Commentary: Histories of Struggle and Resistance

By Mathew, J. Cyriac | Social Justice, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Commentary: Histories of Struggle and Resistance


Mathew, J. Cyriac, Social Justice


EACH CONTRIBUTION IN THE "INTERNATIONALISTS AND ANTI-IMPERIALISTS" SECtion has a unique set of concerns, but overlaps significantly with the other. Ward Churchill discusses the continued threat of state policing and repression through a look at the recent history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's campaign against the release of American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Leonard Peltier and the high-level cover-ups regarding the murder of AIM member Anna Mae Aquash. Laura Whitehorn discusses the context of the armed struggle of the 1970s and 1980s, the repression and persecution of radical activists in the U.S. by the FBI's COINTELPRO destabilization program, and the importance of the ongoing campaigns to free political prisoners.

A theme both authors emphasize is the need to understand the history and nature of state repression of radical political activity. If they were not killed outright by the FBI or the police, revolutionaries of the 1960s and 1970s who took their resistance beyond symbolic protest were imprisoned across the country and remain there. Euphemized as "political neutralization," the extreme measures taken by the government in past decades to protect the status quo and crush liberation movements echo loudly in post-September 11 government "antiterrorism" rhetoric and policy.

One of Whitehorn's most noteworthy claims is that "it is now more possible than ever to differentiate between the armed revolutionary activities of the 1970s and 1980s and the terror of September 11." For those who understand the historical context of armed struggle in the United States, the distinction between the two is apparent, if not obvious. Given the significant rightward shift in the already lopsided political discourse in the U.S., the opposite seems to be the case: it is now more difficult than ever to distinguish among armed actions against state/ corporate institutions. As Whitehorn notes, for the state, "if it is an armed act, it is terrorism." With the passage of laws such as the 2001 USA Patriot Act, even if it is not an armed act--or an act at all--it could be construed as "terrorism" by the government.

Since September 11, the government has set in motion the discrediting and labeling of any form of resistance to its agenda as an omnipresent terrorist threat. For example, George W. Bush's choice of words in his first national address after September 11 was significant, since he warned of the "radical beliefs" and "radical visions" of a "radical network of terrorists." Although many on the Left have radical visions, does this make us accomplices in the al Qaeda attack? Apparently so. Bush's statements, regardless of their specific intent, have the effect of tightening the rhetorical bolts on a larger conceptual framework that could justify ever-greater suppression of dissident political activity, domestically and internationally. …

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