Socialist Party USA: `No to political assassinations! Let’s make a democratic revolution!'

By Andrea Pason & Billy Wharton, co-chairs Socialist Party USA

January 9, 2011 -- On behalf of the Socialist Party USA, we send our sincerest condolences to the families of the people killed in the January 8 shooting in Tucson, Arizona. This was an attempt at political assassination as the shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, reportedly shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ, D.) in the head before turning his gun on the crowd. The dead include a 9 year child and five others, with twelve people wounded. Rep. Giffords remains in critical condition.

As socialists, we say unequivocally that political assassination has no role inside of a democratic society or our movement. Throughout [US] history, assassination has been a tool primarily used by the right wing. The death by execution of strong leaders such as Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr stand as testimony to the damage done to our cause. We are democratic socialists and we seek to make a democratic revolution. A revolution that places people in control of their own lives. Political assassination has no role in such a movement.

The same cannot be said of the far right. Right-wing activists have consistently engaged in acts of assassination and in rhetoric that reinforces and encourages such acts. We can note the murder of abortion rights activists such as Dr Barnett Slepian as well as the violent and hyper-masculine language consistently promoted by the right-wing media. Loughner was reported to be heavily influenced by these ideas, motivated by the call to arms being issued by the far-right.

And he did not have to look hard for motivation to attack Giffords. During the recent [November 2010] mid-term election, Sarah Palin’s Political Action Committee produced a chart that targeted Democrats. The chart employed crosshairs to identify the electoral opponents and utilised language like “We'll aim for these races”, “This is just the first salvo” and “join me in the fight”. While Sarah Palin did not pull the trigger, she certainly holds a significant amount of guilt for creating the conditions in which such as act was possible.

Now is the time to reject such politics both here in the US and globally. A fitting tribute to the innocent victims from the Tucson shooting would be to end the US occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and to end the bombings in Pakistan. The US military has, through targeted assassinations, extraordinary renditions and drone attacks, made political violence an everyday part of life in this region. As we learned in Tucson today, such violence creates real human tragedies. The lives of innocents lost in the Middle East to political violence are of equal value to Loughner’s victims.

As socialists, we aim to create a non-violent world. A world where the great wealth of society is used to satisfy human needs. Ours will be a democratic revolution where the great majority of working people are finally able to express their desire for things like jobs, peace and freedom. There is no place in this process, in the transition to a democratic socialist society, for political assassination. This is the political tool of the right and only serves to re-enforce the presence of the repressive apparatus of the government. We want freedom and believe that mass non-violent political protests are the means to acquire it. We invite you to join us in this struggle for a better world.

[Check out the Socialist Party USA website at]

International Action Center statement on the Arizona shootings and the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

International Action Center Statement
Joint statement from Tucson and New York City offices of the IAC
January 9, 2011

The Jan. 8 shooting of Arizona Congressperson Gabrielle Giffords should rightfully be termed a political assassination attempt. The planned murder attempt, which took the lives of six people, including a 9-year-old child, takes place in a political climate of extreme racism, anti-immigrant terror, and fear-mongering that the right-wing, their politicians and pundits have been stoking for more than a decade.

It is part of the calculation of the ruling elite in this country to fan the flames of division, racism, and reactionary thinking in order to divert people’s attention from the economic crisis. The attempt on the life of a member of Congress is a direct by-product of the economic crisis.

The infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio, anti-immigrant law SB1070, the outlawing of Ethnic Studies programs in public schools, the escalating militarization of the border -- this is what laid the basis for the events of Jan. 8. “Hate radio” talk-show hosts, like Tucson’s Jon Justice, along with nationally known bigots like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck, in their on-air rants continually use language encouraging violent acts.

The assassination attempt is also directly related to the policy of border militarization. “These senseless deaths are the result of a border policy that has been building since 1994,” stated Isabel Garcia, an immigrant rights activist and community leader with Coalicion de Derechos Humanos in Tucson. “This has propelled the growth of fear, hate and violence. Over 5,000 migrant deaths, shootings and continuing violence are a direct result of this policy.”

