Workers Vanguard No. 966

8 October 2010


Mumia Is Innocent! Free Him Now!

Appeals Court Hearing on Death Sentence for Mumia Abu-Jamal

The forces of racist capitalist “law and order” are moving one step closer to executing Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted on false charges of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death in 1982 on the basis of his political views. On November 9, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will hold a hearing to determine whether to uphold Mumia’s death sentence, which was overturned in a 2001 decision by federal district judge William Yohn that simultaneously reaffirmed Mumia’s frame-up conviction. The new hearing is a result of a January U.S. Supreme Court ruling that vacated Yohn’s decision, which had been previously upheld by the Third Circuit. In April 2009, the Court summarily turned down Mumia’s petition to overturn his conviction. The aim of these rulings is unmistakable: to push forward Mumia’s execution.

Mumia is an innocent man. His conviction was based on lying testimony extorted by the cops, a “confession” manufactured by the police and prosecutors and phony ballistics “evidence.” His death sentence was secured after prosecutors cited political statements Mumia made when he was a teenage leader of the Philadelphia Black Panthers. The cops, courts and prosecutors have since continued their vendetta against Mumia, a supporter of the Philadelphia MOVE group and an award-winning journalist renowned for his searing exposés of cop brutality and racist oppression. Through appeal after appeal, the courts have refused to hear the overwhelming evidence of Mumia’s innocence, including Arnold Beverly’s confession that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner.

Mumia continues to speak out for the poor and oppressed through his writings from death row. In seeking to execute this innocent man, the capitalist rulers are sending a message to the working class and all who would fight against exploitation, oppression and imperialist war that they, too, are in the state’s gun sights.

It is unlikely that the Third Circuit will defy the Supreme Court. If the death sentence is upheld, the case will go back to Judge Yohn to consider still-pending claims by Mumia. While supporting the use of every legal means available to Mumia, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee have always warned against illusions that Mumia would get justice from the capitalist courts. What is needed is mass protest centered on the social power of the working class. When Mumia faced an August 1995 execution date, an outpouring of international protest, crucially including trade unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers, helped stay the executioner’s hand.

In contrast, Workers World Party, Socialist Action and others in the reformist left place their reliance on the courts and politicians of the capitalist class enemy. Following years of subordinating the demand to free Mumia to the futile supplication for a new, “fair” trial, the reformists have more recently pinned their hopes on petitions to the summits of capitalist state power. A petition to Barack Obama grotesquely calls on the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. imperialism, who has made clear his support for capital punishment, to “speak out against the death penalty for Mumia Abu-Jamal.” A petition to his top cop, Attorney General Eric Holder, pleads, “Inasmuch as there is no other court to which Abu-Jamal can appeal for justice, we turn to you for remedy” and begs for a civil rights investigation—to be carried out by the same Justice Department whose job is to oversee the capitalists’ frame-up machinery.

In our protests and propaganda, we have sought to imbue militants with the understanding that the fight to free Mumia must be based on working-class struggle against the capitalist rulers and their state. This necessarily includes fighting to abolish the racist death penalty—the legacy of chattel slavery in the U.S.—which stands at the pinnacle of the apparatus of repression wielded by the capitalists against the masses they exploit and oppress. Only when the multiracial proletariat, led by a vanguard party, seizes power through socialist revolution will there be an end to the murderous repression, exploitation and racial oppression that define the capitalist system. Free Mumia! Abolish the racist death penalty!