Towards a Strategy for Confronting Canada’s ‘War on Terror’ & Resisting the Criminalization of People’s Struggles at Home and Abroad
The following document is the first draft of a campaign strategy document being developed by the International League of People’s Struggles-Canada and its member organizations, which we hope will lead to the convening of a conference in late 2012 to official launch a campaign to confront Canada’s war on terror and resist the criminalization of people’s struggles.
This document advances an understanding of the criminalization of people’s struggles as the means by which imperialism maintains its control and extend its domination in the midst of deep economic crisis, particularly through the ‘War on Terror’; and proposes a strategic orientation and plan of work for resisting and beating back the criminalization of people’s struggles and their classification as terrorist.
The first sections of this paper address the general economic context driving the criminalization of the people’s struggles, with a brief summation of the impact and function of the ‘War on Terror’ in Canada over the last ten years.
The final sections discuss a possible strategic orientation and tactics for confronting imperialism’s criminalization of the people’s struggles, followed by a proposed plan of work for building unity around our strategic orientation amongst the member organizations of ILPS-Canada and other mass organizations and networks we hope to unite with.
The need and demand for such a campaign has been years in the making, and was one of the main campaigns taken up at the May 2011 Founding Assembly of the Canadian chapter of the International League of People’s Struggles.
With it, we hope to unite sectors of Canadian society most effected by this criminalization – the struggles of workers and youth that come into conflict with the economic and political interests of the Canadian ruling class, the anti-colonial struggles of indigenous peoples, the immigrant communities connected to national liberation and anti-globalization struggles back home.
1. GENERAL CONTEXT: The crisis of imperialism determines the attacks on the people
With the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, the ruling classes in the imperialist countries have only intensified the attacks that have characterized the last three decades of imperialist globalization and ‘neoliberal’ economic restructuring.
At the core of the crisis of capitalism today is actually a crisis of overproduction. Despite the fact that the material needs of billions of people go unfulfilled everyday, capitalism is paradoxically characterized by a chronic overaccumulation of capital: too much investment-seeking capital and too much industrial capacity, with too few profitable investment outlets and too little consumptive power of the masses given declining real wages (which in turn boosts profitability, but deepens the crisis of overproduction).
Monopoly finance capital cannot escape the crisis merely through new investments and the expansion of production, as those calling for ‘good jobs’ and ‘green jobs’ would like to see. The world economy is mired in deep stagnation, yet the biggest corporations manage to rake in record profit levels in what has at times been referred to as jobless recovery. These record profits are being secured through a historically unprecedented centralization of wealth from the billions of people across the world to the big monopoly capitalists. Monopoly capital is intensifying the exploitation of labour; increasing the cost of living for the people; raiding public treasuries and manufacturing budget crises at all levels of government; privatizing public assets, goods, services, and even the basic necessities to life; and smaller and weaker corporations are being swallowed up through takeovers, mergers and acquisitions of larger competitors. What is being called the ‘age of austerity’ is the only the most immediate means available to the imperialists for the salvation of monopoly capitalism.
Further, any government trying to chart a course out of line with U.S.-led imperialism’s geostrategic interests (Libya, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela) have been attacked or are being threatened with aggression. Even greater tensions are mounting between the Western imperialists and its geopolitical and economic competitors in Russia and China.
All this to say that the current crisis is not the result of mismanagement, deregulation, or bad fiscal policy. Capitalism – which is today an imperialist world system – is in a crisis from which it cannot escape without terrifying consequences.
The people are waking up to this reality, and are rightly in revolt against capitalism’s intensified offensive. No year in recent history has stood witness to this revolt like 2011, from the popular uprisings in the Middle East and Africa, to the massive anti-austerity strikes and mobilizations in Europe, to the militant rise of the young people in the Occupy Movement in North America for whom the future has nothing to offer. Of course, these spontaneous rebellions cannot overshadow the decades’ long protracted anti-imperialist people’s struggles, such as in the Philippines, India, Colombia, Nepal, Turkey, Palestine, Mexico, and so on.
