On the morning of July 29th, 2022, the FBI conducted a brazen raid against the offices of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) – a black nationalist, anti-imperialist, socialist organization that heads the Uhuru Movement. APSP is a 50-year-old nonviolent organization exercising its First Amendment right to free speech under the US Constitution. Despite this, police entered their premises without a warrant, detonating flashbang explosives, handcuffing members at gunpoint, and seizing their computers and vehicles. These tactics might constitute a reasonable use of force against armed criminals fleeing serious charges. Yet, following the raid, no charges were actually filed against any members of the African People’s Socialist Party. Instead, an indictment was unsealed against Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, alleging that the Russian national “provided financial support to these groups, directed them to publish pro-Russian propaganda, and coordinated and funded direct action by these groups within the United States intended to further Russian interests.”
It should be immediately obvious to anyone familiar with history that this is a continuation and revitalization of the oppressive Red Scare. Similar raids have been conducted against communist, socialist, and black liberation organizations since the Espionage Act of 1917, when the FBI (then known as the BOI) established its counterintelligence branch. In September 1917, two months after the passage of the Espionage Act, the FBI and local police raided every office of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), an international syndicalist organization, over the course of 24 hours. On what basis were these raids conducted? To find evidence connecting the IWW to the German state; evidence that was later used to falsely convict 200 IWW members. Two years later, the infamous “Palmer Raids” carried out across the United States targeted racial, ethnic, and political minorities on the basis of their support for Bolshevism. Attorney General Palmer ultimately authorized the arrest of 3,000 innocent Americans and the deportation of over 500, for the “crime” of exercising free speech.
The APSP/Uhuru raid isn’t the first time Black liberation and Black nationalism have become the targets of state oppression. In December 1969, Chicago police raided the home of the chairman of the Black Panther Party Fred Hampton while he slept, murdering him and fellow BPP member Mark Clark. Hampton never woke up as the police fired 90+ shots. Leading up to this egregious state-ordered murder, the Panthers had been harassed by the FBI and local police around the country, including an encounter that culminated in the police burning down the BPP’s headquarters. Hampton knew his organization would be targeted for explicitly political reasons, as he explained in an ABC interview from 1969: “Yes, we do defend our office as we do defend our homes. This is a constitutional right everybody has, and nothing’s funny about that. The only reason they get mad at the Black Panther Party when we do it is for the simple reason that we’re political.” APSP/Uhuru founder Omali Yeshitela highlighted this history in his recent video response to the FBI raid. “Black people here, we forgot they killed Malcolm, that they killed Martin Luther King, that they killed Lumumba, they killed Nkrumah, Sankara. They did all this mayhem around the world and in 1968 alone, they killed something like 30 members of the Black Panther party. And in 1969, they murdered Fred Hampton. The Russians didn’t do that; the US government did that,” Yeshitela said.
Indeed, the Uhuru raid is just the latest in a long history of state repression against socialist and black nationalist organizations. It also tails today’s political narrative known as ‘Russiagate,’ used to justify renewed repression against enemies of the US state. According to the indictment of Aleksandr Ionov, “Ionov — working under the supervision of the FSB and with the Russian government’s support — recruited political groups within the United States… and exercised direction or control over them on behalf of the FSB. Specifically, Ionov provided financial support to these groups, directed them to publish pro-Russian propaganda, coordinated and funded direct action by these groups within the United States intended to further Russian interests, and coordinated coverage of this activity in Russian media outlets.” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr., addressed the raid on APSP/Uhuru, stating, “Secret foreign government efforts to influence American elections and political groups threaten our democracy by spreading misinformation and breeding distrust… The Department will vigorously protect the bedrock of our democracy – free and fair elections – to ensure that our democratic processes remain free of foreign interference.” Similar language has permeated the political discourse in the US since the 2016 Presidential Election, when the Clinton campaign falsely accused Russia of colluding to help Donald Trump win.
Just as in 1917, 1919, 1969, and 2016, the accusations made against APSP/Uhuru are patently false. The indictment against Ionov provided not one iota of evidence of Russian interference and the examples used to demonize APSP are laughable. For example, the report alleges Ionov provided funding for APSP to attend a 4-day rally in support of a “Petition on Crime of Genocide against African People in the United States.” Is the DOD really concerned with the funding of a rally? Or are they merely concerned for political reasons, as they always have been?
The cold, hard truth of the matter is that there is absolutely nothing illegal about receiving funding from like-minded people from other countries – nor is it illegal to “consult” with people from abroad regarding a political campaign. Nothing that Ionov or APSP did justified even a fine, let alone a raid at gunpoint. It is obvious that the DOJ knows this, since no charges were brought up against APSP members after the raid. Uhuru isn’t a Russian state propaganda machine; rather, they recognize the reality of Russia’s anti-imperialist position in geopolitics. The indictment against Ionov is a desperate attempt to demonize Russia and crack down on political dissent, the same motivations for the ‘Palmer Raids’ over 100 years ago. Caleb Maupin, Founder and Director of the Center for Political Innovation, explains that, “Western capitalism is in crisis, they’re taking aim at Russia and China – the major alternatives on the world economy, the Eurasian alternative – and western capitalism is moving toward an illiberal form of rule some kind of fascism some kind of bonapartism to try and stabilize their unstable system. And that will mean cracking down on the voices that speak up against their system that fight for the working class that fight for oppressed nationalities like African Americans.”
These voices include those of the APSP/Uhuru that have been infringed upon, such as Akile Anai, Director of Agitation and Propaganda for APSP, who was interviewed by media outside of a press conference about the raid. “They’re using Russia as a part of a propaganda tool against the people to… win your unity with the US government… It can’t solve any of your problems and they tell you that it’s Russia’s fault. Russia is not in your community, causing you to starve… Russia is not the same people who killed Tyron Lewis in 1996. It was not Russia, it was the US government that did that.” Asked whether she believes Russia could be “using” APSP, Anai dismissed the false framing, “No because it’s a backwards question. It presupposes that African people don’t have the capacity to lead and struggle ourselves, but we do, and Chairman Omali Yeshitela founded this organization over 50 years ago and created the capacity for the African working class to determine our own futures. Russia don’t determine Africa, nobody else determines Africa but African people ourselves and that is an insulting question. The African People’s Socialist Party stands on its own.”
As CPI’s founder and director Caleb Maupin made abundantly clear in his public announcement, “The Center for Political Innovation offers nothing but unequivocal support for Uhuru in the face of state repression. We say ‘Hands Off,’ ‘Full Solidarity,’ ‘Down with Imperialism,’ and ‘Justice for Working People.’”