Earlier that day the Federal Election Commission had voted 4-1 to extend the exemption of SWP candidates from requirements to disclose names of financial contributors until Dec. 31, 2016, through the next presidential election. The party has fought for and won the right for its supporters to make campaign contributions without turning over their names to the government since 1974.
In letters to the FEC in November 2012 and April 2013, the SWP’s attorneys — Michael Krinsky and Lindsey Frank, of the firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman — requested the extension. They detailed the “history of government persecution of the SWP — its long duration, exceptional intensity, and gross illegality.” They submitted some 70 declarations since 2009 documenting firings, police spying and interference, and right-wing threats and assaults reported by SWP campaign supporters across the U.S.
In 1973, amid revelations of government spying and harassment in the wake of the mass proletarian struggle for Black rights and anti-Vietnam War mobilizations, the SWP filed a suit against the FBI and other police agencies demanding such disruption be ruled unconstitutional. Thirteen years later the party won in federal court.
Drawing on evidence from that case, Krinsky and Frank described how “the FBI amassed over 8 million documents” on the party, targeted it for disruption by the FBI Cointelpro Program, wiretapped its supporters and carried out at least “204 black bag jobs, i.e., burglaries” of party offices.
Especially since Sept. 11, 2001, the letter explained, the FBI and other federal, state and local police agencies — in the name of “homeland security” against “terrorism” — have been utilizing “stepped-up spying, use of undercover informers, and other measures aimed at organizations and individuals engaged in constitutionally protected political activity.”
The SWP presented evidence since 2009 of dozens of cases of firings, surveillance, threats, harassment by cops and right-wingers, and discriminatory treatment:
— Lisa Potash, SWP candidate for mayor of Atlanta in 2009, lost two jobs when her bosses found out about her campaign.
— Frank Forrestal was accosted by a person while petitioning to put the SWP on the ballot in Omaha, Neb. “You deserve to die you commie bastard,” the thug said, phoning a friend: “Come down right away. We need to beat the shit out of him.”
— “We can put you on the no-fly list. Report you to Homeland Security,” two Philadelphia cops warned Osborne Hart, SWP candidate for mayor, and a supporter, both of whom were campaigning at the Sunoco Oil refinery plant gate there.
— “The president of the campaign must leave town now or he will be shot on sight” threatened a caller to the New York SWP headquarters.
— When Maura DeLuca, the SWP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, traveled to speak at a campaign event in Montreal, she was stopped by Canadian border cops. Putting her name in the computer, they pulled up a dossier, held her for a couple of hours, and interrogated her about reporting trips to Cuba, her membership on the SWP National Committee, and other speakers at the meeting she was going to attend.
The FEC ruling “is a victory not only for the SWP but for the right of workers and our organizations to engage in political action free from government, employer and right-wing interference,” Clark said. “This includes workers, unionists, and others involved in labor battles and social protests in the interests of the working class running election campaigns independent of and against the Democratic, Republican and other capitalist parties.
“As we defend and rebuild our unions to bring the power of our solidarity and numbers to bear,” the SWP campaign chair said, “independent working-class political action is a pressing necessity in face of escalating attacks by the bosses and their government and political parties on our wages, our job conditions, our political rights and our very dignity as human beings.
“SWP election campaigns set an example for workers and our unions of what needs to be done,” Clark said.
“Unique” but “irrelevant”?In a concurring opinion, FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, agreed the exemption remains “warranted.” She pointed to “the SWP’s unique history” of facing “widespread harassment and intimidation, perhaps more than any other minor party.” At the same time, she argued that the SWP has “exceptionally limited activity,” giving the government little interest in what the party does or who backs it.
Weintraub’s dismissive portrayal was echoed in the capitalist media’s coverage of the ruling. National Public Radio called the SWP “small and inconsequential”; the Washington Post, “largely irrelevant to the modern political process”; and the Wall Street Journal, “impotent.”
But the FEC chair and bourgeois press all beg the question. If the SWP is insignificant, why have government spies, cops and right-wing thugs targeted it for more than 70 years? Why has the SWP succeeded in winning an exemption from the FEC time and again?
In fact, an initial FEC draft opinion earlier this year, while granting the extension, would have laid the basis to later reject it, saying the SWP’s evidence since 2009 “satisfies the requirement of demonstrating a reasonable probability of harassment, albeit barely.” After the SWP and its attorneys replied, including with new sworn declarations, the FEC dropped “albeit barely.” They also exempted the SWP for four years, as it asked, instead of three as in the first FEC draft.
How could an “irrelevant” SWP push them back?
Political continuity from 1917, 1959The answer is that for close to a century, the Socialist Workers Party and its political forebears have been blood and bone of the international political movement the U.S. imperialist ruling families fear the most:
— The movement of the revolutionary workers and farmers who toppled the capitalists and landlords from power in Russia in October 1917, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party led by V.I. Lenin, and established the world’s first working-class government.
— Of the workers and farmers who, organized by the July 26 Movement and Rebel Army led by Fidel Castro, brought down a U.S.-backed tyranny in Cuba in 1959 and opened the socialist revolution in the Americas.
— And of the class-struggle-minded workers and farmers in the U.S. who have organized to emulate what working people accomplished in 1917 and 1959 by building the nucleus of a proletarian party able to lead the working class and its allies to the revolutionary conquest of power in this country.
The SWP’s origins go back to the working-class militants who organized to found the Communist Party in the U.S. in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. In 1928, after privileged social layers in the Soviet Union represented by Josef Stalin usurped political power there, those communists who fought to continue Lenin’s revolutionary course were expelled and built what became the Socialist Workers Party.
Along this road to the fight for working-class power, the party has fought shoulder to shoulder with others in battles by workers, farmers and the oppressed. It has helped get out the truth about these struggles — and about the lessons of past working-class battles the world over — through the pages of the Militant, through books and pamphlets and through the SWP’s independent working-class election campaigns.
Just in the past few months, this includes championing the fight of New York school bus workers fighting for their jobs; of coal miners resisting Patriot Coal’s drive to use bankruptcy to scuttle retirees’ pensions and health care and gut the United Mine Workers union; and of five Cuban revolutionaries framed up and imprisoned by Washington for nearly 15 years for keeping the Cuban government informed of activity by counterrevolutionary groups operating with impunity from U.S. soil to carry out bombings and other armed assaults on the Cuban Revolution.
This is what is “unique” about the Socialist Workers Party. And it is for these reasons the SWP has been and continues to be targeted for spying, disruption and threats by the rulers’ government, cops and other enemies of the working class. The propertied rulers hate the example set by the SWP’s consistent and unyielding revolutionary proletarian course.
Despite their demagogy to rationalize restrictions on democratic rights and political space, the capitalist rulers aren’t worried that reactionary, anti-working-class Islamist jihadists — who kill and maim innocent people in terrorist acts — will someday dethrone them and install a caliphate on the Potomac. What the rulers do fear are coming social and political battles by millions of workers and farmers, and the inevitable revolutionary challenge to their class rule.
In the next issue of the Militant, we’ll look at the history of building a revolutionary workers party in the U.S. from 1917 to today, and the unceasing violence and disruption unleashed by the propertied ruling families to defend their dictatorship of capital.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home