Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for the great European revolutionary man of action, Louis Auguste Blanqui.


If you are familiar with left terminology or if you ever wondered where the terms Blanquist or Blanquism came from Louis Auguste Blanqui is the 19th century man of revolutionary socialist action from which the terms derive. The terms connote a particular notion of revolutionary strategy- essentially the belief that a small cohesive vanguard of kindred revolutionary soldiers acting under cover of a conspiracy was all that was necessary to overthrow the existing regime and usher in a better, more just society. Marxists basing themselves on historical materialism and massive transformations to create historical change have always fought against such a strategy admiring the fortitude of Blanqui as a revolutionary. Basically, Blanquism represents a pre-industrial theory more suitable to an artisan and peasant based society. The theory’s history stretches back to the defeat of the Conspiracy of Equals led by Babeuf after the Themidorian Reaction of 1794 had signaled the degeneration of the French Revolution. While rejecting Blanqui’s theory one should note that such devoted militants are all too rare in the history of the left and therefore one must honor such an exemplary revolutionary.

Although the Marxist movement, beginning with Marx himself, has mercilessly fought against the substitution list notion that a small band of well-armed revolutionaries can overturn the old regime and bring a more just society the charge of Blanquism has always hovered around the surface of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Many historians and political commentators have declared the Bolshevik seizure of power in October a coup d’etat. That is facile commentary. If one wants to do harm to the notion of a coup d’etat in the classic sense of a closed military conspiracy a la Blanqui this cannot stand up to examination.

First, the Bolsheviks were an urban civilian party with at best tenuous ties to military knowledge and resources. Even simple military operations like the famous bank expropriations after the 1905 Revolution were mainly botched and gave them nothing but headaches with the leadership of pre-World War I international social democracy. Secondly, and decisively, Bolshevik influence over the garrison in Petrograd and eventually elsewhere precluded such a necessity. Although, as Trotsky noted, conspiracy is an element of any insurrection this was in fact an ‘open’ conspiracy that even the Kerensky government had to realize was taking place. The Bosheviks relied on the masses just as we should.

The following is a thumbnail sketch of the trials and tribulations of Blanqui throughout his revolutionary career. Just to detail the number of insurrections and revolutionary actions Blanqui was involved in, as well as the amount of time he spent in prison shows why he, justifiably, was considered a dangerous man when on the loose by every bourgeois government.

Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) was a French revoluionary socialist famous for his devotion to the cause despite repeated imprisonments and for his tactic of the revolutionary seizure of power by a well-trained body of armed men. He joined an unsuccessful Paris insurrection in 1827 and was thereafter connected with every revolutionary attempt until his death. He played an active role in the July Revolution of 1830; he was sentenced to prison for articles in the paper he edited; he was sentenced again in 1836, but pardoned in 1837.

He was condemned to death for leading an unsuccessful insurrec­tion in 1839, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment; he was freed by the February Revolution of 1848, but given a ten-year sentence in 1849 as reaction gained the upper hand. Amnestied in 1859, he was reimprisoned in 1861 but escaped in 1865 and continued his propaganda against the Second Empire government from exile. Returning to France under the general amnesty of 1869, he led two armed demonstrations against the government of Louis Napoleon in Paris in 1870 and temporarily seized power on October 31, 1870. He was condemned to death on March 17, 1871.

The Paris Commune broke out a few days later. Blanqui was elected a member of the revolutionary government, but he was unable to take his seat since he was in the prison of the counterrevolutionary Versailles regime, which had a well-grounded fear that, with his energy and military ability, he might lead the Commune to military victory. He was kept in prison until 1879, when he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies by the workers of Bordeaux. Although the government declared his election invalid, it released him from prison, broken in health. He immediately resumed his agitation. At the end of 1880, he had a stroke after giving a speech at a meeting in Paris, and he died New Year's Day, 1881.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


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




Join the Campaign!

Twenty-four years after Mumia Abu-Jamal was sent to death row, framed up on charges of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, his case has entered what is likely the final stage of legal proceedings. Last December the Third Circuit federal appeals court put his case on the "fast track." Before the court are appeals from the December 2001 ruling by federal judge William Yohn that overturned Mumia's death sentence but overruled every challenge to the frame-up conviction. Mumia appealed, seeking to overturn the conviction, and the Philly district attorney appealed to reinstate the death sentence. In a matter of months, the court will decide what lies next for this innocent man, former Black Panther Party member, MOVE supporter and renowned journalist: death, life in prison, or more legal proceedings.

