Workers Vanguard No. 913
25 April 2008
International Protests Demand:
Mumia Must Be Freed Now!
As part of the international campaign initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee and built by the sections of the International Communist League to free death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, united-front protests took place on April 19 in Oakland, Toronto and London under the slogans: “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Innocent! Free Mumia Now! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!” The same day, the PDC and the Labor Black League organized a 150-man-strong Class-Struggle Contingent at the protest in Philadelphia initiated by the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, which drew some 600 people. In Paris, the Committee for Social Defense, the PDC’s fraternal defense organization, organized a 60-man-strong Class-Struggle Contingent at the demonstration called by the Collectif unitaire national “Ensemble, sauvons Mumia,” which drew some 200 demonstrators. In Mexico City, 50 people came out for a protest called by Amig@s de Mumia, at which our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México, section of the ICL, participated. On April 12 in Berlin, a Class-Struggle Contingent of some 80 people, built by the Committee for Social Defense in Germany, marched in a demonstration of about 300.
The protests were called in response to the March 27 U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding Mumia’s frame-up conviction. The court ruled that either a new sentencing hearing take place, in which the death sentence could be reinstated, or that Mumia automatically be entombed in prison for life. A former Black Panther, a supporter of the MOVE organization and an eloquent journalist renowned as the “voice of the voiceless,” Mumia was framed up and sentenced to death for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer. Mountains of evidence of his innocence exist—including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, killed the cop—but the courts have rejected or refused to hear that evidence.
The protests in Oakland, Toronto and London were built on the basis of united-front action. As the PDC emcee underlined at the Oakland protest:
“This rally was initiated by the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle legal and social defense organization whose views are in accordance with those of the Spartacist League—and the Labor Black League for Social Defense. But it belongs to all of you who are committed to the fight for Mumia’s freedom, who fight for the abolition of the racist death penalty, the lynch rope made legal, who know that Mumia Abu-Jamal is an innocent man. We welcome all who agree with the common slogans of this rally to express their solidarity with the struggle for Mumia’s freedom in all its diversity and in all the different political voices and viewpoints that are represented here. That’s what a united-front protest means—unity in action and freedom of criticism. That criticism and debate doesn’t divide but crucially strengthens the way forward in the fight for Mumia’s freedom.”
Over 300 individuals and organizations, including trade unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers, have endorsed the united-front protests, which were initiated by the PDC and LBLs in the U.S. and by the PDC’s fraternal defense organizations internationally (see page 8 for a partial list of endorsers). These protests brought out trade unionists, anti-racist activists, leftists and others. There were trade-union banners at the Oakland protest from ILWU longshore union Local 10 and AFSCME Local 444, both of which endorsed the demonstration. Former Black Panther Emory Douglas came as well as a number of people from the Prisoners of Conscience Committee and the Malcolm X Grassroots organization. Throughout the demonstrations, we made clear the link between the struggle for Mumia’s freedom and the struggle to abolish the death penalty. We oppose the death penalty on principle everywhere, including in the deformed workers states—such as China—which we unconditionally militarily defend against imperialist attack and counterrevolution.
Among those addressing the demonstrators at the Oakland protest, which drew some 200 people, were Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Francisco Torres and Ray Boudreaux of the “San Francisco 8,” former Black Panthers who are now being dragged through the courts on frame-up charges of killing a cop, which had been dismissed 30 years ago. In his remarks, Boudreaux stated, “Mumia has no windows but he sees what’s going on in the world. Many of us are asleep. So wake up and stay woke! Free Mumia!” Curly Estremera, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, stated, “I am a soldier, an old soldier. Usually soldiers get but one minute to speak on the program. I thank the PDC for recognizing that some of us soldiers have been here for a long time and we’re gonna be here for a long time until we get our brethren free.”
A letter to Mumia from class-war prisoner Leonard Peltier, a member of the American Indian Movement, was read to the protest. It stated: “Given the choice of lying down to die or standing up to live, we chose to live. Standing up and living is our only crime.” Referring to the courageous Irish Republican fighter who died in 1981 while on a hunger strike in a British prison, Peltier stated: “As hunger striker Bobby Sands once said, you can lock up the dreamer but you cannot place chains around an idea.”
