23 November 2007

22nd Annual Holiday Appeal

Free the Class-War Prisoners!

“The class-conscious worker accords to the class-war prisoners a place of singular honor and esteem.”

—James P. Cannon, “The Cause that Passes Through a Prison,”
Labor Defender, September 1926

For the past 22 years, the Partisan Defense Committee has been sending monthly stipends as an expression of solidarity to those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression. In doing so, we have revived the tradition initiated by the International Labor Defense (ILD) under Cannon, a founding leader of the Communist Party and the ILD’s first secretary (1925-28). This year, as in years past, the PDC calls on labor activists, fighters for black rights, radical youth and defenders of civil liberties to join us in building our annual Holiday Appeal, which raises funds for this unique program.

The Holiday Appeal benefits will focus particularly on our campaign to mobilize mass protest demanding freedom for death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia currently awaits a decision by a federal appeals court on whether to reinstitute the death sentence, keep him entombed in prison for life or grant him a new trial or other legal proceedings. For those fighting for Mumia’s freedom, there must be no illusions in capitalist “justice.” Earlier this year, the capitalist courts again turned down appeals by class-war prisoners Leonard Peltier, Ed Poindexter and Mumia’s son Jamal Hart. Build the Holiday Appeal! Free all class-war prisoners!

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther Party spokesman, a well-known supporter of the MOVE organization and an award-winning journalist known as “the voice of the voiceless.” The fight to free America’s foremost class-war prisoner has reached a crucial juncture. This past May, oral arguments were heard before the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals—the last stage before the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision could come at any moment.

9 December 2007 marks the 26th anniversary of Mumia’s arrest for a killing that the cops know he did not commit. Mumia was framed up for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. More than six years ago, Mumia’s attorneys submitted to the courts the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner, but to the racists in black robes, a court of law is no place for evidence of the innocence of this fighter for the oppressed.

Mumia faces the racist death penalty or life in prison because he has always spoken for the oppressed, like the Jena 6 or those left to die in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Workers, immigrants, minorities and all opponents of racist oppression must redouble their efforts to free Mumia now!

Leonard Peltier is an internationally revered class-war prisoner. His incarceration for his activism in the American Indian Movement has come to symbolize this country’s racist repression of its native peoples, the survivors of centuries of genocidal oppression. Peltier’s frame-up trial for the deaths of two marauding FBI agents in what had become a war zone at the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975 shows what capitalist “justice” is all about. Although the lead government attorney has admitted: “We can’t prove who shot those agents,” and the courts have acknowledged blatant prosecutorial misconduct, the 63-year-old Peltier is still locked away. In separate lawsuits, early this year federal courts in New York and Minnesota kept under government seal thousands of FBI documents, once again covering up the racist frame-up that has already stolen 30 years of his life.

Jamal Hart, Mumia’s son, was sentenced in 1998 to 15 1/2 years without parole on bogus firearms possession charges. Hart was targeted for his prominent activism in the campaign to free his father. Although Hart was initially charged under Pennsylvania laws, which would have meant a probationary sentence, Clinton’s Justice Department intervened to have Hart thrown into prison under federal laws. Hart was transferred to Minersville, PA, where prison officials subjected him to repeated provocations and improperly adjusted Hart’s security level to deny him transfer to a lower level security facility; a transfer to Loretto, PA, has finally been granted. In October, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals summarily turned down Hart’s habeas corpus petition which would have freed him after more than ten years in prison.

Eight MOVE members, Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa and Phil Africa, are in their 30th year of prison. They were sentenced to 30-100 years after the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, falsely convicted of killing a police officer who died in the cops’ own cross fire. In 1985, eleven of their MOVE family members, including five children, were massacred by Philly cops. In 2008, the MOVE prisoners will be eligible for parole, but without massive calls for their freedom can only expect continued imprisonment.

Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning are the remaining anti-imperialist activists known as the Ohio 7 still in prison, convicted for their roles in a radical group that took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings in the late 1970s and ’80s against symbols of U.S. imperialism such as military and corporate offices. Before their arrests in 1984 and 1985, the Ohio 7 were targets of massive manhunts. Their children were kidnapped at gunpoint by the Feds.

The Ohio 7’s politics were once shared by thousands of radicals during the Vietnam antiwar movement and by New Leftists who wrote off the possibility of winning the working class to a revolutionary program and saw themselves as an auxiliary of Third World liberation movements. But, like the Weathermen before them, the Ohio 7 were spurned by the “respectable” left. From a proletarian standpoint, the actions of these leftist activists against imperialism and racist injustice are not a crime. They should not have served a day in prison.

Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa are former Black Panther supporters and leaders of the Omaha, Nebraska, National Committee to Combat Fascism. They were victims of the deadly FBI COINTELPRO operation under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Poindexter and Mondo, railroaded to prison for a 1970 explosion which killed a cop, were sentenced to life and have now served more than 35 years in jail. In September, a Nebraska court denied a new trial for Poindexter despite the fact that a crucial piece of evidence excluded from the original trial, a long-suppressed 911 audio tape, proved that testimony of the state’s key witness was perjured.

Hugo Pinell is the last of the San Quentin 6 still in prison. He was a militant anti-racist leader of prison rights organizing along with his comrade and mentor, George Jackson, who was gunned down by prison guards in 1971. Despite hundreds of letters of support and no disciplinary write-ups for over 26 years, Pinell has repeatedly been denied parole, most recently in November 2006. Now in his 60s, Pinell continues to serve a life sentence at the notorious Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit in California.

Contribute now! All proceeds from the Holiday Appeals will go to the Class-War Prisoners Stipend Fund. Send your contributions to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013; (212) 406-4252.

* * *

(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 903, 23 November 2007)

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