Spartacist Canada No. 180
Fighting for the Class-War Prisoners
Partisan Defense Committee
The Partisan Defense Committee’s annual Holiday Appeal was held in Toronto on December 14. Together with benefits in several U.S. cities, participants raised funds for the PDC’s program of annual stipends and holiday gifts to 21 class-war prisoners. These include former Black Panther Party members like Mumia Abu-Jamal, American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier and others imprisoned by the ruling class for standing up to racist capitalist oppression. Our support to these prisoners is an expression of non-sectarian, class-struggle defense: it is the duty of the workers movement to defend such victims of capitalist repression regardless of their particular political viewpoints.
The appeal in Toronto was addressed by trade unionists as well as representatives from the PDC and the Trotskyist League. Dave Bleakney, a national representative of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers which has been a longtime supporter of the fight to free Mumia, highlighted the intensified attacks on workers and oppressed people in the current political climate. Bruce Allen, vice-president of the Niagara Regional Labour Council, delivered a moving tribute to a recently deceased class-war prisoner: “As many of you know this year’s event comes only weeks after the tragic passing of my heroic comrade and friend Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 after his outrageous ordeal of enduring more than 41 years in solitary confinement.”
Allen spoke of Wallace and his two Black Panther comrades Albert Woodfox and Robert King. These innocent men were framed up for the killing of a prison guard at the infamous slave plantation turned prison at Angola, Louisiana. Last spring, Wallace was diagnosed with liver cancer. “The diagnosis came late because of negligence by the prison doctor,” Allen explained, continuing:
“Critically important weeks of treatment were denied to him as a result, undoubtedly shortening his life expectancy and preventing any chance of recovery…. Herman’s supporters paid for an ambulance that was rushed to the prison gates to transport him back to New Orleans. There, Herman Wallace learned he was free just prior to losing consciousness and he proclaimed it to his supporters surrounding him.”
Allen concluded by relating the struggles of Wallace to those of all class-war prisoners and other victims of the “overtly racist American judicial system.”
Many of the prisoners, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, sent greetings to the PDC, some of which were read aloud. In the words of jailed anti-imperialist militant Jaan Laaman, “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.”
We print below the speech by the PDC representative, edited for publication.
In my short presentation I want to highlight just two questions, both very important for fighters against capitalist oppression. First, the Native question. Leonard Peltier, one of the prisoners we are honouring tonight, has now been in jail for nearly 40 years. It’s important to note that in the aftermath of the frame-up charges against Peltier, he fled to Canada but was extradited back to the USA.
Last year, the Idle No More protests highlighted the ongoing cruel and desperate conditions Native people in Canada are subjected to. Whether on the reserves or at the margins of the cities, everywhere the aboriginal population is plagued by unemployment, poverty, illness, homelessness and racist police violence. Although Natives make up less than three percent of the population, they comprise 35 percent of the women and 23 percent of the men in prison. Almost half of Native adults are unemployed and over half have less than a high school education. On the reserves average family income is barely $11,000.
All the while, the Canadian rulers and their state turn a blind eye to the fact that many aboriginal women have been murdered or gone missing since the 1990s, particularly in British Columbia. The government, in its quest to push forward massive pipeline projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, has shortcutted the review process and come down heavily on Native activists, including through the RCMP spying on the Yinka Dene Alliance, a coalition of B.C. Natives opposing the pipelines.
In our most recent Spartacist Canada, the cover article reports on yet another battle between Native people and the Canadian government, this time in Rexton, New Brunswick. On October 17 of this year, more than 100 heavily-armed RCMP officers violently broke up a Mi’kmaq blockade against seismic testing and the threat of hydraulic fracturing by SWN Resources oil and gas company. This is the reality for Native people living in Canada.
What’s urgently needed is for the organized working class—the labour movement—to actively defend Natives against the racist and oppressive Canadian capitalist system. The working class has the social power and class interests to defend Natives and all of the oppressed. In particular, we call to free the Mi’kmaq Warriors still in jail and demand that all the charges be dropped.
My second point addresses the recent crackdown on dissent, in particular the cases of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) and Julian Assange. These people have done a great service to humanity for revelations into the crimes of American imperialism.
For their truth telling Snowden, Manning and Assange have all become targets of the American capitalist rulers. Chelsea Manning was charged under the 1917 Espionage Act, convicted and sentenced in August to 35 years in prison for the “crime” of exposing U.S. imperialism’s atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Assange, trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, is the target of a CIA manhunt for publishing Manning’s revelations on WikiLeaks. Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Snowden now depends on a one-year residency permit granted by Russian president Vladimir Putin. Snowden’s crime was providing the London Guardian with information detailing the massive collection of phone records and internet spying by the NSA.
Among the information disclosed was that Canada allowed the NSA to conduct widespread surveillance during the 2010 G20 meeting in Toronto. Recently in the bourgeois press we read—surprise, surprise—the discovery that Canada’s CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada) has been spying on Canadians. And the federal Tory government has now announced new legislation to greatly expand police powers to search and seize personal internet data.
Assange, Manning and Snowden did an honourable service that makes it a bit more difficult for the American imperialists to peddle their “bringing democracy to the world” lies. It is the duty of every worker to take up their defense. The PDC has actively and consistently raised the call to defend these victims of the capitalist state, in particular joining with others to fight for Chelsea Manning’s freedom. We urge you to join us. Free the class-war prisoners! Defend Julian Assange and Edward Snowden! Free Chelsea Manning!