The Strengthening of the Repressive Apparatus

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For the past seven years the American ruling class has moved relentlessly and forcefully to use the events of 9/ll as the pretext for pushing through a tremendous reinforcement of the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state. While ostensibly designed as a means to combat the “terrorist” threat from Islamist fundamentalism, the strengthening of the repressive apparatus is a means that the state will not hesitate to use against any threat to its dominance, including especially the working class and its revolutionary movement. Using the semi-hysteria created by 9/ll is a cynical maneuver to undo the post-Watergate reform measures that had been designed to prevent a recurrence of the Nixon administration abuses, in which the repressive apparatus was used against members of the ruling class itself.

The commitment to strengthen repression is not simply the preoccupation of the rightwing, but a general policy orientation of the dominant fractions of the American bourgeoisie, which actually predates 9/11, and that this policy has already tangibly impact on daily life in the U.S. These measures range from the U.S.A. Patriot Act, to the abuse of illegal wiretapping, to development of terrorist watchlists (which now include the names of 917,000 people), to the long list of abuses of the newly granted powers, and the use of new technologies to monitor the everyday activities of citizens.

The U.S.A. Patriotic Act was passed overwhelmingly within a few weeks of 9/ll without any public hearings, without any expert testimony, without hardly an opportunity to read the legislation. That this rush to erode traditional civil liberties was not simply the result of legislative hysteria, was amply demonstrated in five years later when the law was reauthorized with only the most minor alterations, despite widespread criticism of the original provisions. Likewise, there has been no difficulty in securing bipartisan support for the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay which fly in the face of international law, or for wireless wiretaps and surveillance by the National Security Administration (Bush’s dispute with Democrats over immunity for telecommunication companies that cooperated in illegal wiretaps before the authorizing legislation is in fact a secondary matter).

The strengthening of the repressive apparatus predates 9/11, which only provided a convenient pretext to accelerate the process. So for example, the Clinton administration provided funding in the 1990s to vastly expand police forces across the country and increased the number of federal crimes that were punishable by the death penalty. Indeed some bourgeois observers noted that Clinton, despite his “liberal” image, had done more to expand the death penalty than Ronald Reagan. The strengthening of the police forces and their closer integration with federal authorities, increases monitoring of various protest movements, as could be seen in the infiltration of groups that protested at the 2004 Republican Convention in New York City. So-called “community relations” or “community affairs” units work with demonstration leaders to control protests and keep them under control—a lesson the bourgeoisie learned from the unrest of the 1960s. Recent reports demonstrate that the U.S. has more of its adult population in prison, both in terms of absolute numbers and percentage of adult population than any other country in the world for which reliable statistics are available. According to research generated by the Pew Center on the States, more than $44 billion was spent on prisons last year. Vermont, Connecticut, Deleware, Michigan and Oregon spent as much or more on keeping people in prison than they did on financing public higher education. One in 99 American adults is in jail. Among black males, between 20 and 34 years of age, one in 9 is serving time in prison. For Hispanics, 1 in 36 male adults is behind bars. And all of this occurs at a time when the bourgeoisie brags that crime is declining.

For the working class, the capitalist state is the enemy. The destruction of the capitalist state and its replacement by the power of the workers councils is the central political goal of the workers revolution. It is only a matter of time before the strengthening of the repressive apparatus will be used against the working class struggle. No propaganda campaign about the threat of mindless terrorism can be allowed to hide the fact that it is the revolutionary proletariat that is the real target of this campaign. -- JG 4/12/2008

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