October 3, 2010

We Must All Stand Together Against FBI Repression of Anti-war and Solidarity Activists

The Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad (FRSO/OSCL) denounces in the strongest possible terms the recent FBI raids against activists in the anti-war and international solidarity movement some of whom are members of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO [Fight Back]). That organization, a group which split from FRSO/OSCL just over a decade ago, is made up of dedicated people working for justice for the people of the world. The actions of the FBI have nothing to do with law enforcement or “anti-terrorism” and everything to do with the repression of legitimate dissent in this country and abroad.

Repression is on the rise.

This set of raids, along with other recent FBI investigations and proceedings against anti-war activists, anarchists, and other progressives, represents a distinct jump in the repressive activity of the state. The Obama administration, which had given us vague promises of “change” and “hope” after the horrors of Bush and Cheney, is racking up an appalling record on human rights. This whole investigation is not the result of the independent action of some rogue wing of the FBI, but is under the direction of the office of US Attorney General Eric Holder, who was directly nominated by Obama. Why are we seeing this increase in repression? US imperial power has been on the retreat in recent years. The economic crisis has only accelerated this process. One can see this most clearly in Latin America, with the majority of the region’s countries realigning themselves away from the US—in some cases even directly against the US—and increasingly toward each other. The strongest remaining beachhead for US imperialism in South America is Colombia, whose murderous right-wing, death squad–tied government works closely with the US military. The US is desperate to maintain this foothold to try to preserve some remaining power over the countries of the region. Targeting those in the US who have most strongly opposed the brutality of the Colombian state against its people and the hand of the US in it can be seen as a potentially effective way of pursuing this goal.

The FBI exists to be a weapon against dissent.

The FBI has both a recent and lengthy history of unjustified repression of the left. From the abuses right from its founding under J. Edgar Hoover, to the well-known COINTELPRO program of the ’60s and ’70s targeting the Black Panthers, AIM and many other groups, to the repression of the Central American solidarity movement in the ’80s, radical environmentalists in the ’90s and ’00s, and so on right up until the present, the FBI has an essentially continuous history of abuses and violations of the rights of people trying to make the world a better place. We should not only oppose the raids themselves but the whole process of repression, including illegitimate surveillance of nonviolent activists and the use of grand juries as political weapons. These raids were in fact authorized by way of a federal grand jury proceeding initiated by the US Attorney General. Grand juries lack the adversarial structure built into the rest of the US legal system—there is only prosecution, no defense—and thus they are ripe for abuse and manipulation by the state. The government knows that even though grand jury investigations against nonviolent activists are unlikely to lead to any convictions, the very process of tying people up in legal proceedings is a way of suppressing their activities of dissent. It is also designed to intimidate others into not raising their voices for fear of similar treatment.

US imperialists and their agents are the real terrorists.

We also need to fight against the abuse of the term “terrorism.” There is a basic difference between armed struggle and terrorism, but the US state seeks to conflate the two where it suits its interests. They want us to forget that the US itself was founded as a result of armed struggle, and the top military leader of that struggle was the first US President. If the term had been in existence at the time, the colonial elites now called the “Founding Fathers” would surely have been labeled terrorists by the British crown. The African National Congress of South Africa was on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list right up until Apartheid was overthrown and the ANC became the ruling party of the country. Literally millions of Americans gave money to causes associated with the Irish Republican Army, which was on the FTO list and which now is part of the peace process in the north of Ireland. Today the dominant elected party in Nepal, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), is on the Terrorist Exclusion List, even while the US and other states engage in diplomatic relations with them. People in these and other countries pick up the gun to fight for change because they are given no other option by the Powers That Be. In many parts of the world the mass imprisonment, torture, and murder of people trying to make change has closed off all other options for struggle. In Colombia, the country at the center of the current case, literally thousands of trade unionists, indigenous leaders, and other nonviolent activists have been tortured, murdered, and disappeared by forces working for the ruling elites and in conjunction with elements in the state. International law respects the right of people to engage in legitimate armed struggle for their liberation in such conditions. Even if one disagrees with a particular strategy in a given situation, we have to defend people’s right to wage such a struggle. The Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list and the Terrorist Exclusion List (TEL) are without validity. Actual terrorist organizations that are allies of the US state are purposely left off, while non-terrorist organizations that oppose US imperial designs are put on. But even genuinely terrorist organizations, those that mainly target civilians to cause terror among the general population, are small fry. The real, large-scale terrorism in the world is that sponsored by states, with US imperialism far and away at the top in terms of sheer scale. US-sponsored assassinations, torture, rape, and mass murder of literally millions of civilians through aggressive, unjustified war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places as well as through barbaric sanctions against whole populations have racked up a vastly higher body count of dead innocent people than any non-state actor, even Al Qaeda, could possibly achieve. As a result of dedicated activism by thousands in the US, many people have heard about the legacy of the School of the Americas, a US-sponsored training ground for a large proportion of the most notoriously murderous military figures in the history of Latin America. The US is clearly not waging a war on terror by any remotely reasonable definition of the term. It is waging a war on dissent.

