In the wake of the terror attacks
14 September 2001
A statement from the Campaign for Labor Rights, based largely on a statement issued September 13 by the Black Radical Congress (BRC).
During this intensely sad and traumatic time, we extend our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who lost their life on September 11th. We also wish for the speedy and full recovery of those who were injured, and we hope that in the aftermath of the attacks, rescue crews can find as many people still alive as possible.
Campaign for Labor Rights condemns the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 in New York and Washington, D.C. The brazen murder of countless thousands of civilians cannot be supported or condoned.
An unknown number of our union sisters and brothers have been lost to the combined attacks--Campaign for Labor Rights will rally support, beginning in Washington, D.C. this weekend, for their families.
Here in Washington, D.C., we are experiencing something like nothing we've ever felt before. It's as if the fabric of our community has been torn, and the smaller tasks of normal day-to-day life no longer seem important From talking with some of you from across the country
and around the world, we know that many of you feel similarly Yet we
are sending this Labor Alert to let you know that we see hope and potential in these painful moments We know that sitting on the subway or walking around on the streets, we have something deeply in common with people we may never have spoken to before. This newfound common ground provides an opportunity to reach out to each other, and to forge real, human connections with our neighbors and fellow community members.
We also understand that there are many ways in which the tears in our communities can be sewn back together Our communities could be put back together in reactionary ways, demanding a violent response from the US government Communities could rebuild themselves exactly as they existed before, largely unquestioning of the way the US interacts with (and acts upon) the rest of the world Or we could stitch the fabric of our communities back together in a way that pulls us all closer together We could build something out of this moment We could talk to our neighbors and community members about how they're feeling, and we could create something from this moment that won't allow us to simply fall back into "business as usual."
It is without question that US imperialism has brought genocidal levels of death and destruction to people around the world. Whether one looks at the situation in Iraq with the continual blockade and air bombardments, the situation in Palestine where the US continues to give virtually uncritical support to the Israelis in their national oppression of the Palestinians, or the low-intensity economic warfare against the vast majority of Central America or any number of other places which perpetuates labor exploitation, one clearly sees the callousness and evil intent with which US imperialism treats the lives and property of others, especially non-white peoples around the globe.
Yet, even with a firm understanding of the causes of the desperation, fury, and hatred of US imperialism, turning to terrorism to fight global oppression and exploitation is not an acceptable strategy. A clear and unambiguous distinction must be made between radical/revolutionary political action on the one hand, and terrorism on the other, regardless of whether the causes that *appeared* to inspire the terrorist action(s) are just. Open and unmitigated attacks on civilian targets do not advance radical/revolutionary causes and must be repudiated. Rather, such attacks inevitably antagonize the populace, weaken any existing popular support, and help legitimize heightened levels of repression by the imperialist state against *all* progressive/radical/revolutionary political activity, including increased restrictions on the civil rights of the people.
We already hear, in the voices of those in power, calls for war and vengeance. War and vengeance without a precise target, but striking out blindly against civilians, is nothing more than self-serving egoism, and it is exactly what has just happened in New York and Washington, D.C.
Given the track record of the US, this vengeance could include indiscriminate bombings or missile attacks, such as the attack against the Sudanese pharmaceutical laboratory two years ago, which was later found *not* to have been connected with any sort of terrorist activity.
The dangers presented by the September 11th terrorist acts do not restrict themselves to the external threat. We hear on television and radio calls for changing the laws and regulations in order to make it easier to conduct surveillance and to carry-out covert operations against potential opponents of the US. Rather than accomplishing anything in terms of reducing the threat of terrorism, such steps will eliminate basic civil liberties and strengthen the existing tendency toward a racist and classist police state. The police are already out of control and on the rampage in communities across the country. We cannot afford to further unleash their undemocratic and frequently racist and murderous behavior in the name of national security.
We should add here that the terrorist attacks have also brought potential damage to the growing anti-capitalist globalization movement. The ruling class has been making noise for months about the demonstrations that accompany the gatherings of capitalist globalizers. They have inferred that these demonstrations will get increasingly out of control.
There is no question that the events of September 11th will be used as a pretext to both discourage activity, as well as to clamp down on any and all popular outrage with neo-liberal globalization Campaign for Labor Rights has heard that this crisis will be used to push forward that neo-liberal agenda Specifically, we have heard that Republican leaders intend to pass a "broad economic stimulus package," which will most likely include some form of Fast Track, giving President Bush the authority to negotiate trade deals with other countries with nearly no input from congress.
This is undoubtedly a crucial moment We must not let the atrocities that have already occurred to continue We must demand that there be no violent retaliation on the part of the US, and also that there be no violent, undemocratic legislation pushed through in the haste to get "back on track."
It is also critical in moments such as these that we as human beings fight and resist popular impulses toward scape-goating and racism. From almost the moment of the first attack on the World Trade Center, there has been an assumption floated within the media that Arabs or Muslim fundamentalists were behind the attacks. The reaction to the attacks is reminiscent of what we witnessed immediately after the Oklahoma City bombings. There was a widespread assumption that Arabs or Muslims were behind the attack on the Federal Office building. Few establishment observers expected, or led any of the public to expect, that the terrorist could be -- and was -- a homegrown, white American right-winger.
Therefore, it is important to reserve judgment until a more thorough investigation is conducted. This is particularly important given the anti-Palestinian/anti-Arab/anti-Muslim bias of the media. The automatic assumption of the US media is that Palestinians specifically, and Arabs generally, are animals, or at best, fanatics with no concern for human life. The just Palestinian cause is rarely given credible time, and when offered, generally dismissed by allegedly objective (but really pro-Israeli) commentators. Therefore, in the current situation of horror following these criminal acts, we must actively oppose any and all "witch-hunting" and stereotyping which is bound to emerge.
Yet another danger we currently face will be xenophobia and, general anti-immigrant sentiment. This will almost inevitably be directed at immigrants of color and particularly those who "look" like they might be of Middle Eastern (North African) origin. The attacks on immigrants and the condemnation of entire communities must be stopped before they escalate out of control. We already see some of this happening with numerous reports of anonymous death threats sent to Arab and Muslim institutions, as well as the spray painting of racist slogans and direct, personal threats and attacks on individuals who are assumed to be from the Middle East (North Africa). We call on all clear-thinking people to be especially vigilant at this time in making sure that in the aftermath of this tragedy, another tragedy born of pain, anger, and hatred does not occur. True anti- racism may require us to put ourselves at risk physically in order to defend Arabs and Muslims from unwarranted attacks.
Lastly, we must not condone or be indifferent to the horrendous loss of human life resulting from this tragedy, nor can we allow these horrific acts to be used as an excuse to further repress Arab-Americans, Muslims, or those perceived to be opponents of capitalist globalization. As labor rights supporters, we understand the bloody history of the labor movement in the US, and we understand that violent repression of workers and organizers around the world persists today Because we understand this suffering, some of us more directly than others, we must show our full and unqualified support and compassion for all those suffering as a result of this horrible tragedy.
Daisy Pitkin and Zakiyyah Jackson, Campaign for Labor Rights, USA