Mumia's life is in grave danger. He is up against the vast resources of the capitalist state and its mouthpieces in the bourgeois press who howl for his blood. The capitalist rulers who vilify striking transit workers as "thugs," black hurricane victims as "looters" and immigrant workers as "illegal," seek the legal lynching of the man known as the "voice of the voiceless." Shredding their own precedents, court after court has rubber-stamped the wholesale trampling of Mumia's rights at his 1982 sham trial, and barred proof of Mumia's innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner.

With a death warrant hanging over Jamal's head, in August 1995 mobilizations of millions around the world stayed the executioner's hand. "They have tried to break this entire movement up," Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal told an April 21 meeting in Philadelphia. "But there's a lot of us that are strong and able to stay here and will keep it going no matter what." As Mumia's critical court battle looms, we must mobilize now! As the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee have stated since we first took up Mumia's defense in 1987: while every legal remedy must be pursued on Mumia's behalf, what's needed is a campaign of mass labor-centered united-front actions, uniting a broad spectrum of political views while assuring all the right to have their say. Millions of voices must once again be heard demanding: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal now! Abolish the racist death penalty!

The April 21 meeting greeted a French delegation including Marie-George Buffet, National Secretary of the French Communist Party (PCF), and Jacky Hortaut of the CGT trade-union federation. Rachel Wolkenstein, Partisan Defense Committee counsel and formerly one of Mumia's attorneys, presented a detailed report on the Beverly confession and the other evidence of Mumia's innocence.Wolkenstein has also been invited to speak on the Beverly evidence at an April 29 ceremony in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis to name a street after Mumia leading to the Nelson Mandela Stadium. The ceremony will also feature Mumia's current attorney Robert Bryan, Pam Africa and Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor of the government's 1985 bombing of Philadelphia MOVE. In January, a French coalition including the PCF, CGT and other labor, anti-racist and left groups kicked off a drive to raise 100,000 euros ($123,000) for Mumia's defense. Most importantly, that fund drive should aim to spur labor action on Mumia's behalf, internationally and especially in the U.S.

Mumia Abu-Jamal Is an Innocent Man!

On March 16, the prosecution filed its opening brief, ostensibly to address the relatively technical legal issue of whether the instructions and the verdict form given to the jury at the death sentence hearing were proper. While Mumia is barred from presenting evidence that he had nothing to do with Faulkner's death, the prosecution's papers predictably open with a venomous, trumped-up "statement of the facts"—every one of which was long ago refuted—to portray Mumia as a premeditated cop killer. This vicious lying attack is a testament that the racist capitalist state will say and do anything to see Mumia executed.

In reality, a mountain of evidence proves Mumia's innocence, including Beverly's confession that he was hired to kill Faulkner because the cop was reportedly interfering with prostitution, gambling, drugs and police payoffs. Beverly's confession is corroborated by the ballistics and physical evidence and the testimony of many other witnesses, several of whom said the shooter fled the scene. Notably, Beverly was wearing a green army jacket that night, which is what at least five witnesses said the shooter wore! Mumia was wearing a red quilted ski jacket with wide vertical blue stripes. There is no green army jacket in the police evidence.

The cops, prosecutors, gutter press and liberals alike have dismissed Beverly's account of a mob hit as "ridiculous." But in December 1981, there were at least three ongoing federal probes of the Philly cops, with targets that included the entire chain of command for the "investigation" of Faulkner's shooting: the head of Homicide, the Central Division commander and the ranking officer at the scene of the shooting, Alfonzo Giordano. Giordano was a longtime henchman of the notoriously racist police chief and later Philly mayor, Frank Rizzo, targeting the Black Panther Party and leftists and overseeing the 1977-78 siege of MOVE's Powelton Village house. Giordano knew exactly who Mumia was, and had both motive and opportunity to frame him up.

Despite this mountain of evidence, Mumia's opening brief, due July 13, is limited by the courts to three issues: the D.A.'s racist jury selection which kept black jurors off Mumia's 1982 trial; the D.A.'s prejudicial closing argument stating that the jury should convict because Mumia would get "appeal after appeal," and the grossly biased state post-conviction hearings before the notorious hanging judge Albert Sabo, who was overheard at the time of the 1982 trial declaring with regard to Mumia, "I'm going to help 'em fry the n — r."

The Spectre of Black Revolution

The fight for Mumia's freedom must be premised on the clear understanding that this is a racist political frame-up of an innocent man. It must be understood that the forces of the capitalist state are unified in their thirst for Mumia's blood and why that is so. Those struggling for Mumia's life and freedom must have no illusions in the bourgeois courts or the representatives of the bloody capitalist rulers — whether they be Democrats, Republicans or Greens.

