November 2001  

As U.S. Bombs Afghanistan – Witchhunting, 
Racial Profiling and Ethnic Cleansing on Campus

Mobilize Working-Class Power to 
Defeat CUNY’s Anti-Immigrant “War Purge”!

(Photo: Sue Kellogg)

Defeat U.S. Imperialism! Defend Afghanistan and Iraq!
For Class War Against the Imperialist War! 

The following leaflet was issued by the Internationalist Group/U.S. on November 28.

As the U.S. rains death on Afghanistan – wantonly terror-bombing civilian neighborhoods, incinerating Red Cross food warehouses and now carrying out a grisly massacre of many hundreds of prisoners – Washington’s war also targets immigrants, minorities and labor here. “Well over a thousand” immigrants have been picked up in dragnets (the government has stopped releasing figures) and thousands of people of Near Eastern origin are being hauled in for questioning. While engaging in the most blatant racial profiling, the White House has simply decreed indefinite detention and military tribunals for “terrorist suspects.” 

Fundamental democratic rights are under full-scale attack by the United States government; black rights and labor gains are under the gun. The twin parties of American capitalism are marching in lockstep in this “war on terrorism” by the biggest state terrorists of all – U.S. imperialism. The Bush regime wants to ram through a longstanding program for regimenting the country before the initial shock and flag-waving war hysteria wear off. Democrats in Congress sign off on one item after another, occasionally trying to accuse the Republicans of being “soft” on terrorism.

The ordering of a “war purge” of undocumented immigrant students by the City University of New York (CUNY) is part and parcel of this wave of wartime repression. A right-wing state senator declares that “illegal aliens” are a threat to “national security” and the CUNY administration dutifully decides to drive out thousands of students by the convenient device of raising their tuition to astronomical levels that few can pay. Meanwhile, students who are purged under the “Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act,” many of whom have lived here for years, are officially branded. Will their names be turned over to the INS, like the head of the Pakistani student association at the University of Oklahoma who complained to university officials that he was assaulted by racists and then was held on immigration charges? Today, the CUNY Registrar’s office acts as a branch of the migra.

The racist logic is clear: minority poor and working people are a “security risk”; those that can afford to pay thousands of dollars of tuition get their “clearance” to study. This is also part of a longstanding effort to eliminate any vestiges of “open admissions” and restrict higher education to an elite. University authorities are racially profiling immigrants in order to ethnically cleanse CUNY. This cynical purge must be vigorously resisted and defeated, by mobilizing the power of the organized workers movement to defend the most vulnerable. The militant labor slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all!” was never truer.

The Internationalist Group initiated today’s protest against the anti-immigrant tuition hike at New York’s City University and the government’s “student data collection program” that is collecting personal information about millions of students to be fed  into the computer data banks of the police agencies. We undertook this action as part of our program to wage a class war against the imperialist war. The demonstration call has been endorsed by a significant number of immigrant organizations, student groups, socialist groups, faculty members, labor unionists and other defenders of democratic rights. The participants will put forward their respective viewpoints while joining in common action according to the norms of the united front, “march separately, strike together.” 

As Police-State Measures Mount – 
Fight for Socialist Revolution!

U.S. war-criminal-in-chief George W. Bush declares triumphantly to the 101st Airborne Division that the war on Afghanistan is “just the beginning…. Across the world and across the years, we will fight these evil ones” (New York Times, 22 November).  Next on the Pentagon’s target list is Iraq. The Internationalist Group/U.S., section of the League for the Fourth International, upholds the program of V.I. Lenin and L.D. Trotsky, the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, that in such a war by U.S. imperialism (with its NATO imperialist allies and rivals in tow) against one of the poorest countries on earth, class-conscious workers must fight to defeat “their own” bourgeois ruling class and to defend semi-colonial countries under attack. 

Attica in Afghanistan: soldier of “Northern Alliance” steps over bodies of some of the several hundred Taliban prisoners wantonly slaughtered by U.S. bombs during revolt at Mazar-i-Sharif fortress, 28 November 2001. (Photo: AP)

In our first (September 14) statement following the attack on the World Trade Center, the IG/LFI warned that the imperialist rulers would use this to launch a war drive abroad and a drive toward a police state at home. That was no exaggeration. Over the last month and a half, the U.S. government has passed the draconian “U.S.A. Patriot Act,” allowing police agencies to hold immigrants indefinitely without charge, search anyone’s home, business or organizational offices, tap any phone they use, open their e-mail and track their Internet use, obtain records of any books or videos they buy or rent – all with secret authorization by special courts. The Justice Department issued orders allowing it to spy on lawyers’ conversations with defendants, with no court authorization. The CIA was authorized to carry out wholesale assassinations. 

