Spartacist Canada No. 156
War on Terror, Anti-Crime Bill
Government Repression Targets All of Us!
For more than six years, the capitalist rulers of this country have used the so-called war on terror as an all-purpose justification for neocolonial occupation abroad and repression at home. Canadian troops in Afghanistan continue to kill and maim civilians while handing prisoners over to the Afghan regime in Kandahar, where many have been tortured or executed. On the home front, a succession of Liberal and Tory governments have passed draconian anti-terror and anti-crime laws, banned foreign leftist groups, shackled unionized workers with new security legislation and rounded up Muslim suspects on the flimsiest of pretexts. And the NDP has joined in the reactionary outcry, hailing police round-ups of Muslim youth and backing the Tories new repressive Tackling Violent Crime Act.
The rulers want us to be afraid, very afraid—to accept the shredding of our democratic rights as necessary to protect us against terrorism. Yet for all their dark warnings, not one purported terror suspect has ever been convicted of a single crime! It is in the direct interest of the working class and all defenders of civil liberties to mobilize mass protest against this wave of state repression.
A year ago, the Supreme Court threw out as unconstitutional Ottawas security certificate law, under which non-citizens have been detained indefinitely on the basis of secret information to which neither they nor their lawyers have any access. The Tory government responded by enacting a new version of the same law, with virtually all the original provisions intact.
With the reissuing of security certificates against five Muslim men, CSIS released part of its supposed evidence, none of which contains even a single alleged act. To wit: Montreal resident Adil Charkaoui was seized in 2003 after allegedly describing the brutal war on Afghanistan by the U.S., Canadian and other imperialist forces as a battle against Islam led by the wicked and the Crusaders. He also committed the crime (for a Muslim) of applying for a job with Air Canada and once allegedly told someone to speak only in generalities. In other words, CSIS admits to destroying this mans life because of his words—for thought crimes. For good measure, the cops threw in allegations of being in Afghanistan for terror training, which Charkaoui vehemently denies. This is the same lie used in 2002 to send Maher Arar to be tortured in a Syrian dungeon.
The evidence against the other men is cut from the same cloth: dubious claims of Al Qaeda links based on who they allegedly talked to, words taken out of context, glances over shoulders, all based on mysterious CSIS reports, wiretaps and informants nobody can identify. One detainee, Hassen Almrei, has been in solitary confinement since 2001. The other four have been released under stringent house arrest, forced to live under constant electronic surveillance and severely restricted from leaving their homes. Mohamed Harkat was recently rearrested for 72 hours, allegedly because one of his legally assigned guardians (his mother-in-law) had left to look for a new apartment! While none of these men have ever been convicted of anything, they all face possible deportation to torture in Morocco, Syria or Egypt.
Meanwhile, 18 Muslim men and teenagers in the Toronto area have had their lives wrecked by the Canadian injustice system after being entrapped by police informants in a massive sting operation. Charged under the anti-terrorism law almost two years ago amid fantastic allegations of plotting to blow up Toronto skyscrapers and behead prime minister Stephen Harper, they have had to endure detention under torturous conditions. My whole world now is a 6 by 4 by 10 room, 23-year-old Fahim Ahmad told the Toronto Star (8 November 2007) of his solitary confinement. You wake up and know you will be in this room the whole day. Theres no hope of anything.
The governments case against these men has been unraveling from the start. The alleged leader, 44-year-old Qayyum Abdul Jamal, has been freed on bail. Four defendants had their charges dropped or stayed. And the states informants have been an endless source of embarrassment.
One, Mubin Shaikh, is a reactionary community leader who had earlier been prominent in the fight to impose sharia law on Ontario Muslims. Shaikh is so unreliable, it seems, that the government abruptly ordered the end of a preliminary hearing in the case last September before defense lawyers could cross-examine him. A second, unnamed informant reportedly got $4 million for his work (Shaikh got a measly $300,000). Speaking of the charges against him, Fahim Ahmad told the Star: They made no sense to me. But then when I hear how much the informers were being paid, I said Hey, when youre being paid $4 million for something it doesnt take too much to make up some kind of story. Right? Free the detainees! Drop the charges!
NDP Joins Anti-Crime Hysteria
Attacks on the vulnerable Muslim population are only the thin edge of the wedge, as the capitalist ruling class continues to hone the repressive powers of its state—the cops, courts and prisons that enforce racist law and order. With the final passage in February of the Tories anti-crime act, the cops and courts now have even more power to harass, prosecute and mete out life-destroying prison sentences for gun-related crime or gang affiliation. These are code words for a war on black, South Asian and Native inner-city youth. Ultimately, and as they have done in the past, the rulers also intend to use such repressive powers against striking workers, organized leftists and any other perceived threats to the bourgeois order.
The new act erodes long-held principles of law under bourgeois democracy. It creates a reverse onus provision for release of alleged violent and sexual offenders: now the defendant must prove to the state—which arrested him in the first place—why he should not be held. It creates mandatory minimum sentencing for gun-related offences and establishes a three-strikes-youre-out provision. Such provisions have been part of U.S. law for years, leading to a massive growth in the prison population, especially among blacks. The new law allows traffic cops to test for drug-impaired driving by randomly taking blood samples. And it raises the age of consent from 14 to 16.
