Defend Democratic Rights

Social inequality and the decay of democracy

The growth of social inequality is incompatible with democracy. The new aristocracy brings with it the aristocratic principle of government, in which the state functions ever more openly as an instrument of class rule. From ancient Rome to pre-revolutionary France and Russia and up to the present, those who have accumulated great wealth will use any means to keep it. Basic democratic rights in the US established by the American Revolution and Civil War—including the rights of free speech and political association, the right to vote, the right to due process safeguards in criminal proceedings, and protections against illegal searches and seizures—are today under relentless assault.

The attacks of September 11 have been used as a pretext to massively expand domestic spying, restrict freedom of speech and association, and increase the powers of the executive branch. The American ruling class has erected a vast “national security state,” including the Department of Homeland Security, backed by hundreds of separate government agencies and private companies. The powers of the FBI and the National Security Agency to spy on the population have been expanded through the Patriot Act and executive orders. The US government has declared the power to hold anyone, including US citizens, indefinitely without charge.

The Obama administration has deepened the anti-democratic policies of Bush. It has opposed the investigation of Bush administration officials for violations of the Constitution, continues to support the Patriot Act and other anti-democratic legislation, has suppressed the publication of photos depicting torture and other evidence of criminality, and has invoked the state secrets privilege to block lawsuits by victims of torture. Obama has also sharply expanded the persecution of government whistleblowers and is leading a campaign against WikiLeaks for publishing documents that reveal the criminality of US military operations. At the end of 2011, Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which for the first time explicitly authorizes the president to order the military to hold anyone, including US citizens, indefinitely without charge. Obama has proclaimed the "right", upheld by the attorny general, to assassinate anyone in the world, anywhere, without trial. This includes American citizens, such as New Mexican born muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.

Lacking any solution to the crisis besetting American society, the American ruling elite and its government resort to locking up a greater portion of the population than any other country on earth. The self-proclaimed leader of the “free world” holds 2.3 million people behind bars under conditions of extreme brutality, while more than 5 million are on supervised parole or probation. The US remains one of the few advanced countries to employ the death penalty, executing 1,216 individuals since the Supreme Court sanctioned the resumption of judicial killings in 1977.

The defense of democratic rights requires shutting down the national security state apparatus and its multiple agencies—the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, FBI, NSA—and the repeal of the Patriot Act and other police-state measures imposed in the name of the “war on terror.” The working class must launch a counteroffensive against the attempts by the ruling elite to whip up reactionary social and political forces in support of its attacks on basic rights. It must strive not only to defend the democratic and social gains of the past, but to democratize American society. This must include the repeal of the death penalty and the dismantling of the domestic police and prison complex.