Workers Vanguard No. 1162
4 October 2019
Drop Charges Against Leftist Anti-Trump Protesters!
LAPD Spying Operation Exposed
We print below a September 19 leaflet issued and distributed by the Los Angeles Spartacist League. The trial of the UCLA activists began Wednesday, September 25.
In a frontal assault on the right to assemble and protest, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the L.A. City Attorney’s office have been waging a two-year campaign of persecution against Refuse Fascism and the Revolution Club, both associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). A trial is now pending against seven supporters of these organizations for engaging in anti-Trump protests between September 2017 and March 2018. Ominously, court records revealed that the LAPD Major Crimes Division launched an investigation and spied on Refuse Fascism meetings at Echo Park United Methodist Church on four occasions in 2017. According to a defense attorney, the spying was initiated by the division’s Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Section. Using a hidden recorder, an informant coordinating with an LAPD detective captured audio of the meetings and a conversation with one of those charged.
In the 2017 protests, eight activists were arrested for blocking traffic on the 101 Freeway. A ninth, Michelle Xai, was swept up even though she was not there. The other accused were arrested a few months later for vocally protesting inside and outside a meeting at UCLA that featured Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (see “Anti-Trump Leftists Targeted by UCLA Administration, Cops,” WV No. 1135, 1 June 2018). The #Freeway9 and #UCLA5 activists were slapped with over 50 misdemeanor charges, including failure to disperse, refusal to comply with a police officer, obstructing the free movement of a person, disturbing the peace and trespassing. Some of the remaining seven defendants face years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
In an August 8 letter to L.A. city attorney Michael Feuer, the Partisan Defense Committee, a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League, wrote: “These charges and the LAPD surveillance are an attempt to intimidate and silence any protest against U.S. government policies and representatives. Criminalizing political protest is a draconian suppression of democratic rights.” Such moves are a threat to the workers movement, black people, Latinos and all the oppressed.
Two activists singled out for being leaders of Refuse Fascism, University of Southern California professor Perry Hoberman and Michelle Xai, were originally charged with various counts of criminal conspiracy. Such charges have historically been used to go after labor militants and political dissidents when the state has no evidence of criminal activity. The prosecution, with an eye toward future spying operations, dropped these charges after a judge ruled that to proceed, the identity of the informant would have to be disclosed and the recordings turned over. The conspiracy rap lays bare the state’s case as a “coordinated, political persecution,” as one of the defendants said.
While a trial in June of two of the protesters ended in a mistrial, with a majority of the jurors voting to acquit, the prosecution is doubling down and trying them again. Drop all charges now!
Cop Spying and Capitalist Rule
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece (24 July) on the LAPD spying revelations, Mark Nakagawa, L.A. district superintendent of the United Methodist Church, which provided Refuse Fascism with its meeting venue, wrote: “As a Japanese American, I hear echoes of the infiltration of Japanese community organizations by the FBI in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941. Those actions led to the incarceration of about 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast during most of World War II.” This crime was the doing of the liberal Democratic administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Similarly in the present case, the LAPD has for years been overseen by liberal Democrats in city office and their handpicked police chiefs.
In racist capitalist America, government infiltration of perceived opponents is not an aberration but the norm. As guard dogs of capital, L.A. cops have over the decades spied on the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), Communist union organizers, the Socialist Workers Party, the Progressive Labor Party, the RCP and the American Indian Movement, among others. By the mid 1970s, the LAPD had amassed mountains of secret files on everyone from “the Wobblies of the Twenties to the labor agitators of the Thirties, the interned Nisei [ethnic Japanese born in the U.S.] of the Forties, the alleged subversives of the Fifties and some antiwar demonstrators of the Sixties” (Frank Donner, Protectors of Privilege: Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban America, 1990).
The Black Panther Party was met with the full-blown state terror that is prepared by the shadowy routine of police snooping, harassment and disruption. Under the FBI’s covert COINTELPRO campaign to “neutralize” radical organizations, over 30 Black Panthers were killed and hundreds more railroaded into prison. In 1972, L.A. Panther leader Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison based on the perjured testimony of Julius Butler, an informant for the LAPD, FBI and District Attorney’s office. Geronimo ended up spending 27 years in prison hell for a crime the government knew he did not commit.
In the same vein, an effort by cops and prosecutors to frame up supporters of the Chicano-nationalist Brown Berets in 1969 revolved around accusations from an LAPD infiltrator, Fernando Sumaya, that they had set fires in a hotel where Ronald Reagan was speaking. In fact, it was Sumaya who was implicated in the arson.
The capitalist rulers, regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge, deploy spies to help maintain their system of exploitation and racial oppression. No amount of reform will ever change this reality. Only victorious proletarian revolution can put a halt to capitalism’s covert police activity, as part of sweeping away the entire existing state machinery.
“Fight the Right” Liberals
While we defend the RCP and Refuse Fascism/Revolution Club against state repression, we sharply oppose their liberal program, which both prettifies bourgeois democracy and sows illusions in the Democratic Party. Their alarmist frenzy that Trump is a fascist who “will effect a thoroughly reactionary restructuring of society” retails the lie that he is qualitatively different from prior presidents. In fact, Trump gained office and has governed entirely through the institutions of the democratic American republic.
Trump’s unabashed racism and male chauvinism are merely the raw face of the U.S. capitalist order. In denouncing Trump as a fascist, the RCP and its cohorts echo the Democrats who fret over his doing damage to the “democratic” credentials of the capitalist state, which are but a facade to conceal the bourgeoisie’s dictatorship over the workers and the oppressed. These reformists, who paint the repressive state apparatus as somehow more benign under the Democrats, have gone so far as to rush to the side of Obama-appointed FBI director James Comey after he was fired by Trump in 2017 (see “RCP on FBI: ‘Communists’ for Comey,” WV No. 1112, 19 May 2017).
Marxists oppose all capitalist parties. Not so the RCP and Refuse Fascism. Swimming in the stream of the Democratic “resistance,” they scream, “This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!” The Democrats could not agree more. The RCP also sought to aid the Democrats during the previous Republican George W. Bush administration by branding it fascist and initiating a “World Can’t Wait” campaign to “Drive Out the Bush Regime!” To make things crystal clear, the RCP’s Revolutionary Worker (29 August 2004) advised: “Go ahead and vote for [Democratic presidential candidate John] Kerry if you feel you really have to.”
The two Republican administrations that the RCP calls “fascist” were separated by eight years during which a black Democrat occupied the White House. While at the helm, Obama bailed out the banks and auto giants at the expense of workers and the poor, deported millions of immigrants, oversaw a society riddled with cop terror against black people and Latinos, waged imperialist wars, assaulted democratic rights and expanded the surveillance state. Predictably, the RCP mounted no comparable effort against this regime.
The RCP’s strategy of militant liberalism upholds the very capitalist order that has them in its sights. There is a force in society with the power to bring the capitalist rulers to their knees: the multiracial working class, whose hands are on the levers of production. What is needed is to mobilize the workers in their own class interests and in opposition to the Democrats and their reformist hangers-on. Our commitment is to build a revolutionary workers party that can lead the working class in the fight for a socialist future.