The Militant (logo)

Vol. 64/No.18      May 8, 2000

INS assault in Miami strikes blow to the working class

In defense of the Cuban revolution, in defense of the working class!

Since the day last November when then five-year-old Elian Gonzalez was rescued from the water off the coast of Florida, the Militant has campaigned against the Clinton administration's refusal to immediately return him to Cuba.

We have pointed out that he is one of many thousands of victims of the decades-long U.S. government policy codified in the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act. That policy is designed to entice Cubans into the dangerous Florida Straits on flimsy rafts and rickety skiffs with the knowledge that if they survive, unlike other immigrants, they will be welcomed with aid and citizenship papers in the reputed "land of plenty," the world's wealthiest capitalist power.


The Militant has insisted, moreover, that the top echelons of the U.S. government, with brutal indifference to the consequences for an innocent child, quickly came to see how unanticipated developments surrounding this case could be played to advantage. Elian Gonzalez could be used to help the U.S. ruling class polish the tarnished image of la migra, its largest and most hated federal police force, and to strengthen the executive powers of the imperialist state. These are strategic goals that rank high with the U.S. rulers, as they prepare their arsenal for use against working people at home and abroad.

The April 22 Miami commando-style operation carried out in the wee hours of the morning by heavily-armed special forces of the Immigration and Naturalization Service provides striking new confirmation of the Militant's assessment. That raid dealt a stunning blow to the right of every U.S. resident to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," as provided by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights codifying space wrested by the toilers over more than two centuries of struggle. Every class-conscious worker is obligated to take a clear and unambiguous stand against that police action, which, in addition to all else, was accompanied by chauvinism and anti-immigrant prejudice against the population labeled "Miami Cubans."

That's why the Militant, whose masthead proudly declares it is "published in the interests of working people," is campaigning with the headline this week: "INS assault in Miami strikes blow to the working class." Condemnation of the raid is all the more incumbent on those who for more than 40 years have been the most consistent and intransigent defenders of the Cuban revolution.

Following months of unprecedented publicity, the police action in Miami removed a Cuban child from the home of relatives who, with no legal custody rights, were parading him before the world as a trophy of the counterrevolution. For that reason, the operation is being hailed by a layer of activists in the Cuba solidarity movement as a "victory," for which U.S. top cop Attorney General Janet Reno and U.S. president William Clinton should be sent bouquets of flowers and letters of commendation.

Nothing could be more dangerously false. What's at stake is a working-class line of march in defense of democratic rights and political space won by working people in the United States through two revolutions and numberless bloody battles in the streets. It is along that road that the Cuban Revolution, the first dictatorship of the proletariat in our hemisphere, will be effectively defended as well.

Never was there greater need for clarity that the government of the most dangerous and brutal imperialist power in the world does not act for "us." "We" and "they" are two irreconcilable classes.

Clinton strengthens police powers

Since taking office more than seven years ago, the Clinton administration, with bipartisan backing in Congress, has been steadily pursuing a course to strengthen police powers while restricting political space for the exercise of democratic rights. This is the rulers' considered need, an anticipation in face of slowly growing political polarization and intensified resistance by broadening layers of workers and farmers to the conditions of their exploitation and oppression. The following are just a few of the measures taken by the White House, Congress, and the courts:

Under the banner of "the fight against drugs," Clinton's 1994 Crime Bill assaulted Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure in private homes, and the courts have virtually eliminated such rights in automobiles.

Following adoption of the White House-initiated Illegal Immigration Reform Act in 1996, deportations hit a record high over the next two years. La migra's hated powers to seize and deport suspected "illegal aliens" without right to judicial review or appeal have been expanded.

The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act signed into law by Clinton in 1996 permits the INS to jail immigrants using what it calls "secret evidence." It also broadens government powers to use wiretaps and hold individuals without bail in "preventive detention."

The U.S. prison population today is some eight times what it was in 1971, and nearly twice its level when the Great Jailer took up residence in the White House in 1992.

Appeal and parole rights have been further restricted, while mandatory minimum sentences, longer terms, and even prison labor for the "free market" have all become more common.

During the seven-year administration of the Great Executioner, the annual number of state-sponsored electrocutions, hangings, and deaths by lethal injection have tripled, while the number of defendants charged with federal capital offenses has tripled since adoption of the Clinton-initiated Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994.

The White House has stepped up heavier and more deadly arming and equipping of police forces. Between 1995 and 1997 alone, the Clinton administration gave police departments 1.2 million pieces of military hardware, including 73 grenade launchers and 112 armored personnel carriers. Use of self-repeating handguns with large clips has been encouraged and expanded.

In the name of preempting "terrorist" attacks, the Clinton Pentagon has established, for the first time in U.S. history, a de facto "homeland defense command," preparing the way for the U.S. armed forces to openly conduct police operations—now prohibited by law—against residents of the United States.

