The following statement was issued by the League for the Revolutionary Party on October 17, 2001.
The New York Post is the vanguard of gutter journalism in New York City. On October 3 it ran the banner headline “CCNY BASHES AMERICA” across page 3, slandering a teach-in on the U.S. war build-up organized by the faculty union at City College (part of CUNY, the City University of New York), the Professional Staff Congress.
The Post depicted the forum, the PSC and City College as a whole as a nest of traitors who support or apologize for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Other headlines in this and subsequent issues were “Students, profs blame attacks on U.S.,” “Once-proud campus a breeding ground for idiots,” and “CUNY vows crackdown on anti-U.S. hatefest.”
Several CCNY students and four faculty members were attacked by name. One of them, Walter Daum, a leader of the League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) and the editor of its magazine Proletarian Revolution, was singled out by the Post in several issues for over a week for denouncing “American imperialism” and asserting that “The ultimate responsibility [for the attacks] lies with the rulers of this country, the capitalist ruling class of this country.”
The Post’s most incendiary charge was produced by columnist Andrea Peyser: “The terrorists were fondly described as ‘freedom fighters’.” That was the quote the Chancellor and some trustees used to condemn “those who seek to justify or make lame excuses for the attacks ... .” But in fact no one said anything of the sort, as the PSC’s review of the videotape showed. It was an outright lie.
The label “freedom fighters” would be monstrously grotesque applied to the thugs led by Osama bin Laden or the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan. These are people who enslave women and forbid them from getting education, health care or jobs, who torture and kill Afghans who oppose them or interpret Islam differently. “Freedom” fighters indeed!
According to the Post, Daum “claimed that U.S. foreign policy `created’ Osama bin Laden” by financing the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation. Only the Post’s hack writers would be ignorant of this well-established fact. But since the Post denounced the term “freedom fighters,” the fact is that in the 1980’s, when the Afghan mujahedin (including bin Laden) were fighting against the Soviet-backed bourgeois-nationalist government and the Stalinist Russian army, Ronald Reagan often called them “freedom fighters.” The Post is certain to have done so too – fondly, of course. If the Post’s writers genuinely wish to unmask bin Laden-lovers, they might start by checking their own editorial archives.
“Freedom fighters” was only one of the Post’s distortions, including outright misquotations from other speakers. It also left out the further evidence that Daum provided of the history of U.S. imperialism in creating the mass hatred of America’s role that the bin Ladens of the world feed on.
Economically, the U.S. dominates the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which impose misery throughout the “third world” through debt repayment demands and austerity programs that impoverish workers and peasants. U.S. corporations superexploit workers everywhere by paying miserable wages to reap exorbitant profits for their billionaire owners. Everyone knows that the U.S. intervenes in the Middle East to keep control of the world’s oil supplies and oil profits. Central Asia has become increasingly important as a source of oil and natural gas; Afghanistan would be a valuable pipeline route.
Politically, the U.S. has for a century imposed and supported brutal and corrupt governments around the world: dictators like Trujillo and the Somozas in this hemisphere, the South African apartheidists, the Saudi kings, Saddam Hussein throughout his worst crimes before 1990, and the Taliban itself (during its reign of terror) until yesterday. And it continues to do so. Look at the “anti-terrorism” coalition the U.S. is building today. There is the Russian government, which is happy to have America keep quiet about the atrocities it is committing in its war against Chechnya. Indonesia wants U.S. support to continue for crushing its internal uprisings in Aceh and West Papua. Algeria, China, Turkey and others welcome U.S. backing for their brutal crackdowns against internal opponents. And so on.
Militarily, the U.S. has intervened to impose its will in, most recently, Iraq, Serbia, Somalia, Panama, Grenada and Nicaragua. The U.S. arms Israel, which uses American-made tanks and aircraft to enforce its occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. In Iraq its bombardments and economic sanctions have killed hundreds of thousands.
The Post is not the only contributor to ignorance. CUNY’s Chancellor issued a statement denouncing those at the PSC forum who “justify or make lame excuses for” the terrorist attacks. (He added a lame paragraph reaffirming “the free exchange of ideas” at the university.) Several trustees chimed in; one said he “would consider that behavior seditious at this time” and said he would introduce a resolution condemning the entire teach-in.