The imperialists have been preparing for these general uprisings for quite some time. The transformative shift of NATO member countries’ military strategy towards counter-insurgency over the last ten years speaks volumes about their preoccupation and expectation that mass-based people’s wars would be the greatest threat to imperialism in the future. It is precisely this expectation for the coming revolts that has driven forward the intensification of militarism, policing, surveillance, and prison systems. It is no contradiction that spending increases in these areas have occurred alongside the retrenchment of the state from spending in the areas of welfare and social programming. Reduced spending on social programming opens up profitable new markets for monopoly capitalism just as much as big state expenditures on war and policing do. In a socio-economic system where the ruling classes must push the masses into an ever more desperate and miserable situation, it is only natural then that the state apparatuses they control would increasingly criminalize our response to this repression.
The events of September 11, 2001 provided the U.S.-led imperialists with the perfect pretext to step up the repression of the people and people’s struggles. The U.S. imperialists offered up to the masses amorphous enemies – Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism – that it they could chase all across the world. On the domestic front, Muslim Americans have been scapegoated and attacked in order to trump up the threat of ‘homegrown terrorism’, which in turn has justified the attack on civil liberties and political dissent via Patriot Acts I and II.
The U.S. imperialists told us that the culprits of 9/11 were Al Qaida and the Taliban – both of which were CIA creations in the first place and both of which the U.S. continues to rely on and work with whenever it suits the purpose of dividing people’s struggles and destabilizing recalcitrant governments. A decade on, it’s becoming increasingly clear to the masses that the ‘War on Terror’ has been about nothing less than attacking people’s struggles and justifying new wars of conquest. The ‘War on Terror joins other offensives, such as the ‘War on Drugs’ and the ‘War on Poverty’ that have been used as ideological cover for violent suppression of liberation movements and popular struggles at home and abroad.
Whatever banner under which the criminalization of people’s struggles is waged, these repressive campaigns have all aimed at the containment and disruption of people’s struggles in opposition to the social decay that is the result of the capitalist-imperialist world system. Hence, a major component of our response to the economic crisis must be to expose and oppose the criminalization of people’s struggles and win back from the imperialists what they call the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people in support of people’s struggles everywhere. An urgent task for our work is to draw a sharp line between what the imperialists portray (and actively sponsor) as terrorism and genuine people’s struggles for liberation. There is a gaping chasm between the nihilistic violence that bluntly targets innocent civilians – which is actually the form of violence so often sponsored by or deployed by imperialism – versus the people’s struggles for liberation, even when those struggles taken on an armed form. One of the most successfully aspects of the propaganda of the ‘War on Terror’ has been the successful conflation of terroristic violence with the armed struggles of the masses against imperialism. This can be clearly seen in the case of Canada.
2. CANADA’S WAR ON TERROR: CRIMINALIZING THE PEOPLE AND PEOPLE’S STRUGGLES
The ‘War on Terror’ in Canada has been a microcosm of the broader ‘War on Terror’ deployed by U.S.-led imperialism: bogus ‘anti-terror’ witch-hunts that whip up mass hysteria built upon baseless allegations; racist Islamophobic scapegoating and hate-mongering; and whenever necessary, the direct intervention of state intelligence officials unwitting disaffected young men in manufactured terror plots where they wouldn’t have otherwise appeared without state direction.
In 2003, 23 Pakistanis and one Indian man were targeted by the massive anti-terror operation ‘Project Thread’ for their alleged links to al-Qaida. The corporate media effectively judged these young men as guilty in the court of public opinion by propagating allegations that they planned to conduct heinous acts of terror, including blowing up the Pickering nuclear power plant, destroying the CN Tower, and setting off a radioactive dirty bomb. No one could measure the effects that the widespread publication of this case had on stoking the racist imaginations of a frightful population. In the end, these allegations of terrorism were dismissed, yet these students were deported as their cases were relabeled as ‘immigration fraud’. Victimized not only as young Muslims being scapegoated by Canada’s need justify their war in Afghanistan, the young foreign students were also cheated by a diploma mill in Toronto.
Only three years later, Canadians would be fed up another sensational and even more bogus terror case, this time with the help of a CSIS agent at the very center of the plot. Needing to substantiate the fears of ‘homegrown terrorism’, the Canadian state, via their agent Mubin Shaikh, lured eighteen disgruntled young Muslim men with anti-‘War on Terror’ rhetoric into associating themselves with a state-led conspiracy. Although none of the accused carried out or came anywhere close to operationalizing the plans being pushed onto them by the police agent, they were ensnared in the most sensational anti-terror bust in Canadian history. We were told that these young men had plans of storming various buildings federal buildings, such as the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Parliament, CSIS, and even had plans to behead Stephen Harper. The orchestration of the ‘Toronto 18’ raids were conveniently timed to coincide with the renewal and revamping of the draconian Anti-Terror Act legislation in Canada, and of course served as a continuing justification for Canada’s war in Afghanistan. It is telling that Canada’s Anti-Terror Act was actually designed by then ruling Liberals in early 2001 – before 9/11 – and as with the case of the ‘Toronto 18’, seized upon the mass hysteria to force through draconian legislation that would have otherwise been difficult to justify.