Mailed fist and imperial arrogance

Official sanction by the Clinton administration for escalated police violence has led with increasing frequency, from one end of the country to the other, to cold-blooded murders by cops. The roster of names that have prompted outpourings of anger and demands for justice in recent months alone is long and well-known—Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismond in New York City; Willie James Williams in Valdosta, Georgia; Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California; and many others. But we should remind ourselves that the pattern of domestic police violence does not stand in isolation. It goes hand-in-hand with the sharpening interimperialist conflict and U.S. military aggression throughout the world, from Iraq, to Yugoslavia, to the Sudan, to Korea.

They do at home what they do abroad. Foreign policy is always ultimately an expression of the real trajectory of domestic policy. Their course and objectives have nothing to do with the "rule of law." They have everything to do with the mailed fist and imperial arrogance of the world's one "indispensable nation," as William Clinton likes to call the United States.

The INS raid in Miami, as Harvard constitutional law professor and liberal Establishment attorney Laurence Tribe has pointed out, was carried out in violation of the fact that under the U.S. Constitution "it is axiomatic that the executive branch has no unilateral authority to enter people's homes forcibly to remove innocent individuals without taking the time to seek a warrant or other order from a judge or magistrate." No judge or magistrate "had issued the type of warrant or other authority needed for the executive branch to break into the home to seize the child."

The INS, with its enhanced powers under the 1996 Immigration Act, can secure warrants to search workplaces for illegal aliens and "to search, interrogate and arrest people without warrants in order to prevent unlawful entry into the country," Tribe added. "But no one suspects that Elian is here illegally." (To the contrary, we would add: the U.S rulers' Cuban Adjustment Act is designed to entice the maximum number of "Eliáns," all of them "legal.")

La migra's justification for the firepower deployed in Miami was the all-too-well-known claim of "intelligence" reports of weapons in the house or crowd. (How often have workers in the United States been victims of "secret intelligence," offered by the FBI and other police agencies, informers, and provocateurs to justify murderous acts?)

The timing of the predawn raid, prohibited by the terms of most search warrants; the battering down of the front and back door; the refusal to seek or obtain a court order obliging the family to turn over the child (the INS architects of the "dilemma" claim their powers are not subject to judicial review); the wanton "collateral damage" inflicted on the home of the child's relatives, to whom the administration had originally "granted" custody; the pepper gas sprayed on the crowd outside the home; the assault on the NBC camera crew—all are elements of the violation of the constitutional right to safety and security in our own homes that U.S. residents consider among our most precious guarantees under the Bill of Rights. All were intended to teach a class lesson about what "the rule of law" really means to those who would resist the advance of the imperial power that William Clinton and Janet Reno serve.

As if the point needed to be reinforced, two days after the INS raid in Miami, the New York press reported that cops "in battle gear—backed up by search dogs, helicopters and rooftop sharpshooters—blocked off streets" for hours in the Edgemere section of Queens. They were "acting on a tip" that a man wanted in connection with a series of shootings was in an apartment in the area. He was never found, but others in the neighborhood were detained, manhandled, and grilled. Get the message?

Next target: Puerto Rico

Immediately following the Miami raid, the U.S. government announced it would soon begin operations with U.S. marshals and other federal police agencies to clear the Puerto Rican island of Vieques of the protesters permanently camped there to prevent the Pentagon from resuming use of the island as a weapons-testing site.

The chauvinist, anti-Cuban, anti-immigrant and anti-working-class prejudice that has been used to bolster support for the police commando operation in Miami is one of its most pernicious aspects. High levels of support for the INS raid among African-Americans polled in South Florida is one register of the successful attempt to bolster decades of resentment against many in the Cuban community for reactionary ends.

The pen of leading New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman drips with venom as he repeatedly refers to the perfidious role of "the Miami Cubans," as a bloc, undifferentiated by class or other distinction, except to identify some among them as "extremists." As a people they bear a collective guilt. Whether as residents or citizens, they have fewer or lesser rights than "Americans."

In the aftermath of the INS raid he enthusiastically supported, Friedman gloats that one can only hope "the Miami Cubans" have been reminded "that they are not living in their own private country, they cannot do whatever they please and that they may hate Fidel Castro more than they love the U.S. Constitution—but that doesn't apply to the rest of us." This from a near-hysterical advocate of tearing up the Bill of Rights for all of us, so "the Miami Cubans" can be taught a lesson.

Blanket references to Cuban-Americans living in Miami as gusanos, or as the "Miami Mafia" (almost more powerful than the imperialist state)—references that often crop up among supporters of the revolution in the United States (see letters page)—are of a similarly reactionary and petty bourgeois character. Events surrounding the Elián González affair confirm what the Militant has long argued: with every passing year Cubans and Cuban-Americans living in the United States are more and more marked by the same class divisions and political polarization as other residents. The Cuban bourgeois layers who dominate the Dade County political machine are more integrated today, not less, with their class brothers and sisters nationally. The role various of them played in "negotiations" throughout the Elián case bears testimony to this.

Cuban workers in the United States are likewise more homogeneous with their class.