The rise of the right-wing rhetoric encouraged by many mainstream government and political forces and incessantly promoted by the media is meant to divert the people of this country from the real problems at hand: unemployment, deepening cuts to education and social services, attacks on public service workers and unions, continuing foreclosures and evictions, and other dire conditions.

The powers that be -- Wall Street, the Pentagon and Washington -- allow and foster this right-wing rhetoric to fan the flames of division in society. They utilize this division to try to keep people's attention away from the real culprits behind the deepening economic catastrophe and budget cuts facing the workers and poor: Wall Street, the Pentagon and Washington.

The increasing number of heavily-armed Border Patrol agents roaming the desert areas adjacent to the border wall has resulted in two fatal shootings within the last two weeks alone. Each of these events involved a large group of Border Patrol agents and a shooting spree. The first incident left a Border Patrol agent dead, while the most recent incident resulted in the death of a 17-year-old Mexican youth who was shot while trying to scale the border wall. Homeland Security will not provide any further details on either shooting.

Shooter was encouraged to commit this act

The militarization of the border and the actions of the racist Minutemen are just two examples of the climate that led to the Jan. 8 massacre. This was not the action of a "mentally unstable" youth "acting alone." It was the action of someone who has been given the signal that these kinds of violent and deadly attacks are needed. It was the action of someone who was encouraged to act as he did.

For example, Giffords retained her seat last November by a narrow margin in a campaign against Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly. Fundraisers were held by Kelly where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully-loaded M-16 rifle. He was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.

Giffords was among the candidates that Sarah Palin targeted for removal in the last election. Palin depicted these targets on her website by placing the crosshairs of a gun sight over the congressional district of the “target.”

A town-hall meeting on health care that Giffords hosted in the spring of 2010 was disrupted by Tea Party bigots, one of whom dropped a weapon out of his pants. The night after the health-care vote in Congress, Gifford’s office was vandalized by kicking or shooting out a glass door and window.

Arizona Congressperson Raul Grijalva received death threats after he called for a boycott of Arizona in response to the passage of SB1070. His office also had windows shot out during the fall election campaign.

At about the same time on Jan. 8 as the shooting, the Cesar Chavez building at the University of Arizona was vandalized. This building is home to the university’s Mexican-American Studies program.

Time to step up the struggle

The youth who pulled the trigger, Jared Lee Loughner, is being portrayed by the media as a "mentally unstable lone gunman," solely responsible for this act. According to Paul Teitelbaum of the IAC in Tucson: "The blame lies squarely with the racist, anti-immigrant forces that have been steadily escalating their war against the immigrant and Latino/a communities in Arizona. Billions have been spent to militarize the border, terrorize communities and sow confusion and division among workers, youth and poor people.

"What if the assassin had been Latino/a, a Muslim or another person of color? Martial law would have immediately been imposed in Tucson. The banks, private prison companies and military contractors are raking in millions of dollars off the situation in Arizona, while the people suffer. This must be stopped," concluded Teitelbaum.

Teresa Gutierrez, national co-coordinator of the IAC, stated: "Events in Tucson on Jan. 8 demonstrate that the progressive, union, anti-war and immigrant rights movements must ratchet up the struggle. The media give an enormous amount of time and air waves every time the right-wing sneezes, while progressive events get ignored. This fosters acts like Jan. 8. But history shows that when the people are in motion by the tens of thousands, we can push back the powers-that-be as well as the rightwing. The people can and will prevail."

International Action Center
c/o Solidarity Center
55 W 17th St Suite 5C
New York, NY 10011

International Action Center of Tucson
PO Box 18006
Tucson AZ 85731


It seems only obvious to raise again the issue of gun laws in the 50 states and how easy it is to buy a lethal weapon. In Malaysia, there is much crime on the streets, almost a class war. But due to the extremely restrictive laws on gun control, including guns for the 'sport' of hunting, there are virtually no shootings. It almost impossible for an ordinary citizen to buy a gun of any kind in Malaysia, even illegally. Maybe a paradigm.