A “Homeland Defense” czar was named (Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, who has twice signed a death warrant against the courageous black radical journalist and death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal) to prepare for internal war on the U.S. population. The Internationalist Group calls to mobilize workers power internationally to free Mumia now!

Now the Bush White House has issued a presidential order allowing it to set up tribunals of U.S. military officers to try anyone it labels a “terrorist suspect” anywhere in the world, with no proof of hear-say accusations required and no information released to the public (or to the defendants). They can pass death sentences without a unanimous vote, with no right to appeal, and then carry out executions on the spot. This makes a mockery of the democratic rights supposedly “enshrined” in the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution (entombed would be a more accurate description these days). As we wrote in The Internationalist No. 12 (Fall 2001), these measures go “a long ways toward expanding police-state powers to regiment the population for war.” If it looks a lot like some Latin American dictatorship, it’s because the people who designed these measures were the godfathers for the Central American death squad regimes of the ’80s and the bloody juntas of the Southern Cone in the ’70s. 

The government refuses to give out any information about the numbers arrested, not one of whom has been charged with a crime in connection with the indiscriminate September 11 attack. Few names have been released, their places of detention are secret; prisoners are held incommunicado, denied access to a lawyer. In the face of the escalating police-state repression and blatant violation of democratic rights, the Internationalist Group demands the victims of this “anti-terrorist” dragnet be released, now. At the same time, we point out that this is the hideous face of bourgeois “democracy” in wartime.  “Moderate” Supreme Court  justices have already declared their support for restricting rights, the “free but responsible” bourgeois press salutes its commander and dutifully whips up the terrorist scare, and supposed defenders of civil liberties approve many of the repressive measures while uttering a barely audible peep of dissent about the rest. Today more than ever, defense of democratic rights under attack must be directly linked to the fight for socialist revolution. “Democratic” capitalism is a myth.

Yet many reformists and rad-lib peace protesters persist in their desperate search for “peace-loving” capitalist politicians, as opposed to the warmongering species. Groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and International Action Committee (IAC) parade around with placards calling for “Money for schools, not for war!” and chants that “the people united will never be defeated.” But “uniting” the oppressed with sections of the oppressors, as the competing popular-front “peace” coalitions do, is a guarantee of defeat. As triumphalism reigns in Washington, there has been a lull in the “peace” protests – whose lowest-common-denominator “point of unity” is bourgeois liberals’ fear of a losing U.S. war in the Near East. Today most of the liberals and many Vietnam war protesters of yesteryear support Bush’s “anti-terrorist” war on Afghanistan, just as they backed Clinton’s “human rights” war on Yugoslavia. 

Today as well, the former revolutionaries of the Spartacist League (SL) smear the Internationalist Group as “playing the Anti-Americanism card” in order to cover the SL’s abandonment of the Leninist call to defeat the imperialist war, and their repeated lauding of statements by patriotic Democratic Party politicians critical of the war.

Among sectors of youth, oppressed racial minorities and union militants, some of the most conscious fighters realize that Democratic “doves” or Naderite Greens are no allies at all but enemies of a real struggle against imperialist war and repression. Yet faced with the firepower of the Pentagon juggernaut, they feel powerless. It is the task of Trotskyists to explain that the fight against the war must be a struggle to bring down capitalism by mobilizing the tremendous power of the international working class for socialist revolution. 

Defeat Capitalist Assault on Public Education – 
For Open Admissions and Free Tuition!

A few weeks before the CUNY administration under chancellor Matt Goldstein decreed the de facto expulsion of thousands of undocumented immigrant students under prodding from a right-wing state senator, City University was the scene of a witchhunt against anti-war professors. “CCNY Bashes America” screamed the New York Post (3 October), fingering City College professors Bill Crain, Walter Daum, Marina Fernando, M.A. Samad-Matias and others for criticizing the U.S.’ war drive at a teach-in sponsored by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union representing CUNY faculty. One trustee labeled the antiwar professors “seditious.” True to form, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution upholding a statement by Goldstein against the CCNY professors.

This McCarthyite-style campaign is part of a nationwide drive by rightist forces linked to the government to blacklist professors considered “unpatriotic.” The New York Times (24 November) reported on the search for “patriotic incorrectness” by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. One of the founding members of this outfit is Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, who under Ronald Reagan was in charge of cleansing the National Endowment for the Humanities of leftists and other “undesirables.” Significantly, another ACTA founder was the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate, Joseph Lieberman. These bi-partisan witchhunters have compiled a list of 117 cases of “anti-American” statements by college professors and administrators.

