April 19 marks the 20th anniversary of the government’s massacre of over 80 men, women and children of the integrated Branch Davidian religious sect outside Waco, Texas. For more than seven weeks, an array of police forces had laid siege to the Branch Davidian compound following a raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms aimed at arresting the group’s leader, David Koresh, on false charges of illegal weapons possession. The government was out for blood—and lots of it—after four Feds were killed in the initial assault, which took the life of a two-year-old girl and a number of church members. Finally, the state got its revenge through a massive attack that burned the compound to the ground, with the trapped members of the sect perishing in the inferno.
From the outset of the siege, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle legal and social defense organization associated with the SL—protested the government vendetta against the Branch Davidians. On 8 March 1993, as tanks rolled into Waco, the PDC sent a protest to Democratic president Bill Clinton demanding that “all troops, tanks, police and federal agents be removed from the area.” The letter pointed out, “We think you would do well to take the advice of the newly elected President Lincoln, who when asked what he proposed to do about the polygamous Mormons replied, ‘I propose to let them alone’.”
Attorney General Janet Reno justified the assault by raising the spectre of “child abuse.” This was forcefully answered by Bob Buck, a West Virginia steel worker who had been railroaded to prison for defending his union on the picket line during a bitter 1991-92 strike. In a letter to the PDC, Buck wrote: “They were so damned concerned for the children they unleashed an armed assault on the house they lived in and filled it full of bullet holes;…gassed them, and ultimately burned them to death. Ain’t America great. I’m glad Mrs. Reno isn’t concerned about me.”
The SL and PDC protested the Waco holocaust outside federal offices in New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Shamefully, the reformist left turned a blind eye to the atrocity or joined in blaming the victims, just as almost every one of them did when Philadelphia’s black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode ordered the bombing of the predominantly black MOVE commune in 1985. Our intention was, and is, to sear the memory of these acts of government mass murder into the consciousness of the working class, whose historic interest lies in revolutionary struggle to sweep away the murderous capitalist state.
We print below the bulk of the press release issued by the SL announcing the protest demonstrations, which began in Manhattan the day of the massacre.
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The charred corpses of 87 men, women and children who perished in the firestorm resulting from the FBI’s barrage of CS gas, flash-grenades and battering rams are the direct responsibility of the White House. President Clinton gave the green light, Attorney General Janet Reno personally supervised the plan, and the FBI’s storm troopers moved in to carry out the government’s “final solution” against the small, integrated Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Texas. After a murderous raid by federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents armed to the teeth and a 51-day siege, almost a hundred people have now been subjected to a flaming apocalypse for the sole “crime” of being a non-conformist religious sect which dared to defend itself against government assault.
An SL spokesman, in condemning this outrage, noted that the Branch Davidians received the same death sentence meted out to the black MOVE commune in Philadelphia, bombed by the Philadelphia police on Mother’s Day (May 13) 1985, using C-4 plastic explosives donated by the FBI. Eleven black people were murdered there, including five children, and an entire black neighborhood was laid to waste. “Like the racist cop beating of L.A. black motorist Rodney King,” said Spartacist spokesman Marjorie Stamberg, “the Waco holocaust is the domestic image of America’s ‘New World Order.’ This is U.S. imperialism’s ‘Desert Slaughter’ in Iraq brought home.”
A banner outside the compound of the racially integrated Branch Davidian religious sect said, “Rodney King—We Understand.” It is no accident that the feds’ onslaught in Waco came two days after the slap-on-the-wrist verdict for two racist cops in L.A. With troops poised to occupy the inner cities coast to coast, amid a massive police-state mobilization, the racist rulers breathed a collective sigh of relief that the urban ghettos and barrios did not explode in outrage over another outright racist acquittal. They seized the moment to incinerate the Waco commune.
In the gray light of dawn, the FBI moved in the heavy artillery—M-60 Combat Engineering Vehicles, Bradley fighting vehicles and heat-seeking reconnaissance planes—in a bid to drive out or exterminate the 70 adults and 25 children still inside the wooden structure. The whole area had already been ringed with razor-sharp concertina wire. Electricity and water were cut off. The intent was to create a firetrap with no escape. Naturally there were no firefighting vehicles present to put out the flames. Now the government wants to blame the victims, but the Waco assault was deliberate mass murder, decided at the White House.
On Sunday, Vice President Al Gore wept tears for those who died 50 years ago in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. But the methodical burning down of the Waco commune, carried “live” on television, recalled nothing so much as the Nazis’ razing of the Warsaw ghetto. Clinton/Gore have carried out their own holocaust against another religious minority who evidently have “no right to exist” in this racist capitalist society. The Clinton administration has carried out its own Operation Prairie Slaughter, igniting a massive firestorm against its perceived domestic “enemies,” a small group who did no harm to anyone.
The Spartacist League spokesman noted, “From Republican Bush to Democrat Clinton, the racist rulers show what they have in store for anyone who dares to defy the state. The murder of these innocent people, burned at the stake by this bloodthirsty government, cries out for vengeance. It will take a socialist revolution to mete out real justice to the police torturers of Rodney King, to the FBI arsonists in Waco, to the U.S. military bombers of Baghdad.”