Saturday, January 12, 2008


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

This important information about the case of Mumia Abu-Jama is passed on from the Partisan Defense Committee. I would note here that, as was true in the case of Sacco and Vanzetti and other class struggle cases, there has always been an attempt by our adversaries to muddy the waters around these cases by disinformation. Read the points provided here in Mumia's defense carefully and judge what the real situation is. But more than that take up the call for Mumia's freedom. Free Mumia!

Mumia Abu-Jamal Fact Sheet

Murdered by Mumia (The Lyons Press, December 2007) by Maureen Faulkner and Michael Smerconish is a compendium of myths, falsehoods, misrepresentations and omissions—all aimed at the legal lynching of an innocent man, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia is a former Black Panther Party spokesman, targeted by the Feds and cops since the age of 15, who later became a supporter of the MOVE organization and a respected journalist renowned as the "voice of the voiceless." He was framed up for the 9 December 1981 killing of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. An abundance of evidence proves Mumia's innocence, including the confession of another man. Arnold Beverly. that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Officer Faulkner.

Published at a time of waning support for capital punishment—most recently demonstrated by New Jersey's repeal of the death penalty—as well as the highly publicized release of inmates falsely convicted on murder charges, Murdered by Mumia is a rallying call for the barbaric death penalty, which in the U.S. is a legacy of black chattel slavery. In Murdered by Mumia, Maureen Faulkner, Daniel Faulkner's widow and a major spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police campaign to execute Mumia, joins forces with right-wing radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist Michael Smerconish.

Faulkner and Smerconish make no bones about the political nature of Mumia's frame-up, retailing the lie that Mumia's Panther membership proved that he had been planning to kill a cop. They boast that the prosecution had "successfully established that Abu-Jamal had an anti-police, anti-establishment, anti-government philosophy that accounted for his desire to murder Danny" (page 44). It is because Mumia has always been an outspoken and unrepentant fighter for black people and the oppressed that the forces of "law and order," represented by both the Democratic and Republican parties, want to see Mumia dead. To the racist rulers, he represents the spectre of black revolt.

Murdered by Mumia repeatedly claims that the records of Mumia's 1982 trial and pre-trial witness statements "tell the story of how Abu-Jamal murdered my husband" (page 29). The trial reco.rds are replete with inconsistencies, unproven assertions, contradictory evidence and all the hallmarks of a racist frame-up. There is no evidence that Mumia shot Daniel Faulkner, and the "facts" claimed in Murdered by Mumia supposedly proving this story do not exist in the trial record. Since the 1982 trial, there has been a growing mountain of new evidence proving not only that Mumia is innocent, but that the police and prosecution falsified and suppressed evidence, coerced witnesses and orchestrated a monumental frame-up.

This fact sheet will expose the enormity of the lies that underpin every premise in Murdered by Mumia. Our aim is to arm those fighting for Mumia with the facts to refute the mendacity of those who want to execute him. This is part of our effort to mobilize mass protest action on Mumia's behalf that is centered on the social power of the labor movement and is based on the understanding that Mumia Abu-Jamal is an innocent man, the victim of a racist and political frame-up who must be immediately freed!

In refuting the lies in Murdered by Mumia, we cite the transcripts, including the dates and page numbers where testimony appears, from the 1982 trial and pre-trial testimony and 1995-97 post-conviction relief (PCRA) hearings (all designated as "N.T." [Notes of Testimony]), as well as declarations and affidavits that were filed in federal and state courts, and police investigation reports (IIR [Investigation Interview Record]). Citations from Murdered by Mumia are followed by the page number. Readers are also urged to review the July 2006 PDC pamphlet, The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal—Mumia Is Innocent!, which includes detailed presentations of the facts of the case as well as a series of affidavits and declarations. The pamphlet is available at http: / / www. partisandefense .org/ pubs/ innocent.

What Happened on 9 December 1981

Lie: In virtually every chapter of the book, Faulkner and Smerconish claim that neither Mumia nor his brother William Cook, who was at the scene of Faulkner's shooting, gave an accounting of what happened on 9 December 1981. They write, for example, "Never, in twenty-five years and despite a worldwide campaign on his behalf, has he [Mumia] offered an explanation of what occurred on December 9, 1981" (page 47).

Truth: From the beginning, Mumia has always made clear that he is innocent, including, in his allocution statement to the trial court. (N.T.7/3/82:14-15) On 3 May 2001, he gave a sworn declaration, as did his brother on 15 May 1999 and 29 April 2001, detailing what they saw the night of Faulkner's shooting. On 8 June 1999, Arnold Beverly swore an affidavit detailing how he, not Mumia, killed Faulkner. Smerconish and Faulkner know this—the declarations and Beverly's affidavit are on the original Daniel Faulkner Web site! (See http:/./ www.dariieifaulk.ner. com /original/testimony, html)