End of an era

Even the relatively small size and elevated average age of the crowds that held vigil in the streets around the González home in Little Havana should be noted. The virtual absence of the armed counterrevolutionary organizations that in earlier years would have furnished a cadre and played a weighty role in events such as those of the last five months is further confirmation that the Elian Gonzalez case will be recognized as the end of an era of reactionary hopes to influence U.S. politics.

Imperialist publicists like Thomas Friedman notwithstanding, it is not "hard-line" Cubans who have "kidnapped U.S. policy on Cuba for all these years," and now must be taught a lesson by the real Americans for whom he speaks. The space enjoyed for many years by forces such as the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF) derived from the fact that they served the interests and policies defended by Washington. Even the typically chauvinist image of Cubans as uncontrollable extremists has been useful to the U.S. rulers and continues to play into their hands. As the political advantage of keeping Elián González in the United States diminished in Washington's eyes, however, the reality of CANF's reputed power was exposed.

Beginning from the moment decisive action was taken in February 1996 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba against the Brothers to the Rescue abortive overflight provocation, and culminating with the frustrating failure of the campaign to "keep Elian Gonzalez in the 'free world,'" any pretense that there is a politically homogeneous Cuban-American organization, let alone an armed group, weighty enough to substantially influence Washington's policy towards Cuba has been shattered. The fiction of a monolithic, non-class-divided Cuban community, kept in line by a powerful rightist cadre, backed and pandered to by Washington, has lost credibility. The self-serving notion that Miami is not subject to the same laws of class struggle as the rest of the United States has been further weakened.

The issues surrounding the INS raid in Miami are of vital importance to the workers movement. Millions of working people feel nothing but outrage at the rulers' trampling on our most basic rights and political space, our livelihoods, our very life and limb. The regressive burden of the bourgeoisie's tax policies; the inevitability of banks and government agencies foreclosing on small farmers squeezed by the ever-increasing weight of giant monopolies; the brutal indifference to human life symbolized by the deadly police assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco—if the only voice working people and worse-off layers of the middle classes hear speaking out against such indignities are those of reaction, if no angry and determined working-class voice is heard pointing a class-struggle way forward, then the radical siren song of fascist demagogues will gain an ever more receptive ear.

Our battle to return Elián González to Cuba is not yet over. It would be futile to predict how much longer it will take. But with each passing day it becomes clearer that the U.S. ruling class in its majority has become convinced that the gains from preventing the boy from going home has been exhausted. His use value to them has been exhausted. The "caring president" has moved on to other priorities.

The people of Cuba have won.

The massive mobilization of ordinary Cubans, day after day, month after month; their determination to prevent the arrogant imperialist power to the north from stealing a child; the spotlight of publicity around the world—that is what finally made it impossible for the U.S. government to sweep the increasingly embarrassing affair (their own creation from the beginning) under a rug. "One day longer"—the battle cry of workers and farmers everywhere—is the banner under which the Cuban people marched.

Cuba's unforgivable offense

As many times before over the last 40-odd years, the U.S. rulers are arguing among themselves over how to continue punishing the working people of Cuba for the unforgivable affront of creating the first free territory of the Americas. The propertied families are divided, as always, over how best to advance their objective of overturning the revolutionary state power on U.S. imperialism's doorstep. There is no truce, even for a day. But by drawing a line in the sand, the people of Cuba have shown the U.S. rulers they have misjudged the moment in history. Not for the first time.

As we share the sweet taste of victory with our cocombatants in Cuba, however, communists and class-conscious toilers in the United States must be both clear and intransigent about the class political issues involved—the character of the U.S. imperialist government and its armed agencies. Our future—in fact the future of the world—depends on it.

The muddle-headedness—at best—in facing these class questions within what is broadly thought of as the Cuba solidarity movement is a mortal danger, including to the Cuban Revolution itself. Every step taken by the U.S. ruling class to close political space for working people within the United States—to restrict the exercise of democratic rights temporarily wrested through bloody struggles—is a blow against the Cuban Revolution as well.

When the victorious October Revolution was obliged by the unfavorable world relationship of forces in 1918 to sign the rapacious Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with German imperialism in order to buy time to save the state power of the workers and peasants—a very special period in the young Soviet republic—V. I. Lenin led the fight within the Bolshevik leadership to take that necessary step. Parliamentary deputies in Germany calling themselves socialists voted to ratify that same treaty in the German Reichstag, arguing there was no reason not to do so since the Bolsheviks themselves had signed the onerous terms.

The Bolsheviks' unforgettable reply to them—as recorded by Leon Trotsky, organizer of the Red Army and Lenin's chief negotiator at Brest-Litovsk—was: "You swine. We are objectively compelled to negotiate in order not to be annihilated, but as for you—you are politically free to vote for or against, and your vote implies whether or not you place confidence in your own bourgeoisie."

For the working-class movement in the United States today, the same class principles are at stake.
HOME   |   Text Version Home