Showing posts with label class war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label class war. Show all posts

Sunday, October 27, 2019

*From The Marxist Archives-Open Up The Corporate Books!!! Expropriate The Banks!!!

Click on title to link to the Leon Trotsky Internet Archive's version of "The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International", also known as "The Transitional Program" for the full scope of the what is necessary to replace this international capitalist system that is thwarting human progress and development, among many other sins.


Here are some very pertinent sections of the Transitional Program developed in 1938 by Leon Trotsky and The Fourth International as a means of bridging the then current concerns of the day and the ultimate need for socialist solutions to solve the crisis of humankind. Sounds about right for today. For a look at all of the Transitional Program use the Trotsky Archive link and click to the year 1938. It is in that list about half way down.

“Business Secrets” and

Workers’ Control of Industry

Liberal capitalism, based upon competition and free trade, has completely receded into the past. Its successor, monopolistic capitalism not only does not mitigate the anarchy of the market, but on the contrary imparts to it a particularly convulsive character. The necessity of “controlling” economy, of placing state “guidance” over industry and of “planning” is today recognized – at least in words – by almost all current bourgeois and petty bourgeois tendencies, from fascist to Social Democratic. With the fascists, it is manly a question of “planned” plundering of the people for military purposes. The Social Democrats prepare to drain the ocean of anarchy with spoonfuls of bureaucratic “planning.” Engineers and professors write articles about “technocracy.” In their cowardly experiments in “regulation,” democratic governments run head-on into the invincible sabotage of big capital.

The actual relationship existing between the exploiters and the democratic “controllers” is best characterized by the fact that the gentlemen “reformers” stop short in pious trepidation before the threshold of the trusts and their business “secrets.” Here the principle of “non-interference” with business dominates. The accounts kept between the individual capitalist and society remain the secret of the capitalist: they are not the concern of society. The motivation offered for the principle of business “secrets” is ostensibly, as in the epoch of liberal capitalism, that of free competition.” In reality, the trusts keep no secrets from one another. The business secrets of the present epoch are part of a persistent plot of monopoly capitalism against the interests of society. Projects for limiting the autocracy of “economic royalists” will continue to be pathetic farces as long as private owners of the social means of production can hide from producers and consumers the machinations of exploitation, robbery and fraud. The abolition of “business secrets” is the first step toward actual control of industry.

Workers no less than capitalists have the right to know the “secrets” of the factory, of the trust, of the whole branch of industry, of the national economy as a whole. First and foremost, banks, heavy industry and centralized transport should be placed under an observation glass.

The immediate tasks of workers’ control should be to explain the debits and credits of society, beginning with individual business undertakings; to determine the actual share of the national income appropriated by individual capitalists and by the exploiters as a whole; to expose the behind-the-scenes deals and swindles of banks and trusts; finally, to reveal to all members of society that unconscionable squandering of human labor which is the result of capitalist anarchy and the naked pursuit of profits.

No office holder of the bourgeois state is in a position to carry out this work, no matter with how great authority one would wish to endow him. All the world was witness to the impotence of President Roosevelt and Premier Blum against the plottings of the “60” or “200 Families” of their respective nations. To break the resistance of the exploiters, the mass pressure of the proletariat is necessary. Only factory committees can bring about real control of production, calling in – as consultants but not as “technocrats” – specialists sincerely devoted to the people: accountants, statisticians, engineers, scientists, etc.


The struggle against unemployment is not to be considered without the calling for a broad and bold organization of public works. But public works can have a continuous and progressive significance for society, as for the unemployed themselves, only when they are made part of a general plan worked out to cover a considerable number of years. Within the framework of this plan, the workers would demand resumption, as public utilities, of work in private businesses closed as a result of the crisis. Workers’ control in such case: would be replaced by direct workers’ management.

The working out of even the most elementary economic plan – from the point of view of the exploited, not the exploiters – is impossible without workers’ control, that is, without the penetration of the workers’ eye into all open and concealed springs of capitalist economy. Committees representing individual business enterprises should meet at conference to choose corresponding committees of trusts, whole branches of industry, economic regions and finally, of national industry as a whole. Thus, workers’ control becomes a school for planned economy. On the basis of the experience of control, the proletariat will prepare itself for direct management of nationalized industry when the hour for that eventuality strikes.

To those capitalists, mainly of the lower and middle strata, who of their own accord sometimes offer to throw open their books to the workers – usually to demonstrate the necessity of lowering wages – the workers answer that they are not interested in the bookkeeping of individual bankrupts or semi-bankrupts but in the account ledgers of all exploiters as a whole. The workers cannot and do not wish to accommodate the level of their living conditions to the exigencies of individual capitalists, themselves victims of their own regime. The task is one of reorganizing the whole system of production and distribution on a more dignified and workable basis if the abolition of business secrets be a necessary condition to workers’ control, then control is the first step along the road to the socialist guidance of economy.

Expropriation of Separate Groups of Capitalists

The socialist program of expropriation, i.e., of political overthrow of the bourgeoisie and liquidation of its economic domination, should in no case during the present transitional period hinder us from advancing, when the occasion warrants, the demand for the expropriation of several key branches of industry vital for national existence or of the most parasitic group of the bourgeoisie.

Thus, in answer to the pathetic jeremiads of the gentlemen democrats anent the dictatorship of the “60 Families” of the United States or the “200 Families” of France, we counterpose the demand for the expropriation of those 60 or 200 feudalistic capitalist overlords.

In precisely the same way, we demand the expropriation of the corporations holding monopolies on war industries, railroads, the most important sources of raw materials, etc.

The difference between these demands and the muddleheaded reformist slogan of “nationalization” lies in the following: (1) we reject indemnification; (2) we warn the masses against demagogues of the People’s Front who, giving lip service to nationalization, remain in reality agents of capital; (3) we call upon the masses to rely only upon their own revolutionary strength; (4) we link up the question of expropriation with that of seizure of power by the workers and farmers.

The necessity of advancing the slogan of expropriation in the course of daily agitation in partial form, and not only in our propaganda in its more comprehensive aspects, is dictated by the fact that different branches of industry are on different levels of development, occupy a different place in the life of society, and pass through different stages of the class struggle. Only a general revolutionary upsurge of the proletariat can place the complete expropriation of the bourgeoisie on the order of the day. The task of transitional demands is to prepare the proletariat to solve this problem.

Expropriation of the Private Banks and
State-ization of the Credit System

Imperialism means the domination of finance capital. Side by side with the trusts and syndicates, and very frequently rising above them, the banks concentrate in their hands the actual command over the economy. In their structure the banks express in a concentrated form the entire structure of modern capital: they combine tendencies of monopoly with tendencies of anarchy. They organize the miracles of technology, giant enterprises, mighty trusts; and they also organize high prices, crises and unemployment. It is impossible to take a single serious step in the struggle against monopolistic despotism and capitalistic anarchy – which supplement one another in their work of destruction – if the commanding posts of banks are left in the hands of predatory capitalists. In order to create a unified system of investments and credits, along a rational plan corresponding to the interests of the entire people, it is necessary to merge all the banks into a single national institution. Only the expropriation of the private banks and the concentration of the entire credit system in the hands of the state will provide the latter with the necessary actual, i.e., material resources – and not merely paper and bureaucratic resources – for economic planning.

The expropriation of the banks in no case implies the expropriation of bank deposits. On the contrary, the single state bank will be able to create much more favorable conditions for the small depositors than could the private banks. In the same way, only the state bank can establish for farmers, tradesmen and small merchants conditions of favorable, that is, cheap credit. Even more important, however, is the circumstance that the entire economy – first and foremost large-scale industry and transport directed by a single financial staff, will serve the vital interests of the workers and all other toilers.

However, the state-ization of the banks will produce these favorable results only if the state power itself passes completely from the hands of the exploiters into the hands of the toilers.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

In Honor Of The 100th Anniversary Of The Founding of The Communist International-From The Archives- ***Labor's Untold Story- Remember The Heroic Passiac Textile Strike Of 1926

Click on title to link to Albert Weisbord's memoirs of the great Passiac Textile Strike of 1926. Albert Weisbord was the prime organizer (at the start) of this strike. There are many lessons to be learned about the perfidiousness of the labor bureaucracy (and the strange postion of the American Communist Party in leaving Weisbord out to dry) from this strike. About the later politics of Albert and Vera Weisbord see the James P. Cannon Internet Archives for the early 1930s. Ouch!

Every Month Is Labor History Month

This Commentary is part of a series under the following general title: Labor’s Untold Story- Reclaiming Our Labor History In Order To Fight Another Day-And Win!

As a first run through, and in some cases until I can get enough other sources in order to make a decent presentation, I will start with short entries on each topic that I will eventually go into greater detail about. Or, better yet, take my suggested topic and run with it yourself.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Centennial Of Pete Seeger’s Birthday (1919-2014)- ***Those Appalachian Hills Back Home- Alan Lomax Presents The Music Of The Eastern American Mountains

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of The Kingston Trio performing "Tom Dooley" (sanitized version).

