Obama's War on Left, Civil Liberties

Former Black Panther spokesman Mumia Abu-Jamal is facing a new hearing before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which threatens to reinstate the death sentence vacated by a lower court in 2001. Seventy-one-year-old leftist lawyer Lynne Stewart has been resentenced to ten years in prison for the crime of representing her client. In Chicago and Minneapolis, the FBI has just raided the homes of leftists, antiwar activists and unionists under the rubric of the “war on terrorism.” Among those targeted were members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and others, who have run afoul of Washington for their open support to leftist rebels in Colombia opposed to the U.S. puppet regime and the secular nationalist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

This is a snapshot of life in Obama’s America. Although Obama had always made clear his dedication to carry on the “war on terrorism,” bourgeois liberals and reformist “socialists” fed illusions that his administration would curb the “extremes” of the attacks on civil liberties under the Bush administration. In February Obama signed into law yet another extension of the USA Patriot Act with its provisions of indefinite detention, expansion of secret FBI searches of homes and offices, elimination of formal restrictions on CIA domestic spying, wiretapping and Internet surveillance. Obama’s White House has made it clear that it is not about to shut down the Guantánamo torture pens, expanded government efforts to thwart exposure of the crimes of U.S. imperialism, and invoked “state secrets” to shield the government from lawsuits by America’s torture victims. As the PDC and Spartacist League wrote in amici curiae briefs filed in a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 and 2004 in defense of Jose Padilla, “Like the ‘war against communism’ and the ‘war against drugs,’ this ‘war’ is a pretext to increase the state’s police powers and repressive apparatus, constricting the democratic rights of the population. The Executive’s declaration that its ‘war against terrorism’ forefeits constitutional protections for designated individuals echoes the regimes of shahs and colonels and presidents ‘for life’ from the Near East to Africa to Latin America, to justify the mass imprisonment and unmarked graves of political dissidents.” We print below a letter of protest sent by the PDC following the September 24 FBI raids.

*   *   *

The Partisan Defense Committee vehemently protests the FBI raids yesterday on the homes of numerous leftists and antiwar activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. Among the targeted activists are a chief union steward in the Service Employees International Union, prominent members of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee, the executive director of the Arab American Action Network, and supporters of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and Students for a Democratic Society. FBI agents carted away boxloads of the activists’ personal belongings, including computer drives and papers. Activists were also served with subpoenas to testify before federal grand juries investigating their activities in solidarity with the oppressed in the Middle East and Latin America.

This witchhunt is a blatant attack on the rights of free speech and association, and is intended to chill the First Amendment activities of anyone who would protest government policies at home and wars and depredations abroad. From its inception under the Bush administration, the “war on terror,” which initially victimized Arab and Muslim immigrants, set into motion repressive measures that also target leftists, trade unionists, and black people. Now the Obama administration is escalating these wholesale attacks on civil liberties with these neo-McCarthyite raids.

We demand that the subpoenas be withdrawn, that there be no charges and that all belongings taken in Friday’s raids be returned immediately. Stop the witchhunt! Hands off the activists!