Spartacist Canada No. 156
Mobilize Labour Power in Fight to Free Mumia!
Annual Holiday Appeal for Class-War Prisoners
The Partisan Defense Committee held its annual Holiday Appeal for Class-War Prisoners in December in Toronto and Vancouver, alongside similar gatherings in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. This years Appeals raised over $11,000 after expenses for the PDCs program of monthly stipends to those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression. The PDC currently sends money to 16 class-war prisoners. The fight for their freedom is in the interests of the entire working class.
The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste. A central focus of the Holiday Appeal was the urgent campaign to mobilize mass protest demanding freedom for U.S. death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent man. While the PDC supports using every legal recourse on Mumias behalf, we have no illusions in the capitalist court system, but look instead to the mobilization of the social power of the multiracial labour movement.
The fight to free Mumia is at a critical juncture. In May 2007, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Pennsylvania heard oral arguments in Mumias case, and there could be a decision at any time. Maureen Faulkner, widow of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, whom Mumia was falsely accused of killing, and right-wing radio broadcaster Michael Smerconish have recently come out with a book, Murdered by Mumia, which rehashes vicious lies aiming at the legal lynching of Mumia. As support for capital punishment wanes in the U.S., this tract serves as a rallying cry for the racist death penalty.
The PDC has issued a new fact sheet pamphlet, Big Lies in the Service of Legal Lynching, which lays out in detail the facts about the frame-up of Mumia, sentenced to death for his political views as a former Black Panther spokesman, supporter of the MOVE organization and journalist widely known as the voice of the voiceless. Another man, Arnold Beverly, has made a sworn confession that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner. If the court rules to uphold the death sentence or denies Mumias appeals for a new trial or a new hearing, the PDC has called for protests the day after the decision. Go to www.partisandefense.org for more information.
Among the speakers at the Toronto Holiday Appeal were Dave Bleakney, National Representative of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Macdonald Scott, an activist from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and No One Is Illegal; and Kenneth Morgan, a member of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113. In addition to the fight to free Mumia and other class-war prisoners in the U.S., speakers addressed urgent defense cases in Canada including that of Native militant Shawn Brant, who faces nine criminal charges for organizing protests for Native land rights. Kenneth Morgan spoke in particular about Gary Freeman, a black Toronto library worker imprisoned and threatened with extradition to the racist U.S. justice system on charges of wounding a Chicago policeman nearly 40 years ago. In January, Freeman withdrew his appeal of the extradition ruling and was handed over to U.S. authorities.
We print below, edited for publication, the speech by Trotskyist League spokesperson Miriam McDonald at the Toronto Holiday Appeal on December 14.
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We fight to defend the class-war prisoners because they fought for us. Its that simple.
The war of capital against labour has produced untold victims. The Russian tsarist regime was soaked in the blood of workers and their leaders, including many Bolsheviks. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were killed by the German Social Democracy as it beheaded the 1918-19 revolution. For their opposition to World War II, James Cannon and 17 other American Trotskyists were jailed. Our own comrade Martha Phillips was murdered in Moscow where she was fighting to cohere a Trotskyist party in the face of the counterrevolutionary tide that destroyed the Soviet Union.
Everywhere, leaders of the proletariat are targeted by the capitalist class. We fight for the freedom of Mumia because we are intransigent opponents of this racist, capitalist system. Our aim is to put an end to this cycle of bloody repression through the struggle for socialist revolution.
Abroad, imperialist occupation has laid waste to Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iran is now targeted. We say: Hands off Iran! Theres our banner over there—U.S. out of Iraq! Canada out of Afghanistan! For class struggle against Canadian capitalism!
At home, the rulers are waging their own class war. Theyre destroying jobs, theyre attacking unions, and theyre slashing social services. Capitalism, by its very exploitative nature, creates its own gravedigger in the proletariat. Because it has its hands on the means of production, the working class alone has the social power to bring down capitalism.
You dont have to look far to see this power. We have a brother from the transit workers here tonight. Just under two years ago, Toronto transit workers wildcatted. They showed the tremendous social power that is wielded by the 8,500-strong ATU local. Without their labour, Toronto, the finance capital of Canada, simply cannot function. And with its layer of black and other minority workers, the ATUs solidarity with Mumia Abu-Jamal is absolutely critical.
