09 January 2015

U.S. Black Militant in Exile in Cuba

Hands Off Assata Shakur!

Barack Obama’s decision to open diplomatic relations with Havana has New Jersey governor Chris Christie howling for the head of Assata Shakur (formerly known as Joanne Chesimard). The victim of a racist frame-up for the 1973 death of a New Jersey state trooper, Shakur escaped prison and fled to Cuba, where she has lived for 30 years since Fidel Castro granted her political asylum. The former Black Panther Party member wrote in a 1998 open letter: “I am a 20th century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color.”

Christie, who has his own presidential aspirations, sent a letter to the White House demanding Shakur’s extradition to the U.S. so that she might rot away in one of New Jersey’s dungeons. Cuba, though, has no intention of returning her, with its head of North American affairs stating in an interview: “Every nation has the sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted.” In response, the New Jersey governor ranted that the Cubans are “thugs” and Shakur’s asylum is “unacceptable.”

The crusade to bring Shakur to “justice” casts a sharp light on how the U.S. bourgeoisie’s decades-long vendetta against black militants of the 1960s and ’70s intersects its unflagging determination to overthrow the Cuban Revolution. Dozens of radical black activists and Puerto Rican nationalists have been welcomed with open arms by the Cuban deformed workers state, infuriating the U.S. imperialists. A case in point was Robert F. Williams, who as head of the NAACP branch in Monroe, North Carolina, was hounded by the FBI for advocating armed self-defense against race-terror.

In their drive to restore capitalism to the island, the U.S. rulers have trained and later granted asylum to a host of counterrevolutionary scum, foremost among them Luis Posada Carriles, who had a hand in everything from the Bay of Pigs invasion to the dirty war by CIA-backed “contras” against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Wanted in Cuba for engineering the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner that killed 73 people as well as for a 1997 hotel bombing in that country, Posada freely roams the streets of Miami today with his reactionary gusano cohorts.

Christie is far from alone in pursuing the racist political witchhunt of Shakur. In fact, two years ago the administration of the first black president declared 65-year-old Shakur one of the world’s most wanted “terrorists” and doubled the bounty on her to $2 million. In the article “FBI’s Racist ‘Anti-Terror’ Vendetta Against Assata Shakur” (WV No. 1024, 17 May 2013), we explained that these steps had “a dual purpose: to settle the score against those who fought for black freedom over 40 years ago and to warn that radical activity would be treated as ‘domestic terrorism’.”

Shakur’s case shows what American justice is all about. In May 1973, Shakur and two other former Black Panthers, Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli—then members of the Black Liberation Army—were stopped by two troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a “faulty taillight.” One of the troopers shot and killed Zayd Shakur, while the other trooper was shot in the crossfire with a bullet from a police revolver. Assata was shot twice, once in the back while her hands were up in the air. Gunpowder residue testing proved she had not fired a gun, but she was locked up in a maximum-security prison after an all-white jury convicted her on charges of killing the trooper—and her companion.

For the American rulers who want her dead or behind bars, Shakur’s real crime is her continued defiance of this racist capitalist system. The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover vowed in 1968: “The Negro youth and moderate[s] must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teachings, they will be dead revolutionaries.” We Marxists, who fight for black liberation through workers socialist revolution, vigorously defended the Panthers and others against the capitalist state’s murderous repression, despite our programmatic differences with black nationalism. Hands off Assata Shakur!

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1059, 09 January 2015)

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