Revolution #208, July 25, 2010
Arizona's anti-Immigrant Law is Inhumane & Illegitimate
Stop the System's Fascist Attacks on Immigrants
Imagine: You have a family you're supporting; you're on your way to the grocery store, or to work, or to pick up your children from school. You see a patrol car behind you. You realize if the cop stops you, he is going to demand you show your papers, and you know you can't. You'll be taken to immigration, locked in a detention center until you're deported, and getting back is nearly impossible. What will happen to your children when you're locked up? Who will take care of them? And if they're with you when you're stopped, will they be incarcerated as well? Will your family be separated, or given the "option" of everyone being deported, including children who are U.S. citizens.
What do you do?
This horror will be the reality for hundreds of thousands of people if Arizona's anti-immigration law, SB1070, goes into effect on July 29. This law is an ugly, radically reactionary leap beyond the already intolerable conditions immigrants without papers face in this country. This law demonizes and outlaws people who are from Mexico or Latin America, or look like they may be from Mexico or Latin America, or indeed from any other country from which immigrants come. The law requires that police demand proof of legal residency from anyone they "stop, detain or arrest" if police suspect that person is an undocumented immigrant. Many legal residents as well as citizens are going to be subjected to interrogation by the police because they "fit the description"—that is, if you are dark-skinned; have an accent; wear a certain style of clothes; or live in the "immigrant" part of town.
At least 11 million people in this country are already forced to live in the shadows, have no rights, work for extremely low wages and often get cheated, and face getting dragged off in the middle of the night. Medical care is out of reach; mothers whose children are sick can wait an entire day or more for them to be seen at a county hospital. The impact of the economic crisis means barely being able to survive.
In the U.S., the right against unreasonable searches and seizures is supposedly guaranteed to all people by the Constitution. It has already been shredded in recent decades in the name of waging a "war on drugs," the "war on terrorism," and apprehending "illegals." Now in Arizona, it will no longer apply to immigrants. New norms are being established that solidify and radically deepen a system that already resembles the ugly, hated period of South African apartheid; the legal segregation, racism, and brutality of the Jim Crow period in this country; or the early stages of the Nazi treatment of the Jews in Germany.
A dozen or more states around the country are ready to join Arizona, effectively calling for this to become the "law of the land." An anti-immigrant atmosphere is being whipped up that is drawing all too many people into scapegoating immigrants, fueled with lurid tales of drug smuggling, violent criminals, connections to Mexican drug cartels, and more. Fox News is running supposed clandestine footage of border crossers wearing backpacks filled with drugs.
In Utah, where a similar bill is being debated now, high-tech vigilantes turned in the names and addresses of people they believe should be deported. Recently a printout of 1,300 Utah residents of Latino descent was sent by a group called "Concerned Citizens of the United States" to media outlets and law enforcement agencies demanding the immediate deportation of all 1,300. The confidential documents, taken from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, included addresses, phone numbers, workplaces, children's names, even due-dates of pregnant women. The Concerned Citizens' letter warned that "Some of the women on the list are pregnant," and called for immediate deportation before they give birth on U.S. soil. The smell of Nazi Germany, when "Good Germans" reported on the Jews in their midst, is all over this.
The government is passing cruel laws that hit these immigrants, as well as whole other sections of people who resemble them, while the growth of an angry, fascistic movement around all this continues with far too few people challenging it. Meanwhile, people die at the border, children are left alone and abandoned as their parents are deported, tens of thousands languish in immigration detention prisons, with many dying there because medical treatment is withheld.
It is crucial that everyone understand how unjust, unconstitutional, and immoral this new law is that could quickly spread all over the country; the tremendous danger that millions of human beings in this country now face; and why we must build resistance to it before it goes into effect. We cannot forget this warning: That which you do not resist, and organize to stop, you will learn, or be forced, to accept.
Each one of us now faces a choice: to resist or accept; to question the system that got us here, and begin to think about a whole different way, or shut your mind and listen to the authorities, and to the grotesque and racist demonizing and fear-mongering of their fascist spokespeople.
How Did We Get Here? A Blood Soaked Foundation
How did we get to a situation where millions of people find themselves in a foreign land, forced here from Mexico, Latin America and beyond in order to survive and make a new life? And now to confront an angry, growing native population vilifying their presence and demanding vicious measures against them? To understand this, we need to briefly examine the historical process that has led us to this point.