In his declaration, Mumia stated, "I did not shoot Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. I had nothing to do with the killing of Officer Faulkner. I am innocent." He described how he ran from his parked cab in Center City after he heard shots and saw other people running, recognizing his brother staggering in the street. "I saw a uniformed cop turn toward me gun in hand, saw a flash and went down to my knees." Mumia was shot in the chest and was critically wounded. He continued: "The next thing that I remember I felt myself being kicked, hit and being brought out of a stupor." He recalled how cops were "hollering and cursing, grabbing and pulling on me." "I was pulled to my feet," he continued, "and then rammed into a telephone pole beaten where I fell and thrown into a paddy wagon." He stated that later the police wagon door opened and a white cop in a white shirt "came in cursing and hit me in the forehead. I don't remember what he said much except a lot of 'n——s', 'black motherfuckers' and what not." (See htip;/_/.w\vav.pardsanck'fen,se,org/.pubs/innocent/rnaj.Jitrnl)

In his 1999 declaration, William Cook stated, "Mumia Abu-Jamal did not shoot Officer Faulkner and I did not shoot Officer Faulkner." Cook stated that he "was stopped by Officer Faulkner while I was circling around City Center in my Volkswagen with Kenneth Freeman." He also stated that Freeman, his passenger and business partner, "told me after that night that there was a plan to kill Officer Faulkner, that Freeman was part of that plan, that he was armed that night and participated in the shooting." Cook also asserted that Freeman "ran from the scene after Officer Faulkner was shot." In his 2001 Affidavit, Cook stated that Freeman was "wearing his green army jacket." (See http.i//w\vw..partisandefense^Qrg/p_u_bs/inno.ce_nt/wc.html)

In his affidavit, Arnold Beverly stated that "Mumia Abu-Jamal did not shoot police officer Faulkner.... Jamal had nothing to do with the shooting." Beverly explained that he "was hired, along with another guy, and paid to shoot and kill Faulkner. I had heard that Faulkner was a problem for the mob and corrupt policemen because he interfered with the graft and payoffs made to allow illegal activity including prostitution, gambling, drugs without prosecution in the center city area." Beverly said that he was given "a .38 caliber policeman's special and I was also carrying my own .22 caliber revolver." Beverly, who like Freeman was wearing a green army jacket, stated that as he came onto the scene of 13th and Locust, he "saw police officers in the area," but "was not worried" because "I believed that since I was hired by the mob to shoot and kill Faulkner, any police officers on the scene would be there to help me."

Beverly described that he saw Faulkner get out of his patrol car and go up to a VW. He heard a shot and then another one that grazed his left shoulder. He continued: "I ran across Locust Street and stood over Faulkner, who had fallen backwards on the sidewalk. I shot Faulkner in the face at close range. Jamal was shot shortly after that by a uniformed police officer who arrived on the scene." Beverly concluded that he left the area through the Speedline subway system "and by pre-arrangement met a police officer who assisted me when I exited the speedline underground about three blocks away. A car was waiting for me and I left the center city area." (See http://_v\iWw...partisanii.eIe.nae.Qi^/

The sworn declarations by Mumia and William Cook and Arnold Beverly's affidavit, along with a host of supporting evidence that we will detail below, were submitted to federal and state courts in 2001. (No. 99 Civ 5089; No. 8201-1357-59) But the courts have refused to even consider them. For their part, Faulkner and Smerconish dismiss Beverly's confession as "pure idiocy" (page 28). Predictably, they say not a word about the rampant corruption of the Philadelphia Police Department, including its working relationship with the mob. At the time of Faulkner's murder, the police department was under at least three federal investigations for corruption, including police ties with the mob. (See

The cops want to kill Mumia not only because he has been an outspoken voice for black freedom, but also so that they can bury the proof of their own criminality.

The Eyewitnesses

Lie: According to Faulkner and Smerconish, "three people saw Abu-Jamal do it—four if you count [Albert] Magilton who temporarily looked away" (page 42). The other three are Cynthia White, Robert Chobert and Michael Mark Scanlan. The "trial testimony and pre-trial statements from the eyewitnesses to the murder... provide lucid and consistent confirmation of Abu-Jamal's conduct," and "illustrate a high degree of specificity, recounting such details as Abu-Jamal's brand of car, color of shirt, and style of hair" (page 29).

Truth: No witness testified to seeing Mumia, with gun in hand, actually shoot Officer Faulkner. Witness statements are confused, inconsistent and in their specifics describe someone other than Mumia as the shooter. Not a single prosecution witness ever described Mumia's "brand of car"—i.e., his taxicab.

Mumia wore his hair in dreadlocks, was over 6 feet tall and weighed about 170 pounds. He was wearing a blue quilted ski jacket with a wide vertical red stripe on either side of the front.

Mark Scanlan, a 24-year-old white male, initially described the man he claimed to have seen shoot Faulkner as wearing a red and yellow, or red, yellow and black sweater and a black hat. Scanlan explicitly stated that the man did not have MOVE-like dreadlocks, but an Afro hairstyle. Scanlan further stated that he could not see the man's face. (IIR 12/9/81) He testified at trial that he had been drinking and told police, "I don't know which male shot the officer." (N.T.6/25/82:13, 46; IIR 12/11/81)

Robert Chobert, a 23-year-old white cabdriver, first described a person he saw standing over and shooting Faulkner as heavyset and wearing a light tan shirt and jeans. (IIR 12/9/81) Three days later, he described the shooter as weighing 220-25 pounds and wearing a dark gray dress shirt with a red and green picture on the back. (IIR 12/12/81) He admitted both times that he did not see a gun, and in his second interview that he did not see any flash. (IIR 12/ 12/81)

Albert Magilton, a 26-year-old white male, testified that all he saw was Mumia walking fast into the street (N.T.6/25/82:100, 106) and that he didn't have a hat. (N.T.6/25/82:92) He also stated that he did not see anyone with a gun. (IIR 12/9/81; N.T.6/25/82:100) Prosecution witness Cynthia White, a 23-year-old black prostitute, described the shooter as "short." (IIR 12/9/81)

Some 20 witnesses who saw different portions of the entire incident from different vantage points, and saw each other, described varying accounts of what happened.