DVD Review

Appalachian Journey, American Patchwork Series, narrated by Alan Lomax, PBS Home Video, 1990

Anyone who noted the narrator of this project, the late Alan Lomax, the musical history of the Appalachian Mountains, the music of my father and his forbears going back a long, long way, knows that that name alone stands for a deep understanding of the roots of the American songbook. He, and before and with him, his father, John, had probably recorded more roots music, and various types of roots music, than anyone that I know of, including the various Seegers. That said, this PBS production is a very good primer about the roots of the music that some people created, and carried over with them from the old countries of northern Europe, mainly the British Isles.

Brother Lomax takes us through the evolution of this music of the isolated mountain people (including a tip of the hat to Native Americans) from the 19th century migration to the West, a time of lonely nights and hard work that created a desperate need to have an outlet on that hard fought rest on festive Saturday nights. Lomax, moreover, goes in some detail about the origins, some rather saucy, of many songs that came out of local mountain experiences such as “Tom Dooley” and “John Henry” that were obligatory covers for any aspiring folk singer in the 1960s folk revival.

He also spends time and effort on making the important connections, necessary connections by the way, between the white mountain experience and the black slavery experience as those cultural gradients mixed in the 19th struggle to “tame” the wilderness, especially the trek of the railroads westward through those hard scrabble mountains. Finally, Lomax moves the story forward to the more modern, and I would argue, less primitive sound of bluegrass and modern country dancing. Included here are interviews with some good old mountain men and women. At one hour this is a very quick primer to drive your interest in this type of music forward. I might have long denied its influence on me but somewhere deep in the recesses of my genes that old mountain seems to be calling me back as I grow older.

“Tom Dooley”

Hang your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang your head and cry;
You killed poor Laurie Foster,
And you know you're bound to die.
You left her by the roadside
Where you begged to be excused;
You left her by the roadside,
Then you hid her clothes and shoes.

Hang your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang your head and cry;
You killed poor Laurie Foster,
And you know you're bound to die.

You took her on the hillside
For to make her your wife;
You took her on the hillside,
And ther you took her life.

You dug the grave four feet long
And you dug it three feet deep;
You rolled the cold clay over her
And tromped it with your feet.

Hang your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang your head and cry;
You killed poor Laurie Foster,
And you know you're bound to die.

"Trouble, oh it's trouble
A-rollin' through my breast;
As long as I'm a-livin', boys,
They ain't a-gonna let me rest.

I know they're gonna hang me,
Tomorrow I'll be dead,
Though I never even harmed a hair
On poor little Laurie's head."

Hang your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang your head and cry;
You killed poor Laurie Foster,
And you know you're bound to die.

"In this world and one more
Then reckon where I'll be;
If is wasn't for Sheriff Grayson,
I'd be in Tennesee.

You can take down my old violin
And play it all you please.
For at this time tomorrow, boys,
Iit'll be of no use to me."

Hang your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang your head and cry;
You killed poor Laurie Foster,
And you know you're bound to die.

"At this time tomorrow
Where do you reckon I'll be?
Away down yonder in the holler
Hangin' on a white oak tree.

Hang your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang your head and cry;
You killed poor Laurie Foster,
And you know you're bound to die.

"Big Bill Broonzy John Henry lyrics"

When John Henry was a little baby boy, sitting on his papa's knee
Well, he picked up his hammer and a little piece of steel, said
"Hammers gonna be the death of me, Lord, Lord" (repeat 4 times)
said to John Henry, "I'm gonna bring that steam drill around
I'm gonna bring that steam drill out on the job
I'm gonna whip that steel on down, Lord, Lord" (repeat 4 times)

John Henry told his captain, "Lord, a man ain't nothing but a man
But before I'd let your steam drill beat me down,
I'd die with a hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord" (repeat 4 times)
John Henry said to his shaker, "Shaker, why don't you sing?
Because I'm swinging thirty pounds from my hips on down,
just to listen to that cold steel ring, Lord, Lord" (repeat 4 times)
Now the captain said to John Henry, "I believe that mountain's caving in"

John Henry said right back to the captain,
"Ain't nothing but my hammer sucking wind, Lord, Lord" (repeat 4 times)
Now the man that invented the steam drill, he thought he was mighty fine
But John Henry drove fifteen feet,
the steam drill only made nine, Lord, Lord (repeat 4 times)
John Henry hammered in the mountains, his hammer was striking fire
But he worked so hard, it broke his poor, poor heart,
and he laid down his hammer and he died, Lord, Lord (repeat 4 times)

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Woody Allen Potpourri


Over the past year I have been re-watching some and watching for the first time other of Woody Allen’s extensive accomplishments in film as an actor/writer and director. While Allen’s efforts have, on occasion, as with all culturati sometimes been mixed the overall effect is that of a master of film. Below is a potpourri of recently viewed material in no particular order.

Hollywood Ending, 1994

NYC-LA Culture Wars, Part II

As I noted last year in a review of Woody Allen’s classic Annie Hall, which is among other things a defense of New York City as the epicenter of American culture such as it is, this is matter that has preoccupied him from early in his career as a director/ writer/actor/comic. Allen is the quintessential New Yorker so one knows where his sledgehammer will fall. In the current movie under review Hollywood Ending that same premise underlies his story line as he, once again, portrays on screen the trials and tribulations of trying to maintain some kind of artistic integrity in the world of Hollywood commercial film making.

The plot line centers on Allen’s character, Val Waxman, an aging has-been director given another chance by, of all people, his ex-wife and her boyfriend studio owner. In the process Woody, seemingly without defying the laws of probability here, is paralyzed by the prospects to such an extent that he has become temporarily blind. Nevertheless in the interest of comedy and his career (and their careers, as well) Val and his friend’s con their way through the filming of the remake of a 1940’s film about New York City that is to be the key to his comeback.

Along the way Allen gets his licks in on Hollywood culture, commercial film making and the funny premise that commercial films are so dumb, for the most part, that a blind man is entirely capable of making a bad film just like most other directors. An interesting film and, as always, full of autobiographical references, Allen’s trademark cerebral humor and his extensive use of sight gags. Well worth a look see.

Alice, 1992

As mentioned above I having been retrospectively over the past year running through films Woody Allen directed, wrote, acted in or produced. Interestingly they run the gamut of his intellectual and cultural interests but I must admit that I did not realize how many of his films featured his old paramour Mia Farrow. She must be the number one actress featured in his various efforts. That is the case here with Allen’s whimsical modern day take on the Alice in Wonderland saga in good old New York City (naturally).

Here Farrow is the unfulfilled wife of a stockbroker who along the way has lost her moorings and her values and is desperately seeking a solution. In that effort she runs to the wisdom of the East exemplified by Doctor Yang, the acupuncturist. Going through a series of madcap false starts and pseudo-love affairs she finally is able to right her course, leave her husband and bring up her children out of harm’s way. Damn, I want the telephone (or more correctly these days, the cell phone number) of the good Doctor Yang, pronto. A piece of fluff. Woody has had better ideas for a film in his time but not a bad performance by Farrow here.

Small Time Crooks, 2000

Everyone I hope recognizes that, if one lives long enough, that one is bound to start recycling ideas. That is the definitely the case with Woody Allen’s partial revival of his early film classic Take the Money and Run, this time with a sharper class twist. Here Roy (Allen’s character) is just as dimwitted as old Virgil of Take the Money but as an older and wiser man he knows when to quit (for a while anyway). So when Roy and his associates’ attempted bank robbery is foiled by his bugling his wife’s successful cookie shop cover operation sees them through the rough spots, again for a while. After a trip through the wilds of bourgeois New York the couple, after some disasters- personal and financial, goes back to the old tricks of their former trade. I am not altogether sure what this says about class mobility in a democratic society but Roy please do not call me for your next caper. Funny, in Allen’s maniacal, acerbic and cerebral way, in spots but not his best in this genre.

Bullets Over Broadway, 1994

Apparently, as long as it involves a New York City scenario Woody Allen is more than happy to take a run at a plot that involves that locale in some way. Here it is the Great White Way- Broadway during its heyday in the Prohibition Era 1920’s that gets his attention (Broadway was also the subject of his classic Broadway Danny Rose). What really makes this plot line very, very funny and makes the film work however is the plot twist of interspersing semi-serious production of a play with nefarious (and deadly) gangster activity.

Here a struggling Greenwich Village writer (weren’t they all and presumably still are) has a thoughtful dramatic play in search of a backer and as the story progresses a gangster ‘ghostwriter’. Presto, up comes one backer-with a problem- his ‘doll’ wants in on the play and (on the side) he needs to stay one or two steps ahead of his gangster rivals. These antics drive the play nicely as does a brilliant performance by Diane Wiest doing a fantastic send up of Gloria Swanson as the has- been actress searching for a comeback in Billy Wilder’s classic Hollywood Boulevard. This one is definitely five stars, with no hype needed. See it.


The Chinese have their years named after various animals. Apparently this year for me is the Year of Woody Allen. For the better part of the year I have been watching, and in several cases re- watching films, that the comic has acted in, produced, directed or some combination of the three. Some have been disappointing. Some, like Annie Hall, have withstood the test of time and go into the pantheon. Others, reflecting the fact that if one lives long enough, as Allen has, then one is sure to repeat themes worked in the past, sometimes with uneven results. That is the case with Celebrity. There are some very funny individual scenes that rank with Allen classics but overall we have been here before. Allen’s look at the pranks and pitfalls of celebrity in New York City (his favorite locale, and correctly so) in the mid-1990’s is the updated version of his less than funny Zelig that looked at celebrity in the Jazz Age.