When Obama began his July 1 speech saying "we are a nation of immigrants," he was leaving out essential parts of America's "rosy dawn." There was the "clearing" of the land of its native population through genocidal wars and the spreading of disease, destroying millions of Native Americans, and consigning most who survived to reservations. And that "rosy dawn" hinged on the capture and kidnap of millions of African people, who came here not as immigrants, but as chattel to be enslaved for hundreds of years in the most despicable conditions and who today still suffer discrimination and oppression wherever they turn.
This country's borders themselves are the product of the war with Mexico in 1846. The main purpose of this war was to extend slavery into Texas. The U.S. invasion swallowed almost half of Mexico and the people living there—becoming the southwestern U.S., including Arizona. In doing this, the U.S. replaced Spain as the force that would dominate and plunder Mexico down to today.
Fast forward to the mid-20th century, after the U.S. has established its dominance of Mexico and Latin America (see article on page 10). Beginning in the 1920s in the U.S., when there was an inability to meet the need for a growing workforce, combined with the growing demand for agricultural labor, millions of Mexican workers were brought here to harvest the crops for extremely low pay under back-breaking conditions. Mexican immigrants became a source of labor which could be hired and super-exploited in good times, and sent back to Mexico in bad times. In the '40s and '50s this was formalized through the "Bracero" program. When it ended, the U.S. expelled thousands of Mexican workers and exploited them one more time by denying their right to the retirement benefits that were taken from their earnings. But U.S. agriculture continued to rely on workers from Mexico and Latin America, and eventually other sectors of the American economy followed suit—the food industry, construction, and small scale production—by integrating immigrant labor, often undocumented, into their labor force.
Globalization: A Feeding Frenzy for Capitalist Sharks
Then, all this took a leap in the 1980s. Dramatic changes took place in the world economy and U.S. economy in the 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the U.S. as the world's sole superpower. There has been a wave of the intensive globalization of exploitation of people, the squeezing of ever greater profits out of millions, as capitalists (led by the U.S. imperialists) moved vast amounts of production to other countries. In this hemisphere, the implementation of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) in 1994 between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico enabled the U.S. to penetrate and dominate the Mexican economy in new ways. This treaty eliminated barriers to direct investment by U.S. companies (which had been instituted in the wake of the Mexican Revolution in 1910), and tariffs on agricultural imports from the U.S. Opening up Mexican agriculture to competition from the U.S. had devastating consequences for Mexico's small farmers or campesinos. Campesinos who had been able to work and live growing corn, beans and tomatoes and other products could not compete with the low-cost corn from the U.S., and in tremendous numbers they were forced to abandon farming and migrate to the cities, or to El Norte. Between 1994 and 2004, 6 million campesinos were forced out of the countryside in order to find a way to survive.
Globalization fueled an explosion of assembly plants, called maquiladoras, along the U.S.-Mexico border, where plants employed hundreds of thousands of women drawn there by the promise of work assembling auto parts, TVs and other electronic equipment, clothing, and more. This drive for profit greatly twisted and distorted the Mexican economy and bloated border cities like Tijuana and Juarez, whose infrastructure was overwhelmed. But then, even more profitable manufacturing sites were opened up in Asia and elsewhere. And, the maquiladoras, and the workers they had drawn there, were abandoned.
In the U.S., new needs for highly exploitable cheap labor were met by drawing immigrants from across the border to fill lower-skilled, low paying jobs. This has led to millions of people, especially from Mexico and Central America, to leave their homelands and their families behind, and risk apprehension and death trying to get across the border. And, the porous border between the U.S. and Mexico has benefited the ruling classes of both countries. For Mexico it has allowed workers to migrate north in search of work and relieve the pressure of too many workers chasing too few jobs in Mexico. For the U.S. capitalists, it has given them a fresh supply of needed workers for their factories and fields to be super-exploited.
