Cover photo: Protest against Bill Cosby in Canada in 2015. Source: Pixelhouse [link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pixelhousestudios/15604932994/in/photostream/%5D
By Rachel Foster
With the release of sexual predator Bill Cosby from prison, the US court system has again shown that it cannot provide meaningful justice to the dozens of women who bravely spoke out against his 60-year history of rape and sexual assault. Cosby had served two out of a three to ten year sentence for sexual assault when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction due to a discovered non-prosecution agreement made in 2005.
In 2015, Andrea Constand pressed sexual assault charges against Bill Cosby for drugging and then sexually assaulting her in 2004. He was found guilty in 2018. Cosby had previously stated that he would choose to serve all ten years of his sentence rather than admit remorse for his actions, and refused to enter rehabilitation programs for sexual predators while in prison.
Cosby initially faced charges from Constand in 2005, but district attorney Bruce Castor refused to prosecute. Instead, Cosby agreed to give incriminating evidence in a civil case in exchange for not being prosecuted in a criminal case. In the civil testimony he admitted to obtaining and using methaqualone to force compliance from his victims. That this verbal agreement was broken in prosecuting Cosby years later was judged unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
About 60 other women have publicly accused Cosby of similar instances of grooming, drugging and sexually assaulting them throughout his career. In several other accusations against Cosby, no criminal case was filed either because the statute of limitations had expired or because the district attorneys would refuse to prosecute him. A number of civil cases have been raised against Cosby and settled out of court.
With so many accusations including not only evidence but admission from Cosby himself, a clear picture emerges of a predator who would groom young women and then use drugs and alcohol in order to sexually assault them. Despite this, Cosby has only sat in criminal court once and while found guilty, had his conviction overturned on the basis of a legal technicality. Cosby has expressed no remorse or desire to change: there has been no rehabilitation and little retribution.
The US court system cannot give meaningful justice to the victims of sexual violence: its primary function is not justice but maintaining the rule of the capitalist class which entails repressing the people and defending the many enemies of the people. Cosby, whose net worth is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, is able to rely on an elite legal team unlike most of his victims. The odds were always stacked in his favor. In effect there are two laws: one for the exploiters and one for the exploited. The state has no issue exacting ‘justice’ on the people through hefty fines and imprisonment for petty crime, but cannot bring justice to those who exploit and oppress and abuse the people. Even if the state at times punishes enemies of the people, it does so only as a concession, to protect its false image.
The people must take justice into their own hands. Only people’s justice—where the righteous fury of the people is organized against their enemies like Cosby—is capable of bringing about a genuine transformation, not only for this or any other single enemy, but to eradicate sexual violence and other crimes against the people entirely. On the one hand this means forcing the state to act, rebelling to win concessions that are always limited and doled out hypocritically. We see this in the conviction of killer policemen as a result of last year’s uprisings.
At the same time, organized rebellion can transform into the direct administration of justice by the people. At first this will be sporadic and limited in scope: isolated attacks against class enemies, propaganda campaigns against specific abuses the people suffer and so on. What is important is to bring organization to the people, who already long for and struggle for justice, and to develop and unite all of these struggles to serve the fight for political power for the working class. Only through socialist revolution, and the subsequent building of a new state on the basis of proletarian dictatorship, can justice for the people against their class enemies become systematized through people’s courts and people’s militias.
Separating rebellion and organization from the fight for justice cannot achieve anything. This case shows the limits of the Me Too movement which arose around the same time as Cosby’s initial trial in 2015. The Me Too movement began as an phenomenon on social media where victims of sexual violence spoke out with personal stories and, especially among celebrities, accused powerful men within the industry who were previously seen as unassailable. While it forcibly illustrated the extent of an issue widely known but frequently buried and gave some women the courage to speak out, the movement never went beyond spreading awareness, minor legal reform and seeking justice within the bourgeois court system. This form of activism can never provide lasting change for the people.
Working women cry out for justice for the million abuses they suffer under imperialism. Only by organizing as a fighting force for socialist revolution can they exact lasting vengeance on their class enemies and transform society to end their oppression once and for all.
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