The task is to forge a leadership that can tap into this powerful proletarian army. In fighting for socialist revolution, we confront the reality that the consciousness of the working class is very far from understanding that the need is for workers to take state power. This gulf has to be bridged, through overcoming the obstacles that the bourgeoisie places in our path.
To maintain their one-sided rule, the capitalists have their state—the cops, the courts, the army and the prisons. These exist to defend their system of capitalist private property. This class will do pretty much anything to preserve its power. No act of barbarism is too great. This is a fact that is denied by those who would tie Mumias future to their faith in this rotten capitalist justice system.
Kenneth Morgans remarks about Gary Freemans struggle addressed a very important question. That is that the bedrock of American capitalism is black oppression, which is the legacy of slavery. Our comrades of the Spartacist League/U.S. fight for black liberation through socialist revolution.
The rulers are also skilled at manipulating all manner of social backwardness, for example, anti-immigrant racism. They use this to divide and to rule. Immigrant and minority workers are key to the class struggle in this country. A fighting labour movement must struggle for full citizenship rights for all, against deportations, for full asylum for refugees. Jobs for all through a shorter workweek at no loss in pay! Organize the unorganized! Fight for union control of hiring and aggressive recruitment of minorities, women, Natives!
The unions must oppose the phony war on terror. Targeting Muslims first, the government wants the population to accept as utterly normal the most gross violations of our rights. But the ultimate targets of these draconian assaults on civil liberties are any perceived opponents of the government, above all the multiracial working class and its organizations.
A real ace in the hole for the bourgeoisie is that the working class is saddled with the pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist NDP misleaders, along with their co-thinkers in the trade-union bureaucracy. These social democrats promote a pernicious lie that workers and capitalists have a common class interest. This kind of Canadian nationalism ties workers to their bosses.
Lets take Quebec, for example. The national subjugation of Quebec is a pillar of Canadian capitalism. The NDP promotes Maple Leaf Anglo chauvinism against Quebec, inflaming nationalist animosities in English Canada. The workers must understand that defense of Quebecs national rights is key to any perspective of struggle against the ruling class. We advocate independence for Quebec as a means of getting this question off the agenda, and at the same time winning Québécois workers away from their own nationalist misleaders.
Another example I want to take up is that of protectionism as an answer to the massive job losses in Ontario and Quebec—some 400,000 in the last four years. The capitalists have just one goal, and that is to maximize profits. To appeal to one wing of this class against another, against their competitors, can only spell defeat.
Take the Made in Canada Matters campaign that is being pushed by a number of the unions. Promoting nationalism undermines labours struggle by poisoning class consciousness and fomenting racism. It scapegoats foreign workers for the loss of jobs here, while building illusions in the benevolence of our own capitalists. We counterpose the international collaboration of workers against the common class enemy.
This protectionism is doubly pernicious when its aimed at China, a bureaucratically deformed workers state where capitalist rule was overthrown in 1949, a huge victory for the international working class. The imperialists aim to restore capitalism in China, and they want to turn this country into one giant sweatshop. Its the duty of the international working class to defend China against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution. At the same time, a Trotskyist party has to be forged to lead Chinas powerful working class to sweep away the Stalinist bureaucracy through proletarian political revolution.
Counterrevolution in the Soviet Union has been devastating, both for the people of the former Soviet Union and for the working class internationally, among other things throwing back the consciousness of the working class around the world. In China it would bring even deeper misery and devastation, and it would further embolden the capitalists worldwide in their attacks on workers and oppressed minorities.
The bourgeoisie pounds workers every day with the lie that communism is dead. The reason is that they dont want any more revolutions. Their purpose is to convince workers that it is pointless to struggle—we should just eat it. The reformist left backed the forces of anti-Soviet counterrevolution, and today most of these groups are so imbued with death of communism ideology that few of them even give lip service any more to revolutionary Marxism.
But it is possible to change things. It is possible to turn this around. We stand on the program of the 1917 October Revolution. In the struggle for socialist revolution in Russia, the Bolsheviks combated anti-Semitism, Great Russian chauvinism, bloody tsarist repression and, above all, the false political programs that would have brought defeat.
So we say to workers: Mumias fight is your fight! Winning his freedom would greatly bolster the prospects of workers and the oppressed in their struggles, not only here but the world over. Our fight to free Mumia is inseparable from building a revolutionary workers party that will champion the interests of all the exploited and oppressed in the struggle for socialist revolution. I ask you to join us in this struggle.