The aim of such crime laws is to regiment the population even more and allow the capitalist state to jail pretty much anybody. If youre young, if youre black, if youve ever got into a fight, if you have friends who wear a certain type of gang clothes, if you have smoked a joint in the past week, if you have sex with your 15-year-old girlfriend or boyfriend, they can come and get you. Meanwhile, the real crimes of the filthy rich owners of industry and commerce—poverty, racism, run-down schools, overcrowded hospitals, promotion of fear and guilt—go unpunished, their perpetrators still at large in their mansions, yachts and limos.
The Tory anti-crime bill passed the House of Commons by 221 to 1 with the support of Jack Laytons NDP, which actively campaigned for many of its provisions. The only MP to vote against it, Vancouver-area NDPer Bill Siksay, was disciplined by the NDP leadership. In backing this deeply repressive law, the New Democrats underline their thoroughgoing support for racist Canadian capitalism. Earlier, Layton hailed the police sting operation against the Toronto 18, saluting the efforts and cooperation of our law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies. We are grateful for the work they do to keep our communities and country safe, he added.
In reality, the police are an agency for violent repression against workers, minorities and the poor on behalf of the capitalist rulers. In the name of fighting against gangs, guns and drugs, Torontos progressive mayor David Miller, himself a former NDPer, has unleashed a virtual cop occupation of heavily black and Asian areas like Torontos Jane-Finch corridor, where unemployment has skyrocketed amid the massive job losses and factory closures that have swept Southern Ontario.
What is needed is mobilization by the organized working class in protest against the rulers onslaught against immigrants and minorities, including the attacks on Muslims. The labour movement must fight for jobs for all and for union-run training and skills programs, especially for ethnic minorities, women and youth. The capitalist rulers consciously foment racism against immigrants and minorities to divide the working class on racial and ethnic lines and defeat its struggles. Immigrant workers are integral to the class struggle in Canada today. Many have been at the forefront of the fight for union rights and against the attacks on jobs, wages and working conditions. For example, three years ago in Brooks, Alberta, African-born meatpackers at the giant Tyson plant were central to a bitter strike that won a first union contract.
For Class Struggle Against the Capitalist Rulers!
Muslims are the primary target of the rulers war on terror. But ultimately in the states crosshairs are opponents of the capitalist status quo, and particularly the workers movement. Wiretapping, electronic surveillance, no-fly lists, increased police powers—and the billions of dollars invested in them—are not aimed at elusive suicide bombers, but at regimenting the population into accepting the law and order of oppressive capitalist rule as sacrosanct and inviolable.
Already, leftist organizations such as the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Colombian FARC have been made illegal in Canada under anti-terrorism legislation. And unionized workers, especially at the ports and in transportation systems, face witchhunting attacks in the name of heightened security. For example, dock workers now have to undergo extensive immigration, CSIS and criminal records checks.
With its hands on the means of production—factories, mines, transport—the working class uniquely has the social power to take on the capitalist class and its state, through strikes and other forms of class struggle. And because the working class is international and multiethnic, it is also in its direct interest to combat racism and all other forms of social oppression. But to realize this potential, the working class must mobilize independently of all agencies of the capitalist state. Any illusions that sections of the capitalist state are our allies or are here to protect us are suicidal.
Yet sections of the trade-union bureaucracy have joined the rulers reactionary crusades for law and order and security. In November 2005, leaders of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which organizes Torontos 8,500 transit workers, joined a reactionary demonstration by thousands of Toronto police, many of them armed and in uniform, who carried signs reading Get tough on crime, not tough on cops. And in a 2004 submission to Transport Canada, leaders of the ILWU longshore union quoted and endorsed their American counterparts submission to a U.S. congressional committee on port security that read:
Longshore workers are the front-line defense to terrorism in our ports. The government should, therefore, enlist these dedicated workers as partners rather than as suspects in the efforts to secure our national ports.
Enlisting workers as partners in the capitalists law and order and anti-terror hysteria endangers the labour movement, disarming it in the face of the enemy class.
The capitalist class has always maintained its rule—centered on the exploitation of the working class for profit—through repression, torture and killing. Particularly since the final undoing of the 1917 Russian workers revolution through capitalist restoration in 1991-92, workers and the oppressed around the world have seen their living standards plummet and their rights trampled. Millions in the neocolonial world continue to die of malnutrition and preventable disease. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. imperialists, backed by their Canadian junior partners, have stepped up their repression at home while staging the bloody neocolonial occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. out of Iraq! U.S./Canadian/NATO troops out of Afghanistan now!
The war on terror, the repressive anti-crime laws and the attendant racist backlash can be beaten back. The key is mobilizing the social power of the working class in a conscious fight on behalf of all the oppressed, and against the capitalist system as a whole. Winning the workers to this class-struggle perspective requires first and foremost a political battle against the nationalist, pro-capitalist politics of the NDP and trade-union tops. What is needed is the forging of a multiracial revolutionary workers party that fights unstintingly in defense of all the victims of racist Canadian capitalism and for united proletarian struggle against bourgeois rule.