CUNY’s attack on undocumented immigrant students is the latest chapter of an ongoing assault on public education in New York City and throughout the United States and the entire capitalist world. Two years ago, City University administrators acting under the lash of NYC mayor Rudolph Giuliani rammed through the elimination of remedial courses for incoming students (see “Smash Racist Purge of CUNY, Fight for Open Admissions, Free Tuition!” The Internationalist No. 7, April-May 1999). At the same time, the Clinton administration’s welfare “reform” ordered students from families receiving public assistance to drop out of school and take slave-labor “workfare” jobs or lose their benefits. The purpose of this double-barreled attack was not to uphold “standards” but to drive out thousands of immigrants, racial minorities and women. And it was successful. In one year alone, between the fall semester of 1999 and fall 2000, the enrollment of CUNY’s senior colleges was cut by 25,000 students!

Meanwhile, there is a drive to privatize the public schools, such as the recent failed attempts to hand over several New York City schools and the entire Philadelphia school system to the Edison Corporation, a for-profit company headed by Benno Schmidt, the vice chairman of CUNY’s Board of Trustees. This is part of an international program pushed by the World Bank to turn education into a profitable field for capitalist investment by imposing heavy tuition, eliminating hundreds of thousands of students and restricting higher education to the middle and upper classes while consigning working and poor people to vocational training. This worldwide capitalist onslaught against public education cannot be defeated by writing letters to trustees and administrators, legal challenges in the capitalist courts or the other usual tactics of liberal academics. Although free public education is no more than a bourgeois-democratic right, in this imperialist epoch of capitalist decay, as the bourgeoisie systematically tears down past gains, it will take socialist revolution to provide universal higher education. 

Not only does this recent history demonstrate the illusion of achieving meaningful democratic educational reform under capitalism, simply to throw back the attacks by witchhunters and racist purgers with state power will require the mobilization of social forces capable of defeating the bourgeoisie. This means joining the social and economic power of the working class with the oppressed black, Latino and immigrant minorities who together make up a majority of New York City’s population. When CUNY authorities tried to do away with the remnants of open admissions by jacking up tuition a decade ago, thousands of students occupied campus buildings and marched in the streets along with striking 1199 hospital workers and city workers fighting budget cuts. Indeed, open admissions was won in 1969 as a result of campus occupations by black and Puerto Rican students and the insistence of the powerful labor movement that opening up the elite city university system had to benefit all working people.

The 1999-2000 strike at Mexico’s National University (UNAM), with almost a quarter million students the largest university in Latin America, demonstrated that even the most massive student militancy is insufficient to defeat the reactionary forces arrayed against them. For ten months, tens of thousands of students occupied the huge Mexico City campus day and night. Several police attacks were beaten off. Our comrades of the Grupo Internacionalista/Mexico fought to link the students’ struggle with the working class, and were successful in sparking the formation of workers defense guards involving the powerful electrical workers union who for more than a month stood guard in the face of threats of a police/army invasion. But in the end, the UNAM student strike remained isolated and in February 2000 the federal and capital police moved in, breaking the strike and arresting 1,000 students.

Various student radicals at CUNY combine some militant rhetoric with the outlook of campus office-holders. At the College of Staten Island, the College Voice group provides a variety of “leftism-on-one campus” mixed with pacifist phrases. Currently, the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM) at Hunter College is holding a “victory party” for winning a student fee increase to pay for various student government functions! During the fight over the elimination of remediation, SLAM supported the program of the CUNY Coalition for Open Admissions, which included the call for “democratic election of CUNY trustees.” But as we wrote at the time:

“…the Board of Trustees and CUNY administration are the representatives of the ruling class whose task is to keep students, teachers and campus workers in check. Communists call for abolishing the Board of Trustees and CUNY administration.  We fight for student/teacher/worker control of the universities.”
While CUNY uses placement exams and draconian tuition hikes to drive out minority and immigrant students, the Internationalist Group calls for open admissions and the elimination of tuition, as well for a state-paid living stipend for all students and special programs to overcome the effects of educational deprivation suffered by students in run-down inner-city schools. In the face of pervasive spying on CUNY students by the campus police, we demand all cops off campus! INS, FBI and CIA get out!

Smash Xenophobic Reaction – Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!