It’s time to come together and go on the offensive.

While FRSO/OSCL and many others have real differences with the political views of FRSO [Fight Back], we must set aside our differences with the people under attack and stand together against these violations of our right to dissent. This is an attack on all of us. Anyone else working for justice in the world could be next. The Department of Justice Inspector General just recently released a scathing report criticizing the FBI’s previous targeting of various other nonviolent activists including Catholic Worker activists, Quakers, and Greenpeace. The release of this report doesn’t seem to have slowed down the FBI for a moment. This is an institution that serves as the political police for the capitalist class to further that class’s imperial power. If it needs to ignore efforts at even minimal democratic oversight to carry out its goals, it will try to do so. The best defense is a good offense. In addition to defending those people who are under attack, we need to begin to go on the offensive against the FBI’s abuses. In the short term, we need to demand a leash and muzzle for this rabid dog. We must also oppose the listing of non-terrorist organizations like the FARC and the PFLP in this case, along with others like the UCPN(M) in Nepal and the CPP/NPA in the Philippines. And we must work to undermine the legitimacy of the FTO and TEL lists themselves and expose them as the scurrilous political weapons that they are. Finally, we should demand the full repeal of the PATRIOT Act. In the longer term, we need to win the majority of people to the understanding that the FBI is an institution fundamentally incompatible with democracy, as is the capitalist system as a whole that it exists to help prop up, and that they both ultimately need to be abolished.

What should we do?

FRSO/OSCL calls on people around the country to organize solidarity actions against the FBI, if possible in direct conjunction with calls to action issued by the targeted organizations. At the time of writing the Twin Cities Anti-war Committee has issued one such call. We should all also make sure we’re well versed in our rights and in the proper procedures for dealing with a visit from the FBI. The National Lawyer’s Guild has a short pamphlet titled Know Your Rights, and the Center for Constitutional Rights has a longer pamphlet titled If an Agent Knocks. Read them. Make sure you also educate your roommates about the proper procedures. Learn and practice good security in all aspects of your political work—on-line, in print, on the phone, and in the real world. Make sure you minimize what nonpublic information is potentially available to be harvested by the FBI without substantially compromising your work. Practice solidarity. There are too many examples in recent years of activists turning against each other in the face of threats of prosecution and imprisonment by the government. That kind of betrayal of our comrades in the struggle runs counter to everything the left is supposed to stand for. Even though there may be differences in ideology or practical strategy within the movement, we have to stand together when we face threats from the state. Don’t sell out your sisters and brothers! The ideal approach is one of complete noncompliance with the state, including with grand juries. This approach entails risk to the individual, but the more consistently people follow it, the less investigations and grand juries will tend to be used in the future as weapons against us. Finally, building the power of the people’s movements is the best way for us to protect ourselves. The only way in the end to eliminate the threat is through revolutionary change, which only organization can bring about. The time is now for progressive movements to come together to fight the growing repression of dissent in the US! National Executive Committee Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad