The Third International after Lenin

Friday, March 9, 2012

Washington chipping away at constitutional rights

Editorial from the new issue of the Militant:

Attorney General Eric Holder's assertion of the "constitutionality" of executive-ordered assassinations of U.S. citizens and the NYPD's widespread spying on Muslims are examples of the U.S. rulers' increasing assaults on the political rights of working people. At the same time, workers resisting bosses' lockouts and other attacks face cop violence and frame-ups.

The chipping away at constitutional protections and ongoing moves toward strengthening the executive powers of the president are part of broader attacks on the working class as the rulers respond to a systemic crisis rooted in a slowdown of capitalist production and trade. As this process unfolds, the rulers increasingly sense and prepare for inevitable class battles down the road.

The Barack Obama administration is advancing a course set by his predecessors. In 1996 William Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which expanded the power of la migra to round workers up without the right to judicial rule or appeal. He grew the immigration police to be the largest federal cop agency. The same year he signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, granting federal cops the power to hold people without bail in "preventive detention" on the basis of "secret evidence."

Clinton expanded mandatory federal prison sentences and increased their lengths, resulting in a mushrooming number of prisoners, disproportionately African-American.

George W. Bush enacted the 2001 Patriot Act and 2002 Homeland Security Act to further strengthen executive powers, many of them secret, and make further inroads on political rights.

With Obama at the helm, the U.S. rulers have deepened these attacks. They go hand-in-hand with increasingly aggressive policing and jailing of working people, targeting especially those who are Black, as well as attacks on the rights of immigrants.

While all this takes place, the propertied rulers don't move to change a word of the Bill of Rights. When laws are won as a result of working-class struggle, their content in practice is determined by ongoing battles and the relationship of class forces.

For example, the 14th Amendment promising "equal protection of the laws" was won as a result of a bloody Civil War. In practice, it was gutted as part of the overthrow of Radical Reconstruction, which opened the door to the imposition of Jim Crow segregation. It will take a revolutionary struggle, led by the working class and its allies, to make this and the other constitutional protections under attack today a reality for working people.


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