Political Crimes and Criminal Activity (fwd)

Fri, 5 Jan 1996 16:31:05 -0500 (EST)

Sender: drieux@wetware.com (drieux H.)
Subject: Political Crimes and Criminal Activity

] A proposed debate topic on the subject of political prisoners:
] RESOLVED: Activities which are against the law but are undertaken by
] individuals with primarily political motivations may be categorized as
] "political" rather than "criminal" only if the the government enacting
] the laws is not legitimate.
] ********************************************
] I suppose I differ with Maggie Jaffe in that I view American government
] as suffering from no fundamental crisis of legitimacy and I suspect her
] view is the opposite. Activists in the sixties often conflated their
] own views on the war, racism and other matters into the argument that
] government simply lacked all legitimate authority. This was, I think,
] a view born of the frustration that "the people" for whom one spoke
] seemed more often than not to be on the other side of the issues.
] Jeff Apfel

I think the bone of contention here is not the legitimacy
of the Government seated - or seated at the time of enactment
of a given law - but the legitimacy of the law in question.

This distinction is rather important, since in a federal system
there are both federal and state laws, as well as local laws,
that may be a bone of contention, while the overall federal system
may be deemed acceptable. Martin Luther King's time in jail was
generally not an effort to end the Illegitimacy of the Federal
or State Governments, but to end the Illegitimacy of various
'Jim Crow Laws' as well as mere 'customs' that actually had no
basis in law. This is a major departure from the fifties when
the topic of debate was to challenge the legitimacy of laws
directly through the court system as in the case of "Brown v. Board of Ed"
and other such cases. The progression to 'civic action' outside
of the court system can, and did, lead to questions about the
legitimate use of 'first ammendment rights' - a bone of contention
in the on going 'abortions rights' discussions as to when one has
stepped over the line of legitimate 'free speach' and when one has
merely embarked upon 'terrorist actions'. Given that few other
countries have such a ''constitutional gurantee' - the mere act
of expressing a dissenting opinion about a mere govenment statement
may in itself be sufficient grounds for arrest, detention, and
re-education. As we saw with the unpleasantries in Kampuchea,
prior to it's liberation by PAVN, mere possesion of Glasses
was sufficient grounds to be 'retained' if not 'recycled'.

Perchance the more interesting digression here is the matter
of the Black Panther Party and it's Support of the Constitutional
Right to Bear Arms - which so clearly rests upon the presumption
of the legitimacy of the constitution as the foundation of the
seated government. Sociologically it was NOT all that surprising
that the NRA did not, at that time, embrace Huey P. Newton as
the Living Embodiment of the American Way of Doing Things. All of
which will require us to make distinctions between 'Defensive
Use of Force' - which one might presume legitimate as mere 'self defense'
and the more questionable matter of an 'Offensive Use of Force' which
clearly is a matter leaping into Armed Rebellion.

I would support the original resolution, in it's wording, were we
to be discussing the progression to the armed conflict, and the
distinciton therein between mere Murder, and the actual acts of
Armed Rebellion against such a govenment which does not derive it's
mandate to govern from the consent of the governed. Since clearly
that was the Position of Our Patriotic ForeFathers who took musket
in hand to warn off the Good King George.

But to be proper, we need to be able to cover the whole spectrum
of 'political crimes' - many of which do not involve the direct,
or expected, escalation to armed conflict. Likewise, I would prefer
that we be able to resolve such matters as the various Political Prisoners
who served time in the Gulag, as well as the Maze, and other
retention and re-education facilities at home and abroad, rather than find
ourselves wondering solely about american political prisoners.