Workers Vanguard No. 941

28 August 2009


Mumia Is an Innocent Man! Free Him Now!

Reformists Crawl to Obama and His Top Cop

For nearly three decades, Mumia Abu-Jamal has been imprisoned on death row. An innocent man, Mumia is a former Black Panther Party spokesman and supporter of the Philadelphia MOVE organization. He was framed up and convicted on charges of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981. His conviction was based on lying testimony extorted by the cops, without a shred of physical evidence. His death sentence was secured on the basis of his political convictions and powerful indictments of racist America as a Panther. Since then, court after court has refused to even consider the mountains of evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot Faulkner.

On April 6 the U.S. Supreme Court summarily turned down Mumia’s petition to overturn the frame-up conviction. Ominously, it has not ruled on the Philadelphia district attorney’s appeal to reinstate the death sentence, which was overturned by U.S. District Court Judge William Yohn in 2001. Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the D.A.’s appeal, it would place Mumia a big step closer to the death chamber.

The relentless campaign by the cops, courts, prosecutors and judges to put Mumia to death or entomb him for life epitomizes the apparatus of state repression deployed by the rulers of this country against any perceived opponents. It throws a spotlight on the barbaric, racist death penalty, a form of institutionalized state terror directly descended in the U.S. from black chattel slavery. It goes to the core of the racist subjugation of black people in this country, which is fundamental to the maintenance of American capitalism. It underlines that the fight for Mumia’s freedom must be based on a class-struggle opposition to the racist U.S. capitalist system.

It is this understanding that has infused the work of the Partisan Defense Committee—a legal and social class-struggle defense organization whose views are in accordance with the Marxist principles of the Spartacist League—since it took up Mumia’s case over 20 years ago. While fighting to assist Mumia in pursuing every legal avenue, we had no illusions that this outspoken fighter for the oppressed could or would get any “justice” from the courts or any other agency of the capitalist state. Our fight has been to mobilize the multiracial working class in the U.S. and working people internationally. The proletariat is the one force in this society that has the social power to effectively challenge the capitalist rulers.

Our fight to free Mumia and abolish the racist death penalty is rooted in the revolutionary perspective of winning the working class to the understanding that the bourgeois state is not some “neutral” agency that serves society as a whole but rather exists to defend the class rule and profits of the capitalist class against those they exploit and oppress. To put a final halt to the grisly workings of capitalism’s machinery of death—be they guardians of death row or the cops who operate as “judge, jury and executioner” in gunning down minority youth on the streets—requires sweeping away this entire system, which is based on exploitation and oppression, through socialist revolution.

In contrast, the reformist left’s defense of Mumia is, in the words of Bolshevik revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky, defined by the “framework of bourgeois society and an adaptation to its legality—i.e., the actual training of the masses to become imbued with the inviolability of the bourgeois state” (Lessons of October, 1924). For years the reformists have subordinated the fight for Mumia’s freedom to peddling the most treacherous illusions in the capitalist courts with their calls for a “new,” “fair” trial. Now, with the judicial appeals in which they put their faith all but exhausted, they shamelessly go on bended knee to the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. imperialism Barack Obama and his top cop, Attorney General Eric Holder.

Reformists Beg Capitalist State for “Justice”

A petition to Holder by the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ), the International Action Center, initiated by the Workers World Party (WWP), and the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC) appeals:

“Inasmuch as there is no other court to which Abu-Jamal can appeal for justice, I turn to you for remedy….

“I call on you and the Justice Department to immediately commence a civil rights investigation to examine the many examples of egregious and racist prosecutorial and judicial misconduct dating back to the original trial in 1982 and continuing through to the current inaction [!] of the U.S. Supreme Court….

“I am aware of the many differences that exist between the case of former Senator Ted Stevens and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Still, I note with great interest the actions you have taken with regard to Senator Stevens’ conviction to assure that he not be denied his constitutional rights.”

The petition further notes, with grotesque understatement of the obvious, that Mumia, unlike Stevens, is not “a U.S. senator of great wealth and power.” No kidding. Does anyone really think that the Justice Department hasn’t spotted the difference between a white Senator facing bribery charges and a black radical facing the death penalty on frame-up charges of killing a cop?

This became an all-out lobbying effort at the centennial convention of the NAACP in New York in July, where Obama and Holder were keynote speakers. Standing outside the convention, the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC) raised a banner pleading: “Obama & Holder/We Need You Now!/Free Mumia.”

Who are they appealing to? Obama is the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. imperialism—the most bloody and rapacious imperialist power on the face of the planet—and the overseer of the slaughter of countless peoples in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. His attorney general is the warden-in-chief of the prison dungeons holding political prisoners such as Mumia and over two million people, disproportionately blacks and Latinos. It would be hard to find a more savage indictment of the reformists’ fundamental belief in the “democracy” of capitalist class rule.