In addition to Beverly and Cook, six witnesses, including two cops and two civilian prosecution witnesses, reported that someone at the scene was wearing a green army jacket or coat. These witnesses include Mark Scanlan, Albert Magilton, Officer James Forbes, Officer Stephen Trombetta, Robert Pigford and William Singletary. (Scanlan: N.T.6/25/82:26 and IIR 12/11/81; Magilton: G.M. Newman 7/19/95 Interview; Forbes: IIR 12/9/81, 12/16/81; Trombetta: IIR 12/9/81; Pigford: IIR 12/9/81; Singletary: N.T.8/11/95:235-36) William Singletary testified at the 1995 PCRA hearings that a passenger in the VW, wearing an army coat, got out of the car, shot Officer Faulkner and ran away. (N.T.8/11/95:235-36) Witness Robert Pigford, who would go on to become a cop, told police the night of the shooting that immediately after hearing shots he saw a man in an army jacket bent over Faulkner. (IIR 12/9/81) Neither Mumia nor William Cook was wearing a green army jacket. In his 1999 affidavit confessing to the murder of Faulkner, Beverly stated, "I was wearing a green (camouflage) army jacket." In his 29 April 2001 declaration, William Cook stated that he had a passenger in his car, Kenneth Freeman, and that Freeman was also "wearing his green army jacket."

Lie: Faulkner and Smerconish write that Cynthia White "was a critical witness in our case" because "she was the one witness who, because of her location, saw the entire incident from start to finish" (page 280).

Truth: Cynthia White was not even there during the shooting. Prosecution witnesses Chobert, Scanlan and Magilton, as well as defense witness Veronica Jones, who knew White, all testified at trial that White was not on the corner where she claimed to see the shooting. (Chobert: N.T.6/19/82:227-28; Scanlan: N.T.6/25/82:58; Magilton: N.T.6/25/82:86; Jones: N.T.6/29/82:129-30) William Singletary testified that White came up to him after the shooting to ask him what happened. (8/31/90 Deposition 25)

Veronica Jones testified at the 1982 trial that White was given police favors in return for her false testimony. (N.T.6/29/82:129, 134-36) Faulkner and Smerconish falsely claim that Jones first raised this at the 1996 PCRA hearings (page 183). White's photo was posted in Faulkner's precinct with instructions to call Homicide when she was taken in. She was arrested twice in eight days after the shooting, and she was let go only after she signed new witness statements for Homicide. Each time, she changed her story to make a stronger case against Mumia. (N.T.6/21/82:159-90; 6/22/82:31, 33, 55-58) During the 1997 PCRA hearings, prostitute Pamela Jenkins testified that White told her that she was being threatened by police. (N.T.6/26/97:48) A 2002 sworn statement by Yvette Williams, who was in jail with Cynthia White, also stated that White was threatened by the police. (1/28/02 Declaration)

Lie: Faulkner and Smerconish write that cabdriver Robert Chobert, who during the 1982 trial "pointed at Abu-Jamal" as the killer (page 37), "witnessed Danny being knocked to the ground and the 'gunman' standing over him firing three more shots" (page 14). They include a claim by Chobert that he was parked behind Daniel Faulkner's car at the time of the shooting (page 308).

Truth: In 1995, Chobert admitted that he never saw the shooting. (G.M. Newman 9/25/01 Affidavit) Chobert was not parked behind Faulkner's police car, a fact confirmed by freelance photographer Pedro Polakoff's recently unearthed crime scene photos, which the prosecution had suppressed for nearly 25 years. Taken only minutes after the shooting, the photos show no car parked behind Faulkner's vehicle.
During the 1982 trial, Chobert admitted that Mumia did not fit the description Chobert had given the police of a heavyset black man. (N.T.6/ 19/82:234-35) Chobert initially told police the night of the shooting that the shooter "ran away," which would have been impossible for Mumia given his near-fatal gunshot wound. (N.T.6/1/82:70; 6/19/82:234-35) It was only after further interrogation that Chobert changed his story. (N.T.6/19/82:236-37) Chobert was driving with a suspended license while on probation for being hired to throw a Molotov cocktail into a school. (N.T.6/19/82:220-22; 8/15/95:5-6) During the 1995 PCRA hearings, Chobert admitted he was secretly given favors by the prosecution in exchange for his testimony and was kept under wraps by the police at all times during the 1982 trial. (N.T.8/15/95:4-10)

Lie: Faulkner and Smerconish write, "Only two people were seen by the five eyewitnesses to have come that close to Danny—William Cook and Mumia Abu-Jamal" (page 172). Besides White, Chobert, Scanlan and Magilton, the fifth "witness" referred to is Robert Harkins. Faulkner and Smerconish describe his testimony at the 1995 PCRA hearings as "corroborating Chobert's and White's accounts" (page 23).