Against the backdrop of these fictitious terror plots that kept Canadians amped up on Islamophobia and scared into submission by the threat of terror, we can add the gross injustices of the ‘Secret Trials Five’, wherein the Canadian government used their infamous security certificates to conduct secret trials with secret evidence, no charges, and indefinite detention against Hassan Almrei, Adil Charkaoui, Mohamed Harkat, Mahmoud Jaballah, and Mohammad Zeki Mahjoub. These men have spent a combined 26 years in detention with no charges against them and with their lawyers never having seen the secret evidence against them.
These cases have gone a long way in generating hatred and fear of Muslims and an vastly inflated threat of terrorism, thereby justifying western imperialism’s ongoing aggressions against Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Iran. But another major target of the ‘War on Terror’ has been the people’s struggles around the world and in Canada, some armed, many not.
From the surveillance of anti-Olympics activists in the lead up to 2010 Winter Olympics, and protestors and community organizers in the lead up to the G20 in Toronto in June 2010, to the ongoing vast surveillance operations against indigenous leaders and activists across Canada being conducted under the auspices of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)1, the criminalization of communists in Montreal, and the targeting of individuals associated with liberation organizations overseas, far less attention has been given to how the anti-terror laws and practices are being used by the Canadian state to label and treat as ‘domestic terrorism’ those forms of protest, dissent, and people’s struggles that pose a challenge to Canadian imperialism.
A cursory glance of Canada’s list of designated terrorist organizations would leave the average Canadian with an inflated sense of the threat of Islamic terrorism, given the dozens of Islamic organizations listed. However, amongst the scores of irrelevant, little known, miniscule or inconsequential Islamic terrorist organizations listed – the sheer number of which serves to conveniently reinforce the overarching anti-Muslim ‘Clash of Civilizations’ narrative that animates the War on Terror – we find is a series of organizations listed that have a mass base of support in their respective countries and cannot be dismissed as terrorist. Organizations that have an indisputably widespread social basis and broad agenda for social or national liberation include: the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Communist Party of Peru (Shining Path), Hezbollah (Lebanon), Hamas (Palestine), and the National Liberation Army in Colombia (ELN). In addition to these formally designated ‘terrorist’ organizations, many refugees have been deported or denied entry to Canada for alleged or actual past associations with armed liberation movements, some organizations which have never even been listed nor are listed as terrorist organizations. Such is the case with the British Colombian resident of thirteen years and refugee Jose Figueroa, whose decades’ past pro-FMLN student activism in El Salvador led to his application being considered inadmissible on the grounds of anti-terror legislation, even though the FMLN has never been designated as a terrorist organization and is currently the ruling party in El Salvador, a country with which the Canadian government has diplomatic relations.
When considered alongside Canada’s unwavering support for and cozy relations with some of the most criminal and genocidal regimes in the world (Israel, Colombia, Turkey, Sri Lanka), the criminalization of some of the organizations named above clearly positions Canada on the side of and in support of state terror. As the Sri Lankan state conducted its genocidal counter-insurgency offensive in 2009 that left tens of thousands of Tamil civilians dead and hundreds of thousands in concentration camps, the Canadian government utilized the ‘War on Terror’ to delegitimize and vilify Tamil Canadians who took to the streets in a desperate appeal for international attention. Callous indifference from Canada would have been inexcusable – especially considering the Canadian state’s advocacy for the (bogus) ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine. Instead, Tamil Canadians were sorely disappointed when their urgent cries to the ‘international community’ were not merely ignored, but instead vilified as being the calls of terrorist supporters. Tamils who supported the national liberation struggle were attacked as terrorist supporters. The waves of Tamil refugees that attempted to come to Canada in the wake of the genocide aboard the Ocean Lady and the MV Sun Sea, instead of being accommodated by Canada’s (bogus pretensions) of humanitarianism, were callously dismissed as bogus ‘queue-jumping’ refugees, economic migrants, or attacked as being associated with human smugglers.
