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Dangerous Mischaracterization In NDAA Ruling--And the Need to Resist Government Repression on the Right Basis

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Barack Obama had promised to put an end to torture, to Guantanamo, and to other outrages of the Bush Administration. But what has ensued since he has taken office is quite different: not only the continuation of rendition, the Patriot Act, and arbitrary imprisonment in Guantanamo, but a ratcheting up of the government-judicial assault on fundamental rights.

In the 2010 case of Holder v HLP [Humanitarian Law Project], the Obama administration made, and won, its argument before the courts for broadening the crime of "material support" to "terrorists" to include speaking with and advising (even on some legal matters) any such group designated as terrorist. Then there is Attorney-General Eric Holder outrageously and fascistically claiming that when the President secretly orders assassinations he is effectively meeting Constitutional requirements of due process.

The most recent example of the expansion of illegitimate government powers of repression is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. The NDAA, in particular Section 1021 of the law, gives any President the power to detain people, including U.S. citizens, indefinitely in military prisons, without charge or trial. It is a very ominous development that threatens dissent and opposition to the government and status quo.

Lawsuit Challenges NDAA

This attack on fundamental rights has aroused concern and prompted protest and legal challenges. But how this ongoing government-legal juggernaut is fought, and what principles should be adhered to in order to truly advance the people's interests and just struggles, is also of great consequence. In this light, the lawsuit Hedges et al. v Obama et al., involving several progressive activists, journalists, and scholars, including Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky, and the ruling by the judge, take on notable significance.

On May 16, a federal judge decided in favor of the lawsuit brought by the seven plaintiffs, declaring that Section 1021 of the law is unconstitutional. In the Opinion, the judge agreed with the plaintiffs that this provision "is not merely an 'affirmation' of the Authorization to Use Military Force [AUMF] passed in 2001," as argued by the Obama administration. The judge found that, in its broad language--allowing the government to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to detain any person, including U.S. citizens, who are "part of or substantially supported by al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces, under the law of war until the end of hostilities"-- this provision of the NDAA "has a non-specific definition of 'covered person' that reaches beyond those involved in 9/11 attacks by its very terms."

In essence, the judge found Section 1021 of the NDAA to be overly broad and vague, such that it could make people who have nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, or with terrorism in general, vulnerable to indefinite detention by the government. The judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of Section 1021. At this writing (at the beginning of August), a further legal process is underway that will determine whether this injunction will become permanent.

The RCP and Bob Avakian Dragged into Judge's Ruling

The judge's ruling on section 1021 is a positive development. But dragged into and incorporated in the judge's Opinion is the following:

"[Chris] Hedges also testified that he has previously associated with a group called Bob Avakiam Revolutionary Party [sic], a Maoist group, which he stated he understands endorses the use of violence towards revolutionary ends--a philosophy to which Hedges stated he did not ascribe. Tr. 177. Despite that fact, Hedges understands Sec. 1021 as potentially encompassing his association with the Avakiam Revolutionary Party [sic] and thus, the statute already has had a chilling effect on his associational activities. Tr. 177."

What is being referred to in the above passage is, in actuality, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA whose Chairman is Bob Avakian. More importantly, the characterization of this Party and its Chairman does not comport with the facts--yet this mischaracterization sits in the ruling, uncontested. This creates what can only be described as a very threatening situation for the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) and Bob Avakian. The ruling carries the danger of sweeping this Party into a category that could be construed as outside the boundaries of what is considered protected speech, and potentially into a category of terrorist-like organizations.

This part of the May 16 ruling follows after many paragraphs which deal with organizations that are identified as "terrorist" by the U.S. government. Thus, while the RCP and its Chairman Bob Avakian are, as a matter of fact, fundamentally different, in their views, objectives, and methods, from these other organizations, the way this ruling is constructed, and formulated, could have the effect of furthering the false impression or insinuation that the RCP and Bob Avakian are "terrorists."

A genuine revolutionary organization and its leader have been named and singled out as something they are not. In consequence, this ruling could facilitate government persecution and harassment against, and attempts to restrict the political activity of, the Revolutionary Communist Party and its Chairman, with spillover effects to broader forces of dissent and opposition to the powers-that-be. The ruling could also invite and "legitimize" attempts by reactionary forces to act against Bob Avakian and the RCP.

In response to the ruling, a legal brief objecting to the mischaracterization, while expressing agreement with the plaintiffs' overall assessment of Section 1021 of the NDAA, was filed in July with the court (for a summary, see "Brief Filed Objecting to Dangerous Mischaracterization of RCP, USA").

Genuine Revolution, Not Terrorism

As for what the RCP actually stands for, here I am drawing on the Party's official documents and statements, particularly Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation--in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution.

The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA aims to bring a radically different and far better world into being. Today, that means building a movement for revolution, which involves raising the political and ideological consciousness of masses of people and mounting massive political resistance to the injustices of the system. The Party is preparing for a future revolutionary situation, one where millions and millions of people have decided the existing order is unjust and illegitimate. In this struggle for revolutionary change, the millions and millions of revolutionary people and those who lead them will be confronted by the violent repressive force of the machinery of the state which embodies and enforces the existing system of exploitation and oppression; and in order for the revolutionary struggle to succeed, it will need to meet and defeat that violent repressive force of the old, exploitative and oppressive order.

The Revolutionary Communist Party has, again in official documents and statements, distinguished its guiding philosophy, as well as its objectives and methods, from the outlook, strategy, and tactics of what it describes as "the two outmodeds": Islamic fundamentalism and the ruling imperialist system in the world. The RCP has consistently drawn, and insisted upon, a clear and sharp distinction and line of demarcation between terrorism and genuine revolution.

But the ruling of the District Court of Southern New York conveys a factually untrue characterization of the RCP with a seeming imprimatur of legal finding. It can contribute to a situation in which the danger of repression and attack against the RCP and Bob Avakian, including through official government persecution, in the legal arena or otherwise, is significantly heightened.

The mischaracterization, and its potentially harmful consequences, should be of concern to all progressive people.

Resisting Repression on the Strongest Basis

The struggle around the NDAA focuses up important issues, both in relation to the draconian thrust of this act and in terms of standards that should guide opposition.

The attempts by the government to broaden its legal capacity to strip people of their political rights must be combated. But this must be done in a way that creates the most favorable conditions for determined resistance and broad unity. It is not acceptable for the government to draw up lists of what groups are "within" or "outside the pale." Indeed, there is a whole history of such categorizing used to target and repress genuinely radical and revolutionary forces, and to divide people.

We live in times when people should learn from and continually remind themselves of the self-critical reflections of Pastor Niemoller concerning what happened in Germany in the 1930s:

"First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak out because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak out for me."

The dangers of this kind of slippery slope should be constantly kept in mind.

It is imperative that people oppose any and all moves to restrict and criminalize oppositional speech, association, and political activity--and not allow anyone or any one group to be singled out or targeted.

Raymond Lotta is a political economist. He writes for Revolution newspaper and promotes the new synthesis of communism of Bob Avakian.    
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Raymond Lotta is a political economist, writer for Revolution newspaper, and advocate for Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism.
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