Moreover, the film has an overly manic quality, particularly on the part of the frustrated male writer (surprise, surprise) and his unfulfilled and bewildered schoolteacher wife soon to be separated so that said writer can ‘find’ himself. The mannerisms (to speak nothing of a certain vague similarity of appearance) of the pair reminded me of the good old days when Woody and Mia (oops, better not mention that) held forth. Except here on speed. If you love black and white film, if you love Woody Allen and most importantly if you are new to the Allen genre then get this film. Others, veterans, can take it or leave it.

Deconstructing Harry, written and directed by Woody Allen, 1997

Okay, I will admit that finally after almost a year of watching or re-watching films that the comedic legend Woody Allen wrote, directed, played in or produced I am Woody-ed out. Moreover, there is a reason for that beyond fatigue. As I have pointed out previously in this space if one lives long enough and produces enough work then one is bound to repeat oneself. And that is what has happened to brother Allen here.

Allen’s premise has been used before as he plays the part of Harry, a writer (what else?) down with a case of writer’s block who is also having romantic problems (again, what else?) because the young woman he truly, if belatedly, loves is getting married to a lesser writer. Sound familiar? There are many individually funny moments, mainly by Allen, alone the way even if not enough to sustain the film. Naturally, as is usually the case in an Allen feature in the end things are not qualitatively more resolved than at the beginning. Well that, after all, is life.

A nice cinematic touch used here is Harry’s (Allen’s) sequencing shots to show how autobiographical most novels and short stories really are. Changing the actors in the ‘real life’ story and in the ‘made up’ stories does this well. That part also gets nicely put together at the end. No so nice here, and a bit unusual for an Allen film, is the extensive use of profanity by Allen and the rest of the cast to show their frustrations with the various antics that Harry is up to and in their own lives. Every thing is moreover just a bit too frantic, partly to justify the profanity it would seem. That may tell the tale of why I had a problem with this film, as well. If you must see a Woody Allen film you must see Annie Hall or Manhattan, if you have an off hour and one half watch this.

Friday, February 03, 2017

*From The National Jericho Movement Archives- An Important Message About Ohio 7 Class War Prisoner Tom Manning- He Must Not Die In Jail

Click on the title to link to an important message about the medical condition and harassment of class war prisoner Tom Manning, one of the two remaining Ohio 7 members still behind bars.

Markin comment:

The name Tom Manning is one that readers of this site may be familiar with as he is a recipient of a class war prisoner stipend from the Partisan Defense Committee, an organization that I support. He is one of the last two remaining Ohio 7 members behind bars. He must not die in prison!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

*From The Pages Of “Workers Vanguard”-For Class-Struggle Defense!

Click on the headline to link to the article from “Workers Vanguard” described in the title.

Markin comment:

As almost always these historical articles and polemics are purposefully helpful to clarify the issues in the struggle against world imperialism, particularly the “monster” here in America.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

*A Practical Note on Class Struggle Defense-A Personal Note

Click on the title to link to the Partisan Defense Committee Web site.


This comment originally was placed as a note on a "Defend the Evergreen State College" blog dated June 7, 2008. I think that the that note I made there about an aspect of class struggle defense can be of general use to the radical public and so have reposted it here as a separate blog.

A Lesson For The Unwary

As I have explained before this site is, among others things, committed to trying to pass on some of the lessons of the international labor movement and other struggles of the oppressed. Sometimes that takes the form a review of someone else’s struggles, now or in the past. Sometimes it takes the form of personal comment, many times on some sin of omission or commission from which the writer has ‘learned’ something. This situation with the struggling students out in Evergreen State College in Washington brings up just such a situation. Some of the students there are in deep legal trouble over some incidents that occurred last winter. The details can be found in the article above or by going to their website which I have listed.

Here is a little nugget about what not to do when writing in to the authorities in defense of fellow militants. I will leave out names of persons, places and organizations on the off-hand chance that the government may still want to make something of it. The cases of the ex-Black Panthers of the San Francisco 8 this past year graphically bring that thought to mind.

Many years ago, back in the early 1970’s, I, at the urging of some defense organization (not the Partisan Defense Committee because it was not around then) urged me to write to a Midwestern prosecutor on behalf of a well-known defendant in a criminal case. There were a range of charges alleged, some serious, some not. Moreover, I had personally worked on a few occasions with this person. However, here is the sticking point. That defendant’s politics (black nationalism mixed with anarchism) had drifted far from mine (drifting toward Marxism).

Despite those differences, as I had been committed ever since my youthful liberal days to the old labor slogan- ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ I duly sent off my letter. (I believe that I also made a donation but do not hold me to that.) Of course the letter spoke of the injustice of the charges, the implication of a frame-up and the need to free the defendant immediately. So far, so good. But then I got on my high horse and started to berate the obvious limitations of the defendant’s political perspective and that while not accusing him of being a counter-revolutionary I might have well have. Here is the kicker. At trial the prosecutor, in his own screwy way tried to make something of it to- on the basis of something I wrote – put the defendant's political views outside the realm of rational politics and therefore to validate the need to incarcerate him. The defendant eventually got off on all counts-the frame actually was on- but that is not the point.

The point though is why was I, in essence, telling an agent of the bourgeois state- a state that I, moreover, was in the process of seeing needed to be changed fundamentally- of the disputes within the working class movement. The gap between us (the defendant and I) and that state was far greater than the differences between us. A chasm. I latter mentioned this story to an old communist who is the source for this piece of wisdom that I have just imparted to you about the class divide here. He further stated that the state did not have political defendants put on trial because of their bad leftist politics but because they represented some kind of perceived threat to that state.

So when you write letters of support to the authorities in Washington, or elsewhere, just state your outrage at the injustice of the charges, your solidarity with the defendants, the call for their freedom and leave it at that. Then come back here and talk about the political shortcomings of the defendants’ political positions. See my May 1968, Student Power and the Working Class, for example.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

*Partisan Defense Committee- 23rd Holiday Appeal- Free All Class War Prisoners i

Click on title to link to the James P. Cannon Internet Archive's copy of his articel on the Scottsboro Boys from 1932, as an example of his keen understanding of the need for the international labor movement to protect its own and other oppressed segments of society. An injury to one is an injury to all!

This is a repost of the 22nd Holiday Appeal in 2007. Unfortunately this issue of freedom and support of these class war prisoners is still with us. Donate generously, if you can, to this important component of the struggle for a more just, socialist world. This is our duty to those militants in prison, it is not charity.

23 November 2007

22nd Annual Holiday Appeal

Free the Class-War Prisoners!

“The class-conscious worker accords to the class-war prisoners a place of singular honor and esteem.”

—James P. Cannon, “The Cause that Passes Through a Prison,”
Labor Defender, September 1926

For the past 22 years, the Partisan Defense Committee has been sending monthly stipends as an expression of solidarity to those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression. In doing so, we have revived the tradition initiated by the International Labor Defense (ILD) under Cannon, a founding leader of the Communist Party and the ILD’s first secretary (1925-28). This year, as in years past, the PDC calls on labor activists, fighters for black rights, radical youth and defenders of civil liberties to join us in building our annual Holiday Appeal, which raises funds for this unique program.

The Holiday Appeal benefits will focus particularly on our campaign to mobilize mass protest demanding freedom for death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia currently awaits a decision by a federal appeals court on whether to reinstitute the death sentence, keep him entombed in prison for life or grant him a new trial or other legal proceedings. For those fighting for Mumia’s freedom, there must be no illusions in capitalist “justice.” Earlier this year, the capitalist courts again turned down appeals by class-war prisoners Leonard Peltier, Ed Poindexter and Mumia’s son Jamal Hart. Build the Holiday Appeal! Free all class-war prisoners!

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 crucial juncture. This past May, oral arguments were heard before the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals—the last stage before the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision could come at any moment.

9 December 2007 marks the 26th 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. More than six years ago, Mumia’s attorneys submitted to the courts the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner, 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, like the Jena 6 or those left to die in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Workers, immigrants, minorities and all opponents of racist oppression must redouble their efforts to free Mumia now!

Leonard Peltier is an internationally revered class-war prisoner. His 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 of two marauding FBI agents in what had become a war zone at the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975 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 63-year-old Peltier is still locked away. In separate lawsuits, early this year federal courts in New York and Minnesota kept under government seal thousands of FBI documents, once again covering up the racist frame-up that has already stolen 30 years of his life.

Jamal Hart, Mumia’s son, was sentenced in 1998 to 15 1/2 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. Hart was transferred to Minersville, PA, where prison officials subjected him to repeated provocations and improperly adjusted Hart’s security level to deny him transfer to a lower level security facility; a transfer to Loretto, PA, has finally been granted. In October, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals summarily turned down Hart’s habeas corpus petition which would have freed him after more than ten years in prison.

Eight MOVE members, Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa, Eddie Africa and Phil Africa, are in their 30th 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. In 2008, the MOVE prisoners will be eligible for parole, but without massive calls for their freedom can only expect continued imprisonment.