Truth: Five witnesses said that one or two black men ran away eastward after the shooting. At the 1982 trial, defense witness Dessie Hightower insisted that he saw someone run from the scene. (N.T.6/28/82:125-27) Debbie Kordansky, Veronica Jones and Robert Chobert initially reported to the police that they saw someone flee the scene (Kordansky: IIR 12/9/81; Jones: IIR 12/15/81; N.T.6/1/82:70), though Jones and Chobert denied this at the trial after police pressure. (N.T.6/19/82:236-37; 6/29/82:99-102) During the 1996 PCRA hearings, Veronica Jones recanted her 1982 trial testimony, explaining that she had been threatened by the police with many years in prison on felony charges and loss of her children if she did not testify against Mumia. (N.T. 10/1/96:20-24, 32-33) During the 1995 PCRA hearings, William Singletary testified to seeing the passenger emerge from the VW, shoot Faulkner and run away (N.T.8/11/95:235-36), and Hightower reiterated that he saw a man flee the scene of the shooting and stated that he had faced harassment from the police for telling the truth. (N.T.8/3/95:18-19, 23-24, 103)

Harkins' statements to police were so varied from the prosecution witnesses and scenario of how Faulkner was killed that the prosecution did not call him to testify at the 1982 trial. In his statements to police (IIR 12/9/81, 12/17/81) and during the 1995 PCRA hearings (N.T.8/2/95:205-06), Harkins asserted that he saw only one person in proximity to Faulkner, the shooter.

Lie: Faulkner and Smerconish uphold the prosecution's story that William Cook was alone in his VW when he was stopped by Faulkner, claiming that Cook "never told the police that there was anyone with him in the Volkswagen" (page 141).

Truth: There was a passenger, Kenneth Freeman, in the car with William Cook. In both his May 1999 and April 2001 sworn declarations, William Cook confirmed that Freeman was in the car with him. During the 1995 PCRA hearings, William Singletary testified that there was a passenger, that he was wearing an army coat (confirming Cook's declaration), that this man was the shooter and that he ran away. (N.T.8/11/95:234-36)

During the 1995 PCRA hearings, it was also revealed that police had found the driver's license application of one Arnold Howard in Faulkner's possession. (N.T.8/9/95:6; 8/11/96:131, 139-40, 167) This information was concealed from the defense at the 1982 trial. It was critical because Howard had given the application to Kenneth Freeman. Freeman's presence in the car would explain how Faulkner got Howard's license application. In 1995, Howard stated that Freeman told him that he was in the VW at the time of the shooting. (N.T.8/9/95:9-10, 23; Howard 8/8/95 Affidavit)

Joseph McGill, who prosecuted Mumia in 1982, had, prior to that, prosecuted William Cook on assault charges. At Cook's trial, Cynthia White—who according to other witnesses did not see the shooting and had asked Singletary what had taken place—testified that there was a passenger in Cook's VW who got out of the car when Officer Faulkner approached the driver's side. (N.T.3/29/82:33; Singletary 8/31/90 Deposition 24-25) At Mumia's trial, she changed her testimony to claim that there was no one else on the sidewalk. (N.T. 6/22/82:134)

Even in her book, Maureen Faulkner acknowledges that after pulling William Cook over, Daniel Faulkner made "the normal call for a backup before getting out of his car, and then changed his request, saying to the dispatcher, 'on second thought send me a wagon'" (page 22), indicating that there was likely another person in the car.

The Phony Confession

Lie: Faulkner and Smerconish write: "In the ER, Abu-Jamal was heard by two eyewitnesses to shout defiantly, 'I shot the motherfucker and I hope the motherfucker dies'" (page 24). The two "eyewitnesses" were hospital security guard Priscilla Durham and Police Officer Garry Bell.

Truth: There never was a confession. As Mumia stated in his 2001 affidavit, "because of the blood in my lungs it was difficult to speak, and impossible to holler. I never confessed to anything because I had nothing to confess to." The "confession" was manufactured by the prosecution at a round table meeting with cops two months following the shooting (N.T.8/1/95:78-79, 91), after it became clear that an earlier bogus confession concocted by Inspector Alfonzo Giordano, who was a target of a corruption investigation, could not be used (see below).

Gary Wakshul, the police officer assigned to guard Mumia throughout the night of the shooting, reported that same day: "The negro male made no comments." (IIR 12/9/81 and N.T.8/1/95:38) The prosecution and Judge Albert Sabo prevented Wakshul from testifying at the 1982 trial, but at the 1995 PCRA hearings he testified that neither Durham nor Bell were even present at the time of the supposed confession.
(N.T.8/1/95:23, 51) In several reports, Stephen Trombetta, the other police officer assigned to guard Mumia, made clear that Mumia made no confession, including at the hospital. (IIR 12/9/81, 12/17/81, 2/12/82)

In fact, at the hospital Police Officer Garry Bell threatened Mumia, stating "if he [Faulkner] dies, you die." (LeGrand: IIR 2/2/82; Prayer: IIR 2/8/82; Durham: IIR 2/9/82) None of the cops and hospital security guards reported hearing what Bell and Durham claimed to have heard, even though Durham reported some 15 or 20 cops were in close proximity. (N.T.6/24/82:57) Neither Bell nor Durham even report that the other was present. Bell never mentioned the "confession" in his police log that night nor in a statement he gave to detectives on 16 December 1981. Bell first reported hearing Mumia confess on 25 February 1982.

