The world revolution has been on hiatus recently as The Militant has taken a three-week vacation. Of course it hasn't been all fun--they spent two days attending the Oberlin Conference. Presumably we'll hear more about that soon. In the meantime, the August 12th issue brings us up to speed on the current state of the working class.
The big, earthshaking news is that Jacob Perasso's house has been burglarized.
“I knew this was no ordinary robbery. This is what’s done when the authorities or their vigilante friends want to send you a message,” Jacob Perasso told the Militant, in an interview following a July 16 break-in at his house. Perasso was the Socialist Workers Party candidate for City Council District 4 in the May elections here and is active in support of workers’ struggles, fights against police brutality and other social protests in the interests of working people.A picture of the crime scene is included.
“They are trying to intimidate us, but we are going to fight back," Perasso said, announcing plans to organize a broad international defense campaign.An international defense campaign? Against who? Burglars? The police? Vigilantes? This is surely one of the silliest ideas ever to grace the pages of the The Militant.
The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has a long tradition of fighting for civil rights. (The fact that they don't actually believe in civil rights is not the topic for now.) In 1941, several leading comrades were convicted under the Smith Act and sentenced to jail terms. The Smith Act made it illegal to advocate the overthrow of the US government, and was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1957. It clearly represented an overreach by the government, albeit one taken during a time of war. We can give comrades credit for their work against this law.
Beginning in the 1960s, the FBI (under J. Edgar Hoover) launched a campaign "aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations." This was dubbed COINTELPRO, standing for Counter Intelligence Program, and it was directed at a large number of Leftist, Rightist, and racist organizations. The program was totally out of line, and the SWP took the lead in fighting back. They filed a lawsuit in 1973 which they eventually won in 1986, receiving damages of $264,000. Once again, kudos to the comrades.
Now of COINTELPRO's aims, discrediting and disrupting legal political activity is surely not a legitimate function of constitutional government. The SWP was always very careful to act within the law, so however vile their ultimate purposes, the FBI had no right to do what it did.
On the other hand, I support the government's efforts to survey and infiltrate radical organizations. The Party has always assumed that they were government targets because of their program. That is, the Party believed it represented a political threat to the capitalist system, and government repression was a response to that threat. They viewed themselves as a political organization, not a terrorist cell, and not as a bunch of counter-cultural hippies. Accordingly, they were resolutely non-violent, and operated scrupulously within the law. I give full credit to the Party for their seriousness of purpose--of that there can be no question.
But the same cannot be said of every individual comrade. A small, minority party such as the SWP will always attract some nut cases. Whatever the pedigree of the organization, the nuts probably warrant observation--surely a legitimate police function. An example is Lyndon LaRouche, who started his disreputable political career in the SWP.
The matter comes up today with surveillance of mosques. The government has no right to obstruct or disrupt constitutionally protected religious worship. But they have an obligation to keep some of those worshipers under observation.
After COINTELPRO, the Party's civil rights efforts degenerated. This is probably because comrades just got too old, and the government stopped paying any attention to them. Fifty and sixty year-olds are not likely candidates for terrorism, no matter how nutty. The police have better things to do.
For a Party that believes its political program is an imminent threat to the establishment, ignoring them is the worst insult imaginable. Absent real repression, self-validation requires that they invent police repression, and so they have. There are two cases of note.
The first is the Mark Curtis case. In 1988 Mr. Curtis was arrested, tried and convicted for the sexual assault of a 15 year old girl in her own home. The Party defended this as a political case, stringing the project along for nearly a decade. There are two issues: 1) was Mr. Curtis guilty? And 2) was this a political case?
The jury convicted him, and I have no reason to doubt their verdict. This despite the fact that the Party turned the trial into a circus.
I am totally convinced, however, that it was not a politically-motivated case. The Party claims it was a frame-up--Mr. Curtis was lured to the girl's house by an anonymous and unidentified woman, only to have his pants pulled down by cops who were waiting for him there. After this he was charged with rape. This is a bizarre and unbelievable story. It would have been much easier to frame him just by throwing some drugs into his car.
And the second case is poor Mr. Perasso and his burgled house. There is just no way this is a politically inspired police action. It's a plain, old-fashioned burglary, pure and simple. Burglars (or so I read) are looking for cash, drugs, guns, and things that can be easily carried and fenced (e.g., cell phones). They are not going to steal e-readers (!?) or heavy, old laptops. Trying to turn this into a political case is just absurd.
The premise of this blog is that my Trotskyist friends are sane. The SWP is pushing their luck promoting this schizophrenia-worthy conspiracy theory--if they persist I'll just drop them off the radar screen. But as of now they still have the benefit of the doubt. The source of the fairy tale is less self-deception, but rather the story they tell themselves about the value of their organization. If you take away government repression, there's nothing left.
And that's why the world revolution depends on the fate Jacob Perasso's cell phone.