Workers Vanguard No. 973
4 February 2011
More Subpoenas Against Midwest Leftists
FBI Infiltration Exposed
CHICAGO—In a further escalation of its war on civil liberties, in December the Obama administration issued federal grand jury subpoenas to nine leftists and Palestine solidarity activists in Chicago. The subpoenas follow raids last September 24 in Illinois and Minnesota in which scores of FBI agents descended on the homes of 14 activists, including well-known trade unionists, antiwar organizers and several supporters of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), which publishes Fight Back! newspaper. The Feds seized cell phones and passports and carted away vanloads of boxes filled with personal papers, address books and computer disks.
With its vendetta against these leftists, the Obama administration has one-upped the Bush regime in its war on civil liberties. Investigated for providing “material support to terrorism” on the basis of purported links to the secular-nationalist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the leftists’ “crime” in the eyes of the U.S. rulers is their siding with victims of the Zionist butchers and Colombian death squads. Those who manage to avoid bogus charges of “support to terrorism” may still face years of imprisonment on charges of “criminal contempt” for the honorable act of refusing to name names before the grand jury inquisitors.
This witchhunt is a stark confirmation of how the shredding of civil liberties in the name of the “war on terror,” while at first mainly targeting Arab and Muslim immigrants, is ultimately aimed at the left and the entire labor movement. As the Spartacist League warned in a statement issued one day after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, both the Democrats and Republicans would seize on the event to reinforce capitalist class rule. As we wrote in “The World Trade Center Attack” (WV No. 764, 14 September 2001):
“It’s an opportunity for the exploiters to peddle ‘one nation indivisible’ patriotism to try to direct the burgeoning anger at the bottom of this society away from themselves and toward an indefinable foreign ‘enemy,’ as well as immigrants in the U.S., and to reinforce their arsenal of domestic state repression against all the working people.”
It is vitally necessary for the left, the labor movement and fighters for black and immigrant rights to defend those caught up in the government witchhunt. The Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee have participated in protests on the Midwest leftists’ behalf, demanding that all the subpoenas be withdrawn, that no charges be filed and that materials seized by the Feds be returned. The vendetta against these leftists, a blatant attack on the rights of speech and association, is intended to intimidate into silence anyone who would protest government policies at home and wars and depredations abroad.
At a January 12 press conference in Minneapolis, FRSO supporters exposed how this whole “investigation” stems from police surveillance and disruption of protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC). The Feds have now admitted that one government agent, using the name Karen Sullivan, infiltrated the Minneapolis Anti-War Committee (AWC) and later joined FRSO. “Sullivan” pushed herself into the forefront of local activism. She joined a vanload who traveled to the annual protest at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, where the U.S. military trains its Latin American counterparts in murder and torture, and gave a workshop on the counterinsurgency “Plan Colombia” at last year’s U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. This agent also insinuated herself into a three-person AWC Palestinian solidarity delegation to the Occupied Territories in 2009, which was stopped by Israeli immigration agents as soon as it arrived in Tel Aviv, presumably based on information “Sullivan” supplied.
“Sullivan” was only one of a host of undercover agents and informants who swarmed over the RNC protests. Many were paid thousands of dollars to spy on, disrupt and set up organizers for arrest. “The Policing of Political Speech,” a report issued by the National Lawyers Guild last September, exposed the central role of these agents in the prosecution of the RNC 8. These protest organizers were initially charged with “terrorism” based on acts of civil disobedience and disruption by a few anarchist youth—trivial acts that used to be vindictively charged as “disorderly conduct.”
Liberals and the reformist left, including the FRSO, promoted the illusion that Obama’s election would mark a sharp turn from the regime of George W. Bush. But as we pointed out at the time, Obama’s promises to clean up the worst “excesses” of the Bush gang were driven by his commitment to wage the “war on terror” more effectively. From the indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo to National Security Agency domestic wiretapping, Obama has embraced every one of the repressive tools handed him by Bush (and Bush’s predecessor, Bill Clinton).
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court handed the Justice Department the authority, which it had long sought, to prosecute the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association as support to terrorism. In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the court ruled that to advise the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or the Kurdistan Workers Party on how to appeal to the United Nations in regard to their struggles against the genocidal wars waged by the Sri Lankan and Turkish governments would constitute “material support” to terrorism. We wrote in response that “by the Court’s light, any activity that is considered as giving legitimacy to ‘terrorists’—from giving money to Muslim charities to interviewing a guerrilla fighter for the press—would be deemed ‘material support’” (“Supreme Court Decision Shreds First Amendment Rights,” WV No. 961, 2 July 2010). Just three months later, the FBI launched its raids.
As reported by Fight Back!, “it seems that the investigation of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is focused on small donations to the day-care and women’s center projects of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.” Promoting education, day care and other relief for Palestinian refugee women and political prisoners, this group has had ties to the PFLP, which is designated as “terrorist” by the U.S. government.
For the blood-drenched U.S. imperialists, the designation of “foreign terrorist organization” is elastic and constantly shifting. It has included such organizations as Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress during the reign of apartheid in South Africa. The Islamic reactionaries of Al Qaeda top the U.S. hit list today, but in the 1980s their forebears were hailed—and bankrolled—by the U.S. as “freedom fighters” against the Soviet Union. In “Why Reagan Needs ‘Terrorism’,” (WV No. 347, 3 February 1984) we wrote: “For the bourgeoisie, ‘terrorism’ is violence associated with causes of which they disapprove, the use of force outside their own monopoly of violence: strikers defending their picket lines, black people protecting their communities against racist nightriders, Central American peasants fighting back against the landlords’ army and hired killers.”
America’s rulers have a long history of harassing and criminalizing leftist dissent—from the legal lynching of the Haymarket Martyrs for organizing for the eight-hour day, to the Palmer Raids that led to the deportation of thousands of foreign-born radicals after World War I, and the Smith Act prosecution of leaders of the then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party on the eve of World War II. The postwar purges that drove the Stalinists and other leftists out of the unions, coming on the heels of the largest strike wave in U.S. history, were the domestic reflection of the Cold War against the Soviet Union. In the 1960s, those who protested against U.S. imperialism’s dirty war against the Vietnamese workers and peasants were painted as traitors, while the government unleashed its secret police against fighters for black rights at home, assassinating 38 Black Panther Party members and railroading hundreds more to prison.
Ominously, one of the Chicago activists subpoenaed in December is Maureen Murphy, managing editor of the online publication Electronic Intifada, who had helped spearhead the defense of those targeted in the September raids. As a January 24 protest letter to Attorney General Eric Holder by the PDC stated: “The clear implication is that anyone who defends the civil liberties of those smeared as ‘terrorists’ will themselves in turn be targeted as ‘terrorists’.”
Ultimately, what the racist capitalist rulers can get away with will be determined by the level of class and social struggle. As Marxists, we understand that there will be no justice served until the imperialist exploiters, war criminals and witchhunters are swept from power through a socialist revolution that overturns capitalist class rule and establishes a workers government.
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Funds are urgently needed for the legal defense of the subpoenaed Midwest activists. Donations can be sent to Committee to Stop FBI Repression, PO Box 14183, Minneapolis, MN 55414. Letters of protest can be sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20530-0001.