Faulkner and Smerconish point to an unsigned, typewritten piece of paper—supposedly dated December 1981 and written by Durham's supervisor—recording the "confession" (pages 309-10). But at trial Durham denied that she had ever seen that report. (N.T.6/24/82:98-99) In 2003, Durham's stepbrother, Kenneth Pate, submitted a declaration that Durham told him she was pressured by the cops to falsely say Mumia confessed. (4/18/03 Declaration)

Smoke-and-Mirrors Ballistics

Lie: Faulkner and Smerconish write that the bullets removed from Faulkner "matched the gun purchased by Abu-Jamal" (page 24).

Truth: There was never a "match," not even any evidence that Mumia's gun was fired that night! The police firearms unit claimed that the main bullet fragment removed from Faulkner's head was too damaged to test, and a second bullet fragment removed from the head wound simply disappeared without a trace. (N.T.6/23/82:108; 8/2/95:62-66, 75-77) Incredibly, the police did not report ever testing Mumia's hands and gun for evidence of gunpowder or that the gun had been fired that night. (N.T.8/2/95:66-72) As the Polakoff photos show, the cop who collected the guns at the scene was improperly holding them with bare hands. He did not turn them in to the firearms unit for two hours, providing more than ample time for tampering with them. (N.T.6/19/82:169; 12/9/81 Prop. Rect.)

Faulkner and Smerconish state that a bullet removed from Faulkner was "consistent" with Mumia's Charter Arms gun (page 24) and include a snippet of testimony at the 1982 trial by the cops' own ballistician Anthony Paul (page 318). "Consistent" is a code word prosecutors use when they cannot match evidence. Indeed, Smerconish and Faulkner omit the next two pages of testimony where Paul admits that the bullet would be consistent with "multiples of millions" of other guns as well. (N.T.6/23/82:168-69)

Lie: Murdered by Mumia states that the defense has "never offered any shred of evidence" that there is a missing bullet fragment (page 117).

Truth: The lead fragment and its measurements (10x3x2 mm) are recorded in the Medical Examiner's
autopsy report. (12/9/81 Postmortem Report) As already noted, this fragment has disappeared and was not preserved as part of the ballistics evidence—facts established by Mumia's expert witnesses at the 1995 PCRA hearings. (N.T.8/2/95:75-77; 8/4/95:40-42; 8/9/95:151)

Murdered by Mumia cannot refute the fact that the Findings of the Medical Examiner, whom the D.A. qualified as an "expert" in ballistics at the 1982 trial (N.T.6/25/82:176), state that Faulkner was shot with a .44 caliber bullet; Mumia's gun was a .38 caliber. (12/9/81 Findings; N.T.8/2/95:73-74; 8/9/95:190) The disappeared fragment could be the remains of the .44 caliber bullet initially recorded by the Medical Examiner or from the .22 caliber revolver that Beverly said he was carrying the night of Faulkner's shooting.

Lie: Faulkner and Smerconish claim that Mumia's gun "was recovered at the scene along with five cartridges, all of which had been fired," that Mumia shot Daniel Faulkner in "his upper back" and then in the "center of his face," and that "both bullets were fired from less than twenty inches away" (page 24). Throughout the book, Faulkner and Smerconish retail the prosecution's story that after shooting Faulkner in the back, Mumia stoodover him as he lay on the pavement and fired at least three shots at his face.

Truth: There is no evidence of these three or four bullets, all but one of which supposedly missed their target at near pointblank range. As the Polakoff photos confirm, there are no divots (or bullet markings) in the sidewalk, proving that the prosecution's scenario is concocted.

Lie: Murdered by Mumia states that "the shells found in Abu-Jamal's gun were all Special +P ammunition (4 were Federal brand, 1 was Remington)," "a unique bullet with an extra heavy load of gunpowder" that "devastates its target" (page 115). Faulkner and Smerconish claim that this shows that Mumia was "fully resolved to shoot and seriously injure or kill someone," that he wanted to carry out "the execution of anyone who crossed his path" (page 87).

Truth: Mumia's gun did not have Plus P ammunition. The police Firearms Identification Unit report of 5 January 1982 does not identify the cartridges in Mumia's gun as Special Plus P even though such cartridges would have been clearly stamped. Demonstrating the web of inconsistencies in the prosecution's lies, Police Officer James Forbes, who had possession of the guns after the shooting, testified during the 1982 trial that the cartridge casings in Mumia's gun were Winchesters, not Federal or Remington brands. (N.T.6/19/82:175-76)

Mumia had a legally registered gun that he carried for protection after he had been robbed at gunpoint while driving his cab.

Lie: Smerconish and Faulkner write, "The bullet that struck Abu-Jamal was determined to have been fired from Danny's police-issued .38-caliber Smith & Wesson gun" (page 24). The prosecution has always claimed that Faulkner fired his gun as he was falling down after being shot. (N.T.6/19/82:12)

Truth: The prosecution's scenario is disproved by the fact that Mumia's wound took a steep downward path. (N.T.8/4/95:16-19, 21-22) The Medical Examiner's record from 9 a.m. on 9 December 1981 (some five hours after Faulkner's shooting) stated that Sergeant Westermann of Homicide told a Medical Examiner's investigator that Mumia was shot by "arriving police reinforcements."

