Obama’s FBI raided the homes of Latin America and Palestine solidarity activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and other cities Friday morning. The news is a chilling reminder that whether this country is run by warmongering bigots like Bush or sweet-talking Dems like Obama—who may not monger for war, but he certainly pursues it with zeal—minority elites must monitor and stifle dissent among the majority population. It is a prerequisite of empire.
I am heartened to see that these raids are being condemned by progressives across the country—from the 150 peace activists who attended a Twin Cities emergency response meeting within hours of the raids and protests outside FBI bureaus to a statement by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27
Minneapolis, 4:30 p.m., FBI office, 111 Washington Ave. S.
Chicago, 4:30 p.m., FBI office, 2111 W. Roosevelt Road
Kalamazoo, Mich., 4:30 p.m., Federal Building, 410 W. Michigan Ave.
Salt Lake City, 9 a.m., Federal Building
Durham, N.C., 12 Noon, Federal Building, 323 E. Chapel Hill St.
Buffalo, N.Y., 4:30 p.m., FBI office, corner of S. Elmwood Avenue and Niagra Street
Gainesville, Fla., 4:30 p.m., FBI office
Boston, 4 p.m., JFK Federal Building, Government Center
Houston, 5-6:30PM, Mickey Leland Federal Building, Smith and St. Josephs
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28
New York City, 4:30 p.m., Federal Building, 26 Federal Plaza
Newark, N.J., 5 p.m., Federal Building, Broad Street
Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m., Federal Building, 6th and Market
Washington, D.C., 4:30 p.m., FBI Building, 935 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Boston, 5 p.m., JFK Federal Building
Detroit, 4:30 p.m., McNamara Federal Building, Michigan Avenue at Cass
Raleigh, N.C., 9 a.m., Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave.
Asheville, N.C., 5 p.m., Federal Building
Atlanta, 12 Noon, FBI Building
Los Angeles, 5 p.m., Downtown Federal Building, 300 N. Los Angeles St.
Tucson, Ariz., 5 p.m., Federal Building
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29
Albany, N.Y., 5 p.m., Federal Building
Below I have reposted an article that I wrote after the Bush administration was exposed for widespread spying on activists a few years ago called “Spies, Lies and War: Lessons of COINTELPRO,” (COINTELPRO, Counter Intelligence Program), originally published in the International Socialist Review. Tragically, this piece is once again timely. Please feel free to circulate widely.
Spies, lies and war: The lessons of COINTELPRO
By SHERRY WOLF
SURVEILLANCE AND infiltration are weapons in the arsenal of the state machinery—from dictatorships like Egypt to Western democracies like the United States. How else could minority elites hope to monitor and stifle dissent among their exploited and oppressed majorities? Especially in times of war, when the façade of diplomacy is lifted and the true brutality of states is unleashed, a premium is placed on silencing or crushing any domestic discord that threatens national unity. War abroad, to put it bluntly, is always accompanied by intensified repression at home.
This is the context of the political bombshell dropped by the New York Times on December 16, 2005, when it exposed the Bush administration’s wiretapping and spying on thousands of citizens and non-citizens through the National Security Agency (NSA). The corporate media focuses on the narrow debate inside the Beltway over whether or not the administration should be getting easily obtained warrants before intruding on the privacy of citizens and others. But part of the real scandal lies in the fact that the supposed opposition party, the Democrats, are in full agreement with the state’s monitoring of e-mails, phone calls, and meetings. As Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) put it, “We all support surveillance.”1 As with the war on Iraq, the debate is over form, not content.
The American state has never hesitated to break its own laws—or make up new ones—in order to spy on and intimidate those who dare to disagree with its policies. Nor has it hesitated to use the tactics of scapegoating and fear-mongering to further these aims. The post 9-11 hysteria against Arabs and Muslims, the heated passage of the Patriot Act, the surveillance, roundup, interrogation, detention, and deportation of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, is just the latest round. The tactic in each case is to target one part of the population, whip up hatred and hysteria, and use the new political climate to justify using similar measures against an ever-wider list of organizations and classes of people.
The Espionage Act of 1917, and an amendment, the Sedition Act of 1918 made it a crime to “willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States,” punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to twenty years in prison. During the Palmer Raids in the aftermath of the First World War, the Bureau of Investigation-forerunner of the FBI-rounded up 6,000 radicals and exiled 1,000 foreign-born socialists and anarchists, using these acts as justification. During the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1940s and 1950s, a coalition of government bureaucrats, employers, and right-wing activists hounded and fired thousands of communists, leftists, trade unionists, and civil rights activists. These legal suspensions of democratic rights, often initiated by Democrats and almost always supported on both sides of the aisle, were promoted in the name of defending national security.
Each time these activities expanded the scope of state repression. Radical historian Noam Chomsky describes how following the Second World War, Senate liberals including Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) and Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.) proposed “the ultimate weapon of repression: concentration camps to intern potential troublemakers on the occasion of some loosely defined future ‘Internal Security Emergency.’”2 Not much has changed since then. Don Goldwater, son of the late senator Barry Goldwater and GOP candidate for governor in Arizona, recently called for the creation of forced labor camps for undocumented immigrants.3 The so-called liberal media, such as the New York Times, which sat on the NSA story for a year at the request of the Bush administration, applauded the expulsion of a socialist assemblyman following the Palmer Raids. In the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Washington Post editorialized against “hairsplitting over infringement of liberty.”4
A new generation of antiwar and social justice activists needs to learn the lessons of the last wave of state repression, spying, and infiltration. There is far too much ground to cover on this broad issue than can be done justice in the scope of a single article, therefore I’ve chosen to focus on a few highlights [lowlights?] of the government’s intervention in the Black liberation and socialist movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Sherry Wolf is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on Sexuality and Socialism, How Can We UNite and Fight the Right and other topics at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of the International Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of theProgressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.