The armed raid by the FBI, on the home of former President Donald Trump in Florida Aug. 8, deals blows to rights in the U.S. Constitution that provide vital protection against state interference in political and trade union activity. These are rights that working people have a deep interest in defending and fighting to extend.
Ordered by the administration of President Joseph Biden, the raids intensify the political crisis wracking the U.S. rulers and their twin Democratic and Republican parties. Democrats are stepping up their drive to prevent Trump, a capitalist electoral opponent they fear, from ever running again or to put him behind bars. The former president’s rise to the White House reflected the anger of millions of working people attracted to a candidate who paraded himself as an alternative to parties that had treated them for decades with nothing but disdain.
The Florida raid is an unprecedented attack on the constitutional system on which the U.S. government is based, and on rights and protections working people have conquered and need. As are the raids ordered against Uhuru and the African People’s Socialist Party on charges of being “agents” of Russia, as well as Sen. Marco Rubio’s demands that the government target Puentes de Amor and its leader Carlos Lazo as “agents” of Cuba.
Decades of experience have taught class-conscious workers that whenever the government carries out extraordinary moves that target a rival capitalist politician, it means similar methods and more will be unleashed to harass, disrupt and set back union struggles, opponents of Washington’s wars and working-class organizations like the Socialist Workers Party. The capitalist rulers’ government and its political police, the FBI, exist to defend the profits and power of the propertied owners, who are intensifying their exploitation of working people as their system faces growing crisis and international rivalry.
In 1940 the Democratic Party administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt imposed the “thought-control” Smith Act and unleashed the FBI to silence militant workers and outlaw advocacy of communist ideas. Leaders of the SWP and class-struggle militants in the Teamsters union in Minneapolis were framed up and imprisoned for organizing opposition to Washington’s goals in entering the second imperialist world war in search of markets and colonies. Federal agents carried out highly publicized raids, seizing records and literature from the offices of both the union and the party.
Roosevelt’s assaults on constitutional rights were extended in the years after the war. The extent of government spying and disruption operations against the working-class movement was revealed during the SWP’s successful lawsuit and political campaign, begun in 1973, against the FBI’s Cointelpro operations. That fight led to a court ruling that the use of cop informers to spy on political activity is a violation of the constitutionally protected right to free speech and political association, that the FBI’s copious burglaries of SWP offices violate Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and that its disruption of party activity and the lives of party members is illegal.
That political campaign for constitutional protections and its outcome remain a weapon in the hands of working people.
Today’s union struggles to push back boss assaults on living standards and working conditions show the growing willingness of workers to defend ourselves, our families and our unions.
This requires an uncompromising defense of constitutional rights. Defending these protections of free speech, political association, and protesting thuggish police raids — regardless of who the rulers target — is crucial to preparing for the working-class struggles and revolutionary battles in the years that lie ahead.