Democrats' anti-Trump campaign extols undemocratic FBI and the 'national security' state

February 16, 2018

The most effective way to counter US President Donald Trump’s reactionary policies is through mass action.

The Democratic Party, however, hopes to steer movements and individuals opposed to Trump into support of its candidates. While this trap of “lesser evil” politics has proved to be a failure over and over again, there is another, outright reactionary, content to the Democrat’s current anti-Trump campaign.

The Democrats, their supporters in the mass media, and most self-styled “progressives” are on a drive to whitewash the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the current squabble between the FBI and Trump concerning Russia.

They also accuse Trump of violating “national security”, not sufficiently defending “classified” information and furthering leaks of such state secrets to WikiLeaks — which is implied to be in collusion with Russia against the United States.

All wings of the Democrats have fallen in line behind this campaign, with even Bernie Sanders and “reformer” Senator Elizabeth Warren going along, even if quietly.

According to the Democrats and others like CNN, former FBI directors Robert Mueller, who is heading up an investigation into collusion between Russia and Trump, and James Comey, whom Trump fired last year, are completely above any criticism.

Moreover, the FBI is the “greatest law enforcement agency in the world,” according to one commentator.


The reality is that the FBI is one of the most important of the array of political police agencies in the US, and has been from its beginning.

The FBI traces its origins to the early 1900s, to agencies formed to investigate federal crimes under the Department of Justice. In 1909, it was named the Bureau of Investigation.

With the entry of the US into World War I, the Bureau was charged with investigating draft resisters, violators of the Espionage Act of 1917, and immigrants suspected of socialist or anarchist views. Organisations like the militant Industrial Workers of the World, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Labor Party were targeted.

During the war, the radical press was largely suppressed and there were arrests of radical leaders.

After the war, the man who was to mould the FBI for half a century, J Edgar Hoover, joined the Bureau. During the “Red Scare” of 1919-20, Hoover worked under Bureau director Mitchell Palmer to help carry out mass arrests.

Deeply opposed to socialism and the Russian Revolution, Hoover came into his own. He set up a card index system listing every radical leader, organisation and publication in the United States.

By 1921, he had amassed about 450,000 files. More than 10,000 suspected Communists were arrested in this period, and many immigrant radicals deported.

Hoover became Bureau director in 1924, a post he held until his death in 1972. In that period the Bureau (renamed the FBI in the 1930s) was the main anti-Communist, anti-Black, anti-union witch-hunting tool of the government.

In the 1930s, Hoover was instructed by Franklin D Roosevelt to keep tabs on Communist organisations and other “suspected” individuals. He was quite zealous in carrying out this directive, even listing Roosevelt’s own wife, Eleanor, and other liberals.

Militant leaders of the great labour upsurge of the 1930s that created the Congress of Industrial Organisations (CIO) were also placed under surveillance. Socialists and Communists were among those leaders.

The FBI was instrumental in the Roosevelt administration using the 1940 Smith Act to indict and convict leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of “conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the US government”.

During World War II, the FBI expanded its arsenal of wiretaps and other electronic surveillance of “subversives.”

McCarthyite witch-hunt

After the war, the FBI was instrumental in carrying out the anti-Communist witch-hunt begun by the Democratic Harry Truman administration in 1947. The new “Red Scare” deepened over the next decade, in the context of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

The FBI worked closely with the witch-hunting committees in Congress, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and in the Senate under the chairmanship of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Thousands in the union movement, the government, churches and even Hollywood were purged, prosecuted and persecuted.

As part of the witch-hunt, Hoover established a special anti-gay unit, to root out gays in the government and increase the persecution of gays generally. McCarthy charged that gays and Communists had taken over parts of the government and the Democratic Party.

McCarthyism, as the campaign became known, grew to include grassroots committees across the country. It represented an incipient fascist movement, finally cut short by alarmed sections of the ruling class. It did not need fascism at that time as it was not threatened by any working-class upsurge.

When a new stage in the Black liberation movement began with the Montgomery bus boycott challenging racist apartheid in the South in 1955-56, Hoover established a secret program called COINTEL (counter intelligence) to combat it and Communists, Socialists and believers in democracy who supported Black rights.

As the radicalisation of the 1960s and early 1970s developed, spearheaded by the civil rights and Black liberation movements, as well as the youth radicalisation centred on the anti-Vietnam-war movement, COINTEL expanded.

All Black and anti-war (and later women’s and gay and lesbian liberation) groups were targeted, on top of the socialist organisations already in the FBI’s sights.

One result of this radicalisation was the exposure of the secret COINTEL program in the 1970s, when activists broke into an FBI office and found the documents.

Other revelations were made by a lawsuit brought by the SWP against government spying, break-ins and other illegal activities directed against the SWP. It also exposed the same dirty tricks against many other groups.

Others also brought actions revealing FBI crimes.

Recent examples

In the reaction against “The Sixties” that has developed increasingly since, the FBI and other political police agencies have regained their former role.

One recent example is the FBI spearheading the anti-Muslim witch-hunt, including frame ups and entrapments, after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

This campaign was headed by then FBI director from 2001 to 2013, Mueller — now the Democrats’ darling.

Another example was the exposure by Edward Snowden of the vast gathering of phone, email and other messages of all US citizens and many others internationally by the National Security Agency (NSA).

When the Black Lives Matter protests erupted, Comey, then director of the FBI, denounced it as anti-police.

In the 2016 election, Comey also opened investigations into candidates Hillary Clinton and Trump. In doing so, he was following in the shoes of Hoover, who compiled dossiers on important government figures to be able to hold embarrassing material over them.

Trump fired Comey when he would not give up his investigation of the new president.

What is referred to as “the intelligence community” — which involves all the political police agencies — is also extolled by the Democrats who hope Mueller will be able to get rid of Trump.

This “community” has released statements that it has proof of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.

The hope is they will find collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians to help elect Trump. But the “intelligence community” says it cannot reveal its “proof” because to do so would betray “national security”.

National security

The Democrats also extol the virtues of “national security”. What is meant by “national security”? It means the security of US imperialism.

A case in point was the prosecution carried out by the Barack Obama administration of Chelsea Manning under the Espionage Act for releasing “classified” information about US war crimes in Iraq.

While this Act was used only three times before 2008, Obama used it nine times during his term in office — convicting whistleblowers of revealing government crimes, not of conveying any information to a foreign government or organisation.

Hundreds of millions of documents are hidden by the US government under the “classified” label.

They are secret for a good reason. Most would reveal information about US crimes or other embarrassing material that would harm US capitalist and imperialist interests if the US people and the rest of the world knew about them.

The Democrats and their apologists, by burnishing the sordid record of the FBI, defending the Espionage Act, and hiding US crimes and embarrassing information under the “national security” and “classified” label do not further the struggle against Trump’s real crimes of war, racism, misogyny, homophobia and huge attacks on workers’ living standards among others.

They do the opposite.

They further the increasing consolidation of the national security state, which furthers the development of authoritarianism — like Trump’s.

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