The capitalist rulers want to see Mumia dead because they see in him the spectre of black revolution, defiant opposition to their system of racist oppression. From 1 969, when he was a teenaged spokesman for the Black Panther Party, Mumia was a marked man in the eyes of the capitalist state. In 1968, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover vowed, "The Negro youth and moderates] must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teachings, they will be dead revolutionaries." Because of his political views, because of what he wrote and said, Mumia was targeted by the Feds' notorious COINTELPRO (Counter-intelligence Program), under which 38 Panthers were murdered and hundreds more railroaded to prison. On 9 December 1981, the cops saw their chance, shooting Mumia, beating him, and then framing him up for Faulkner's murder.

Mumia's frame-up is an object lesson that the capitalist state — centrally, the cops, courts, prisons and military — is an apparatus of organized violence used to preserve capitalist rule through the suppression of the working class and oppressed. At the pinnacle of this system of state terror is the racist death penalty, a barbaric legacy of chattel slavery, the system that laid the basis for the special oppression of black people in the U.S. The "legal" lynching of Stanley Tookie Williams by the state of California in December, despite a worldwide outcry, signaled the American rulers' determination to fortify their death machine, not least against Mumia.

Mumia's case is what the death penalty is all about. The impulse behind the death penalty is the impulse to genocide. To see the murderous brutality of the racist capitalist system, you need look no further than New Orleans, where the city's black and poor were left to die as Hurricane Katrina hit. As an integral part of our fight for Mumia, the Spartacist League and Labor Black Leagues sponsored a Black History month speaking tour with talks on "The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal" and "Race, Class and Socialist Revolution: Class-Struggle Road to Black Freedom." These forums underlined our commitment to abolish the death penalty as part of the fight for black equality, just as our fight for Mumia's freedom is part of our perspective of revolutionary integrationism — that the multiracial working class must combat every instance of discrimination while understanding that black liberation will be won only through socialist revolution.

For Class-Struggle Defense!

The key to Mumia's freedom lies in the social power of labor. The proletariat has every interest in fighting against the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal and all instances of racist oppression. It also has the social power to bring production to a halt. The three-day New York City transit strike crippled America's financial capital, while two months of massive protests and strikes in France this spring forced the government to scrap the hated First Employment Contract. Think if that power were mobilized behind Mumia's cause!

Mumia's fight is labor's fight. Every repressive law and court decision bolstering the capitalist state will ultimately be directed at the working class. The fight against racist discrimination, in defense of immigrant rights and all the oppressed is the fight for the unity of the working class against its common class enemy. Taking up Mumia's defense helps to promote proletarian class unity by combatting the racial and ethnic divisions fostered by the ruling class to weaken the working class. It strikes a blow at the capitalist rulers, who are shredding civil liberties in the name of the "war on terror" and pursuing imperialist war in Iraq and elsewhere.

To give an idea of what Mumia is up against: judges of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, in whose hands Mumia's case now rests, testified en masse for the reactionary Samuel Alito during his January Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Among the members of this court is Marjorie Rendell, wife of Pennsylvania's Democratic governor Ed Rendell, the former head of the Democratic National Committee and the Philadelphia D.A. during Mumia's frame-up trial.

A labor-centered campaign on Mumia's behalf must be built on the principle of political independence of the working class from the capitalist class enemy and its state. Mumia's freedom will not be won through reliance on the rigged "justice" system or on capitalist politicians. The labor tops' allegiance to the capitalist system is one of the chief obstacles to unleashing labor's power in its own defense and in defense of all the oppressed.

Following the stay of Mumia's execution in 1995, a movement of millions in his defense was systematically demobilized by the reformist socialist organizers of protests for Mumia. Groups like Workers World Party and Socialist Action tailored their appeals to what would be "acceptable" to Democratic Party liberals. For years these reformists subordinated any demand to free Mumia to calls for a new "fair" trial, as if Mumia would suddenly receive "justice" from the same courts that have kept him on death row for 24 years! The fruit of the reformists' liberal program is that the annual demonstrations on Mumia's birthday on April 24 have dwindled since 1999, with no outdoor demonstrations on that date this year, even as the critical court battle looms.

When the Beverly confession became public in 2001, many of these same supposed socialists assisted the bourgeois media blackout by ignoring or downplaying this explosive evidence. This led Mumia to comment: "Many of you have said that you don't believe in the system, yet, in your hearts you refuse to let it go." Liberals fled Mumia's campaign in droves because they could not stomach that Beverly's confession exposed the fraud of American "justice" and showed the unity of purpose between the cops, the courts and the capitalist rulers.

As PDC counsel Rachel Wolkenstein stated in her Philly speech: "We need to rebuild a mass movement on the basis that Mumia's conviction and death sentence were political and that it is in the interest of all working people—black and white, citizens and immigrants—to join together and fight for his freedom." Raise your voice and join the campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Organize now in your union, on your campus, in your community to demand: Freedom now for Mumia Abu-Jamal!