Saturday, July 14, 2012

Letter Points to Dangerous Mischaracterization in National Defense Authorization Act Ruling

Threatening Situation for the RCP and Bob Avakian

from Revolution #274, July 8, 2012

The letter by Raymond Lotta, printed below, addresses highly important legal and political issues focused up in a recent lawsuit initiated by several progressive activists, journalists, and scholars. The lawsuit is contesting the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012, in particular one of its key provisions, section 1021. The NDAA gives any president the power to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely in military prisons, without charge or trial. It is a very ominous and threatening development. 

On May 16, a federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs that section 1021 of the law is unconstitutional—and issued a temporary injunction blocking its enforcement. At this time, there is a further legal process underway which will determine whether this injunction will become permanent, preventing this section of the law to be enforced. 

But dragged into this mainly positive ruling is an erroneous and potentially harmful characterization of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and its Chairman, Bob Avakian. This mischaracterization (reproduced in Lotta’s letter below) could lend itself to false interpretations about the principles, objectives and strategies of the RCP, and could be misconstrued in such a way as to insinuate that the RCP is “terrorist.” 

As the letter points out, this is a very serious matter:

“A genuine revolutionary organization and its leader have been named and singled out as something they are not. In addition, 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 this dangerous, wrong and harmful mischaracterization, steps are being taken in the legal arena to object to this and to correctly characterize the principles and policies of the RCP. While making clear that there is agreement that the law that the plaintiffs’ suit is challenging is very bad and illegitimately gives sweeping powers to the government that constitute a serious threat to fundamental rights and liberties, and could result in people being arbitrarily subjected to indefinite detention, at the hands of the government, without just cause or due process, it is necessary to set the record straight regarding the actual philosophical and political positions of the RCP and BA. [See “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—in Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution.”]

The NDAA is part of a larger government-judicial assault on dissent and opposition to the status quo. It is part of a larger move to expand government powers of repression. Since Obama has come to office, he has continued Bush’s rendition program and extended the Patriot Act. His attorney-general has claimed that presidential assassination policy, complete with secret “kill lists,” passes constitutional muster. In the 2010 case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Obama administration successfully argued before the courts for broadening the crime of “material support” to “terrorists” to include speaking with and advising any such group that is designated as terrorist.

It is imperative that people oppose any and all moves to restrict and criminalize oppositional speech, association, and political activity—and not allow anyone to be singled out or targeted. Lotta’s letter is being published to facilitate broader awareness of all of this, and to bring more people forward to stand against it.

Noam Chomsky, a plaintiff in the NDAA lawsuit, has responded to Lotta’s letter, and his comments are reprinted here with his permission.  

* * * * *
June 9, 2012

Dear Friends,
I am writing to inform you of a serious and potentially very harmful legal-political development, and to elicit your ideas and support for countering this. I am referring to a recent court ruling that contains a dangerously inaccurate and misleading characterization of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and its Chairman Bob Avakian.

On May 16, U.S. Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York ruled on the constitutionality of certain provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). She decided in favor of a challenge to Section 1021 of the NDAA brought by journalist-activist Chris Hedges and later joined by Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, and four others. In the decision, 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. She 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 other words, Judge Forrest found that this section (1021) of the NDAA is overly broad and vague and could leave people who have nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, or with terrorism in general, vulnerable to indefinite detention by the government.

In the legal proceedings, the plaintiffs argued that this provision has had a deleterious effect on their activities—and with regard to Chris Hedges has affected his work as a journalist, insofar as he has had association with various groups not explicitly named or covered by the AUMF. This section, 1021, of the NDAA, and indeed the NDAA overall, constitutes a further basis for serious government assault on fundamental rights and liberties, and should be strongly opposed and overturned. In this light, the judge’s ruling on section 1021 could be considered a positive development. But incorporated in the judge’s decision 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 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.

Furthermore, this part of Judge Forrest’s 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 addition, 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.

As for what the RCP actually stands for. Here I am drawing on the Party’s official documents and statements. 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.

To reiterate, the May 16 decision 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.
That is the problem I am putting before you. And it is linked to the broader struggle against repression.

The open-ended, so-called War on Terror launched in 2001 has served as a pretext for the U.S. government to detain, torture, and assassinate—and to take measures to restrict and criminalize dissent and opposition to the government and status quo. The draconian character and consequences of this have aroused righteous concern and prompted protest and legal challenges. But how this ongoing 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 combating attempts by the government to broaden its legal capacity to strip people of their political rights, it is important to do so in a way that creates the most favorable conditions for determined resistance and broad unity. The Revolutionary Communist Party is opposed to the government drawing up lists of who is and who is not politically acceptable; it is opposed to designating groups “within” or “outside the pale.” There is a whole history of such categorizing used to target and repress genuinely radical and revolutionary forces, and to divide the people. People should learn from and continually remind themselves of the self-critical reflections of Pastor Niemoller in regard to 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.

I would be eager to hear your thoughts on this May 16 district court decision, as well as any suggestions you might have for challenging the false and harmful characterization of the RCP and Bob Avakian that have been included in this legal ruling. I also call on you to support efforts, including legal efforts that might be undertaken, to counter the mischaracterization of the RCP and Bob Avakian, and the potentially dangerous effects of this mischaracterization, in this legal ruling by Judge Forrest.

In solidarity,
Raymond Lotta
P.S. I have attached a link ( to the RCP’s statement “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation—In Opposition to Infantile Posturing and Distortions of Revolution,” published in 2006.

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posted by Sunsara Taylor at 8:30 PM


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