Workers Vanguard No. 1057
28 November 2014
29th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal
Free the Class-War Prisoners!
(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)
For nearly three decades, the Partisan Defense Committee has provided stipends to class-war prisoners—those behind bars for opposing varied expressions of racist capitalist oppression. The PDC is now organizing our annual Holiday Appeal fundraisers on behalf of 16 such prisoners. We send them $50 monthly stipends and provide holiday gifts for them and their families. The prisoners generally use the funds for basic necessities, from supplementing the inadequate prison diet to buying stamps and writing materials, or to pursue literary, artistic and musical endeavors that help ameliorate the living hell of prison life.
The PDC’s stipend program is modeled on a tradition of the early Communist movement, specifically the International Labor Defense (ILD) under its first secretary, James P. Cannon, from 1925-28. The ILD sent monthly contributions to more than 100 people imprisoned for fighting in the interests of the working people and the oppressed. As Cannon observed: “The procession that goes in and out of the prison doors is not a new one.... All through history those who have fought against oppression have constantly been faced with the dungeons of a ruling class” (“The Cause That Passes Through a Prison,” Labor Defender, September 1926).
This past year, we added Albert Woodfox as a stipend recipient. Along with other Black Panther Party members known as the Angola Three, Woodfox stood up against the hideous racism at Louisiana’s notorious Angola prison. In retaliation, prison authorities have subjected him to more than four decades of solitary confinement.
Others who had received stipends are now outside prison walls. After months of medical neglect and with thousands demanding her release, Lynne Stewart was finally let out of federal prison last New Year’s Eve. Suffering serious complications from breast cancer, Stewart is undergoing special treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital in New York City. She reports that she is struggling with drug side effects and is having difficulty walking. Other former PDC stipend recipients are the young anti-fascist activists known as the Tinley Park 5, who were released at various times over the last 12 months or so. They had been tossed into prison for heroically dispersing a Chicago-area meeting of fascists in May 2012.
As Cannon said, “The class-conscious worker accords to the class-war prisoners a place of singular honor and esteem.” Join us in this vital work of solidarity. The 16 class-war prisoners receiving stipends from the PDC are listed below.
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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.” Framed up for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer, Mumia was sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. Federal and state courts have repeatedly refused to consider evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed the policeman. In 2011 the Philadelphia district attorney’s office dropped its longstanding effort to legally lynch America’s foremost class-war prisoner. Mumia remains condemned to life in prison with no chance of parole.
Leonard Peltier is an internationally renowned class-war prisoner. Peltier’s 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 was framed up for the 1975 deaths of two FBI agents marauding in what had become a war zone on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation. Although the lead government attorney has admitted, “We can’t prove who shot those agents,” and the courts have acknowledged blatant prosecutorial misconduct, the 70-year-old Peltier is not scheduled to be reconsidered for parole for another ten years! Peltier suffers from multiple serious medical conditions and is incarcerated far from his people and family.
Eight MOVE members—Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa and Phil Africa—are in their 37th year of prison. After the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, they were sentenced to 30-100 years having been 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 when a bomb was dropped on their living quarters. After more than three decades of unjust incarceration, these innocent prisoners are routinely turned down at parole hearings. None have been released.
Albert Woodfox is the last of the Angola Three still incarcerated. Along with Herman Wallace and Robert King, Woodfox fought the vicious, racist and dehumanizing conditions in Louisiana’s Angola prison and courageously organized a Black Panther Party chapter at the prison. Authorities framed up Woodfox and Wallace for the fatal stabbing of a prison guard in 1972 and falsely convicted King of killing a fellow inmate a year later. For over 42 years, Woodfox has been locked down in Closed Cell Restricted (CCR) blocks, the longest stretch in solitary confinement ever in this country. His conviction has been overturned three times! According to his lawyers, he suffers from hypertension, heart disease, chronic renal insufficiency, diabetes, anxiety and insomnia—conditions no doubt caused and/or exacerbated by decades of vindictive and inhumane treatment.
Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning are the two 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 of symbols of U.S. imperialism, such as military and corporate offices, in the late 1970s and ’80s. Before their arrests in 1984 and 1985, the Ohio 7 were targets of massive manhunts. The Ohio 7’s politics were once shared by thousands of radicals 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 crimes. 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 are victims of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation, under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Poindexter and Mondo were railroaded to prison and sentenced to life for a 1970 explosion that killed a cop, and they have now spent more than 40 years behind bars. Nebraska courts have repeatedly denied Poindexter and Mondo new trials despite the fact that a crucial piece of evidence excluded from the original trial, a 911 audio tape long suppressed by the FBI, proved that testimony of the state’s key witness was perjured.
Hugo Pinell, the last of the San Quentin 6 still in prison, has been in solitary isolation for more than four decades. He was a militant anti-racist leader of prison rights organizing along with George Jackson, his comrade and mentor, who was gunned down by prison guards in 1971. Despite numerous letters of support and no disciplinary write-ups for over 28 years, Pinell was again denied parole in 2009. Now in his late 60s, Pinell continues to serve a life sentence after having finally been released from the notorious torture chamber Pelican Bay SHU in California, a focal point for hunger strikes against grotesque inhuman conditions.
Send your contributions to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013; (212) 406-4252.