The weapon that Faulkner purportedly used to shoot Mumia was not in a condition one would expect from a hunting enthusiast and ambitious officer about to take a detective's examination, and one patrolling Philadelphia's Center City at 4 a.m. According to the police ballistics report, the gun had a bent hammer spur, contained powder fouling, dirt and lint in the chambers and could not cock as designed in single action because of oversized rubber grips. The gun was likely a "throwaway." Finally, not a single prosecution witness testified to seeing Daniel Faulkner shoot Mumia. (Chobert: N.T.6/19/82:267; White: N.T.6/21/82:104; Scanlan: N.T.6/25/82:47; Magilton: N.T.6/25/82:88-89)

The Frame-Up Trial

Lie: Faulkner and Smerconish describe Judge Albert Sabo, who presided over the 1982 trial and the 1995-97 PCRA hearings, as a "reserved and dignified" judge who "had a reputation for being very seldom reversed on appeal" (pages 31-32).

Truth: Sabo was reversed on appeal in more than a third of his cases (J. Henderson, "Philadelphia's Judge Sabo: The Judge Who Became Death Row's King" [1996]). At the time of the 1982 trial, he was overheard by court reporter Terri Maurer-Carter as saying, "I'm going to help them fry the n——r," a fact completely disappeared in Murdered by Mumia. Sabo banished Mumia from the courtroom for nearly half the trial, depriving him of the ability to participate in his own defense. During the 1995 PCRA hearings, the Philadelphia Inquirer (16 July 1995) wrote of Sabo: "The behavior of the judge in the case was disturbing the first time around—and in hearings last week he did not give the impression to those in the courtroom of fair-mindedness." A 1996 study showed that Sabo sent more than twice as many men, overwhelmingly black and Latino, to death row than any other sitting judge in the country. He was a retired member of the Fraternal Order of Police and was widely known, including by the Philadelphia legal establishment, as a "prosecutor in robes."

Lie: Faulkner and Smerconish state that Joseph McGill, the 1982 trial prosecutor, was "determined to qualify as many black jurors as possible" (page 156).

Truth: Joseph McGill used 11 out of 15 peremptory strikes to bar black people from Mumia's jury. A statistical survey showed that Philadelphia prosecutors in the 1980s were 5.2 times more likely to throw blacks off juries than whites. In 1987, the Philadelphia D.A.'s office produced an official training tape, based on its longstanding practice, on how to exclude black jurors and get away with it. A one-minute excerpt of the video is posted on YouTube by Journalists for Mumia. (See'8) It features Assistant D.A. Jack McMahon advising prosecutors to choose jurors that are "unfair and more likely to convict"! He also advises prosecutors to avoid "the blacks from the low-income areas," warning, "you don't want smartpeople."

The Facts About the Arnold Beverly Confession

The 8 June 1999 Arnold Beverly affidavit detailing how he was hired to kill Faulkner, who had become a problem for the mob and corrupt cops, is a key piece of evidence that clearly demonstrates the depth of the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal. As they dismiss the Beverly confession out of hand, Faulkner and Smerconish barely say a word about the 2001 federal and state court proceedings in which the defense sought to present the confession and a substantial body of supporting evidence. Along with the sworn declarations of Mumia and William Cook, this included the affidavits of Donald Hersing, an FBI confidential source during its 1981-82 investigation of Center City police corruption, and private investigator Michael Newman. It also included the 28 July 2001 affidavit of Partisan Defense Committee counsel Rachel Wolkenstein, who served on Mumia's legal defense from 1995-99. Wolkenstein's affidavit described the body of substantial evidence supporting Beverly's confession and why Mumia's prior lead attorney, Leonard Weinglass, had refused to present that evidence in court.

Murdered by Mumia so studiously avoids the Beverly confession and supporting evidence that the authors do not even mention the lawyers who headed up Mumia's defense at that time—Marlene Kamish, Eliot Grossman and Nick Brown—instead falsely asserting that Mumia's current lawyer, Robert Bryan, "replaced Leonard Weinglass," whom Mumia fired in 2001 (page 292).

The fact is that Faulkner and Smerconish cannot refute Beverly's confession and the mountain of evidence that backs it up.

Fact: At the time of Faulkner's killing, the Philadelphia Police Department was under at least three federal investigations for corruption involving cop-mob ties. (D. Hersing 5/10/99 Affidavit) The Justice Department also had Philadelphia cops acting as sources in the investigations, including an officer whose brother was also a cop. Faulkner's brother was a cop. Faulkner also owned a very expensive "Topcon" camera model often used by the FBI at the time, and had used it the night of his death. (Wakshul IIR 12/16/81) The camera, which was in the possession of Philadelphia cops, has since disappeared. In Murdered by Mumia, Maureen Faulkner cryptically recounts that during the 1982 trial, defense attorney Anthony Jackson "asked me a very odd question. He asked me if Danny owned a camera. I said he did" (page 36).

