Over the past few years, liberals, progressives and those claiming political leadership over various minority “communities” have successfully campaigned for “hate crime” legislation in a number of states. This legislation has been promoted in the name of providing state protection for minorities, but, as with all laws, these laws are actually intended to protect the state and that particular minority that is the ruling class. Certain recent events make this quite clear.
This past March, James Cosner, a Native American who has been involved in radical activity for many years, smuggled a sledgehammer into the San Jose, California city hall and attacked a statue of Columbus. His blows broke off the legs, one arm and part of a scroll held by the image, and also left the face pitted. He didn’t stop until three uniformed cops with guns drawn came through the front door of the building. At this point he surrendered. This public act of vandalism was clearly an expression of violent passion. The role played by Columbus in initiating the genocide against indigenous people on the American continents cannot help but enrage those who hate domination and oppression. But James Cosner’s action was an act of vandalism, destruction of an inanimate object. By charging him with a “hate crime”, the prosecutors have turned into a major felony. This should be no surprise though, when one considers that his attack was not simply on a statue, but on an icon, a symbol used to uphold the American state mythology. This mythology must be protected from the rage of those kept down by the social order.
Along similar lines, in Oregon, the legislature is voting on whether to expand hate crime legislation to include acts of environmentalist and anti-capitalist sabotage and vandalism. If this bill passes it will add years to the sentence of anyone convicted of committing such an act.
Hatred of the state and of the ruling class has always been illegal. The application of laws against hate crimes to acts of revolt simply makes what is implicit in law explicit. The fundamental changes in the structures of exploitation make it unnecessary for the democratic state to disguise its repressive activities. By thee standards of the state, the passion for revolt has always been a criminal passion. In the struggle against state repression, we must, therefore, embrace that greatest of all crimes: freedom.