The Political Left is Bigger Than Imagined: Ask the Feds

Photograph Source © Bettmann/CORBIS

There has always been official disdain for the political left in the U.S. The suppression of left movements began with the Palmer raids of 1919-1920 in the First Red Scare. Anarchists were deported in a manner similar to the removal of immigrants from the U.S. today, some of whom committed only minor offenses, and some of whom have been held or deported while active asylum claims have been made, or could have been made. Then there were the communist witch hunts of the Cold War of the 1940s and 1950s, culminating, but not limited to, the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953 for transmitting the so-called secret of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union, a crime that they were not capable of committing.

The FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO, 1956-1971) was a dragnet that entangled left protesters and activists, some of whom were guilty of the high crime of donating money to a cause, or speaking out for justice for an aggrieved group. They relentlessly pursued groups such as the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers, and the New Left because the government saw the people in these groups as a threat to the smooth operation of the capitalist system and especially the military-industrial complex. When black protest articulated the oppression of masses of people across the U.S. that originated with the colonial experience, actors such as J. Edgar Hoover did not blink an eye in subverting, in sometimes lethal ways, that protest. The leaders of that movement for freedom were mercilessly targeted. When Native American and black protesters found themselves in prison, draconian sentences and solitary confinement were common practice.

The murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton and the suicide of actor Jean Seberg are two of many COINTELPRO operations resulting in those deaths. They targeted Seberg with a dirty tricks campaign for her support of black liberation. Her harassment was like that of Martin Luther King, Jr by the FBI. That the FBI is seen as some sort of savior fighting for equality in 1964 Mississippi is beyond belief.

Now a report by the Regional Organized Crime Information Center (ROCIC), “Antifa-Anti-antifa: Violence in the Streets,” written for law enforcement agencies before the Charlottesville, Virginia Unite the Right rally, “endorse[d] a view that leftist demonstrators were ‘terrorists’ and at least equally responsible for street violence as white nationalists…”(“Intelligence report appeared to endorse view leftwing protesters were ‘terrorists,’” Guardian, April 1, 2019).

This federally funded program (ROCIC) supplies so-called intelligence to “federal, state and local agencies” (Guardian, April 1, 2019). The ROCIC report also identifies “white supremacists, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, Ku Klux Klanners, white identify groups and a group called the alt-right,” (Guardian, April 1, 2019). The report tends to hold that both fascists and antifascists are terrorists.

One group supplied with information before the protest at Charlottesville was the Secret Service.

The report also includes an opinion article by “Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel, on clashes at UC Berkeley in February 2017, first published in the conservative Washington Times: ‘the mob of antifa terrorists that violently attacked the [student union]… were as much declaring war on the ideology of the man for whom the building is named (Martin Luther King) and its citizens. America’s left was sending a message: Violence is the answer,’” (Guardian, April 1, 2019). The UC Berkeley protests were in response to the scheduled appearance of right-wing speakers who had solicited “ideas” from neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

“The report also extensively sources information from conservative media and right-wing advocacy groups,” (Guardian, April 1, 2019). ROCIC “is one of six Regional Intelligence Sharing System (RISS) Centers” in the U.S.

The only conclusion here is that the left must be massive in numbers if it has garnered so much official attention from “intelligence” advisory agencies.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).