The Latest From The Partisan Defense Committee-Protest State Vendetta Against Longview ILWU and Its Allies!
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Reposted from the American Left History blog, dated December 1, 2010.
I like to think of myself as a fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, an organization committed to social and political defense cases and causes in the interests of the working class and, at this time of the year, to raising funds to support the class-war prisoners’ stipend program. Normally I do not need any prompting in the matter. This year, however, in light of the addition of Attorney Lynne Stewart (yes, I know, she has been disbarred but that does not make her less of a people’s attorney in my eyes) to the stipend program, I read the 25th Anniversary Appeal article in Workers Vanguard No. 969 where I was startled to note how many of the names, organizations, and political philosophies mentioned there hark back to my own radical coming of age, and the need for class-struggle defense of all our political prisoners in the late 1960s (although I may not have used that exact term at the time).
That recognition included names like black liberation fighter George Jackson, present class-war prisoner Hugo Pinell’s San Quentin Six comrade; the Black Panthers, as represented here by two of the Omaha Three (Poindexter and wa Langa), in their better days and in the days when we needed, desperately needed, to fight for their defense in places from Oakland to New Haven; the struggle, the fierce struggle, against the death penalty as represented in Mumia’s case today; the Ohio 7 and the Weather Underground who, rightly or wrongly, were committed to building a second front against American imperialism, and who most of the left, the respectable left, abandoned; and, of course, Leonard Peltier and the Native American struggles from Pine Ridge to the Southwest. It has been a long time and victories few. I could go on but you get the point.
That point also includes the hard fact that we have paid a high price, a very high price, for not winning back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we last had this capitalist imperialist society on the ropes. Maybe it was political immaturity, maybe it was cranky theory, maybe it was elitism, hell, maybe it was just old-fashioned hubris but we let them off the hook. And have had to fight forty years of rear-guard “culture wars” since just to keep from falling further behind.
And the class-war prisoners, our class-war prisoners, have had to face their “justice” and their prisons. That lesson should be etched in the memory of every pro-working class militant today. And this, as well, as a quick glance at the news these days should make every liberation fighter realize; the difference between being on one side of that prison wall and the other is a very close thing when the bourgeois decides to pull the hammer down. The support of class-war prisoners is thus not charity, as International Labor Defense founder James P. Cannon noted back in the 1920s, but a duty of those fighters outside the walls. Today I do my duty, and gladly.
16 March 2012
Protest State Vendetta Against Longview ILWU and Its Allies!
In our article “Lessons of the Battle of Longview” (WV No. 996, 17 February), we addressed the fight by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 against an all-out union-busting attack by the giant multinational grain conglomerate EGT in Longview, Washington. Backed by forces ranging from the local police to the federal courts and the armed might of the U.S. Coast Guard, EGT’s aim was to drive ILWU Local 21 out of jobs at the port the union has worked for 80 years. The union held the line against this union-busting offensive. But the struggle is far from over. ILWU members and their supporters continue to be subjected to a relentless campaign of persecution by the courts, cops and Cowlitz County District Attorney’s office. The union itself is facing more than $300,000 in fines leveled at the behest of the National Labor Relations Board.
In the course of their battle against EGT, ILWU members and their allies engaged in the kind of militant labor struggle not seen in this country in years. In retaliation, leaders and members of ILWU Local 21 were met by a campaign of police violence, detentions and surveillance. More than 200 arrests were made, including several on felony counts. These workers are being dragged through the courts with many being pressured to plead guilty to misdemeanors or face more serious felony charges.
Even now, after a settlement has been reached between the ILWU and EGT, Cowlitz County prosecutor Susan Baur, working hand in glove with the county sheriff’s department and local police, continues to escalate the anti-union vendetta. New charges, including felonies, are being manufactured over events that occurred many months ago. This vindictive prosecution is a shot at all of labor, aimed at creating a chilling effect on trade unionists who were inspired by the power ILWU members brought to bear during their fight against EGT’s union-busting in Longview.
These longshoremen and their supporters fought with courage and determination. Now we must fight for them! The Partisan Defense Committee, a non-sectarian, class-struggle legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League, has written a protest letter to the Cowlitz County prosecutor demanding that all charges be dropped immediately. We urge unions, both nationally and internationally, as well as all opponents of the bosses’ war against the unions, to do the same.
Letters demanding that all charges be dropped and fines and other penalties rescinded should be sent to:
Cowlitz County Prosecuting Attorney
Hall of Justice, Room 105
312 SW 1st Avenue
Kelso, WA 98626
Fax: (360) 414-9121
Copies should be sent to:
Governor Christine Gregoire
P.O. Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
Fax: (360) 753-4110
Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna
1125 Washington Street SE
P.O. Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504-0100
Fax: (360) 664-0228
Additional copies should be sent to:
President Dan Coffman, Executive Board and Members of ILWU Local 21
617 14th Avenue
Longview, WA 98632
Fax: (360) 423-0642
President Robert McEllrath, IEB and Coast Committeemen
1188 Franklin Street, 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94109-6800
Fax: (415) 775-1302
Partisan Defense Committee
P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station
New York, NY 10013-0099
Fax: (212) 406-2210
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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 998, 16 March 2012)
Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.