, October 5, 1997

I was reading the RW coverage of the Bear Lincoln trial in California and it talked about how Bear Lincoln is being charged with "vicarious liability" for the death of his friend Acorn. In other words he is being held legally responsible for the murder of his friend because the police shot and killed Acorn during a crime that he and Bear Lincoln were allegedly committing. So even though it is known that the police shot Acorn, now according to this law of "vicarious liability" in California and other places, Bear Lincoln is legally responsible. This is another one of these outrages on top of outrages of the bourgeoisie. In other words, if the police accuse you of a crime and then run down the street shooting at you and shoot an innocent bystander, you are responsible for the murder of that bystander.

So I was thinking, alright, if the ruling class wants to apply this concept of "vicarious liability," then we will apply it the way it should be applied. The bourgeoisie has criminalized a whole generation of youth in their so-called "war on crime." And we have pointed out many many times who is really responsible for the fact that the youth have no future--whom do we blame for the conditions of the masses and whom do we blame for some of the bad things that the masses do and some of bad shit they get into as a result of being placed in and forcibly maintained in these conditions. So the bourgeoisie better be careful, because if they raise the concept of "vicarious liability" then we say that "vicarious liability" applies to them--for all the bad shit that the masses do as a result of the conditions that the bourgeoisie has placed them in and forces them to remain in.

We say to the bourgeoisie: every time the masses kill each other--vicarious liability. You are responsible. Every time there is some bad shit the masses do--you are responsible. Vicarious liability.

And in this case, the concept of "vicarious liability" actually applies. It is correct to apply this concept in a way that does not apply in the situation of masses, because it is the bourgeoisie that has placed the people in these conditions and forcibly maintains them in these conditions. So if the ruling class wants to bring up "vicarious liability" we are ready to take it up and apply it the way it should be applied. We are going to apply it to them. We'll say to the ruling class: every time the masses do this shit that you howl about and use as justification for further repression--you are the ones responsible for the murder. You are responsible directly and you are responsible "vicariously."

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