In Toronto, some 120 people came out to the united-front protest, which included a number of trade-union banners and several union speakers. Addressing the protesters, Kevin Shimmin, National Representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, underscored:
“The fight to free Mumia from the racist, capitalist clutches of America is our fight. It is the struggle of every worker fighting for dignity; of every immigrant fighting for respect; of every young person fighting against police brutality; of every activist defending their community; of every union fighting for a better society. We know there is no justice in the American courts that have framed Mumia, and we know there is no justice in the Canadian courts that locked away innocent Muslim brothers without charges, and we know that the racist death penalty must be abolished, and those who yearn for a reinstatement of the death penalty in this country must be defeated. Mumia’s courage, determination, compassion and perseverance are an inspiration to us all.”
A statement by Dave Bleakney, National Union Representative of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, was read to the protest. It concluded: “On behalf of the 55,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, we stand today with Mumia and all those that challenge capitalism head on.”
The London united-front protest drew over 100 demonstrators and had a number of trade-union speakers, including Stephen Hedley and Dean O’Hanlon of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and Paul Moffat, Eastern Region Secretary of the Communication Workers Union. Also speaking were a number of black nationalists, including Brother Minkah from the Marcus Garvey Organising Committee, Brother Omowale on behalf of Galaxy Radio, which had publicized the PDC-initiated protest, Sista Mawasi for the Afrikan Liberation Day Organising Committee, Brother Ras Bob for the Pan Afrikan Society Community Forum and Brother Otongogara for the George Jackson Socialist League. Jessica Huntley, who helped found Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications, spoke, giving a very powerful and vivid picture of Mumia’s professionalism and political knowledge as a journalist when she had met him in 1981. She spoke of how Mumia called her after he was arrested, telling her he was in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Speaking for the PDC, Kate Klein explained the PDC’s perspective of a class-struggle fight to free Mumia:
“From South African workers battling neo-apartheid repression to the multiracial transport workers in New York City to postal workers here in Britain fighting against union-busting privatisation, we want to see strikes against the capitalists and their governments, and in those strikes, along with the demands that are raised, emblazoned on their banners we want to see: Free Mumia! Abolish the racist death penalty! Because like any fight against racist oppression and class exploitation, this is not a fight that will be won in a courtroom but on the streets in mass struggle. And the same vicious system that wants Mumia dead carries out imperialist wars and occupations, starves the African continent and keeps working people the world over in chains.”
Chanting “Mumia is innocent! Free him now! Labor has the power to make the courts bow!” the PDC and LBL-organized Class-Struggle Contingent in the Philadelphia protest drew some 150 people, including trade unionists from NYC’s powerful Transport Workers Union Local 100. The contingent marched under the slogans, “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Innocent! Free Mumia Now! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty! There Is No Justice in the Capitalist Courts! Mobilize Labor’s Power—For Mass Protest!” Others at the protest included Workers World Party, the Revolutionary Communist Party (through its October 22nd Coalition) and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. The class-struggle perspective of the PDC’s contingent stood in stark contrast to the politics of these reformist groups, which have long promoted the illusion that Mumia could get “justice” from the capitalist courts.
In building for this demonstration, on April 18 the PDC raised a banner calling for Mumia’s freedom in the vicinity of a Barack Obama rally of some 35,000 people in Philadelphia. Many of Obama’s younger supporters were shocked to learn that he—as well as Hillary Clinton—supports the death penalty, and, in fact, a number of youth met at the rally came to the Philly protest. After we raised the PDC banner, an “Obama Country” banner was moved in front of it. A 22 April letter to the Philadelphia Daily News by Bob Hering, an Obama supporter who was at the rally, described how Obama’s official volunteers “had been told by the campaign to block the Mumia sign from the view of the stage and the cameras.” He noted that a campaign staffer asked him to sympathize with the decision to “limit the distractions,” adding, “I can’t sympathize.”
Unlike the reformists who promote Democratic Party “lesser evilism,” currently through either explicit or implicit support to Obama, we fight to break workers and youth from support to all capitalist parties and politicians. At the Obama rally, our comrades distributed copies of our article, “Obama, Clinton: No Friends of Workers, Blacks, the Oppressed,” which was issued on April 17 and also distributed at the Philadelphia and Oakland protests (see page 1).
