Workers Vanguard No. 1080
11 December 2015
On San Bernardino Massacre
Down With Anti-Muslim Backlash!
No to Gun Control!
The December 2 rampage in San Bernardino, California, which left 14 people dead and 21 more wounded, was a brutal crime. While there are widespread claims that the married Muslim couple who perpetrated the massacre were Islamic State (ISIS) supporters, their motive remains unclear. What is clear is that America’s racist capitalist rulers have seized on this attack to ramp up anti-Muslim terror and push for greater state repression and tighter gun control laws.
Muslims in the U.S. have long been under siege, a situation that has been intensified following the November 13 Paris attacks. On Thanksgiving Day, a Moroccan-born taxi driver in Pittsburgh was shot by a man who accused him of being part of ISIS. Mosques have been attacked and numerous women in headscarves have been assaulted. The night after the San Bernardino shooting, thugs broke into and vandalized the Islamic Center of Palm Beach in Florida. The New York Times (4 December) noted that Muslim leaders are reporting “a wave of death threats, assaults and vandalism unlike anything they have experienced since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.”
Following 9/11, anti-Muslim hysteria was fomented by the capitalist rulers as they launched the invasion of Afghanistan and implemented a series of “anti-terror” measures whose initial target was overwhelmingly those of Islamic background. We warned at the time that such laws would also be used against black people, leftists and the working class. Indeed, during the 2002 ILWU West Coast longshore contract battle, the head of Homeland Security warned the union that a strike could “threaten national security,” and the Bush administration threatened to send the military to operate the ports.
The same capitalist rulers who are perpetrating the “war on terror” are also gutting wages, benefits and jobs for working people. They know they sit on a mountain of social discontent. When it explodes in social and class struggle, the rulers will use their “anti-terror” laws to try to suppress the workers and the oppressed. It is vital for working people to defend Muslims and oppose every attempt by the ruling class to augment the repressive power of the capitalist state.
The San Bernardino killings were a godsend to the ruling class. Dropped from the front pages were the cop killings of unarmed black people and the murderous attacks on abortion providers. While the Republicans have escalated their howls of anti-Muslim bigotry, the Democrats are exploiting the massacre to push for more gun control. For the first time in 95 years, the New York Times (5 December) ran an editorial on its front page, “The Gun Epidemic.” Leading the pack is the Obama White House, with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders likewise calling for stronger background checks on gun buyers. They are whipping up an orchestrated panic over guns, this time with the added spectre of Muslims with guns. In his December 6 Oval Office address, where he reiterated that the U.S. is “at war with terrorists,” Obama called gun control “a matter of national security.”
The right to bear arms must be defended. The intent of gun control legislation is to disarm the population and to enforce a monopoly of violence in the hands of the capitalist state. Gun control kills, and it kills black people in particular. The earliest 20th-century gun control laws were passed in states like South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi as a way to disarm blacks in the face of KKK terror. In the 1960s, gun control laws were passed in New York and California to target Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. While Obama and the Times editors portray those standing up for Second Amendment rights as the racist, anti-immigrant, right-wing fringe, the basic truth of the matter is something that used to be common wisdom among labor and black militants: if guns are outlawed, only cops, criminals and fascists will have them. Had the San Bernardino health department workers been packing, a few more may have survived.
The American capitalist state has a long history of mass murder. In 1914, the Colorado state militia massacred 21 men, women and children, families of striking miners in Ludlow. In 1921, police in Tulsa bombed the segregated black community, killing 75 people. During the 1937 Republic Steel strike, Chicago cops shot to death ten strikers and their supporters and injured at least 60 on Memorial Day; newsreel film of the bloodbath was suppressed. In the Los Angeles area of Watts, cops unleashed a massive wave of repression against black people during the 1965 upheaval in which 34 people died. In 1993, after a 51-day siege, Bill Clinton’s Justice Department ordered an attack on the integrated Branch Davidian religious sect near Waco, Texas, killing over 80 men, women and children. This year alone, police have killed well over 1,000 people.
Whether or not the San Bernardino killers are connected to ISIS, the bitter truth is that the U.S. imperialists are the greatest terrorists in the world. From the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the carpet bombing of Vietnam to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and drone strikes on innocent civilians in Africa and the Near East—the imperialists’ hands drip with the blood of tens of millions. In fact, ISIS is descended from the CIA-backed jihadists who fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. As we have repeatedly emphasized, any blows struck against the imperialist forces or their proxies in the Near East—including by such reactionary elements as ISIS—would serve the interests of the international working class. U.S. out of the Near East!
What is needed is class struggle by workers in the U.S. against their capitalist rulers at home. As Marxists in the belly of the imperialist beast, we seek to instill in the proletariat the understanding that it has the social power and historic interest to destroy capitalist-imperialist rule from within through socialist revolution. To realize this task requires forging a revolutionary workers party, U.S. section of a reforged Fourth International committed to the struggle for workers rule over the entire planet.