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Thursday, October 14, 2010

A liberal democracy quickly becomes a police state

It was a friend of mine who once told me that “the definition of a liberal was someone you can push against a wall and he becomes a fascist.” It took a while to realize how true that is. Just recently the FBI went after Freedom Road Socialist Organization, for their solidarity work.
While this is disturbing, it is not really that surprising. Herbert Marcuse, in his essay Repressive Tolerance, said;

“Surely, no government can be expected to foster its own subversion, but in a democracy such a right is vested in the people (i.e. in the majority of the people). This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc.”

He died long before “the War on Terror” and yet this statement reinforces my belief that the “freedoms” we supposedly enjoy in the United States are just an illusion. Not only do the recent raids on Freedom Road spell that out, but also past activities of the FBI, at times the press and politicians each play their own roll.
From The Wichita Eagle;

“Federal investigators spied on a Wichita State University senior and his fiancé in 1983 and 1984 as part of a probe into a campus group opposed to US intervention in Central America, according to documents released Wednesday.[1]

I was a member of the WSU Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). The FBI was politically attacked by some liberal politicians for harassing a solidarity group that simply wanted to change US policy and wanted the recognizing the El Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional de El Salvador (FMLN).
Today, everything the FBI was castigated for doing to my wife and I would be totally legal under the new USA Patriot Act. Since the “War on Terror” began after 9/11, the US has openly embraced police state tactics and violated people’s rights both at home and abroad with the support of fearful citizens who are far more concerned with their safety and way of life than their so called “freedoms.”
Few of these citizens really realize what kind of police state nightmare actions the Patriot Act does and will allow their government to do.
We only need to look at the past to see what this government is capable of. Take COINTELPRO, an operation set up by the FBI to infiltrate and sabotage the “New Left” of the 1960s and early 1970s. FBI documents prove that this was underhanded, deliberate and plain undemocratic. FBI agents were told to;

“Make use of articles from student newspapers and/or the “underground press” to show the depravity of the New Left leaders and members. In this connection, articles showing advocation of the use of narcotics and free sex are ideal to send to university officials, wealthy donors, members of the legislature and parents of students who are active in New Left matters.”[2]

Then there was the mother of all anti-left witch-hunts the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). From Can You Pass The Acid Test;

“In 1938, Congressman Martin Dies persuaded Congress to create the
HUAC, which conducted closed hearings until October 1947. In that year,
Congressman J. Parnell Thomas took over and began subpoenaing people
to appear before the committee.84
In the 1930s, during the depression, the Communist Party rank and file
swelled to an all-time high. At the same time, there were demonstrations
by those wanting food, housing and unemployment insurance. There was
labor unrest. By the end of the 1930s, U.S. labor violence surpassed all
other industrialized nations. The motion picture industry also saw the rise
of various trade and craft unions. Many in the film industry were working
with new ideas and ideologies. By the beginning of World War II, the US
had established friendly relations with the Soviet Union and a few
movies, such as Mission to Moscow, even presented Joe Stalin in a
favorable light.
The film industry wasn’t alone when it came to the “red scare.” The
workers of the late ’40s and ’50s were forced to sign loyalty oaths when
getting certain jobs or joining unions. Many unions were locked into an
intense struggle pitting anti-Communists against all left-leaning union
officials and rank and file.85 The Taft-Hartley Act forced unions to require
a “non-communist affidavit” for rank-and-file members.86 People
working for the US government were at risk of losing their job any time
they were suspected of disloyalty. In October of 1947 the State
Department explained why they had fired ten employees and let three
others resign without prejudice. Newsweek reported: “It (State
Department) would have to fire any employee of doubtful loyalty and
character, even if that meant denying him rights which other government
workers had and even if the evidence was inconclusive.”87
Altogether,President Harry Truman fired 308 federal employees thought to be
security risks.88
The Hollywood Ten were a group of writers and directors who were
cited for contempt of Congress and jailed for not cooperating with the
John Howard Lawson was one of the Hollywood Ten who argued for
his rights at the HUAC. On October 27, 1947, Lawson was asked the
standard question “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the
communist party?”
He replied:
“The question of communism is in no way related to this inquiry,
which is an attempt to get control of the screen and to invade the basic
rights of American citizens in all fields.”[3]

As most of us know, he and nine other people were blacklisted for not cooperating with the HUAC and they got very little support from the general public.
So we can see that out government can revert to ANY tactic to stop any real opposition to its hold on power. This includes allowing assassinations of suspected terrorist at home and abroad. As we saw in the 1950s and from what we are seeing today, the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative of Republicans are united against the left and have will never oppose FBI tactics to stop opposition to the capitalist or imperialist system. No matter what they say on other topics, they are united in the “War on Terrorism” because both parties support the US empire and all its luxuries to those that some leftists refer to as “the working aristocracy” (middle class and petite bourgeoisie).
Members of the press stopped the 1950s witch-hunts. With today’s press we are more likely to have to battle these repressive measures on our own.
-សតិវ អតុ

[1] Gardner Selby and John Jenks, “WSU Couple investigated,” The Wichita Eagle, January 28, 1989, front page.
[2] Steve Otto, War on Drugs/ War on People, (Ide House, Los Colinas, TX) 1995, p 107..
[3] Steve Otto, Can You Pass the Acid Test, (Publish America, Baltimore) 2007, pp 34 – 35.

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