Fight Against the Growing Police State!

Danielle Ni Dhighe nidhighe at
Fri Feb 22 18:23:55 MST 2002

18 February 2002

Seattle Anti-Imperialist Alliance

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
against the federal Gestapo raids and looting of Somali people in
Seattle in November. 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.

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