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 in the late 1970s and ’80s against symbols of U.S. imperialism such as military and corporate offices. 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 deadly FBI COINTELPRO operation under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Poindexter and Mondo, railroaded to prison for a 1970 explosion which killed a cop, were sentenced to life and have now served more than 35 years in jail. In September, 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 his comrade and mentor, George Jackson, who was gunned down by prison guards in 1971. Despite hundreds of letters of support and no disciplinary write-ups for over 26 years, Pinell has repeatedly been denied parole, most recently in November 2006. Now in his 60s, Pinell continues to serve a life sentence at the notorious Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit in California.

Contribute now! All proceeds from the Holiday Appeals 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.

* * *

(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 903, 23 November 2007)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.

Friday, November 04, 2016

***Labor's Untold Story- Remember The Heroic Gastonia Textile Strike Of 1929

Click below to link to Weisbord Archives for information on the bloody class war Gastonia Strike of 1929. Vera Buch Weisbord was involved in that struggle so has some special insights whatever her (and husband Albert's) later political perspectives. (See James P. Cannon Internet Archives for the early 1930s on this question).

Every Month IS Labor History Month

This Commentary is part of a series under the following general title: Labor’s Untold Story- Reclaiming Our Labor History In Order To Fight Another Day-And Win!

As a first run through, and in some cases until I can get enough other sources in order to make a decent presentation, I will start with short entries on each topic that I will eventually go into greater detail about. Or, better yet, take my suggested topic and run with it yourself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

***Labor's Untold Story-Clarence Darrow- Labor's Legal Advocate

Click on title to link to legal site for information about this important legal advocate for labor in the early part of the 20th century, most famously although not directly, in the Scopes trial, the famous evolution teaching case in Tennessee in the 1920s.

Every Month Is Labor History Month

This Commentary is part of a series under the following general title: Labor’s Untold Story- Reclaiming Our Labor History In Order To Fight Another Day-And Win!

As a first run through, and in some cases until I can get enough other sources in order to make a decent presentation, I will start with short entries on each topic that I will eventually go into greater detail about. Or, better yet, take my suggested topic and run with it yourself.

Monday, September 19, 2016

*Labor's Untold Story- From The Other Side Of The Class War- The Black Legion

Class on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for the notorious anti-labor Black Legion. As long as they is a capitalist class there will be both public and private agents who do the class enemy's bidding. Here is one from the past but there are plenty of professional anti-labor outfits out there today.

Every Month Is Labor History Month

This Commentary is part of a series under the following general title: Labor’s Untold Story- Reclaiming Our Labor History In Order To Fight Another Day-And Win!

As a first run through, and in some cases until I can get enough other sources in order to make a decent presentation, I will start with short entries on each topic that I will eventually go into greater detail about. Or, better yet, take my suggested topic and run with it yourself.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

On The 50th Anniversary Of Publication Of Michael Harrington's "The Other America"- A Personal Note On The Class Struggle

Reposted from the American Left History blog

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

*Labor's Untold Story- A Personal View Of The Class Wars In The Kentucky Hills And Hollows-At One Remove

Click on title to link to a YouTube film clip of Iris Dement performing Pretty Saro in the film Songcatcher. This song is presented just an example of her singing style as I could not find a film clip of her doing These Hills which, as will be explained below, was the song I was thinking of as background for what I am writing about in today's commentary. (I have placed the lyrics to These Hills below but the written words hardly do justice to her performance and mood of the song.)

As I end, for this year, the over month long series entitled Labor's Untold Story in celebration of our common labor struggles I am in something of a reflective and pensive mood. Well you know that every once in a while that happens even to the most hardened politico, right? I have heard that even President Obama had such a moment about four years ago although it literally was just one moment, sixty-six seconds according to one inside source, an anonymous source because he, or she, is not authorized to give such classified information in the interest of national security, the bourgeoisie’s national security to be exact. Rumor also has it that leading Republican presidential contender, former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, thought about having a pensive moment for a moment and then changed his mind when some Tea Party-ers declared that pensive moments were against god’s will. I, on the other hand, as an intrepid communist propagandist can freely admit to such moments in politics, and as here reflecting on my roots.

What has gotten me into this reflective state is thinking about my father's background of coming from the hard-scrabble hills of Kentucky. That, my friends, means coal country, or it did in his time. The names Hazard, near Harlan County (the next county over to be exact) but, more appropriately "bloody Harlan" have, I hope, echoed across this series as a symbol for the hard life of many generations of workers and hard-scrabble tenant farmers who came out of those hills-some place. Some place in Appalachia, that is.

I have mentioned my father and his trials and tribulations, previously, when I did a series on the evolution of my youthful political trajectory from liberalism to communism. His hard-bitten, no breaks, no luck life was not a direct influence on that evolution, that is for sure. He was a strong anti-communist, if only of the reflexive kind coming out of that so-called “greatest generation” who survived the Great Depression of the 1930s and then, rifle over one shoulder, fought World War II. But something in the genes and in his character left an imprint. Let me sum up his life's experience this way- the tidbit that he imparted to me early on in life I will always remember and is probably why I am still struggling for our communist future to this day.

My father was certainly no stranger to hard times as a youth thrown into the coal mines early (or, as it turned out, in his work travails as an adult). My father, perhaps like yours, was a child of the Great Depression of the 1930's, scratching and clawing his way from pillar to post and entered into his manhood as a Marine in combat in World War II. Hard combat in the Pacific, and as anyone who has studied the period will know, where no quarter was given, or taken. Those two facts are important. Why? As a very young kid I asked him why he became a soldier, excuse me, a Marine. Well, the short answer was this- between the two alternatives, starve or fight, he was glad, no more than glad he was ecstatic, to quickly sign up at the Marine recruiting station in order to get out of the hills of Kentucky. And he, moreover, whatever happened later, never looked back.

That, my friends, is why I entitled part of the headline to today's entry- "at one remove". Those hills are in my blood, no question, no question now as much as I might have resisted such feelings before, but also the notion that those terrible choices had to be made by an honest working-class stiff. And that is why today I am in this mood thinking about how desperately we need to get down that socialist road. Pronto. And why I hear Iris Dement's voice singing of her own longings in These Hills, my father’s hills, as I write this, down deep in my own being.
I have put together and reposted separately all the related entries around this many generational struggle to get away from the "coal"

"These Hills"-Iris Dement

Far away I've traveled,
To stand once more alone.
And hear my memories echo,
Through these hills that I call home.

As a child I roamed this valley.
I watched the seasons come and go.
I spent many hours dreaming,
On these hills that I call home.

The wind is rushing through the valley,
And I don't feel so all alone,
When I see the dandelions blowing,
Across the hills that I call home.

Instrumental Break.

Like the flowers I am fading,
Into my setting sun.
Brother and sister passed before me:
Mama and Daddy, they've long since gone.

The wind is rushing through the valley,
And I don't feel so all alone,
When I see the dandelions blowing,
Across the hills that I call home.

These are the hills that I call home.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

From The Partisan Defense Committee-The 26th Holiday Appeal In Support Of Class-War Prisoners

Click on the headline to link to the Partisan Defense Committee website.

Reposted from the American Left History blog, dated December 1, 2010.

Markin comment:

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 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.
Support The PDC Holiday Appeal-Class- Struggle Defense Work In The U.S. - Building on the Heritage of the International Labor Defense

Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of Women and Revolution, Winter-Spring, 1996, that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of Women and Revolution during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.
Class- Struggle Defense Work In The U.S. - Building on the Heritage of the International Labor Defense

We print below an edited speech by Deborah Mackson, executive director of the Partisan Defense Committee, prepared for April 1995 regional educationals in New York, Chicago and Oakland as part of a series of meetings and rallies sponsored by the PDC to mobilize support for Mum/a Abu-Jamal and the fight against the racist death penalty.

Mumia Abu-Jamal describes his current conditions of incarceration on death row at the State Correctional Institution at Greene County, Pennsylvania as "high-tech hell." When Governor Tom Ridge assaults all of the working people and minorities of this country by initiating the first execution of a political prisoner in America since the Rosenbergs, he must hear a resounding "No!" from coast to coast. Because Jamal is an articulate voice for the oppressed, this racist and rotting capitalist state wants to silence him forever. He is indeed dangerous. He is indeed a symbol. He is, indeed, innocent. Hear his powerful words, and you will begin to understand the hatred and fear which inspires the vendetta against this courageous fighter:

"Over many long years, over mountains of fears, through rivers of repression, from the depths of the valley of the shadow of death, I survive to greet you, in the continuing spirit of rebellion.... As America's ruling classes rush backwards into a new Dark Age, the weight of repression comes easier with each passing hour. But as repression increases, so too must resistance.... Like our forefathers, our fore-mothers, our kith and kin, we must fight for every inch of ground gained. The repressive wave sweeping this country will not stop by good wishes, but only by a counterwave of committed people firm in their focus."

We of the Partisan Defense Committee, the Spartacist League and the Labor Black Leagues are committed to a campaign to free this former Black Panther, award-winning journalist and supporter of the controversial MOVE organization who was framed for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia policeman. Our aim is to effect an international campaign of protest and publicity like that which ultimately saved the nine Scottsboro Boys, framed for rape in Alabama in 1931, from the electric chair. We must mobilize the working class and all the oppressed in the fight to free this class-war prisoner framed by the government's murderous vendetta.

