Spartacist Canada No. 160

Spring 2009


Annual Partisan Defense Committee Holiday Appeal

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Free the Class-War Prisoners!

Mumia's Greetings to Holiday Appeal Benefits

In December the Partisan Defense Committee’s annual Holiday Appeal raised funds for our program of monthly stipends and holiday gifts to class-war prisoners and their families. Held in New York, Chicago, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver, these benefits raised over $10,000 after expenses.

The 2008 Holiday Appeal benefits focused particularly on the struggle to free U.S. death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, an innocent man falsely convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner on 9 December 1981. Also honoured were 15 other men and women singled out by the state for standing up to racist capitalist oppression and exploitation. The PDC has revived and kept alive the tradition of class-struggle defense of those imprisoned for championing the rights of labour and all the oppressed. This tradition was begun by the International Labor Defense (ILD) under James P. Cannon, a founding leader of the U.S. Communist Party, the ILD’s first secretary (1925-28) and later the founder of American Trotskyism. At its first conference the ILD declared: “The workers must not be allowed to forget those who lie in prison for them, but must be stirred into action in their defense.”

In Chicago, one of the sit-in participants from United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110 spoke about the six-day plant occupation by largely immigrant and black workers at the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago. The New York City benefit, which drew more than 150 people, featured the one-man play, John Brown: Trumpet of Freedom, by George Wolf Reily and Norman Thomas Marshall (who performed the play). The play honoured those who fought against slavery in the Civil War, and underlined the significance of John Brown’s 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

The Toronto rally heard from Dave Bleakney, national representative of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which has for many years fought for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom. Other speakers at the event, which drew 60 people, included PDC spokesman Debby Spector, Orlando Martin of the Spartacus Youth Club and the Trotskyist League’s Miriam McDonald. A highlight was Paul Schneider’s speech describing how the broad support of trade unions was key to defeating a Klan/Nazi frameup of himself and fellow trade unionist Mike Mares 25 years ago. An outrageous exception to this was the president of their own union, the Letter Carriers Union of Canada, one Robert McGarry, who tried to sabotage the defense and expelled them and five of their supporters from the union.

All the Holiday Appeals played taped greetings from Mumia Abu-Jamal made especially for the occasion. A letter on behalf of the eight surviving members of the MOVE 9 thanked the PDC for its work “for not only this year, but all of the years in the past, as we approach yet another new administration of capitalism.” The MOVE 9 were framed up on conspiracy and murder charges after a vicious police assault on MOVE’s home in Philadelphia’s Powelton Village neighbourhood in August 1978.

Ed Poindexter, a former Black Panther supporter and a leader of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, also sent greetings. He and his comrade Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa were framed up as part of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed.

Jaan Laaman and Tom Manning are the two remaining members of the Ohio 7 still in prison. This radical group took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings against symbols of U.S. imperialism in the late 1970s and 1980s. In his greetings Jaan Laaman expressed his gratitude for those “supporting U.S. political prisoners,” and explained that as he was writing these words on 15 November 2008, he had just fully completed his Massachusetts state sentence after being in captivity for over 24 years. But, he added, “Today, I also started my next federal sentence of 53 years. In two days I will be turned over to U.S. Marshals and transported to some federal prison to begin this new sentence.” This is an outrage—free Laaman and Manning now!

Messages were also received from Leonard Peltier and Hugo Pinell. In January Peltier, incarcerated for 33 years because of his activism in the American Indian Movement, was put in solitary confinement after a brutal beating following his transfer to the U.S. penitentiary in Canaan. Pinell, a militant anti-racist prison rights leader, is the last of the San Quentin 6 still in prison. Despite hundreds of letters of support, Pinell has repeatedly been denied parole. Now in his 60s, Pinell continues to serve a life sentence, and, as he wrote, is being “kept in maximum custody status, totally deprived and not allowed contact visits.”

The cases of the 16 class-war prisoners honoured at this year’s benefits exemplify key aspects of our Marxist program. Since initiating the stipends program, we have provided support to 33 prisoners on three continents. These included fighters against black oppression in the U.S. and labour militants slapped with prison sentences for defending strikes and defending their union from scabs and thugs. We also sent a stipend to Mordechai Vanunu, the courageous Israeli nuclear technician who in 1986 was kidnapped in Italy by Mossad agents and railroaded to prison for 18 years for exposing the extent of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. After the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy treacherously withdrew the Red Army from Afghanistan in 1988-89, the PDC organized a campaign that raised over $44,000 worldwide in support of the heroic people of Jalalabad who were fighting against the U.S.-backed mujahedin cutthroats.

We urge SC readers to help drive the work of the PDC forward! Become a sustaining contributor! Send contributions to: PDC, P.O. Box 314, Station B, Toronto, ON M5T 2W1. For more information about the class-war prisoners see: