10 January 2014

PDC Holiday Appeal: Greetings from the Class-War Prisoners

The Partisan Defense Committee held its 28th annual Holiday Appeal events in December to raise funds for monthly stipends and holiday gifts to class-war prisoners and their families. At the December 15 event in Chicago, Spartacist League spokesman Patricia Kepler explained how the Holiday Appeal is an elementary act of solidarity: “We are here today to honor those who have been thrown behind bars, framed up, tortured by this country’s many governments—Republican and Democrat—for the simple reason that they stood up, spoke up and fought against the crimes of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad. Their fight is our fight.” She continued: “Although many look to the Democratic Party as a lesser evil, the simple fact is that Obama has done the job that the main body of the ruling class selected him for: overseer for the capitalist profit system that criminalizes young black men and chews up working people, spitting them out when their labor is no longer needed.”

In Chicago, the audience heard a recorded greeting from Alex Stuck, who had just been released from prison. He is one of the Tinley Park 5, a group of anti-racist militants thrown into prison for dispersing a meeting of fascists outside Chicago in May 2012. They are the most recent additions to the stipend program. In his greeting, Stuck stressed the importance to prisoners of knowing that there are people on the outside fighting for them:

“I remember while I was locked up I was reading a book. It was fiction, but it mentioned something about this French word called les oubliettes. Apparently the translation means ‘a forgetting place,’ and that’s what they call their French prisons. While I was locked up, I ran into a lot of people who had either severed their ties or just didn’t have any family, and that is exactly why the prison is a ‘forgetting place’.”

In his remarks at the Chicago event, SEIU Local 73 chief steward Joe Iosbaker of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression thanked the PDC for the support he received when he was targeted by the FBI in a series of raids against leftist and labor activists in 2010.

In New York City on December 15, Ralph Poynter read greetings from his wife, radical lawyer Lynne Stewart (see article on page 12 about Stewart’s subsequent release from prison). Stewart’s greetings conveyed the deep sense of human solidarity that continued to drive her under even the most inhumane conditions. She wrote that with her monthly stipend, she was able to purchase books and, after finishing them, put them into “circulation” for other inmates. Stewart has also used the stipend to help other imprisoned women without resources, providing them with coffee, peanut butter and shampoo. She noted: “I remember back to the days when I was out there and also understand that the people who find themselves put behind bars by a cunning government with evil aforethought, are the same as you and me. I understand that even better now.”

In her message, Stewart demanded freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther Party spokesman and well-known MOVE supporter who was framed up for the killing of a policeman in Philadelphia in 1981. While Mumia was taken off death row in 2011, he remains in prison with no chance of parole despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence. The fight for Mumia’s freedom has been at the forefront of the PDC’s work since the late 1980s.

Many of the other PDC stipend recipients have been in prison for decades as their demands for parole or release are repeatedly denied. Hugo Pinell is the last of the San Quentin 6 still in prison. Jaan Laaman and Tom Manning were imprisoned for their roles in the Ohio 7, a radical group that took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings against symbols of U.S. imperialism in the late 1970s and 1980s. Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, former Black Panther supporters, were framed up as part of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation in which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed. Leonard Peltier was incarcerated for his activism in the American Indian Movement.

The PDC also sends stipends to the remaining eight members of the MOVE commune who were framed up on conspiracy and murder charges after a vicious police assault on their home in Philadelphia’s Powelton Village in August 1978. In WV No. 1034 (15 November 2013), we reviewed the film Let the Fire Burn, a powerful documentary on the bombing of MOVE’s Osage Avenue commune in May 1985. Orchestrated by black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode along with federal agencies, this act of racist state terror incinerated eleven people, including five children, and reduced an entire city block in the black working-class neighborhood to ashes.

We appreciate the many letters and greetings to the events received from the prisoners, which are displayed at the Holiday Appeals for attendees to read. We print selections from the prisoners’ letters and greetings here.

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Jaan Laaman

26 November 2013

When the PDC states that, “the principle of non-sectarian class struggle defense guides their work...,” I can firmly tell you, this is exactly what they do. Even as a relatively small organization, they are consistent and determined in their solidarity and support.

A recent Workers Vanguard article quoted James Cannon, a leader of the historic International Labor Defense, on which the PDC is modeled, saying, “The procession that goes in and out of the prison doors is not a new one. It is the result of an old struggle under new forms and under new conditions. All through history those who have fought against oppression have constantly been faced with the dungeon of a ruling class.”... But the boot heel of U.S. imperialist repression stomps on. We now have fellow class war prisoners, like our sister Lynne Stewart, who is actually dying, as we speak, in a federal prison cell in Texas. We also have the Tinley Park 5, young anti-racist activists, who just this year were hit with prison sentences. So the work of the PDC, and people like yourself, is as important and necessary as ever. And we, the political prisoners, welcome and encourage your support and the continuing solid and vital work of the Partisan Defense Committee.

In these yearly messages, I often say, I wish I was sitting there next to you right now, participating in this event. As these prison years wear on, I’m not so certain I will finally get there, but you can be very sure, I will be joining all of you in solidarity and spirit at each of these events.

Finally, let me remind everyone that to find out a lot more about U.S. political prisoners, and our thoughts on developing events and struggle around the world, check out 4strugglemag.org. Issue #23 is just out and as usual, 4SM is also published as a hard copy magazine.

Have a great event!
Red Season’s Greetings to all of you, your families and close people.

Hugo Pinell

18 November 2013

Much love and justice to you. You know the short version of my story; 49 years in prison, 44 years straight in solitary confinement, 43 years without a contact visit, 32 years without a disciplinary infraction, and eligible for parole since 1985, but I am in here, still, and awaiting for my 10th parole hearing to be completed in April of 2014. All of this on my new sentence of 9 years for assault in the San Quentin 6 case (1971-76). Four of them were released in 1976 and the other in 1987, but I am here, still.

Some of you have been with me for 27 years now and this is what I want to talk to you about. I am here, still, and I’ll resist relentlessly, but I am very much alive, healthy of body, mind, emotions and spirits, humanly functionable in a freedom capacity, thanks to your sincere love, care and support, for all of these years.

Michael Davis Africa

13 November 2013

On the MOVE!

With so much suffering and misery caused by this government sanctioned repression, with so much terror and murder inflicted globally by the ghouls who head heartless corporations bent on hegemony (using likewise greedy flunky politicians to disguise their theft), and experiencing first hand the heinous tactics used by their agents of repression in an attempt to intimidate or stop folks from resisting. It is truly a powerful lesson being sent to the authors of that terror that there will always be a force of the people that will never stop resisting, no matter how big their threats, or how vile their tactics.

And it feels good to share a space filled with resistance, applauding its advances, never doubting its outcome. Fully understanding that when subjugation is the aim of those who call themselves leaders, no other option exists.

Warmest greetings to all in the fight for the freedom of the people, freedom of the planet, from those who would make us all slaves.

Long Live Revolution!
Long Live John Africa!

Ed Poindexter

5 December 2013

On behalf of Mondowelanga and myself, we extend our heartfelt thanks to all of our supporters. The financial support, in particular, has been very helpful to us, as we’re both disabled, yet continue to struggle on by not allowing a single opportunity to pass to “deliver the word.” Further, seasons greetings to all!

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We urge WV readers to support the work of the Partisan Defense Committee by becoming a sustaining contributor or by sending money earmarked for the Holiday Appeal stipend fund. Contributions can be sent to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013. For more information about the class-war prisoners, including addresses for correspondence, see: www.partisandefense.org/stipend.html.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1037, 10 January 2014)

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