As Marxists, we are opposed to the death penalty on principle. We say that this state does not have the right to decide who lives and who dies. Capital punishment is part of the vast arsenal of terror at the hands of this state, which exists to defend the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. America's courts are an instrument of the bourgeoisie's war on the working people and the poor; they are neither neutral nor by any stretch of the imagination "color blind."

To us, the defense of America's class-war prisoners— whatever their individual political views may be—is a responsibility of the revolutionary vanguard party which must champion all causes in the interest of the proletariat. The Partisan Defense Committee was initiated by the Spartacist League in 1974 in the tradition of the working-class defense policies of the International Labor Defense, under its founder and first secretary from 1925 to 1928, James P. Cannon. Today, I want to talk to you about how that tradition was built in this country by the best militants of the past 100 years—the leaders of class-struggle organizations like the pre-World War I Industrial Workers of the World, the early Socialist and Communist parties and the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party.

The Roots of Black Oppression

To forge a future, one has to understand the past. The modern American death penalty is the barbaric inheritance of a barbaric system of production: chattel slavery. Like the capitalists who hold state power today, the slavocracy used the instruments of their power, special bodies of armed men and the "justice" system— the laws, courts and prisons—to control people for profit. Directly descendant from the slavocracy's tradition of property in black people is the death penalty. A trail through history illustrates this truth. The "slave codes" codified a series of offenses for which slaves could be killed but for which whites would receive a lesser sentence. In Virginia, the death penalty was mandatory for both slaves and free blacks for any crime for which a white could be imprisoned for three years or more. In Georgia, a black man convicted of raping a white woman faced the death penalty; a white man got two years for the same crime, and punishment was "discretionary" if the victim was black. Slaves could not own property, bear arms, assemble or testify against whites in courts of law. Marriage between slaves was not recognized; families were sold apart; it was illegal to teach a slave to read and write. Slaves were not second- or third-class citizens—they were not human, but legally "personal, movable property," chattel.

William Styron in The Confessions of Nat Turner has the fictional character T.R. Gray explain the slaveowners' rationale to Turner:

"The point is that you are animate chattel and animate chattel is capable of craft and connivery and wily stealth. You ain't a wagon, Reverend, but chattel that possesses moral choice and spiritual volition. Remember that well. Because that's how come the law provides that animate chattel like you can be tried for a felony, and that's how come you're goin' to be tried next Sattidy. "He paused, then said softly without emotion: 'And hung by the neck until dead'."

While the slave codes were a Southern institution, legal and extralegal terror were never exclusive to the South. As early as 1793, fugitive slave laws were on the federal books. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law was passed in response to the growing abolitionist influence which had inspired several Northern states to pass "personal liberty laws," giving some protection to slaves who had successfully negotiated the Underground Railroad. The 1850 law, seeking to protect the private property of slaveholders, put the burden of proof on captured blacks, but gave them no legal power to prove their freedom—no right to habeas corpus, no right to a jury trial, no right even to testify on their own behalf.

Many blacks were caught in the clutches of this infamous law, which had no bounds. For example, a man in southern Indiana was arrested and returned to an owner’ who claimed he had run away 79 years before. The law knew no pretense. A magistrate's fee doubled if he judged an unfortunate black before the bench a runaway slave instead of a tree man. And fugitives were pursued with vigor. In Battle Cry of Freedom, historian James McPherson recounts the story of Anthony Burns, a slave who stowed away from Virginia to Boston in 1854. The feds spent the equivalent of $2.3 million in current dollars to return him to his "owner." That is approximately equal to what an average death penalty case costs today.

Any hope that "blind justice" could be sought from the U.S. Supreme Court was dashed with the 1856 Dred Scott decision. Chief Justice Taney wrote that at the time the Constitution was adopted, Negroes "had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior far inferior, that they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect."

While slavery itself was overthrown in the Civil War and Reconstruction, the needs of the American capitalists for compulsory agricultural labor in the South remained. A new, semi-capitalistic mode of agriculture developed, in which the semi-slave condition of the freed blacks was made permanent by the re-establishment of the social relations of slavery: color discrimination buttressed by segregation and race prejudice.

After the Civil War the slave codes became the "black codes," a separate set of rules defining crime and punishment for blacks and limiting their civil rights. They were enforced by the extralegal terror of the Ku Klux Klan; in the last two decades of the 19th century, lynching vastly outnumbered legal executions. As W.E.B. Du Bois said of lynching:

"It is not simply the Klu Klux Klan; it is not simply weak officials; it is not simply inadequate, unenforced law. It is deeper, far deeper than all this: it is the in-grained spirit of mob and murder, the despising of women and the capitalization of children born of 400 years of Negro slavery and 4,000 years of government for private profit."

The promise of Radical Reconstruction, equality, could only be fulfilled by attacking the problem at its very root: private property in the means of production. Neither Northern capitalists nor Southern planters could abide that revolution, so they made a deal, the Compromise of 1877, in their common interest. That's why we call on American workers, black and white, to finish the Civil War—to complete, through socialist revolution, the unfinished tasks of the Second American Revolution!

In the wake of the Compromise of 1877, the U.S. Supreme Court began to dismantle the Civil Rights Acts of the Reconstruction period. One landmark decision was Plessey v. Ferguson in 1896, which permitted "separate but equal" treatment of black and white in public facilities. But separate is never equal. This was simply the legal cover for the transformation of the "black codes" into "Jim Crow"—the "grandfather clause," poll tax, literacy test, all designed to deny blacks the vote, and the institution of separate facilities from schools to cemeteries. This legal and practical segregation, instituted in the South and transported North, was a tool to divide and rule.

America's Racist Death Penalty

The death penalty was applied at will until 1972. From 1930 to 1967 the U.S. averaged 100 or more executions per year. In 1972, following a decade of civil rights protests, the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was "cruel and unusual punishment" because of its arbitrary and capricious application. But the hiatus lasted only four years.

In 1976-the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty and has been expanding it ever since. In 1986 the court ruled it unconstitutional to execute the insane, but gave no criteria for defining insanity; in 1988 it approved the execution of 16-year-olds; in 1989 it ruled for the execution of retarded persons. Since 1976, 276 people have been executed in this country. Between January and April of 1995, 17 were killed. And innocence is no barrier, as the Supreme Court recently decreed in the case of Jesse Dewayne Jacobs, executed in Texas in January 1995 after the prosecution submitted that he had not committed the crime for which he had been sentenced. The Supreme Court said it didn't matter, he'd had a "fair trial." What an abomination!

Perhaps the most telling case in recent history was the 1987 McCleskey decision. The evidence submitted to the courts illustrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that racism ruled the application of the death penalty. Overall, a black person convicted of killing a white person is 22 times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the victim is black. When the McCleskey case went to court, liberals across the country hoped for a Brown v. Board of Education decision in regard to the death penalty. The evidence of racial bias was clear and overwhelming. But while the Supreme Court accepted the accuracy of the evidence, it said it doesn't matter. The court showed the real intention of the death penalty when it stated that McCleskey's claim "throws into serious question the principles that underlie our entire criminal justice system" and "the validity of capital punishment in our multi-racial society." Or as a Southern planter wrote in defense of the slave codes, "We have to rely more and more on the power of fear.... We are determined to continue masters" (quoted in Kenneth Stampp, The Peculiar Institution).

Let's take a look for a moment at "our multi-racial society." The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world: 344 per 100,000. It is one of the two "advanced" industrial countries left in the world which employs capital punishment. As of January 1995, 2,976 men, women and children occupied America's death rows; 48 are women, 37 are juveniles. According to the latest census, blacks make up 12 percent of the population, yet 51 percent of the people awaiting execution are minorities and 40 percent are black.

Eighty-four percent of all capital cases involve white victims even though 50 percent of murder victims in America are black. Of a total of 75 people executed for interracial murders, three involved a black victim and a white defendant, 72 involved a white victim and a black defendant. The death penalty is truly an impulse to genocide against the black population for whom the ruling class no longer sees any need in its profit-grabbing calculations.

Understanding this and understanding the broader importance of the black question in America, we take up Jamal's case as a concrete task in our struggle for black freedom and for proletarian revolution in the interests of the liberation of all of humanity.

Early History of Class-Struggle Defense

From the beginning of the communist movement, a commitment to those persecuted by the ruling classes, whether "on the inside" or out, has been recognized as an integral part of the class struggle. Marx and Engels spent years defending and supporting the refugees of-the Paris Commune.

As Trotskyists, we feel this responsibility keenly because we inherited some of the finest principles for class-struggle defense from James R Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism. The traditions which inspired the International Labor Defense (ILD) were forged in hard class struggle, dating back to the rise of the labor movement after the Civil War. One of the first acts of the Republican government following the Compromise of 1877 was to pull its troops from the South and send them to quell the railway strikes that had broken out throughout the Northern states. The federal strikebreakers tipped the scales in the hard-fought battles of the time, many of which escalated into general strikes, and the workers were driven back in defeat. But united struggle against the bosses had been launched, and less than a decade later the workers movement had taken up the fight for an eight-hour day.

In the course of this struggle, workers in Chicago amassed at Haymarket Square in early May of 1886. The protest was just winding down when a bomb went off, likely planted by a provocateur. The cops opened fire on the workers, killing one and wounding many. The government’s response was to frame up eight workers, who were sympathetic to anarchist views, on charges of murder. They were tried and convicted, not for the bombing but for their agitation against the employers. Four were hanged, one committed suicide, three were finally pardoned in 1891.

