Defend political freedoms under assault from the Democrats, FBI

By Terry Evans
May 22, 2023
FBI agents raid Socialist Workers Party Minneapolis headquarters, June 1941, opening move in rulers’ assault on SWP’s opposition to imperialist war. Prosecutors won conviction of party, Teamsters leaders on frame-up charge of “conspiracy to advocate overthrow of government.”
Minneapolis Star-JournalFBI agents raid Socialist Workers Party Minneapolis headquarters, June 1941, opening move in rulers’ assault on SWP’s opposition to imperialist war. Prosecutors won conviction of party, Teamsters leaders on frame-up charge of “conspiracy to advocate overthrow of government.”

Since before the 2016 election, Democrats and their backers in the middle-class left have gone after Donald Trump and his supporters, using their main political police agency, the FBI, and the capitalist court system to attack them, especially the working people Hillary Clinton called “deplorable.”

In doing so, they have trampled on constitutional freedoms working people need to fight to advance our interests and to speak on behalf of all those oppressed by the capitalist rulers. Defense of political rights, regardless of who is targeted, remains central to defending our unions and vanguard fighters today.

The liberals’ assaults have been met by tit-for-tat attacks by the new Republican-led House majority, which destroys any pretense Republicans try to present of occupying the moral high ground.

Four members of the Proud Boys were convicted May 4 under seditious conspiracy laws for opposing “the lawful transfer of presidential power by force.” The government’s evidence included claims by ex-Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino that the group advocated “all-out revolution.” This targets its members for their thoughts and statements, all protected by the First Amendment.

Enrique Tarrio, Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs and Zachary Rehl could be imprisoned for up to 20 years. The prosecution relied on testimony and leads from an extensive network of FBI informants inside the group.

Primarily at issue for working people is not the anti-working-class views espoused by the Proud Boys, nor any attempts their members made to “disrupt” Congress. It’s the government’s prosecution of anyone for what they say. Seditious conspiracy laws are a formidable thought-control weapon in the rulers’ arsenal, and have been used to frame up working-class fighters for decades.

Eighteen leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and Teamsters union were convicted and imprisoned under the Smith Act in 1941, charged with “conspiracy to advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence.” However, they were found not guilty of violating the 1861 Seditious Conspiracy Act. Their real “crime” was campaigning in the labor movement against the U.S. rulers’ drive to enter the unfolding imperialist slaughter for markets and dominance in World War II.

After the war the Smith Act was also used to go after the Communist Party, and remains on the books today.

Fourteen Puerto Ricans were convicted in the 1980s under sedition laws for participating in the struggle for their country’s independence from U.S. colonial rule. During their trial it was revealed the FBI had conducted a massive spying and wiretapping operation against them.

Writing in the Washington Post, columnist Eugene Robinson lauds the conviction of the Proud Boys and calls for Trump to be jailed alongside them.

As Democrats drive ahead with multiple criminal probes and legal actions against Trump, Republicans are responding in kind. The Republican-controlled House Oversight and Accountability Committee issued a subpoena demanding files from the FBI May 3, alleging they would reveal that President Joseph Biden took bribes when he was vice president.

Every time one of the capitalist rulers’ parties uses the cops or the courts to go after the other, working people can be sure they will do the same and worse to us.

Days before the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last summer, armed agents burst into the homes and offices of members of the African People’s Socialist Party. Subsequently four of its members were charged with violating laws requiring alleged “foreign agents” to register with the government. On May 2 APSP Chair Omali Yeshitela and Penny Hess were brought into court in Tampa, Florida, handcuffed and in leg irons. They were only released on bail after turning over their passports.

Liberals’ assault on Supreme Court

The liberals’ drive to upend crucial constitutional protections also involves attacks on some U.S. Supreme Court justices after the court overturned the unconstitutional Roe v. Wade ruling last year.

The leak of a draft of the Dobbs decision was aimed at intimidating the justices and to prevent the draft “from becoming the decision of the court,” Justice Samuel Alito told the Wall Street Journal last month. He also said the leak aimed to make members of the high court and their families “targets for assassination.”

In the weeks after the disclosure, opponents of the decision held actions outside the justices’ homes and released the locations of their churches and their children’s schools. Nicholas John Roske was arrested outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house with a loaded handgun June 8, telling cops he intended to kill him.

Since then the liberal media has continued to disparage conservative justices in order to make them appear “illegitimate,” Alito said.

The Democrats view the Supreme Court as a vehicle to put political rulings on the books when they can’t get their policies passed in the legislature. But the Constitution gives the court no lawmaking powers. It is tasked with upholding the Constitution and the law as it is.

Freedom of speech and assembly, due process and many other protections won by the toilers in struggle over more than two and a half centuries are essential whenever workers organize to resist bosses’ attacks. Defending these rights will be central to the class struggles that lie ahead, including when workers decide to break with the bosses’ parties, enter the political arena themselves and advance the fight to take political power into their own hands.