Like the Post, these officials choose to condemn something nobody said and avoid responding to what was actually presented. In their rush join the witchhunt, they took the gutter paper’s account for good coin, rather than check the videotape or consult any number of college administrators, faculty members and students who attended. This is the administration that did away with remedial classes at the senior colleges. Evidently they need remedial education more than CUNY students do.
As a result of the Post’s attack, and the CUNY administration’s adherence to it, Daum and the other faculty members cited received hostile and threatening phone calls, letters and e-mails. One received by Daum read: “WHY DON’T YOU TAKE YOUR SORRY ASS AND GET OUT OF THIS COUNTRY AND GO LIVE IN AFGHANISTAN IF YOU ARE SO CRITICAL. HURRY.......THE KLAN IS COMING FOR YOU!!!”
The racist Post’s lies inspired Klan-like threats, and the CUNY administration only encouraged them.
One purpose of the Post’s sensationalism is, of course, to sell newspapers and cash in on the current superpatriotic fervor. Another is to join the Bush administration and the Republican and Democratic parties in Congress whipping up this fervor in the wake of the terrorist attack. The false unity they trumpet is being used by the capitalists as a cover for their attack on the working class, its rights and living standards.
The attack on CUNY is part of an attack on the working class as a whole, which will accelerate as the recession that was already under way before September 11 worsens. As Daum observed at the City College teach-in, Bush & Co. are using the patriotic fervor to pour billions of tax dollars into the airline and arms industries and to try to cut taxes on the capitalists. But workers are getting little of these handouts; the ruling class is resorting to charity appeals to aid the families of those killed in the terrorist attack and the heroic workers who put in 12-to-20-hour days without pay to remove debris and rescue the survivors. (Most of those who respond to those appeals will be our fellow workers.) It is a bitter irony that while workers labored at the Trade Center site, brokers down the block celebrated the re-opening of the Stock Exchange by devaluing industries across the board (armaments excepted) – thereby ensuring that hundreds of thousands of workers would lose their jobs.
This is the scene in which the Post has revived its long-term racist crusade against CUNY and its working-class student body. The city colleges were won through struggles waged by working people demanding education as a right. They were greatly expanded and opened widely to people of color as a result of the Black liberation movement of the 1960’s. (Open Admissions was won specifically by the fight at City College waged by Black and Latino students in 1969.)
Since then, the capitalists and their governments have chipped away at these gains. The colleges were once free of charge; now, despite Wall Street’s heady stock market boom of the past decade, the majority of their budget comes not from the state but from students’ tuition. Most CUNY students have to hold down jobs while taking classes; many have to work full-time to pay for their education and support themselves and their families. Not by accident, as economic inequality has increased and the proportion of Black, Latino and immigrant students has risen, the cuts in funding have deepened. The Post editorial ends with a new threat against the already meager funding of City College and CUNY as a whole.
There have been similar attacks at other campuses on the academic freedom of faculty members and students who spoke out against the war build-up in this country. CUNY should be in the forefront of the fight for the right to free speech and political truth.
As Daum pointed out in a letter to the City College paper The Messenger:
“Students and staff of City College and CUNY need to fight back. The Post contrasts a ‘once-proud campus’ to the ‘breeding ground for idiots’ it portrays today. This praise for the past is hypocrisy. Reactionaries like the Post always attacked City College as a hotbed of ‘reds’; it was not only the ‘proletarian Harvard’ but also a prime generator of radicalism in America. City College students were known for fighting against fascism in the 30’s, anti-semitism in the 40’s, racism in the 60’s and the war on Vietnam in the 70’s, cutbacks and other political assaults in the 80’s and 90’s. It is indeed a source of pride that City College still produces fighters against inequality, injustice and imperialist wars who won’t stand for attacks by liars and hacks posturing as journalists.”
We too are proud that it was one of our comrades who drew the Post’s fire for telling the truth about U.S. imperialism. Other workers who support the LRP have been vilified for speaking similarly in trade union and other meetings in New York and Chicago. The LRP has been schooled in the Trotskyist tradition of “saying what is” to other workers. We have no intention of stopping now.