The period from the turn of the century to America's entry into World War I was one of intense social struggle; militant strikes were more numerous than at any time since. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW—the Wobblies) led union organizing drives, anti-lynching campaigns and a free speech movement. The level of struggle meant more frequent arrests, which gave rise to the need for defense of the class and individuals. The left and most labor currents and organizations rallied to the defense of victims of the class war. Non-sectarian defense was the rule of the day. The Wobbly slogan, "an injury to one is an injury to all," was taken to heart by the vast majority of the workers.

This was Cannon's training ground. One of his heroes was Big Bill Haywood, who conceived the ILD with Cannon in Moscow in 1925. As Cannon said, the history of the ILD is "the story of the projection of Bill Haywood's influence—through me and my associates—into the movement from which he was exiled, an influence for simple honesty and good will and genuine non-partisan solidarity toward all the prisoners of the class war in America."

Big Bill Haywood came from the Western Federation of Miners, one of the most combative unions this country has ever produced. The preamble to their constitution was a series of six points, beginning, "We hold that there is a class struggle in society and that this struggle is caused by economic conditions." It goes on to note, "We hold that the class struggle will continue until the producer is recognized as the sole master of his product," and it asserts that the working class and it alone can and must achieve its own emancipation. It ends, "we, the wage slaves...have associated in the Western Federation of Miners."

Not all labor organizations of the time had this class-struggle perspective. Contrast the tract of Samuel Rompers' American Federation of Labor (AFL), "Labor's Bill of Grievances," which he sent to the president and Congress in 1908:

"We present these grievances to your attention because we have long, patiently and in vain waited for redress.

There is not any matter of which we have complained but for which we nave in an honorable and lawful manner submitted remedies. The remedies for these grievances proposed by labor are in line with fundamental law, and with progress and development made necessary by changed industrial conditions."

The IWW, whose constitution began, "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common," was founded in 1905. Haywood was an initiator and one of its most aggressive and influential organizers. As a result of that and his open socialist beliefs, in 1906 he, along with George Pettibone and Charles Moyer, were arrested for the bombing murder of ex-governor Frank Steunenberg of Idaho (the nemesis of the combative Coeur d'Alene miners). The three were kidnapped from Colorado, put on a military train and taken to Idaho.

The Western Federation of Miners and the IWW launched a tremendous defense movement for the three during the 18 months they were waiting to be tried for their lives. Everyone from the anarchists to the AFL participated. Demonstrations of 50,000 and more were organized all across the country. It was this case that brought James Cannon to political consciousness.

The case was important internationally, too. While they were in jail, Maxim Gorky came to New York and sent a telegram to the three with greetings from the Russian workers. Haywood wired back that their imprisonment was an expression of the class struggle which was the same in America as in Russia and in all other capitalist countries.

On a less friendly note, Teddy Roosevelt, then president of America, publicly declared the three "undesirable citizens." Haywood responded that the laws of the country held they were innocent until proven guilty and that a man in Roosevelt's position should be the last to judge them until the case was decided in court.

The Socialist Party (founded in 1901) also rallied to the defense. While in jail, Haywood was nominated as the party's candidate for governor of Colorado and got 16,000 votes. The leader of the SP, Eugene Debs, wrote his famous "Arouse, Ye Slaves" for the SP's Appeal to Reason:

"If they attempt to murder Moyer, Haywood and their brothers, a million revolutionists, at least, will meet them with guns.... Let them dare to execute their devilish plot and every state in this Union will resound with the tramp of revolution....

"Get ready, comrades, for action!... A special revolutionary convention of the proletariat...would be in order, and, if extreme measures are required, a general strike could be ordered and industry paralyzed as a preliminary to a general uprising."

Haywood's trial began in May of 1907. It was Clarence Darrow for the defense and the infamous Senator William E. Borah for the frame-up (prosecution). That this was a political trial was clear to everybody. The prosecution, for example, introduced into evidence issues of the anarchist journal Alarm from 1886, when Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons was its editor. Haywood thought that Dar-row's summary to the jury in his case was the best effort Darrow ever made in the courtroom. But Haywood also got a bit exasperated with his lawyer. In his autobiography, he tells the story of Darrow coming to jail depressed and worried. The defendants would always try to get him to lighten up. Finally Pettibone got tired of this and told Darrow they knew it would be really hard on him to lose this great case with all its national and international attention, but, hey! he said, "You know it's us fellows that have to be hanged!"

Every day of the trial the defense committee packed the courtroom with what Haywood called "a labor jury of Socialists and union men." This is a practice we proudly follow today. On the stand, Haywood told the story of the Western Federation of Miners and its battles against the bosses, putting them on trial. He refused to be intimidated by Senator Borah. When Borah asked whether Haywood had said that Governor Steunenberg should be exterminated, Haywood replied that to the best of his remembrance, he said he should be "eliminated."

On June 28 Haywood was acquitted. Soon thereafter, so were his comrades. At a Chicago rally organized to greet him upon his release, he told the crowd of 200,000, "We owe our lives to your solidarity." Haywood knew that innocence was not enough. It is that kind of solidarity we are seeking to mobilize today for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The Labor Movement and World War I

Haywood was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party in 1908, during its most left-wing period. In 1910, he was one of the party's delegates to the Socialist Congress of the Second International in Copenhagen. Shortly after, the SP moved to the right, and in 1912 (the year Debs polled nearly a million votes in his campaign for president) a number of leftists, including the young Jim Cannon, left the Socialist Party. A year later, when Haywood was purged from the executive board, there was another mass exodus.

The IWW, in which Haywood and Cannon remained active, expanded the scope of its activities. This was the period of the free speech movement and anti-lynching ' campaigns. One Wobbly pamphlet, "Justice for the Negro: How He Can Get It," discusses the question of integrated struggle and how to stop lynchings:

"The workers of every race and nationality must join in one common group against their one common enemy—the employers—so as to be "able to defend themselves and one another. Protection for the working class lies in complete solidarity of the workers, without regard to race, creed, sex or color. 'One Enemy—One Union!' must be their watchword."

They almost got it right: as syndicalists, they didn't understand the need for a vanguard party to fight for a revolutionary program.

With the beginning of World War I and preparations for U.S. involvement, the government declared political war on the IWW and the left. Thousands of Wobblies were imprisoned under "criminal syndicalism" laws—100 in San Quentin and Folsom alone. In response, the IWW adopted the slogan, "Fill the jails." It was a misguided tactic, but unlike many so-called socialists today, the Wobbliest had a principled position where it counted: they'd go to jail before they'd cross a picket line.

1917 was the year of the Russian Revolution. A month after that world-historic event, Haywood was back on trial in Chicago with some 18 other Wobblies. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in Leaven worth prison. In 1919 he was released on bail pending appeal and devoted his time to the IWW's General Defense Committee, launching a campaign to raise bail money for those in prison. When the Red Scare and the Palmer Raids began, Haywood learned that he was a primary target. So, as his appeal went to the Supreme Court, he sailed for the Soviet Union. A student of history, he had no illusions in "blind justice."

Cannon was also heavily influenced by the case of California labor leaders Tom Mooney and Warren Billings. In 1916, as America was preparing to go to war, Mooney and Billings were framed up for a bombing at a Preparedness Day Parade in San Francisco. The Preparedness Movement was a bourgeois movement of "open shop" chamber of commerce, right-wing vigilante groups, who were very serious about getting the U.S. into World War I. They went into Mexico to fight Pancho Villa as practice. The Preparedness Movement was opposed by labor, and in fact two days before the bombing there had been a 5,000-strong labor demonstration in San Francisco.

Mooney and Billings were convicted. Mooney was sentenced to hang, Billings got a life sentence. At first, their case was taken up only by the anarchists. The official AFL labor movement took a hands-off position. But when it became clear that they had been framed with perjured testimony, a "Mooney movement" swept the country.

The Mooney case had a big impact on Russian immigrant workers, among others. Thus the Mooney case was carried back to Russia, and in April of 1917 the Russian anarchists led a Mooney defense demonstration in Petrograd at the American consulate. Worried about Russia pulling out of World War I at that point, Woodrow Wilson personally interceded on behalf of Mooney and Billings. It didn't get them out of jail, but the effect of international pressure was not lost on Cannon.

In the U.S., the cops broke up Mooney defense meetings and arrested those present. The class-struggle nature of the defense movement, involving such actions as one-day strikes, was a felt threat to the ruling class, especially in the face of a war. In a conscious effort to dissipate this movement, the state commuted Mooney's death sentence to life in prison. In combination with the domestic repression following the war, this took the life out of the Mooney movement. Mooney and Billings stayed in prison for 22 years. They were released in 1939, and Mooney spent two and a half of the next three years in the hospital and then-died.

In his eulogy "Good-by Tom Mooney!" Cannon wrote:

"They imprisoned Mooney—as they imprisoned Debs and Haywood and hundreds of others—in order to clear the road of militant labor opposition to the First World War, and they kept him in prison for revenge and for a warning to others."

As World War II began, Cannon would find himself in the same position.

