Who's Behind the Minutemen?
And What are the Forces that can Stop Them?
by Alex Gould

Latin@ immigrant workers in the USA are 35 percent more likely to die from injuries at work than the average worker.1 In the past 9 years 1,444,375 Latin@ workers have been injured on the job.2 The rate of incarceration relative to total population for Latin@s is three times that for whites.3 The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) kidnapped and deported a record 157,281 immigrants, mostly to Mexico and other Central and South American countries, in the year ending September 30, 2004.4 That's more than 430 per day. The ICE's detention and removal program was funded with $1.4 billion in 2005.5 The US Border Patrol reports that 325 immigrants died while crossing the US-Mexico border in 2004, mostly from heat stroke, dehydration, and hypothermia.6

Contrary to the official story, the USA is not one nation of many immigrants, but a prison of oppressed nations, including Latin@s. In the year 2004, another racist threat emerged against Latin@ and other immigrant workers: the Minutemen.

Jim Gilchrist, a former US Marine, certified public accountant, professional racist demagogue, and current candidate for US congress in Orange County, California, claims to have founded the Minutemen in September of 2004. Gilchrist is running on the American Independent Party ticket, a fascist party created by arch-reactionary segregationist George Wallace. He is teamed up with Chris Simcox, who began vigilante border patrols in Arizona on April 1, 2005. The Minutemen camp out along the border areas, ostensibly to report suspected illegal immigrants to US authorities. They claim to be non-violent, but they are armed. The Minutemen have organized anti-immigrant rallies in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Washington State, and Washington, DC. Their stated future plans include more border patrols and surveillance of sites where day-laborers, mostly oppressed immigrants, assemble.

In every recorded confrontation with counter-demonstrators who support human rights, the Minutemen have been outnumbered and out-maneuvered, often escaping the people's righteous anti-racist wrath in the security of police escorts. So it is instructive to study the causes of their persistence, their grand plans, and their disproportionately large influence.

Progressive activists struggle against the current in obscurity imposed by the capitalist media, usually recruiting in the ones and twos by many hours of outreach work. The Minutemen, on the other hand, were a favorably featured story -- one might even call it an advertisement -- on CNN's "Lou Dobbs tonight" of July 5, 2005, two days *before* they began their first major Arizona patrol. The Minutemen and their spokespeople have also been featured on ABC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and NBC. The governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, has asked to meet with Chris Simcox, and declared a "state of emergency" on the border.7 California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the Minutemen on April 28, 2005, saying "they've done a terrific job".

These are the same media and politicians who routinely ignore, downplay, and ridicule anti-war demonstrations, union struggles, feminists, and anti-racists.

The Minutemen are still miffed that President Bush called them "vigilantes" on March 23, 2005. Bush said "I'm aginst vigilantes in the United States of America ... I'm for enforcing the law in a rational way" during a press appearance with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. But the Minutemen should take solace in Bush's staggering hypocrisy. Bush is the president whose Department of Homeland Security encourages people to spy on their neighbors with "Operation TIPS". He boasted that he boosted "border security" spending by two billion dollars in 2005, hiring 1,000 more border agents, and increasing the capacity of the USA's terrifying detention centers by ten percent.8

Democratic Senator and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton stated on WABC radio in February, 2003 that "I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants." She said "People have to stop employing illegal immigrants".

While the government maintains an official position of hostility to the Minutemen and other racist paramilitary groups, and the Minutemen claim to be pressing demands on the government for more persecution of immigrant workers, the Minutemen could not exist without the good will of the government, and the government is all too willing to be pressured by the Minutemen. They work hand in hand.

Current data about FBI and other government agency infiltration of the Minutemen is not yet available. But if the history of extremist racist groups in the USA is any guide, the Minutemen are packed with cops and government agents, up to the highest levels, just like the KKK. As the late chairman of WWP Sam Marcy noted in "The Klan and Government: Foes or Allies?", President Calvin Coolidge's attorney general Harlan Fisk Stone ordered the FBI to "infiltrate" the Ku Klux Klan. FBI agents then established 41 new Klan chapters. Stone was appointed to the Supreme Court, where he was joined by KKK member Hugo Black, appointed by Franklin Roosevelt.9

Since the Minutemen are indirectly, if not directly, a paramilitary arm of the capitalist state, they have as much a right to free speech and assembly as the cops have a right to brutality or the military has a right to aggression against sovereign nations.

