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International Socialist Review, Summer 1966


Political Committee, Socialist Workers Party

A Political Assassination


From International Socialist Review, Vol.27 No.3, Summer 1966, p.90.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The following statement was issued May 17, 1966, by the Political Committee of the Socialist Workers Party:

A young socialist antiwar fighter, Leo Bernard, was slain yesterday in the Detroit headquarters of the Socialist Workers Party by an ultra-reactionary gunman. The other Wayne State University students, Jan Garrett and Walter Graham, are in the hospital, critically wounded.

This shocking, tragic and ominous deed is not an isolated act. It follows the bombing of the W.E.B. DuBois Club offices in San Francisco and the bombing of the headquarters of the Berkeley Vietnam Day Committee.

The pattern is one of terroristic intimidation against the American antiwar, anti-racist, radical youth and socialist forces. The Detroit victims were members of the Socialist Workers Party or the Young Socialist Alliance, both energetic participants in the protest movements against the US intervention in Vietnam and in the Freedom Now struggle of the Negro people.

This murderous assault was politically motivated. It was a product of the witchhunt atmosphere that has been stirred up and intensified by the “dirty” war in Vietnam. From the White House on down to the John Birchers and the Ku Klux Klan, the country is being incessantly incited against the “communist menace.” Today’s glorified “hero” is the killer in the green beret in Southeast Asia.

This bloody blow at the antiwar and socialist forces is a terroristic attempt to curb dissent. It is tragic confirmation of the recent warning by Senator Fulbright that the war hysteria whipped up by all the reactionary forces, beginning with the Pentagon, menaces freedom of speech and the hard-won liberties of the American people.

Taking the official, propaganda as a cue and a license, the Detroit murderer armed himself and set out to kill some “communists.”

This super-patriotic supporter of Washington’s foreign policy of intervening against “communism” in places like Vietnam and Santo Domingo, is like many others also a rabid white supremacist. In March he applied for admission to Verwoerd’s South Africa, saying he was “armed and prepared to fight against the Communists.” Unlike the mercenaries hired by the CIA to crush the freedom fighters in the Congo, he was turned down and so took to hunting for victims closer to home.

American capitalism and its rulers are becoming increasingly prone to violence. Over TV and radio, in the press and comic books, violence is shown and glorified day and night. The supreme madness of this system is the stockpiling of nuclear weapons capable of wiping out the entire human race. And Johnson’s policy of escalating the war in Vietnam has made this possibility very real.

The Socialist Workers Party, as the most intransigent opponent of US imperialism, mourns the martyred Leo Bernard. But it pledges to fight all the more resolutely to advance the socialist cause for which he died.

The best way to honor Leo Bernard is to stand firm and close ranks against all assaults by the forces of reaction.

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