Fact: Maureen Faulkner writes that Ed Frederick, a member of the Philadelphia police Stakeout unit, informed her that after meeting Daniel Faulkner at Broad and Race Streets, Faulkner "had to leave around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. to do 'club checks' when the bars let out" (page 18). In his 10 May 1999 affidavit, FBI informant Donald Hersing explained: "Uniformed officers would perform routine 'club checks' at the Morning Glory and other after-hours clubs to count the number of people at the clubs. The purpose of collecting this information was to help them determine how much of a payoff they should demand."

Fact: Virtually the entire chain of command for the "investigation" of Faulkner's death was under suspicion in federal corruption probes, including the head of the Central Division, John DeBenedetto (convicted), and the head of Homicide, James Carlini (unindicted co-conspirator). Inspector Alfonzo Giordano, who pled guilty to corruption in 1986, was the senior officer at the scene after Faulkner's shooting and played a key role in initiating and orchestrating the frame-up. Donald Hersing declared under oath that Giordano was part of a group of police officers engaged in corruption activities. (D. Hersing 5/10/99 Affidavit) Hersing also stated that police knew about the FBI investigations. Murdered by Mumia does not mention Giordano's name even once.

Fact: Giordano was the right-hand man for Frank Rizzo, Philadelphia's racist police chief and later mayor in the late 1960s and '70s. From 1968 to 1970, Giordano was in charge of the Stakeout squad, which helped lead a police raid on the Black Panthers' headquarters in 1970. He was also the supervisor of the 15-month police siege of MOVE'S Powelton Village house in 1977-78, which resulted in nine MOVE members being sent to prison on frame-up charges of killing a cop who had been shot in the police cross fire. Giordano knew exactly who Mumia was. The senior officer on the scene, he had both motive and opportunity to frame up Mumia for Faulkner's killing.

Fact: Giordano originated the claim that Mumia's gun—the putative murder weapon—was lying beside him on the street despite the fact that according to police records, the cops were still looking for the gun some 14 minutes after hordes of police had arrived on the scene. (Police Memo. 12/17/81) It was Giordano who claimed that, while in the back of the police van at the scene, Mumia confessed to shooting Faulkner. (IIR 12/9/81) This claim was refuted by Stephen Trombetta, who was in the van with Mumia and made clear that Mumia made no such statement. (IIR 12/9/81)

Giordano is also the cop who arranged for Chobert's supposed identification of Mumia. (N.T.6/1/82:70-71) Giordano was a key witness for the prosecution against Mumia at the January 1982 preliminary hearing and bail hearing. (N.T.l/8/82:90-99; 1/11/82:71-78) He testified again at a 1 June 1982 hearing regarding the bogus confession. (N.T.6/1/82:67-98) Nonetheless, Giordano was not called to testify at the 1982 trial. He was reassigned to desk duty and resigned from the Philadelphia police force one working day after the trial was over. As Rachel Wolkenstein noted in her 28 July 2001 affidavit, the fact that Giordano was not called to testify by the prosecution is a "powerful indication that the prosecution knew of Giordano's involvement in corruption and thought it would be too risky to present him at Mr. Jamal's trial." Notably, not only do Faulkner and Smerconish disappear Giordano from their book, but these pre-trial hearings are conspicuously missing from the transcripts on the Faulkner Web site.

Fact: As already noted, at least six witnesses, including two cops, reported someone at the scene thought to be the shooter wearing a green army jacket. Both Beverly and Kenneth Freeman, William Cook's passenger, were wearing green army jackets. Substantiating Beverly's assertion that he was hired with another man to kill Faulkner is Cook's 15 May 1999 declaration in which he states that Freeman told him he was part of the plan to kill Faulkner and had "participated in the shooting." Beverly's statement that Mumia was shot by a "uniformed police officer who arrived on the scene" is substantiated by the account of Sergeant Westermann, a Homicide police officer, who stated that Mumia was shot by "arriving police reinforcements." (12/9/81 Medical Ex. Inv. Log)

Fact: Beverly stated he saw two undercover cops and a uniformed police officer in a car nearby. In late 1996, an eyewitness named Marcus Cannon came forward with information that he saw two white men who appeared to be undercover police officers on the scene during Faulkner's shooting. (N.T.6/30/97:123-25) William Singletary has testified that he saw two police "white shirts" and other cops at the scene immediately after the shooting. As Beverly put it in his affidavit, "any police officers on the scene would be there to help me."

Mobilize to Free Mumia Now!

Referring to those fighting to prove Mumia's innocence, Faulkner and Smerconish write, "It's like that old Nazi propagandist said, if you tell a lie, tell it big enough, tell it often enough, it becomes truth" (page 30). This, in fact, is exactly the methodology of Murdered by Mumia.

In her drive to kill Mumia, Maureen Faulkner brags that she and the Fraternal Order of Police have taken every measure to prevent Mumia's voice from being heard from prison, openly boasting about trampling upon his First Amendment rights. She and Smerconish attack the most basic of democratic rights, ranting against Mumia's exercise of his right to appeal to fight his frame-up conviction. Murdered by Mumia oozes with racism— from its attacks on Mumia and his supporters, to its description of members of the MOVE organization as a bunch of "lawless" and "dangerous" murderers, to its use of code words that are the stock-in-trade of racist demagogues. Faulkner and Smerconish take pride in the support they have gotten from racists and xenophobes such as Joey Vento, who owns Geno's restaurant, which carries a sign declaring, "This is America. When ordering speak English."