The heroic tenacity of the Iraqi resistance, the revelations of horrific crimes by the US occupying forces, and the criminal negligence of the US response to the Katrina and Rita disasters all have exposed the degeneracy and criminality of the US ruling class to a greater number of workers and oppressed people. The US rulers, whose fortunes were built on genocide and slavery and are sustained by racism and imperialist dominance, will not survive when workers of all nationalities unite to overthrow them. With gas, heat, electricity, rent, food, and health care prices rising, workers and oppressed people in the US are facing a long, cold winter ahead. And as much as the capitalists are helplessly dependent on the underpaid labor of latin@ immigrants, they need a scapegoat, and they need one soon.

So far, despite the best efforts of the capitalist media to promote the Minutemen project, their success in generating a reactionary wave of anti-immigrant racism is not certain. Wherever the Minutemen and their allied "Save Our State" group have showed their faces in California, large and angry crowds of workers and youth have driven them back into hiding. These demonstrations have been united fronts of immigrant's organizations, anti-war groups, and socialist and anarchist groups. The International Action Center and the youth socialist organization FIST (Fight Imperialism Stand Together) have helped to build these demonstrations.

The one force in society that has the power and influence to decisively defeat the Minutemen and other fascist groups is organized labor: the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win federation. Though weakened by decades of attacks by the anti-union corporations, they are the only force that still represents millions of organized workers, with combined budgets of millions of dollars. The Texas AFL-CIO unanimously passed a resolution against the Minutemen at its latest convention this past August.10 The Texas AFL-CIO should back up its resolution with action and stop supporting the Democratic party, which has been nothing but conciliatory to anti-immigrant racists. If the unions hope to organize immigrant workers and other oppressed people as members, they need to call on their members and the entire working class to confront the Minutemen wherever they assemble. The unions should muster defense committees for day-laborers against the harassment threats made by the Minutemen. If the unions step out of the shadow of the Democratic party and take an active, independent stand against racism and immigrant-bashing, they have the power to change the political climate in the USA and put the Minutemen out of business.

The struggle for socialism in Latin America is gaining in intensity, and the workers and peasants all across the continent are organizing to defend and extend the gains of the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions. This revolutionary momentum can cross the Rio Grande into the heart of imperialism, but only if white workers and their organizations take decisive steps to defend Latin@s and all oppressed nations against racism and imperialism.

1. AFL-CIO "Immigrant Workers at Risk: The Urgent Need for Improved Workplace Safety and Health Policies and Programs"  http://www.aflcio.org/issues/safety/upload/immigrant_risk.pdf

2. National Council of La Raza "They Die on the Job"  http://www.laraza.com/news.php?nid=22280

3. Calculated from US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics "Prisoners in 2004"  http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/p04.htm, and US Census Bureau "The Hispanic Population (C2KBR/01-3)"  http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-3.pdf, and US Census Bureau "The White Population: 2000 (C2KBR/01-5)"  http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-4.pdf

4. Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY 2/17/05 "Illegals Going Back by the Planeload", available at  http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id=20050217094409990019&_ccc=2&cid=842

5. Ibid.

6. Wikipedia "Immigrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border"  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigrant_deaths_along_the_U.S.-Mexico_border

7. John Fund, Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal, August 15 2005 "Run for the Border: Democrats try to outflank the GOP on immigration."  http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110007108

8. Scott Stearns, Voice of America News Oct. 22 2005 "Bush Says US to Spend More on Border Security"  http://www.voanews.com/english/Bush-Spending-More-on-Border-Security.cfm

9. Sam Marcy, "The Klan yesterday and today"  http://www.workers.org/marcy/cd/samklan/klangov/klangv00.htm

10. Jim Lane, People's Weekly World "Texas AFL-CIO takes stand against ‘Minutemen’"  http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/7550/1/282/