The Tradition of International Labor Defense

The parties of the Second International backed their own ruling classes in World War I, and the Bolsheviks fought for a new international party committed to the Marxist movement's call, "Workers of the World Unite!" In 1919, the leaders of the Russian Revolution founded the Third International, the Comintern, to build revolutionary parties which could take up the struggle against capitalist rule. 1919 was also a year of massive strike activity in the U.S. This wave of class struggle swelled the ranks of the Socialist Party, which then split in September. The most left-wing workers regrouped, giving birth to the American Communist movement, and Cannon was among them.

America in the 1920s was not a nice place to be. Warren Harding was elected in a landslide victory on the slogan of "Return to Normalcy." And "normal" was racist and repressive. His attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, launched a war on the left inspired by fear of the Russian Revolution, which resulted in massive deportations of leftists and jailing of American radicals. The young Communist Party went underground. 1920 saw more lynchings and anti-black pogroms than any time in recent memory. The Klan grew like wildfire, and the government passed anti-immigration legislation that would give Newt Gingrich and Pete Wilson wet dreams.

When it was clear that the IWW was for all practical purposes broken, many of its jailed members, including Eugene Debs, were pardoned. The Communists, however, remained in jail. The union movement took it on the chops as well, and by the end of the 1920s only 13 percent of the workforce of this country was unionized.

The 1921 Third Congress of the Comintern was held under the watchword "To the Masses." In the U.S., the newly formed party had been underground and could hardly make a turn to the masses. At the Comintern's urging, the Workers (Communist) Party emerged in December of 1921 with Cannon as its first chairman and main public spokesman.

By the time of the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in 1922, the tactic of the united front had been defined; the Fourth Congress detailed its application. The need for the united front grew out of the post-World War I ebbing of the revolutionary tide following the Russian Revolution. The offensive by the capitalists against the proletariat and its parties was forcing even the reformist-led organizations into partial and defensive struggles to save their very lives.

The slogan "march separately, strike together" encapsulated the two aims of the united-front tactic: class unity and the political fight for a communist program. The Comintern sought both to achieve the maximum unity of the working masses in their defensive struggles and to expose in action the hesitancy of the leadership of the reformist organizations of the Second International to act in the interests of the proletariat and the inability of its program to win against the ruling class.

The united front is a tactic we use today. Our call for labor/black mobilizations to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and abolish the racist death penalty has brought together many different organizations and individuals to save Jamal's life. At these rallies and demonstrations, we
have insisted on the right to argue for our program to put an end to racist injustice and capitalist exploitation through socialist revolution.

In line with the policies hashed out at the Third and Fourth Congresses, the Communist International founded an international defense organization, the International Red Aid. These events had a substantial effect on the young American party, and one of the direct results was the foundation in 1925 of the International Labor Defense (ILD).

Cannon's goal was to make the ILD the defense arm of the labor movement. Cannon wrote to Debs on the occasion of his endorsement of the ILD:

"The main problem as I see it is to construct the ILD on the broadest possible basis. To conduct the work in a non-partisan and non-sectarian manner and finally establish the impression by our deeds that the ILD is the defender of every worker persecuted for his activities in the class struggle, without any exceptions and without regard to his affiliations."

From 1925 to 1928, the ILD was pretty successful in achieving that goal. It established principles to which we adhere today:

• United-front defense: The ILD campaigns were organized to allow for the broadest possible participation.

• Class-struggle defense: The ILD sought to mobilize the working class in protest on a national and international scale, relying on the class movement of the workers and placing no faith in the justice of the capitalist courts, while using every legal avenue open to them.

• Non-sectarian defense: When it was founded, the ILD immediately adopted 106 prisoners, instituting the practice of financially assisting these prisoners and their families. Many had been jailed as a result of the "criminal syndicalism" laws; some were Wobblies, some were anarchists, some were strike leaders. Not one was a member of the Communist Party. The ILD launched the first Holiday Appeal. Of course, the ILD also vigorously defended its own, understanding the vital importance of the legal rights of the Communist Party to exist and organize.

Social Defense and Union Struggle

The ILD's most well-known case was the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti. The frame-up for murder and robbery of these two immigrant anarchist workers, who were sent to their deaths by the state of Massachusetts in 1927, grew directly out of the "red scare" of the early '20s. The ILD applied with alacrity the main lines of its program: unity of all working-class forces and reliance on the class movement of the workers. Thousands of workers rallied to their cause, and unions around the country contributed to a defense fund set up by Italian workers in the Boston area. But the level of class struggle is key to the outcome of defense cases, and the ILD's exemplary campaign proved insufficient to save the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti.

As the case drew to a close, one of the feints used by the state was to start rumors that Sacco and Vanzetti's death penalty sentence would be commuted to life without parole. This was designed to dissipate the Sacco and Vanzetti movement and prepare their execution. Cannon rang the alarm bells from the pages of the Labor Defender, rallying ILD supporters to mass demonstrations and warning them of the devious and two-faced nature of the bourgeoisie. Cannon had not forgotten the demobilization of the Mooney movement after his sentence had been commuted nor the living death that Mooney and Billings were enduring in their 22 years of internment.

This has significance for us today as we fight against the threatened execution of Jamal. Life in prison is hell. Think about the "life" of Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), another former Panther, jailed for a quarter of a century for a crime the state knows he did not commit. While some call upon Pennsylvania governor Ridge to convert Jamal's sentence to life without parole, we demand the freedom of both these innocent men.

The ILD also worked in defense of the class as a whole. In 1926, about 16,000 textile workers hit the bricks in Passaic, New Jersey. Their strike was eventually defeated, but it drew sharp lessons on the role of the state and demonstrated for Cannon the absolute necessity for a permanent, organized and always ready non-partisan labor defense organization. Cannon wrote in the Labor Defender:

"Our I.L.D. is on the job at Passaic. Not a single striker went into court without our lawyer to defend him. There was not a single conviction that was not appealed. Nobody had to remain in jail more than a few days for lack of bail.... A great wave of protest spread thru the labor movement and even the most conservative labor leaders were compelled to give expression to it."

In 1928, the Trotskyist Left Opposition (including Cannon) was expelled from the Communist Party. The ILD remained under the control of the Communist Party and thus became subject to the zigzags of Stalinist policies throughout the 1930s, including the perversion of the united front from a tactic for class unity into an instrument for class collaboration and counterrevolution.

In 1929, Stalin declared the "Third Period," an ultraleft shift, the main tactic of which was to smash the Social Democratic and other leftist parties by creating what the Stalinists called "united fronts from below." The Comintern charged the reformists with "social fascism"; the real fascists were to be dealt with secondarily. In Germany, this policy contributed to Adolph Hitler's seizure of power— there was no united fight against fascism by the workers in the mass Communist and Social Democratic parties. This policy had an effect on the U.S. party and its defense work.

Legal Lynching in the American South

One result of the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Depression was that 200,000 people made the rails their home as they moved from place to place looking for work. On 25 March 1931, nine black youths, ranging in age from 13 to 20, were riding the Memphis to Chattanooga freight train. Two young white women, fearful of being jailed for hoboing when the train was stopped after reports that there had been a fight with some white boys, accused the blacks of rape. Among the nine were Olen Montgomery—blind in one eye and with 10 percent vision in the other—headed for Memphis hoping to earn enough money to buy a pair of glasses; Willie Roberson, debilitated by years-long untreated syphilis and gonorrhea—which is important if you're going to be talking about a rape case; and Eugene Williams and Roy Wright, both 13 years old.

The group were nearly lynched on the spot. The trial began in Scottsboro, Alabama on April 6. Four days later, despite medical evidence that no rape had occurred—not to mention gross violations of due process—eight were sentenced to death and one of the 13-year-olds to life in prison. The Communist Party issued a statement condemning the trial as a "legal" lynching. That night, the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys began.

Freedom was a long time coming. A series of trials and appeals all went badly for the defendants. In 1933, one of the alleged victims, Ruby Bates, recanted her testimony, but it wasn't until 1937 that four of the defendants were freed. Three more were paroled in the 1940s, and in 1948 Haywood Patterson escaped from Angola prison to Michigan, where the governor refused to extradite him. The last, Andy Wright, who had had his 1944 parole revoked, was finally released in 1950. The nine had spent 104 years in jail for a "crime" that never happened.

The ILD made the word "Scottsboro" synonymous, nationally and internationally, with Southern racism, repression and injustice. Their campaign was responsible for saving the Scottsboro Boys from the electric chair. As Haywood Patterson's father wrote in a letter to his son, "You will burn sure if you don't let them preachers alone and trust in the International Labor Defense to handle the case."

The CP's publicity was massive and moving. They organized demonstrations in Harlem and across the country, appealing to the masses to put no confidence in the capitalist courts and to see the struggle for the freedom of these youths as part of the larger class struggle. Young Communists in Dresden, Germany marched on the American consulate, and, when officials refused to accept their petition, hurled bottles through windows. Inside each was the note: "Down with American murder and Imperialism. For the brotherhood of black and white young proletarians. An end to the bloody lynching of our Negro co-workers."

In the South, the defense effort faced not only the racist system but the homegrown fascists of the Ku Klux Klan as well, which launched a campaign under the slogan "The Klan Rides Again to Stamp Out Communism."