The strict mental illness narrative may be relevant but in my experience of working with psychotic individuals -- including murderers and the like -- it is not very useful to divorce a persons' mental state from the broader social (and political) context. In this case, the linkage to contemporary politics is self evident as it was  a political event with a history of some bitternes leading up to it.

If you compare this shooting  with the slaughter managed by Martin Bryant in Australia
the context is very different   despite how psychotic both guys were at the time of the killing.

While people can brew a quite mad cocktail in their own heads it is difficult to imagine this event at a political rally occurring anywhere else outside the US except in a war zone.

And the US has to be seen as a war zone. 

If a Islamist walks into a Baghdad market place and blows himself and 30 others up -- he is as mad/as pathological as this guy in Arizonia. If Sarah Palin calls for the assassination of Julian Assange (as she has) she's mad too...

At some point you have to look upon madness as an ideology embraced by both individuals and groups -- political currents and otherwise -- regardless of how much it is accepted as 'normal' discourse.And in the US 'normal' does no longer exist. Barbarism and psychosis are really one and the same head space.

It also seems to me that a lot of the response needs to face up to the fact that violent politics is as American as apple pie...and to defer too much to the mental illness argument merely lets the whole filthy capitalist mix off the hook.

Mental illness, even psychosis, is not a fast track sentence to murder .

After the Bryant massacre  there was debate here on the left about gun ownership in response a massive recall of weaponry in private hands. Similarly Bryant was later sent to a mental institution ...and not executed as we had mass campaigns here against capital punishment way back in 1965/67.

The last person hung in Australia was Robert Ryan in 1967

The fortunately rare instance of serious political violence in Australia, -- the attempted assassination of the ALP leader Arthur Calwall in 1966 -- has the epilogue that its perpetrator Peter Kocan
has just won  Australia Council's Writer's Emeritus Award for poetry.

So in that sense the sort of step back we need to adopt has to be genuine and generous.

Like the above post.

It has to be about adopting the moral high ground the exploiting the opportunity foster reflection.

dave riley

This statement is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise toxic environment. Though it is correct to say that political assassination has primarily been a tool of the political right here in the United States, we cannot merely mark it as a right wing design only. The history of the democratic socialist left has been defined by its opposition to such adventurist tactics which can be--with some reservations--organized under the concept of "propaganda by the deed." In the history of the International Workingmen's Association (the "first International") note the significant debate that erupted between the follows of Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin.
Marx advocated building a mass based working-class organization that would struggle for the independent development of working-class power, in line with his notion that the emancipation of the working-class must be the work of the working-class itself. On the other side of this were the (admittedly small in number) followers of Bakunin's "propaganda of the deed," a sort of revised Blanquism which advocated political assassination and terrorist acts to rouse the population from its slumber. This position was elitist on the face of it as it disparaged the ability of the masses of people to self-organize. It found its praxis in numerous anarchist circles, but perhaps it developed in its purest form with the Narodniks of late 19th Century Russia. They would find themselves demoralized and alone when they assassinated various officials of Czardom (including the Czar himself) only to see the population respond with extreme expressions of social conservativism--they only managed to bring the repression of the state down even harder on the people.
A rash of such groups--what one might call "ultra left" tendencies--broke out across the declining left of the 1970s (the Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, the Black Liberation Army, the Red Brigades, etc.). These tendencies still exist within what remains of the organized left, albeit in muted form (witness the black bloc anarchists for instance). We must be theoretically honest if we are to bring about a renewal of a socialist left.
That said, most of this is not relevant to the current situation, but it is worth noting since the piece in question treats the issue of assassination as an exclusively right wing phenomena.