Just as every U.S. war and war drive in the last century has been accompanied by an anti-communist witchhunt against the “enemy within,” American imperialism’s wars are regularly accompanied by virulent anti-immigrant chauvinism and racist reaction. When the FBI launched the post-World War I “red” scare against the “spread of Communism,” they started by deporting thousands of foreign-born socialists and executing the Italian anarchist workers Sacco and Vanzetti, while the Ku Klux Klan mushroomed in size. More than 100,000 Japanese Americans were rounded up and put in concentration camps in World War II. Under the anti-Soviet Cold War, new camps were built to house the tens of thousands on the FBI’s “pick-up lists.” (Several of these camps are still intact, ready to be put into service for the new imperialist war.) 

The current persecution of Arab and other Near Eastern and Asian immigrants is a continuation of the chauvinist campaigns of the 1980s and ’90s. “English-only” amendments and attempts to abolish bilingual education in the public schools flourished in the Midwest and West Coast, coming to a head in the 1994 Proposition 187 referendum in California. The attempt to purge “illegal aliens” from CUNY is not limited to higher education. Prop 187 ordered the exclusion of children of undocumented immigrants from all public schools down to the kindergarten level, as well as denial of welfare, health and hospital care, driver’s licenses and any other official services. The purpose of such xenophobic (anti-foreigner) campaigns is to intensify repression against the millions of immigrant workers who form a large and combative section of the U.S. working class. Liberal and reformist illusions that the U.S. would grant a widespread “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants are dead. Many immigrant rights groups have been politically paralyzed as they find no “allies” in the bourgeois parties with whom they can trade favors and political support. Communists demand full citizenship rights for all immigrants!

This is a democratic demand that goes back to the bourgeois-democratic revolutions of the 18th century. At the time of the French Revolution, the 1793 constitution approved by the Jacobins granted citizenship to any foreigner who joined the fight for liberty. Even before this, American radical democrat Thomas Paine was made a citizen of the French Republic. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the founding constitution of the Soviet workers republic declared: “Acting on the principle of the solidarity of the toilers of all nations, the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic shall grant all political rights enjoyed by Russian citizens to foreigners resident within the territory of the Russian Republic,” authorizing local soviets to “confer upon such foreigners without any troubles and formalities, the rights of Russian citizenship.” 

The 1994 battle over Prop 187 provoked a huge outpouring of protest by immigrants, students and much of the labor movement. Over 10,000 marched on Los Angeles city hall in May and in October some 80,000 jammed the center of L.A. with large contingents from dozens of area unions. High school students bolted from their classrooms. Yet in the end, this immigrant-bashing proposition was passed, although the courts have declared much of its provisions unconstitutional. That was then, and today it is likely that the judicial machinery of U.S. capitalism would rubber-stamp such victimization of immigrants in the name of “national security.” 

To fight against the capitalist onslaught against public education and immigrants the key is forging a revolutionary leadership. For more than a century, the pro-capitalist labor officialdom has tied the U.S. working class to the capitalist Democratic Party. Thus in the 1991 battle over CUNY, the students were ultimately sold out as the NYC Central Labor Council knuckled under to the cutbacks ordered by black Democratic mayor David (“they’ll take it from me”) Dinkins. (Dinkins, like many of the union officials, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.) In the ’90s, the CLC launched a bogus “Working Families Party” to garner votes for Democrats from workers too fed up to vote on the Democratic Party line. Last year, various social-democratic reformists (notably the ISO) promoted the presidential bid of Ralph Nader’s bourgeois Green Party, seeking to channel discontent into a capitalist “third party.” And in the recent NYC mayoral elections, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) bureaucracy led by Randy Weingarten backed one Democratic loser after another (Hevesi, Ferrer, Green), while allowing Giuliani to force teachers to work for more than a year now without a contract. 

The result of chaining workers, blacks, Latinos and Asians to the capitalist Democrats has been to saddle the working people and oppressed with the reactionary Bush regime and NYC’s new CEO, Michael Bloomberg, who just bought the mayoral election for a cool $60 million. The Internationalist Group calls to oust the pro-capitalist misleaders of labor, break with all the bourgeois parties, and build a workers party like the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky. The fight to defend immigrant students at CUNY is inseparable from the fight to unionize immigrant workers in the sweatshops and delis, and the fight of working people across the globe. Instead of protectionist “anti-globalization,” we fight for the communist program of global socialist revolution, led by a reforged Fourth International! 

Down with CUNY’s Anti-Immigrant “War Purge!
Stop Racist Tuition Hike and “Student Data Collection System!”

28 November  2001

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com