Workers Vanguard No. 925
21 November 2008
Partisan Defense Committee 23rd Annual Holiday Appeal
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Now!
Free the Class-War Prisoners!
Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!
In 1927, James P. Cannon, a leader of the Workers (Communist) Party, secretary of the International Labor Defense (ILD) and later the founder of American Trotskyism, aptly described the annual Christmas drives that newspapers like the New York Times hold (to this day): “The men, women and children of the working class, who have been on the rack of capitalist exploitation and are now dropped into the abyss of misery and poverty, are chosen and classified by these arch hypocrites—so their sanctimonious appeal can be made to the comfortable capitalists, to soften the bitterness of these few workers with the insult of charity, and to salve their own conscience by acts of ‘generosity’” (“A Christmas Fund of Our Own,” Daily Worker, 17 October 1927). To this “horrible farce,” Cannon counterposed the worldwide campaign to raise a special fund for those imprisoned for the labor cause and their families as a way of “transforming the hypocritical spirit of Christmas into the spirit of solidarity with the class-war fighters behind bars
. The Christmas Fund drive of International Labor Defense is a means of informing them that the workers of America have not forgotten their duty toward the men to whom we are linked by bonds of solidarity.”
For the past 23 years, in the tradition of the ILD, the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—has been sending monthly stipends as an expression of solidarity to those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression. Each year we have held Holiday Appeal benefits to raise funds for this unique program. This year’s Holiday Appeal benefits will focus particularly on the struggle to mobilize the multiracial working class in demanding freedom for death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The PDC calls on labor activists, fighters for black rights, immigrant rights and defenders of civil liberties to join us in generously donating and building our annual Holiday Appeal. An injury to one is an injury to all! We print below brief descriptions of the 16 class-war prisoners who receive monthly stipends from the PDC.
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 critical juncture. This past March, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Mumia’s frame-up conviction, ordering a hearing to reinstate the death penalty or entomb him for life. His lawyers are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has turned down prior appeals for Mumia in 1990, 1999, 2004 and earlier this year. In an ominous new development, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office has advised the U.S. Supreme Court that it is seeking Mumia’s execution.
9 December 2008 is the 27th 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. Mountains of evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner, have been submitted to the courts. 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. Time is getting short. Workers, immigrants, minorities and all opponents of racist oppression must mobilize to free Mumia now!
Leonard Peltier is an internationally revered 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’s frame-up trial, for the deaths in 1975 of two marauding FBI agents in what had become a war zone at the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation, 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 64-year-old Peltier is still locked away. Federal courts continue to keep under government seal thousands of FBI documents, covering up the racist frame-up that has already stolen more than 30 years of his life.
Eight MOVE members—Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa and Phil Africa—are in their 31st 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. This year, after three decades of unjust incarceration, nearly all of these innocent prisoners had parole hearings, but none were released.
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 against 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. 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 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 served more than 36 years in jail. Last year, 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 George Jackson, his comrade and mentor, who was gunned down by prison guards in 1971. Despite hundreds of letters of support and no disciplinary write-ups for over 27 years, Pinell has repeatedly been denied parole. Now in his 60s, Pinell continues to serve a life sentence at the notorious Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit in California.
Jamal Hart, Mumia’s son, was sentenced in 1998 to 151/2 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. Last year, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals turned down Hart’s habeas corpus petition, which would have freed him after more than ten years in prison.
Contribute now! All proceeds from the Holiday Appeal 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.