Turning of the tide:
Wounded Knee
1890 to 1973

By Sam Marcy

It was mainly in the last quarter of the last century that the Indian peoples were decisively defeated. But that was in consequence of the dawn of a new epoch, a fearful epoch for all the oppressed and exploited, not only on this continent.

It was the epoch of the transformation of competitive capitalism into expansionist monopoly capitalism, with its tremendous exacerbation of the super-exploitation of oppressed peoples.

The Native peoples were driven like cattle onto reservations during this period of imperialist expansion, which was marked by all-too-well-known broken promises by the federal government, unprecedented massacres capped by the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, and broken treaty after broken treaty, not to speak of unrestricted war on the Native peoples.

The defeat of the Indian peoples at the hands of rising imperialism was preceded by the betrayal and defeat of Black Reconstruction by the American bourgeoisie. And the triumph of imperialism was finally symbolized by the subjugation of Latin Americans as a consequence of the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American war of 1898.

These three great events—the betrayal and defeat of Black Reconstruction, the massacre at Wounded Knee and the victory of American imperialism over Spain—marked the consolidation of the American empire of U.S. finance capital.

To this should be added, of course, the execution of the Haymarket martyrs in Chicago, to which the world owes May Day—the international working-class holiday today marked in lands as far away as Ethiopia and East Timor.

The leaders of the Indian movement, like Geronimo, Cochise and others, thus had the tide of history against them.

Now a new epoch is dawning, not only in the annals of the Native people but in world history. The hitherto invincible fortresses of imperialism are crumbling. Their props of support are corroding everywhere. The tide of history is now against it.

The odious spectacle of the Pentagon’s recreating a Wounded Knee massacre on the soil of Vietnam in the form of the My Lai slaughter only brought about the Tet Offensive and the complete defeat of the U.S. military colossus. U.S. imperialism will fare no better elsewhere no matter how hard it tries—abroad or at home.

Force alone, no matter how overpowering, cannot be decisive if the course of historical development, and social evolution in general, is against it. That’s the difference between Wounded Knee 1890 and today.

The Indian people are not alone in the struggle. They are a great and glorious detachment of a vast and invincible army of the oppressed and exploited that is rising all over the world in the struggle against the fundamental enemy of humanity, with its citadel in Washington and Wall Street.

It was not for nothing that Lenin expanded Marx’s slogan, "Workers of the world, unite," into "Workers and oppressed peoples of the world, unite." He added what has become the most striking phenomenon of a global character to emerge in ever-rising numbers and with greater persistence and perseverance and creative initiative—the oppressed people of the world.

This union of the working class and the oppressed is the invincible protagonist that will ultimately overthrow the decadent ruling classes and reconstruct society along rational lines without privilege, without oppression, and without exploitation of any kind.

Only this union can spare the world the havoc and destruction the decadent ruling classes will unleash if they have their way and are not stopped on their reckless, mad road of plunging the world into a holocaust. Only this union can lay the basis for a socialist transformation of society by the abolition of the capitalist system and the casting of its ruling class into the dustbin of history.

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,NY 10011; via e-mail: ww@workers.org. For subscription info send message to: info@workers.org. Web: http://www.workers.org)

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