4 March 2011

25th Annual Holiday Appeal for Class-War Prisoners

The Partisan Defense Committee held its 25th annual Holiday Appeal to raise money for its stipend program for class-war prisoners and their families. Benefits were held in Chicago, New York and Toronto, and funds also were raised in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Nearly $10,000 was collected, after expenses. All proceeds from the Holiday Appeals go to the Class-War Prisoners Stipend Fund. This is not charity but an elementary act of solidarity with those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist oppression and imperialist depredation. The Holiday Appeals’ stipend program revives a tradition initiated by the International Labor Defense under James P. Cannon, a founding leader of the Communist Party and the ILD’s first secretary (1925-28). Over the last 25 years, the PDC has provided stipends to over 30 prisoners, including eight union militants, on three continents.

This year’s meetings again highlighted the case of America’s foremost class-war prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was falsely convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981 and sentenced to death for his political beliefs. Though his frame-up conviction was upheld, Mumia’s death sentence was overturned in 2001. In the latest threat to his life, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia last November heard oral arguments on whether or not to reinstate the death penalty; it has yet to rule on the case (see “Federal Appeals Court: D.A. Demands Mumia’s Execution” WV No. 969, 19 November 2010).

Along with Mumia, the PDC benefits honored 16 other class-war prisoners: Jamal Hart, Mumia’s son, who was targeted for his prominent activism in the campaign to free his father and sentenced in 1998 to 15 1/2 years without parole on bogus firearms possession charges; American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, who has spent more than 35 years in prison for his activism on behalf of this country’s oppressed native peoples; eight MOVE members (Chuck, Michael, Debbie, Janet, Janine, Delbert, Eddie and Phil Africa) who are in their 33rd year of prison for the “crime” of surviving a massive cop assault on their Philadelphia home in 1978; Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning, the last of the anti-imperialist activists still in prison from the Ohio 7, which took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings of symbols of U.S. imperialism in the late 1970s and early ’80s; former Black Panther Party supporters Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, victims of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation against the Panthers, framed up and languishing behind bars for 40 years; and Hugo Pinell, a militant anti-racist leader of prison rights organizing.

In 2010, the PDC added to the list of stipend recipients 71-year-old leftist lawyer Lynne Stewart, who is serving ten years in prison for the “crime” of vigorously representing her client (see article below). At the New York Holiday Appeal, Ralph Poynter, her husband, spoke on her behalf and described the ordeal she is going through.

The benefits heard greetings from Mumia, who noted that “the PDC is on the right side of history.” He also thanked the PDC for being there “for all of us,” including his son. Greetings were also received from other stipend recipients, including Michael Africa, who wrote that “to have sustained this type of support for 25 years is a testament to the commitment of The Partisan Defense Committee to those who stand up against the government agents of repression.”

We urge WV readers to support the work of the PDC. Become a sustaining contributor to help drive the work of the PDC forward. Contributions can be sent to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 975, 4 March 2011)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.