At the Philadelphia Mumia protest, the cops acted to protect fascist vermin who came to attack the demonstration. Marshals from the PDC/LBL contingent effectively repulsed a fascist provocation against the protest. In response to the fascist provocation, marchers in the PDC contingent chanted, “Fascists out!” and “Stop the Nazis! Stop the Klan! Only workers defense guards can!” It is hardly an accident that the race-terrorist fascists—the deadly enemies of labor, blacks and all the oppressed—came forward as the stormtroopers for those who seek Mumia’s legal lynching. This affirms that the cause of Mumia is the cause of labor, the cause of black freedom, the cause of all the oppressed.
The fight for Mumia’s freedom is at a critical juncture. The statements in defense of Mumia must be turned into mass action, centered on labor’s power. We call on everyone to redouble their efforts to build the upcoming united-front demonstrations, which will take place in Sydney, Australia, on April 23, Mexico City on April 24, and Chicago and L.A. on April 26. Fight for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom!
We print below the speech delivered by Spartacist League speaker Reuben Samuels at the April 19 Oakland united-front protest to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
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Mumia Abu-Jamal is buried behind bars, facing death because of his lifelong devotion to black freedom and social emancipation. On March 28, I said our task is to assist the international working class in making the cause of this brave class warrior their own so that the demand Free Mumia rings out from worker-led protest around the world: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!
Over the last three weeks, our united-front protests to free Mumia, which you helped build (most of you), have become an internationalist platform for labor and the oppressed throughout the world to express their solidarity with this voice of black revolt and to express their opposition to racist U.S. imperialism. From South Africa to Scotland, more than 300 organizations and individuals, including trade unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers, have endorsed our call. Mumia is innocent, free him now! Mumia is innocent, free him now!
The racist death penalty is the legacy of chattel slavery; it is the lynch mob deputized and given blue uniforms and black robes. This past Wednesday it was reaffirmed by the nine Supreme Hangmen of the Land. We say: Abolish the racist death penalty! Abolish the racist death penalty!
The decision of the Court of Appeals to bury Mumia alive or subject him to another death penalty hearing is a demonstration, once again, that there is no justice in the capitalist courts. And once again it is a damning indictment of those like the San Francisco Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and Socialist Action, the Freedom Socialist Party, Workers World Party and others who called for this innocent man, Mumia Abu-Jamal, to be retried by the very capitalist courts that framed him up and sought his execution. Retried for what? He should never have spent a day in jail! The Labor Action Committee now says it has always known there is no justice in the capitalist courts, but it was founded in solidarity with the Mobe and its demand for a “new trial.” When we asked the Mobe to join this united-front effort to free Mumia, they said, oh no, it would damage their “good name.” We wouldn’t want that to happen. We won’t let the Mobe demobilizers turn us around. Mumia is innocent, free him now! Mumia is innocent! Free him now!
While favoring every legal means on Mumia’s behalf, we place all our faith in the social power of the international working class. In 1995 when Mumia was only weeks and days away from execution, we and many others launched a campaign of mass protest based on the power of organized labor that circled the globe and saved his life. At that very moment, his life hanging in the balance, the principal organ of American finance capital, the Wall Street Journal, seeking to sabotage our international campaign to save Mumia’s life, got ammo from the so-called Bolshevik Tendency, the anti-Spartacist League slander machine. They branded us as a Jimstown suicide cult, just like the bourgeoisie branded the victims of the government’s 1985 bombing of the MOVE home in Philadelphia, murdering eleven men, women and children, and claiming, yes, they were a suicide cult. Anti-communist slander, always vile, is seldom original.
The election of either a black man or a white woman to occupy the White House would be a significant event—no doubt U.S. imperialism needs a facelift—but it won’t change the conditions of women’s and black oppression that are rooted in the family and class exploitation. Democratic front-runner Barack Obama confronts race to take race off the agenda in the service of flag-waving national unity around the so-called “war on terrorism,” war on Muslims, war on Palestinians. Oh yes, Obama claims the civil rights movement brought us 90 percent of the way to racial equality. But the courageous foot soldiers of that era did not stand up to Klan and cop terror in order to see their hopes and dreams washed away in the racist travesty of post-Katrina New Orleans, or after they protested Jim Crow justice in Jena, to see lynch ropes hanging from the halls of Columbia University to the docks of L.A.
Chained to the capitalist Democrats, the civil rights movement could not challenge the economic foundations of black oppression. The best militants, who rejected the liberal pacifism of the so-called “Moses Generation” and wanted radical change, formed the Black Panther Party. But they could not see past the trade-union misleaders who turned their backs on black freedom, and the Panthers rejected the working class as the key agent for social revolution. Instead they embraced black nationalism centered on the ghetto poor and powerless, turning toward community social work or the fantasy of urban guerrilla warfare.
