2 December 2016

Solidarity with Class-War Prisoners!

(Quote of the Week)

The Partisan Defense Committee’s annual Holiday Appeal raises funds for its program of sending monthly stipends to class-war prisoners. The PDC’s stipend program revives a tradition of the early American Communist Party’s International Labor Defense. James P. Cannon was the ILD’s first secretary, a Communist Party leader and later the founder of American Trotskyism. In motivating support for those who have been imprisoned for taking the side of the working class and oppressed, he stressed that such support is not charity but an elementary act of solidarity.

The New York Times, the organ of big business, is making its annual plea for contributions for Christmas to the “100 Neediest Cases.” Other capitalist papers and organizations are conducting similar drives. The men, women and children of the working class, who have been on the rack of capitalist exploitation and are now dropped into the abyss of misery and poverty, are chosen and classified by these arch hypocrites—so their sanctimonious appeal can be made to the comfortable capitalists, to soften the bitterness of these few workers with the insult of charity, and to salve their own conscience by acts of “generosity.”

This horrible farce is annually repeated in scores of other cities.

The militant workers have nothing but hatred and contempt for such appeals and drives. This year, therefore, they are again following the world-wide custom that has developed in the ranks of the working class for many years. It is the custom of raising a special fund for the men in prison for the labor cause and their wives and children, of transforming the hypocritical spirit of Christmas into the spirit of solidarity with the class-war fighters behind bars.

The International Labor Defense has already started a campaign for a Christmas Fund for the men in prison, and their dependents who suffer on the outside. The labor militants throughout the entire country are working to collect this fund. Nowhere has the appeal or the response been made on the basis of charity. Everywhere has been emphasized the duty of those who are outside toward the men on the inside....

The men in prison are still a part of the living class movement. The Christmas Fund drive of International Labor Defense is a means of informing them that the workers of America have not forgotten their duty toward the men to whom we are all linked by bonds of solidarity. It is the Christmas drive of Labor and must have its generous support!

—James P. Cannon, “A Christmas Fund of Our Own,” Daily Worker, 17 October 1927, reprinted in Notebook of an Agitator (Pathfinder Press, 1973)

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1101, 2 December 2016)

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