What’s Behind Attacks on Democratic Rights?

The American people are losing their democratic rights and civil liberties at an alarming and accelerating pace. Fundamental freedoms, which Americans once fought a revolution to gain, are being eroded and taken away.

• The U.S. government itself has become the number one violator of democratic rights. Its intelligence agencies have been exposed as a criminal ring of burglars, assassins and subversives. They routinely ignore every constitutional protection, compile files on tens of thousands of citizens, spy, wiretap, plot break-ins and disruptions, and carry out political executions. The FBI, CIA and IRS, to name but three of the government agencies which have systematically violated the law and the rights of Americans, are daily taking on more of the trappings of a secret police force.

• The Supreme Court, packed with Nixon appointees, has moved to overturn many of the guarantees of due process and civil rights which were won in the past. Protections against forced confessions, arrest without warrant and invasion of privacy have all been weakened. Even the right to freely distribute handbills and newspapers is under assault.

• Free elections, supposedly the most basic process of a democracy, no longer exist. They are largely restricted to two capitalist parties whose campaigns are now openly funded by the state through "public financing," and packaged by media which censor nearly all other political opinion. What was once a free ballot is today a restrictive bureaucratic maze that effectively keeps the political process closed at the very time society's problems call for new revolutionary ideas.

• Access to the means of communication, a fundamental condition of meaningful free speech, is blocked by monopoly control of the broadcasters who exploit public airwaves for corporate profit.

• The right to strike is under persistent attack by both the courts and legislatures. More and more workers forced to go out on strike are facing injunctions, fines and jail sentences.

• Senate Bill 1437, now pending in Congress, is the most comprehensive attack on the Bill of Rights the country has ever seen. It threatens free speech, free assembly and the free press, just to name a few. It would give the government broad dictatorial powers to suppress dissent, increase state control over individual and political activity, and move society closer to a police state.

Why are our rights under such fierce attack? Who benefits when democratic rights are eroded?

The answer is not very complicated. Democracy is always a threat to a small tyrannical class and the U.S. capitalist class is no exception. Its system has created problem upon problem which it cannot solve, but can only repress. Its only response to crime is repression. Its only response to opposition to its imperialist foreign policy is repression. Its only response to growing resistance to poverty, unemployment, racism and the anarchy of its system is repression and more repression.

To put it simply, the capitalist class is passing repressive laws to protect itself from its own people.

Equally important, the ruling class seeks to keep the working majority from using democratic rights to organize itself. The right to engage in free and open political activity, to use free speech and a free press to expose official lies and deceptions, the right to fundamentally alter society, all pose a threat to continued capitalist rule. Repression is fast becoming the only means left to block change and hold the system together.

In short, capitalism is becoming totally incompatible with democratic freedoms. The longer it continues, the more thoroughly it will try to sweep away the hard-won democratic gains of the past.

Unlike the ruling class, workers and the socialist movement have a definite interest in seeing democracy preserved and extended. Democratic rights are vital to the working class, which must defend them at every point. Likewise, democracy is inseparable from socialism, which is based on democratic majority control of every social institution, including the economy.

Society has reached a point where capitalism and democracy are irreconcilable enemies, one declining in proportion to the advance of the other. To reverse the current trend toward repression, to defend the rights now under attack, and to make democracy a reality in every sphere of life, a socialist reorganization of society has become absolutely essential.


Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • www.slp.org • socialists@slp.org

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