Canada’s ‘War on Terror’, like that of its imperialist partner to the south, is not directed against the bogus and trumped up threat of Islamic fundamentalism, but rather plays the role of justifying its wars of conquest, wars of counter-revolution, and ongoing wars against the people and their struggles.
Therefore, a pillar of our campaign against the decriminalization of people’s struggles must be to demand and work towards the decriminalization of people’s struggles against wars of aggression, occupation, and imperialist globalization. The Canadian state has not a shred of legitimacy or moral authority to label and attack as ‘terrorist’ organizations designated belligerents to armed conflicts, especially considering its own crimes against Native people in Canada and its unwavering support for criminal, genocidal, and notorious human rights-abusing regimes like Israel, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, etc. In doing so, we must not limit our advocacy to those legitimate people’s struggles designated as terrorist only in Canada, but all people’s struggles attacked by Canada and its allies.
3. BUILDING A COMMON CAMPAIGN FOR THE DECRIMINALIZATION OF PEOPLE’S STRUGGLES AND LIBERATION ORGANIZATIONS AGAINST IMPERIALISM
What we are proposing is to develop a general strategic orientation for both the member organizations of ILPS-Canada and more broadly with all forces that can be won over to common and specific campaigns and advocate for the decriminalization of people’s struggles.
Whenever necessary, it is also the intention of the League to utilize this strategic orientation to provide direction to our member organizations in launching specific campaigns to address emergency issues, such as was necessary with the invasion of Lebanon in 2006, or the Tamil genocide and war on Gaza in 2009. But more importantly is the development of the general strategic orientation to beat back the criminalization of people’s struggles everywhere.
4. STRATEGY AND TACTICS: THE PEOPLE’S ANTI-TERROR BILL
As anti-imperialists, our work will not be done until we have successfully confronted and dismantled the U.S.-led imperialist world system and the part played by Canadian imperialism in it. Civil liberties like freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and organization are meaningless if the people are denied the right to fight for their freedom by any means necessary, even armed struggle when other avenues for struggle have been closed off to or proven ineffective for the people. It should not be difficult for us to discern between actual terrorist organizations (such as the ones funded and supported for a long time by the U.S. and NATO) and genuine liberations movements, and we should not fear debating these issues amongst our member organizations and broader alliances.
Wherever possible, we should unite with pre-existing campaigns and organizations where there is a common basis of unity, such as with ILPS-Canada’s uniting with the ‘Don’t Talk, Don’t Listen’ campaign launched on January 29, 2012 by the People’s Commission in Montreal, a campaign to promote complete non-cooperation with CSIS.
At a tactical level, it is the task of our alliance and in working with other allies to develop a concrete set of demands to immediately begin fighting for. We intend to discuss and enumerate these demands at upcoming meetings, public forums, and conferences.
5. PLAN OF WORK AND TIMETABLE
•Convene local meetings across Canada to discuss this strategy document and build a common campaign for the decriminalization of people’s struggles
• Consolidate Organizing Groups through these meetings and forums
• Consolidate a Canada-wide Organizing Committee of local groupings
• Begin broader public agitation and propaganda, such as postering and wider public events
• Regional meetings, on a rolling basis
• Begin planning for conference in late 2012 September-November 2012
• Advance plans for November 2012 conference to launch a decriminalization campaign November 2012
• Hold conference to launch the campaign
IMPERIALISM IS TERRORISM!
THE PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO REBEL, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!
Member Organizations of ILPS-Canada include: Alliance for People’s Health, Anakbayan, Barrio Nuevo, BASICS Community News Service, BAYAN Canada, Casa Salvador Allende, Centre d’Appui aux Philippines – Centre for Philippine Concerns, Canada-Philippine Solidarity for Human Rights Damayan Manitoba, Filipino Migrant Workers Movement, Filipino Workers Solidarity Group, Immigrant Workers Centre, Gabriela-Ontario, Migrante-Canada Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Philippine Advocacy Through Arts and Culture, PINAY – Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec, Femmes de Diverses Origines – Women of Diverse Origins, Women United Against Imperialism
 See “Canada Has Had First Nations Under Surveillance: Harper Government Has Prepared for First Nations “Unrest”” by Russell Diabo and Shiri Pasternak. First Nations Strategic Bulletin Vol. 9 (1-5) Jan-May 2011.