Workers World (US)

TWENTY people were shot, and six of them died, while attending a political rally for Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona on 8th January 2011.

The authorities are now saying they have evidence that the shootings were an attempted assassination of the Democratic Congresswoman, who is in a critical condition.

The gunman, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, was captured on the spot by people attending the rally in a supermarket parking lot and turned over to police. He is reported to be a psychiatrically disabled person with a recent history of fascination with right-wing rhetoric.

At this point, no evidence has surfaced in the media or from the authorities that Loughner had accomplices in the massacre of so many people. However, evidence of a conspiracy may turn up later. Let’s not forget: all information is in the hands of the FBI and the Arizona authorities — the capitalist state.

But whether Loughner acted alone or with accomplices, this was a political act. It was not another Columbine. Its target was a politician who had already been verbally attacked and threatened by the far right. It must be seen in the context of the poisonous anti-worker, anti-immigrant, sexist, racist, anti-Muslim, anti-gay, anti-Semitic and anti-Obama offensive of the Republican right, working through the Tea Party, that has allowed a neo-fascist movement, even further to the right, to ride on its coat tails.

Arizona has been the epicentre of this movement. Even the sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, said that Arizona had become “the capital for prejudice and bigotry”. John McCain, the Arizona senator who ran for president in 2008 with Sarah Palin, is a war hawk for the Pentagon, which practically owns the state. However, McCain isn’t right-wing enough for Palin, who on her website during the 2010 elections showed a map with Representative Giffords’ district behind the crosshairs of a rifle accompanied by the words, “Don’t retreat, RELOAD!”

But this appeal to violent reaction is not just an Arizona phenomenon. Dozens of states are planning to model their immigration laws on Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, signifying that powerful forces in the ruling class are getting behind this anti-immigrant racism.

The right and far-right — and often the “middle,” too — have been using the capitalist economic crisis to scapegoat immigrants, Muslims, unions — anyone but the super-rich who have milked not only workers’ wages and benefits but government social funds to keep their profits coming in despite the crisis.

The ultimate responsibility for this bloody act lies with the millionaires and billionaires who have heavily financed the right in the recent period. Through right-wing former Texas Congressman Dick Armey and his well-financed foundation, FreedomWorks, the ultra-right organised racist attacks on town hall meetings during the debate over the weak health care bill. They financed the phoney “grassroots” rallies which became the basis of the Tea Party. And the corporations poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the last election to promote Tea Party candidates and the right wing in general.

At a time of economic crisis and mass unemployment that has lasted for more than three years, this kind of divisive, scapegoating politics serves the interests of the entire ruling class, all the way up to the summits of finance capital.

The FBI has now taken over custody of Loughner and the case. This is the same FBI that has been lawlessly raiding the anti-war movement and persecuting solidarity activists.

The FBI stood passively by when armed vigilantes, calling themselves the Minuteman Project, formed what amounted to a fascist militia along the Arizona-Mexico border and openly hunted down undocumented workers. The capitalist state was totally complicit in this crass violation of bourgeois legality.

The response of the Obama administration was to send more US troops to the border to do what the Minutemen were doing. And on 6th January a member of the Border Patrol fatally shot an unarmed Mexican youth, 17-year-old Ramsés Barrón Torres.

The FBI, Homeland Security and other government agencies spy on and monitor groups and individuals all over America. Reportedly, the killer mentioned the American Renaissance, a known fascist publication, on his Facebook page.

This together with his behaviour and other signs, such as recommending Hitler’s Mein Kampf would have made him a suspect to be watched — if that’s what the capitalist state was looking for. But they close their eyes to the activities of ultra-right and fascist groups.

In connection with Loughner’s praise of Mein Kampf it is worth noting that Giffords was the first Jewish woman congressional representative from Arizona and openly identified as Jewish during the election campaign.

The Obama administration has responded weakly to this massacre, trying to reduce it to a non-political event — in the same way that Washington stood by while the semi-fascist Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County was creating a police state for undocumented workers.

While this resurgence of reaction is pushed mostly by Republicans, it also feeds on the weakness of the Democratic leaders, who have compromised and retreated on every issue, from health care to Social Security to workers’ rights.

This atrocious act is a wake-up call. The people cannot rely on the capitalist government to protect them from the ultra-right and the fascists. Progressive organisations, community groups, unions and all fair-minded people need to unite in a massive response to the hate and prejudice spewed forth every day by the political establishment and the media. They can be turned back. Now is the time.