The appeal for Obama to “free Mumia” is all the more grotesque considering that he supports the death penalty. His credentials in this regard have been promoted by Philadelphia’s right-wing radio broadcaster Michael Smerconish. The co-author of the book, Murdered by Mumia, which rehashes the lies concocted by the Philly cops and D.A.’s office to falsely convict Mumia, Smerconish sees Obama as an ally in his relentless campaign to put Mumia to death. In a 20 August Philadelphia Daily News op-ed article, Smerconish wrote:

“I was also thrilled to have the chance to question him on a subject in which I’ve invested almost 20 years of time and energy—Mumia Abu Jamal.

“Had he taken a position on the case, and if not, did he intend to do so? ‘I haven’t, only because the details of this event I’ve never studied. I’m vaguely familiar with the fact that there’s been a controversy around it. So let me just lay out a very clear principle: In my mind, if somebody killed a police officer, they deserve the death penalty or life in prison,’ he told me.

“Amen to that.”

Reporting on the lobbying effort at the NAACP convention, an article in the Amsterdam News (16-22 July), explained “hope is based on the premise that having a Black attorney general, a Black president…will give Abu-Jamal’s plight stronger consideration.” The self-proclaimed “communists” of WWP took a second to no one in championing Obama’s election as “a triumph for the Black masses and all the oppressed” (Workers World, 20 November 2008).

In fact, after eight years of the widely despised Bush regime, Obama’s election has provided a much-needed facelift for U.S. imperialism to more effectively lord it over the world’s working and oppressed masses. In the U.S., the inauguration of America’s first black president is a powerful propaganda weapon for the U.S. rulers. The message to black people and the oppressed is to shut up and eat it because the election of a black man as president proves the “American dream” works! This was exactly Obama’s message in his speech to the NAACP convention. “No excuses. No excuses,” he intoned, channeling Booker T. Washington, who over a century ago preached accommodation to the racist status quo by telling the impoverished black masses to pull themselves up by their bootstraps (if they owned any).

The reformists and liberals were successful in getting the NAACP to pass a resolution calling on Holder to investigate Mumia’s case. It would be more than welcome if the NAACP put its considerable resources in a genuine fight to free Mumia. But this is not the political purpose of the WWP et al.’s petition for a civil rights investigation, which disappears the fact that Mumia is innocent and pushes illusions in the “fairness” of the American “justice” system. This was captured by NAACP chairman Julian Bond in an interview with Amy Goodman that aired on July 20. Bond argued that Mumia has “had trouble” bringing “doubts” about his case “before a tribunal that can say, you know, these things are true or they’re not true. And we think he needs that chance. We think he needs that chance before the state of Pennsylvania decides to snuff his life out.” I.e., notwithstanding the NAACP’s opposition to the death penalty, the key thing is to let Mumia have another day in court before the rulers “snuff his life out.”

Mumia’s Cause and the Fight for Black Freedom

Black oppression is structurally embedded in American capitalism and will not be overcome short of socialist revolution. In our struggle to free Mumia and abolish the racist death penalty, we seek to win the working class to the understanding that the fight for black freedom is central to the fight for the liberation of all of labor and the oppressed from a system based on exploitation and rooted in the segregation of the black masses at the bottom of society.

The fight to mobilize the social power of the working class in struggle for Mumia’s freedom faces many obstacles. Integrated unions representing millions of workers have gone on record in support of Mumia. But these millions have not been mobilized in action to combat this racist frame-up. The responsibility for that lies with the pro-capitalist trade-union misleaders, who overwhelmingly refuse to call their members into action to defend their economic interests, much less in defense of a black political prisoner. The bureaucracy’s class-collaborationist policies, which have tied the working class to its capitalist class enemy, have dissipated the fighting strength of the unions. The pathetic reformist and liberal petitioners of Obama and Holder similarly do their best in reinforcing belief in the inherent benevolence of the capitalist state.

For the Spartacist League and the Partisan Defense Committee, the fight for Mumia’s freedom is part of the struggle to do away with a social and economic system based on exploitation, increasingly hideous oppression and state terror. The power to do that lies in the hands of the multiracial working class, with its numbers, organization, discipline and, most importantly, its capacity to bring the wheels of the capitalist profit system to a grinding halt. Mobilizing that power is a question of building a revolutionary workers party, acting as the tribune of the people that can bring to the working class the consciousness of its historic interests to be the instrumentality to shatter the power of the racist capitalist rulers and their state.

The stakes are high and the situation is grim, but any real fight for Mumia’s freedom must be based on a class-struggle opposition to the capitalist rulers, who have entombed this innocent black man in prison for more than half his life.