US: After the Boston tragedy – No to racism & repression

This past week in Boston has been almost surreal—a horrific attack occurred on Marathon Monday that shouldn’t be seen in this city or anywhere in the world. Countless acts of solidarity occurred starting with people running towards the explosion to help the hundreds caught in the path of devastation. Marathon runners endured another two miles to give blood, and countless Bostonians opened their homes to the stranded.

Solidarity messages were sent to Boston from the people of Kabul to Baghdad to Yankee Stadium [base ball stadium in New York]. Meanwhile, the health care companies are charging massive amounts for necessary surgeries while victims are forced to beg for donations from other working people while the billionaires profit from this tragedy.

One of the three deaths from the bombs was an 8-year old child, Martin Richard, from the working-class neighborhood of Dorchester. The photo of Martin with his homemade poster calling for peace after the racist murder of Trayvon Martin has been beamed around the world and become one of the defining images associated with this tragedy. Unfortunately, Martin Richard’s death was followed by immediate racist acts.

On Monday, a student from Saudi Arabia was tackled for “acting suspicious” by running away from the explosions and “smelling like explosives” immediately in the vicinity of the Marathon finish line. Much of the first day of the investigation was wasted focusing on this false lead fueled by racist profiling.

The news media, particularly CNN, whipped up Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment throughout, publishing the Saudi man’s information and also continuously giving false reports of suspects and arrests. One such report said that a suspect on the run was a “dark-skinned man”. That same day, Boston Police were seen stopping and searching young African-American and Latino men in an atmosphere of a militarized society.

War, Violence, and Terror

Socialists completely condemn this terrorist outrage. Whatever the motives of the perpetrators, such acts are utterly reactionary. The primary victims were ordinary working people. Terrorist methods like the Boston bombing create fertile conditions for right-wing forces to whip up racist and nationalistic moods in society, which only serve to weaken the working class and further the interests of big business.

The media is speculating that the perpetrators of this attack were possibly motivated by right-wing Islamic terrorist ideology, specifically the grievances of the predominantly Muslim Chechen people against the brutal Russian oppression of their country.

If such claims are true, the attacks carried out in Boston will not succeed in undermining U.S. imperialism or the imperialist powers’ oppression of the people of Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and the Arab world. In fact, its real effect is to undermine the struggle of the Chechen people and all oppressed peoples, strengthen the power of the U.S. state, and give the ruling class in the U.S. and internationally an opportunity to clamp down on democratic rights.

While completely opposing terrorism and right-wing political Islam, the working class and socialists cannot support the racist police-state methods of U.S. capitalism or its imperialist policies abroad in the name of “fighting terrorism.” The ruling elite cynically aims to exploit ordinary people’s anger at terrorism.

Instead of racist scapegoating, we need unity of all working, young, and oppressed peoples to address the root of these problems. The same week as the Marathon tragedy, fourteen people were killed in West, Texas at a fertilizer plant and hundreds injured. This plant has been the site of ongoing safety violations. Meanwhile, twenty-two US veterans commit suicide every day.

Working people need to unite against corporate domination to ensure workplace safety, adequate treatment for mental illness, and free quality health care. This struggle can unite us across ethnic, racial and religious lines. The approach of working-class unity can become a counter-weight to religious and ethnic violence not only in the US but also internationally.

Marathon Heroes

Carlos Arredondo is now known from pictures and countless media stories as “the man in the cowboy hat.” He ran towards the explosion to rush people to ambulances and to medical professionals. His actions undoubtedly saved lives on Marathon Monday. One man that Carlos saved was the first to give a description of “Suspect #1” that was killed in a shootout with police on Thursday.

Carlos is an immigrant and an activist that lost his son, Scott, who was a soldier in Iraq. At the height of the anti-war movement, Carlos was a fixture at Boston protests. Carlos and his partner, Melida, could also be found at Occupy Boston events.

Other unsung heroes include the workers in the Massachusetts’ Nurses Association (MNA), a union that struggles to keep safe staffing ratios to provide quality care for patients when the big hospital chains try to “cut costs.” MNA nurses cared for the victims of this attack and will continue with a campaign for safe staffing.

Seamus Whelan, MNA activist and Socialist Alternative candidate for Boston City Council said, “After this horrible attack of terror and tragedy, we see the need for guaranteed, quality health care. Nurses, in order to care better for our patients, will be at the forefront of Obama’s proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Immigration Debate

The corporate politicians in the halls of power were planning a debate on immigration this year. This tragedy is being used by the right-wing media to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment. This could stall the debate or push it to the right.

The youth who are alleged to have committed this horrific act were immigrants who had lived in the U.S. legally for ten of their formative years. Immigrants or Muslims as a whole shouldn’t be scapegoated for this. Already, a Muslim woman has been attacked in Malden, a working-class city where she lives just outside of Boston. Contrary to the media propaganda, the truth is that most mass killings in the US are actually carried out by non-Muslim white men.

Any attacks on the civil rights of immigrant workers would affect all of us by strengthening the hand of reaction against all working people and youth. Anti-democratic, “anti-terrorist” legislation that claims to be targeting “terrorists” or immigrants will later be used against activists fighting corporate power, as has been seen in recent years with the FBI and police using their expanded post-9/11 powers to repress Occupy, anti-war, and union activists.

Socialist Alternative stands for full and immediate citizenship rights for all undocumented workers. This is a far cry from Obama’s guest worker “immigration reform” which is designed as a gift to corporations that want a cheap labor source constantly threatened with deportation, and creates a very long, expensive and humiliating process for the undocumented to gain citizenship while denying legal status to a minority of those currently undocumented.

If immigrant workers are given citizenship rights, then it would strengthen their confidence to fight for higher wages and better benefits. This would strengthen all workers at the bargaining table and in struggles against budget cuts. Immigrants have helped build unions in the U.S. before, and they can do so again.

Lockdown and Relief

On Friday, nearly one million residents of Greater Boston were ordered to stay in their homes and not leave. We were told this would help the search to find the remaining 19-year-old suspect on the run. Streets were abandoned, turning Boston into a scene that looked like a post-apocalyptic movie.

The suspect was caught shortly after this order was lifted because a man in Watertown, a suburb that was the site of the shootout, went outside and immediately found the suspect in his boat.

There was a massive outpouring of joy and relief that this was all coming to an end. The effects will still last though. The ruling class will have a window of opportunity to push through new “anti-terrorist” legislation that will increase the repressive powers of the state, along with efforts by the right-wing to whip up racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant moods.

However, attitudes are not the same as after 9/11 when there was widespread support for war and limits on civil liberties. When Socialist Alternative in Boston put up a table Saturday, just one day after the “stay in your homes” order, we weren’t confronted with hostility. Our signs read “Defend Civil Liberties” and “No Attacks on Immigrants.”

Most people are worn out by this rollercoaster and are looking for answers. At root, it is a capitalist system that creates the alienation, war, poverty and feeling of powerlessness that leads to such heinous acts. It is also the power of the solidarity of working people that can overcome this calamity and the system that breeds it.