Black oppression is the bedrock of American capitalism. It will not be gotten rid of until capitalism itself is swept away in a socialist revolution. Because of blacks’ special oppression and history of social struggle, black workers are destined to be in the forefront of the struggle for revolutionary leadership. Black workers are the vital link between the anger of the ghetto and power of the proletariat. American workers revolution needs black leadership.
Our program for black liberation is revolutionary integrationism. This is counterposed to liberal integration that holds that black equality can be achieved within the capitalist system—founded on the forcible subjugation of blacks at the bottom of society. It is counterposed to petty-bourgeois black nationalism: an ideology of defeat that would deny blacks their birthright—the wealth and culture of this country that their labor has played a decisive role in creating. Oh yes, 40 acres and a mule, land compensations, settlements for slavery—better than that, we want it all! The working class has the power to take it all!
Brother Heyman from ILWU Local 10, who spoke at our last rally—and his union has endorsed this rally—spoke of the stop-work action on April 24, 1999 that shut down the West Coast ports in solidarity with Mumia. That was indeed a real demonstration of the social power that must be mobilized to free Mumia. But this action was politically undermined by tying it to the protests that day whose central call was for a “new trial.”
Likewise, a work stoppage on May 1st, the international workers holiday, could be a powerful blow against the bloody imperialist occupation of Iraq. But the ILWU international leadership has wrapped the call for this stop-work action in “support our troops” jingoism. The butchers of Falluja, the torturers of Abu Ghraib are not “our” troops. Just like the courts that entomb Mumia are not “our” courts. The state that wages war on any that would oppose it is not “our” state. And the Democratic Party—whether represented by Clinton or Obama, whose candidacy the ILWU bureaucracy has endorsed—is not “our” party. Like the Republicans, it’s the party of imperialist war and capitalist exploitation.
You cannot fight against the bosses’ war by the bosses’ rules. The pro-capitalist labor tops, their left-talkers included, are the enforcers of the bosses’ rules in the labor movement. They must be replaced by a leadership devoted to the principles of the class struggle on the political and economic plane.
Our struggle to free Mumia and all class-war political prisoners is part and parcel of our struggle to mobilize the working class and the oppressed to storm, yes, storm the hellish prison that is capitalism. That begins with the fight for the political independence of the working class. Break with the big parties of capital, the Democrats and Republicans, as well as the little party of capital, the Greens. We would defend Obama against any racist blowback from this campaign, but we give no political support to this or any other representative of the capitalist class dictatorship.
Today the Democrats and the reformist left support “Free Tibet” as the spearhead for counterrevolution in China. The extension of the Chinese Revolution to Tibet ended slavery and the status of women as beasts of burden. It opened the road for social progress for this benighted society. We say: Unconditional military defense of the Chinese deformed workers state against capitalist counterrevolution and imperialist intervention! The working people of China must fight for a political revolution to replace the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy with the rule of workers, soldiers and peasants councils.
Help us build a revolutionary workers party that fights for Mumia’s freedom, black freedom, full immigrant rights. Help us impart the understanding that those who labor must rule, in order to expropriate the greed-crazed capitalists before they destroy us all. Forward to the reforging of Trotsky’s Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution!
In “International Protests Demand: Mumia Must Be Freed Now!” (WV No. 913, 25 April), the speaker for the Pan Afrikan Society Community Forum at the London united-front protest held April 19 was incorrectly cited as Brother Ras Bob. The speaker was Brother Ras Lloyd. (From WV No. 915, 23 May 2008.)
In the article “Mumia Must Be Freed Now!” (WV No. 913, 25 April), we printed the speech delivered by Spartacist League speaker Reuben Samuels at the April 19 Oakland united-front protest to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, in which he stated: “The extension of the Chinese Revolution to Tibet ended slavery and the status of women as beasts of burden.” (A similar statement appeared in a speech by Paula Daniels, printed in the 9 May WV No. 914 article, “Join Us in the Fight for a Workers America!”) This is true. But it could imply that slavery was the dominant mode of production. The dominant forms of forced peasant labor (for example, ulag) in Tibet were feudal in character. Peasants were not chattel, but had to regularly provide unpaid labor to the landlords/Lamaocracy. Individual slaves existed, but this was not the basis of the economy. (From WV No. 917, 4 July 2008.)