Meanwhile these same pressures caused by the impact of globalization have meant the disappearance of millions of relatively high paying manufacturing jobs that provided "the American way of life" for significant sections of people in this country. The current economic crisis is further intensifying this. It contributes to a widespread feeling of instability and insecurity among large sections of mostly, but not solely, middle and lower middle class whites. Rather than directing their anger and frustration at the system of capitalism and its laws that have caused this whole situation, they are being rallied by powerful, reactionary forces with connections to a section of the ruling class. They are being programmed to blame their loss of position, and privilege, on immigrants, while dangerous nativist and racist sentiments are being whipped up against immigrants.
Threat to Reactionary U.S. Social "Glue"
The clash over Arizona's anti-immigrant law SB1070 reveals deep and volatile social divides—both in the halls of power and in society as a whole. The U.S. ruling class faces the necessity to "glue" the society together in a different way, and there is sharp struggle among them about how to do it. At this time the initiative is in the hands of a growing right wing fascist movement in this country that has the backing of powerful voices in the Republican Party and media.
There is a great American myth that has played a crucial role in maintaining the stability and coherence of this society from its beginnings: that this country has advanced through the ingenuity and hard work of its citizens (that is, its white male citizens), and that the superior position of white people in this society—and the privileges they have—are the rewards of hard work and supposedly superior "culture" and ethic. The cruel lie at the heart of this is that if others have not attained these things it is not because of deep-rooted discrimination and oppression but because "they are inferior, do not work as hard and their culture encourages them to be criminal, and immoral." Historically in this country, this lie has been used to justify the oppression of Black people—and today it is being used to justify these fascist attacks on immigrants.
That whole "social contract" grounded in white privilege and male privilege was fundamentally challenged through the upheaval and great struggle of the 1960s, most importantly the struggle for the liberation of Black people. Concessions like affirmative action were made, and racism and male supremacy were under assault while millions took up the challenge of fighting for new relations among people; blind patriotism was put on the defensive through the movement against the Vietnam war; and much more. All of these changes were, and still are, resented and hated by those behind this anti-immigrant movement today and others like it because they called into question that whole social contract. In the decades since, much of what was accomplished back then has been undone or overturned. But in the world view of this movement—only a thorough overturning and burying of all of what was brought forward through these struggles will suffice. The recent high profile conflict between the NAACP and the anti-immigrant Tea Party shows this.
The heart of the program of these fascists is to restore or return to that original social contract—with its male supremacy and white supremacy—which they associate with a time when the U.S. was "riding high." In fact, many even wax nostalgic about the Confederacy when the only reason for its existence was to defend slavery. In their view, if it takes establishing a fascist regime to do it, so be it. They are appealing to people who feel their whole way of life is threatened. They see the decadent culture and they want to get back to those earlier values. In their view, "if it weren't for people like Obama… If it weren't for these elites… and Wall Street barons, giving away our wealth…." They look out and see all this and think that without a solid center, the whole country is going to fall apart.
Virulent racism plays an important role in restoring this old social contract. It is the dangerous "others" who are taking over the country and supposedly collaborating to deprive hard working, white Americans of the privilege they have enjoyed, their prosperity and rights. These "elites," they are told, want to attack their values and undermine their whole way of life, and to give what is supposedly rightfully theirs to the "undeserving" masses in the inner cities. This extreme program is the strategy of a section of the ruling class associated with the Republicans.
The Choice That's No Choice
What is the program represented by the Democrats, and their leader in office, in response? The "difference" between the Republicans and the Democrats in this encounter is that the Republicans openly demonize immigrants, while Democrats like Obama pretend to sympathize with them, while leaving all the initiative in the hands of the Republicans.
While Obama did express some sympathy for immigrants in his July 1 speech, he did that while overall adopting the Republicans' terms, and even their proposals. He accused the undocumented of "making a mockery" of those applying to enter the country legally. He described the fascists behind SB1070 as understandably frustrated; and he did everything possible to narrow the space between his proposal for "immigration reform" and theirs.
Obama and the Democrats too want "order" above all else, but most of all they do not want to call the people who are horrified by what is happening into the streets to stand up to and oppose these fascists. The damage this repeated compromise and conciliation with fascism has caused, over several decades, is incalculable. It has for far too long encouraged and influenced progressive people to accommodate to a dynamic where, as Bob Avakian has pointed out, "[Y]esterday's outrage becomes today's 'compromise position' and tomorrow's limits of what can be imagined,"1 and it has contributed to the disorientation among progressive people in the face of this growing, fascist movement. Remaining on that path, the future can only mean watching while things get worse and worse, while the masses of immigrants are put continually in a more locked down and super-exploited position, with no way out.
