Fight against the growing police state!

On October 26, 2001, a month and a half after the World Trade Center attacks, President Bush signed the bipartisan USA PATRIOT Act into law. With this law, congress has given sweeping new powers to both domestic law enforcement and international intelligence agencies to search, harass, and intimidate both immigrants and citizens. After the government was exposed for spying on thousands of people for their legal political activity, infiltrating and disrupting political organizations, in the 50s and 60s, it enacted some minimal limits on police activity; these have been eroded in the time since, but this act goes much further. Entitled the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001" (how's that for jingoism?), the Act permits indefinite detention of immigrants and other non-citizens. There is no requirement that those who are detained indefinitely be terrorists, or even accused of any terrorist act. The Act also includes such features as search and seizure without warrants or notification, almost unlimited rights for the government to snoop anywhere and seize assets (the judicial "overview" is almost meaningless), the right to "disappear" someone it arrests for 7 days, and puts the CIA back in the business of domestic spying.

A recent event in Los Angeles gives a glimpse of what this all means in practice: the authorities didn't like what a young man's political web site said so they obliterated it; and came to his house during the middle of the night pointing automatic rifles to steal his computer equipment (all legal!).

The state governments have also jumped on the bandwagon. In Washington, the Democrats are pushing bills which further loosen the legal reigns on police snooping, and exempt government agencies from many public disclosure laws, all to fight a broadly defined "terrorism". In Utah, terrorism has been defined to include "enter[ing] or remain[ing] unlawfully on the premises or in a building of any business with the intent to interfere with the employees, customers, personnel, or operations of a business." So protesters are now terrorists!

If you're an immigrant, forget about any rights whatsoever. In the days after September 11, the federal government swept up more than 1100 people. Some they summarily deported with no right to defend themselves. Others were held in secret locations. The government wouldn't release the names of most, it denied people the right to counsel, it didn't charge anyone with anything to do with terrorism, and denied their families access to them for 6 weeks or more. Many of these detainees are still locked up. Although it's possible a tiny handful of these people had some connection to the September 11 attacks, it's also possible that none of them did. Along with recent repressive legislation we're also confronted with numerous executive orders, and Justice Department and CIA rule changes. The looting of Somali-owned businesses in Seattle was carried out under executive order 13224 (of Sept. 23). On Nov. 1 Bush ordered that past or present presidents can block access to White House papers forever, ensuring that we will never find out about much of what this or any administration does. In mid-November, Bush issued another order allowing military kangaroo courts to try, sentence or execute non-citizens whom the executive branch claims it has "reason to believe" are members of terrorist groups. Meanwhile the Attorney General has issued a rule that allows the government to listen in on conversations between prisoners and their lawyers, and to intercept mail between them. In sum, we're seeing a stepped-up American police state. The pretext is to fight "terror", but the underlying aim is to repress the environmental and anti-globalization movements, and anyone else organizing to oppose the government's war program. So what is to be done about this?

Politicians, left or right, are not the answer

The 911 coalition and other reformists tell us to write "our" congress people in response to this growing fascism. The last time we looked, we didn't own any congress people. No, that privilege is reserved for the capitalists. The Democratic Party which the reformists generally want to tie us to has given Bush a blank check for his "war against terror" abroad, and voted for his police-state legislation. Their all-out support for war abroad and repression at home exposes their image as "friend of the working man" as empty posturing. So exposed, they quibble over a few of the more blatantly reactionary features to cover their true natures. If these "heroes" were really the friends of the workers, minorities, and environmental movement which they claim to be, they would be naming the repressive legislation for what it is: further moves toward a police state. But no, the motive of these gentlemen is to give the illusion that they and their party care about democratic rights for the masses of people. The liberal Democrats' special role is to posture a little more to the left so as to foster the illusion that theirs is not also a party of war and reaction. Thereby they keep opposition to the growing police state within the confines of the same political framework which originates it. Reformist-led groups like 911 Peace Coalition play into this. And the Freedom Socialist Party in its big campaign to "urge your legislature to vote NO" (on the new Washington laws) is also working to tie us into this framework.

Other activists have illusions in right-populist politicians like Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who posture for freedom, and opposition to laws which "restrict constitutional liberties". These politicians opportunistically work to channel outrage against the Patriot Act and other violations of civil liberties into opposition to minimum wage laws and environmental and labor regulations for business. They talk against subsidies for corporations, as a justification for removing all tax obligations as well. Fewer regulations for business, no taxes for business, no minimum wage - hmm, let's see, crusader against the capitalist order? We think not. Their pose for freedom is only greater freedom for business, and greater repression for the workers.

For organizing the masses

The reactionary moves by the ruling class must be fought every step of the way. Yet today we are in a very weak position. All the progressive mass movements remain at a low level, including the anti-war movement. The working class will feel the brunt of the new laws, yet it remains disorganized and dominated by reformist ideas. And in many ways the "anti-terror" laws are a preemptive strike against mass struggle and organization.

Thus we're confronted with taking the most elementary steps: We need to expose more widely the reactionary nature of the new laws in the working class, and among the youth, and to denounce them for what they are. In doing this we should point out that racial profiling, especially against Arabic-looking people, is now being justified under the banner of "war against terror". But once these measures -- the use of secret evidence, preventive detention, and general police-state repression of minorities and immigrants -- are accepted as necessary to fight terrorism, they will be ready for use in general. This is yet another reason for coming to the defense of immigrants, the federal Gestapo raids and looting of Somali people in Seattle in November for example. In another local case, an Iraqi man protested the Bank of America closing his account. Their excuse was that his business was high-risk (I.e., he was Iraqi). This brought the Feds down on his business.

We must organize to fight back against these kind of attacks as they continue. Lastly, we should not forget that the growing police state is a part of the logic of capitalism in its imperialist stage. Defense of this system is at root of the political actions of the Republicans and Democrats. Of necessity imperialism involves not only the struggle to crush rivals abroad, but to crush the democratic rights of the people at home. Hence the masses can only have democratic rights by way of fierce struggle with those in power. Moreover, once gained these rights are subject to rapid revocation in times of crisis such as this. Hence the necessity to do away with the system originating this repression and reaction.

Seattle Anti-Imperialist Alliance, February 18, 2002

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