The ILD's success in rallying the masses to the defense of the Scottsboro Boys happened despite their sectarian "Third Period" tactics. The ILD denounced the NAACP, the ACLU and most of the trade-union movement as "social fascists" and threw the "Trotskyite" likes of Jim Cannon out of Scottsboro defense meetings. But fascism was on the rise in Europe, and, seeking now to make as many allies as he could, in 1935 Stalin' declared the "Third Period" at an end. A Comintern resolution urged the Communist parties to form "popular fronts" with any and all for progressive ends. In the U.S. this meant supporting Roosevelt and abandoning the struggle to link the defense of black people with the fight against the capitalist system. You can imagine the surprise of the NAACP, who were now greeted warmly by the ILD as "comrades"! This comradeship did not extend to the Trotskyists. The Scottsboro Defense Committee was formed, and a lot of the life went out of the movement as the case dragged on.

Cannon and his party, the Communist League of America, supported the efforts of the ILD to free the Scottsboro Boys. The Trotskyists insisted on the importance of an integrated movement to fight in their defense. Cannon pointed out that it was wrong to view the Scottsboro case solely as a "Negro issue" and agitated in the pages of the Militant for the organization of white workers around the case.
When Clarence Darrow refused to work on the case unless the ILD withdrew because he didn't like its agitation methods, Cannon wrote:

"The ILD was absolutely right in rejecting the presumptuous demands of Darrow and Hays, and the Scottsboro prisoners showed wisdom in supporting the stand of their defense organization. Any other course would have signified an end to the fight to organize the protest of the masses against the legal lynching; and with that would have ended any real hope to save the boys and restore their freedom."

Darrow's big argument was: "You can't mix politics with a law case." Cannon replied:

"That is a reactionary lie. It is father to the poisonous doctrine that a labor case is a purely legal relation between the lawyer and client and the court.... It was the influence of this idea over the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee which paralyzed the protest mass movement at every step and thereby contributed to the final tragic outcome. Not to the courts alone, and not primarily there, but to the masses must the appeal of the persecuted of class and race be taken. There is the power and there is the justice."

Communists on Trial

During the time that the Scottsboro Boys were languishing in their Southern jails, World War II began in Europe. The American workers had gone through the experience of one of the biggest union organizing drives in the history of the country, resulting in the formation of the CIO, and many of the new industrial unions had won significant victories. Communists, including the Trotskyists, Jim Cannon and the Socialist Workers Party, had participated in and led many of these struggles. War is great for capitalist economies—the destruction creates constant demand, and if you win, you get new markets to exploit. But to go to war, you have to regiment the population at home, and that begins with the suspension of civil liberties.

On the eve of America's entry into World War II, Congress passed the Smith Act, requiring the fingerprinting and registering of all aliens residing in the United States and making it a crime to advocate or teach the "violent overthrow of the United States government" or to belong to a group advocating or teaching it.

For public consumption, this act was billed as an antifascist measure, but the Socialist Workers Party (successor to the Communist League of America) and Minneapolis Teamsters were the first victims of the Smith Act prosecutions. Why did the head of the Teamsters Union, Daniel J. Tobin, the U.S. attorney general, Francis Biddle, and the president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, conspire to take away the First Amendment rights of a small Trotskyist party, a party with maybe a couple thousand members and influence in one local of one union?

Part of the answer is that the SWP was effective. The party had led some hard class struggle; it was their comrades who had provided the leadership for the Minneapolis strike of 1934 which led to the formation of Teamsters Local 544. Another part of the answer is politics: the SWP was forthright in its opposition to the coming war. This was a calculated government attack designed to cripple the SWP where it had the most influence in the proletariat as America girded for imperialist war.

In the courtroom, the SWP's goal was to put the capitalist system on trial, a tradition we carry forward in our own cases. On the stand, Cannon pedagogically explained the positions of the SWP on the questions of the day and Marxism in general. But the Minneapolis defendants went to jail for 16 months—sentenced on the same day that Congress voted to enter the war. The ruling class hoped that the party would be leaderless and pass from the stage. But at that time the SWP was still a revolutionary party with a revolutionary program and a collective leadership—so that hope was, in the main, dashed.

A number of CIO unions issued statements in defense of the Minneapolis defendants, as did numerous black organizations. The American Communist Party, however, issued the following statement: "The Communist Party has always exposed, fought against and today joins the fight to exterminate the Trotskyite fifth column from the life of our nation." In line with their support for Roosevelt and the war, the CP aided the government in the Smith Act prosecution of the SWP and aided the FBI in their persecution of the Trotskyists in the trade unions. The CP's disgusting collaboration did not prevent them from being prosecuted under the very same Smith Act, beginning in 1948. The Trotskyists, of course, defended the CP unequivocally against the government prosecution while criticizing the CP's Stalinist politics.

Years later the attorney general, Francis Biddle, apologized for prosecuting the Trotskyists. The bourgeoisie sometimes apologizes when its crisis is safely over. Fifty years after the end of World War II, the U.S. government "apologized" for the wartime roundup and internment of Japanese Americans, offering a token compensation to those whose homes were seized and livelihoods ruined. They say whatever outrageous trampling of civil liberties occurred was an "excess" or "wrong" and of course it will "never happen again." But the Reagan government drew up plans to intern Arab Americans in concentration camps in Louisiana after the bombing of Libya. Those camps are ready and waiting for the next time the bourgeoisie feels its rule is substantially threatened.

Class-Struggle Defense Work

The Partisan Defense Committee was initiated in 1974 by the Spartacist League with the goal of re-establishing in the workers movement united-front, non-sectarian defense principles in the tradition of Cannon's ILD.

This was not anticipated to be, nor has it been, an easy task. Unlike the ILD, which inherited the rich and principled defense traditions of the IWW and the personal authority of mass leaders like Cannon and Haywood, we were the immediate inheritors of a tradition of Stalinist perversion of defense work. In addition, the ILD was founded as a transitional organization, seeking to organize the masses for class-struggle defense work under the leadership of the party. By its second conference, the ILD had 20,000 individual members, a collective, affiliated membership of 75,000, and 156 branches across the country. The PDC attempts to conduct its work in a way that will make the transformation to such an organization possible.

The PDC program of raising money for monthly stipends for class-war prisoners is an example of an ILD practice to which we adhere. We currently send stipends to 17 prisoners, including Jamal, Geronimo ji Jaga and other former supporters of the Black Panther Party, victims of the FBI's murderous COINTELPRO frame-ups; Jerry Dale Lowe, a miner condemned to eleven years in prison for defending his picket line; and members of the MOVE organization locked up because they survived the racist cop assaults on their homes and murder of their family. We also follow the ILD's policy of strict accounting of finances and have modeled our journal, Class-Struggle Defense Notes, on the ILD's Labor Defender.

We take to heart Cannon's point:

"The problem of organization is a very significant one for labor defense as a school for the class struggle. We must not get the idea that we are merely 'defense workers' collecting money for lawyers. That is only a part of what we are doing. We are organizing workers on issues which are directly related to the class struggle. The workers who take part in the work of the ILD are drawn, step by step into the main stream of the class struggle. The workers participating begin to learn the ABC of the labor struggle."

Class-struggle defense is a broad category. We are a small organization and must pick and choose our cases carefully, with an eye to their exemplary nature. The case of Mario Munoz a Chilean miners' leader condemned to death in 1976 by the Argentine military junta, is a good example. This was the PDC's first major defense effort. Co-sponsored with the Committee to Defend Workers and Sailor Prisoners in Chile, the international campaign of protest by unions and civil libertarians won asylum for Munoz and his family in France.

Some of our work has been in defense of the revolutionary party. The Spartacist League takes its legality— the right to exist and organize—very seriously, and has been quick to challenge every libel and legal attack. The party successfully challenged the FBI's slanderous description of the SL as "terrorists" who covertly advocate the violent’ Overthrow of the government. A 1984 settlement forced them to describe the SL as a "Marxist political organization."

The PDC takes up not only the cases but the causes of the whole of the working people. We have initiated labor/black mobilizations against the Klan from San Francisco to Atlanta to Philadelphia to Springfield, Illinois, and mobilized sections of the integrated labor movement to join these efforts to stop the fascists from spewing their race hate.

In 1989, we broadened our thinking about how the PDC could champion causes of the international proletariat and offered to organize an international brigade to Afghanistan to fight alongside the forces of the left-nationalist Kabul regime against the imperialist-backed, anti-woman Islamic fundamentalists on the occasion of the withdrawal of Soviet troops. When our offer of a brigade was declined, we launched a successful campaign to raise money for the victims of the mullah-led assault on Jalalabad. To reflect this, we expanded the definition of the PDC to one of a legal and social defense organization. To carry out this campaign, it was necessary to expand the PDC internationally. Sections of the International Communist League initiated fraternal organizations in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Currently we focus our efforts on Mumia Abu-Jamal and the fight to abolish the racist death penalty. Our actions in the Jamal case embody many of the principles of our defense work and the integral relationship of that work to the Marxist program of the Spartacist League, in this case particularly in regard to the fight for black liberation, which is key to the American revolution. This is a political death penalty case which illustrates the racism endemic in this country in its crudest, most vicious form and lays bare the essence of the state.

Throughout the very difficult period ahead, we will put all our faith in the mobilization of the working class and none in the capitalist courts. We embark now on exhausting every legal avenue open to Jamal, but we know the result hinges on the class struggle.

We hope you will join us in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, to abolish the racist death penalty and finish the Civil War. Forward to the third American revolution!