The Answer: A Movement for Revolution
As July 29 approaches, millions hold their breath: now what will happen?
One thing we know for sure: if we do nothing, the scene described at the beginning of this article will become reality for hundreds of thousands in Arizona, and very soon it will spread elsewhere. And new horrors, all depending on whatever "the system" needs to survive, will emerge and things will get still worse.
And yes, it is a system. What we've described and analyzed in this article and elsewhere in this issue—the whole history of domination and exploitation, one that has left lifetimes of terrible suffering and mountains of corpses in its wake... this didn't come out of nowhere. It came out of the system of capitalism, and that system has morphed and festered like a cancer as it has further developed. Today, the whole present-day reality of some people desperately attempting to survive, while others—some of whom are also being pushed to the edge—are misdirected and misled to fight against them… all this is results from the rules, the workings, and the history of this system—the system of capitalism-imperialism2.
But there is another possible future. Yes, these imperialists are powerful. But keep in mind that their social order is under extreme pressure and very unstable, reflected even in conflicts among themselves (e.g., the Republicans vs. Obama) at the top. And yes, they have up to now been able to suppress the potential resistance of millions of immigrants. But those millions are not going away. And while their politicians have been able to whip up discontented people to turn their anger against those immigrants, these imperialists have no fundamental answer for those discontented people, and some can be won away by a determined movement. The widespread feeling that things are "coming apart" is based on reality—and in such times there is potential for people to look to whole different solutions, and to change their thinking very quickly. These are the "hidden contradictions" of the system—things that are not so evident, but are there, just below the surface.
This other possible future pivots on making revolution against this system. And there is a party—the Revolutionary Communist Party—that is not only dedicated to bring that other future into being, but which has a strategy to do so and is right now carrying on an important campaign to take a leap in carrying out that strategy and making that future real. As the Party's Message and Call3 for that campaign makes clear, "[N]ow is not yet the time, in this country, to go all-out to seize the power away from those who rule over us and to bring a new power, serving our interests, into being. But now IS the time to be WORKING FOR REVOLUTION—to be stepping up resistance while building a movement for revolution—to prepare for the time when it WILL be possible to go all out to seize the power."
Political battles like the one going on in Arizona right now have a lot to do with the strategy to get to revolution. Right now the polarization on this fight is not good—that is, the odds seem to be stacked against the people who are resisting oppression. But those odds can change, things can get re-polarized... for revolution. Through our actions, we can bring into reality the other side of those "hidden contradictions" we talked about above. How could that happen?
If people who understand the tremendous injustice coming down jump into action and rally others to resist, beginning now and especially in this next crucial period, and stand up against this illegitimate fascist law and the whole fascist offensive, giving heart to those who want to see resistance, and if through their bold actions they compel people "on the fence" or otherwise confused to think again...
If revolutionaries unite with that and rally that forward, on the foundation of sharply showing the source of the problem in the system and the solution to it in revolution, raising people's understanding and letting millions know that there IS a movement for revolution and a leadership for that movement, and winning a core among them to take up this revolutionary understanding and build this revolutionary movement...
If the connections are drawn between the repression in Arizona and the many other outrages, and struggles, in society, and their common source, especially through getting out Revolution newspaper and the works of Bob Avakian, the leader of the RCP and of the revolution, and if through getting to know that leadership and reading this paper people come to see that a radically different world is possible, and thus raise their sights as to what is possible...
If through all this spreading of revolution and growing resistance it comes to be seen by millions that what these rulers are doing is totally illegitimate, and indeed they don't in fact deserve to rule...
And if through all that the organized strength of this Party can grow...
Then the political equation can begin to change—radically. Then we can begin to make advances toward a whole different political situation, one where—through other changes in the world and the further development of this movement—people really could make revolution.
As part of doing that, this fascist law—this whole fascist offensive—MUST be challenged, resisted and ultimately stopped. The movement for revolution—the movement we ARE BUILDING—must be spread and strengthened. The challenge has been made; the people must answer it.
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