Revolution#127, April 20, 2008

A Clear-Eyed Understanding of the Constitution

Obama maintains that the history of America is one of people making a “more perfect union”—overcoming injustice—on the basis of the Constitution.

In fact, the Constitution has proven to be the best framework in which to carry out exploitation—providing ground rules for the struggle between competing sections of the ruling class, and enabling that ruling class as a whole to keep the masses in a subordinated and exploited position. For over 80 years, the Constitution upheld slavery. Then, after slavery was destroyed by the Civil War, the “amended” Constitution first found racial segregation of Black people to be constitutional—and then, 60 years later, in the face of massive struggles and international necessities, to be unconstitutional. And today, as they move to reinforce new—and in many ways even more nightmarish—conditions of oppression onto African-Americans, the ruling class (through its Supreme Court) is once again finding segregation to be “constitutional.”

The belief that this Constitution somehow holds the key to liberation or justice is no more founded in material reality than belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, or the notion that the suffering of the oppressed will be “redeemed” in heaven. The interpretation of the Constitution—especially in regard to the rights of Black people—changes drastically from one generation to the next, based on the strategic needs of capitalism-imperialism.

As in confronting religion, we need to really face reality as it is, understanding where this belief in the Constitution actually comes from and whom it serves, and—on the basis of that clear-eyed understanding—set about radically transforming the world through revolution.

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