Smerconish himself was a political advisor to Frank Rizzo. An outspoken proponent of racial and ethnic profiling by the cops and federal agents, Smerconish has made a name for himself by dismissing the torture at Abu Ghraib as "naked pyramid pictures" and calling for the mass arrest of undocumented immigrants who protest for their rights.

Smerconish and Faulkner portray Black Panthers such as Mumia as committed "cop killers" and Mumia's supporters as friends of "cop killers" who, like "terrorists," should have no rights. This is a sinister call for police terror not only against Mumia's defenders but all opponents of racist oppression, imperialist war and capitalist exploitation. In their mendacity, they write that MOVE was responsible for "an exploding bunker" that caused the death of eleven people, five of them children on 13 May 1985. They disappear the fact that it was the cops under black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode, aided and abetted by the Feds, that dropped a bomb on MOVE'S Osage Avenue home, killing eleven MOVE members and their children and destroying a black neighborhood.

Among those cited for honorable mention by Smerconish and Faulkner are a number of Democratic Party officeholders, such as Philadelphia D.A. Lynne Abraham and Ed Rendell, the District Attorney who prosecuted Mumia. Rendell was later the mayor of Philadelphia and is currently governor of Pennsylvania. At the same time, Murdered by Mumia targets even mainstream media spokesmen who say that while Mumia may be guilty, he should get a new trial given the evidence of misconduct by the cops, courts and prosecutors. These spokesmen primarily seek to refurbish the image of the American "justice" system. In attacking them, Faulkner and Smerconish are trying to clear the path for Mumia's execution by intimidating anyone who even raises a question.

Over 800 individuals and organizations, including unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers, have signed a PDC statement titled, "We Demand the Immediate Freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an Innocent Man," that also calls for the abolition of the racist death penalty. Signatories include Nobel Prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer, black intellectuals Manning Marable and Henry Louis Gates Jr., actor Danny Glover and numerous trade unionists around the world. The crux of the PDC statement was echoed by the March 2007 issue of Shopsteward, published by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which represents hundreds of thousands of workers. The unions that have gone on record in support of Mumia must be mobilized in action to combat this racist frame-up.

Mumia is the victim not of a rogue cop, bad prosecutor or racist judge, but of an entire "justice" system intent on silencing this courageous fighter for the oppressed. The capitalist state—at its core made up of the cops, courts and prisons—is an instrument of repression to uphold the class rule of the bourgeoisie. The lies peddled by Smerconish and Faulkner have been refuted many times over. That they are now given a renewed platform on national news stations should make it clear that those fighting on behalf of Mumia must be mobilized on the basis that he is an innocent man.

Every legal avenue must be utilized to fight for Mumia's freedom. But there should be no illusions that the forces that have kept him in the shadow of death for 26 years will give him justice. The only pressure that will have an impact on the rulers and their courts is the fear of the consequences of executing Mumia or entombing him for life. What is crucially needed is the mobilization of the social power of the international labor movement in the fight for Mumia's freedom. If undertaken with a mobilization of the union movement, the fight to free Mumia and abolish the racist death penalty would be a first, giant step toward infusing workers with the consciousness that this system must be overturned through proletarian socialist revolution. Free Mumia Abu-Jamal now! Abolish the racist death penalty!

The PDC is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization which champions cases and causes in the interest of the whole of the working people. This purpose is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League.

Partisan Defense Committee: P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013 * *(212) 406-4252

Friday, January 11, 2008

On Deflating the Youth Balloon and Obama's Campaign


Frankly, I tremble at the thought of having to make any more comments on the 2008 presidential nominating process. I am about as far removed politically from the whirlwind of this process as it is possible to be and yet still retain a rational political posture. I, moreover, am having a hard time even getting up a sporting interest in the results and those who have been reading my commentary over the last couple of years know I live for an occasional bet on the outcome of these things. Mercifully, I do not have to actually vote for any of the subjects of the bets. Propaganda politics does indeed have it compensating virtues.

Notwithstanding those virtues, my friends, today Friday January 11 2008 I confess that I have dug something of a hole for myself. Despite my disdain for parliamentary politics, or rather my distain for those politics as the sole vehicle for attempting social change, I do like to project trends based on what is happening in the main arena of politics these days. An invaluable aid in that quest is the media’s mind-boggling fetish for polling everything that is not tied down. With proper caution some of this information is very useful. As a case in point, last week, in the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses they provided much information on the youth vote. Apparently what drove Obama over the top was his ability to grab the youth and actually have them turn up at the caucus sites. I perked up immediately on that bit of information. I suggested that this was the first national manifestation of a fresh breeze coming on. (See the entry The Winds Of Change Do Shift, January 7 2008).

Obama and his strategists are not the only ones who see (if not this year then in the near future) the importance of the youth in driving any positive social change that might occur in this country. And it has been ever so. Not just in my generation, the generation of ’68, but in the 1930’s during the Great Depression and earlier in the first part of the 20th century with the progressive labor movement. Those Wobblies who followed Big Bill Haywood and the gang were mainly footloose kids, remember. Thus, I too am interested in which way the youth is headed. The only virtue of aging, seemingly, is that I have seen more than a few political generations past by. For the most part since the 1960’s, with some notable exception around Central America and South Africa, the various youthful generations have been characterized by political quietude, or worst.

That brings us to today. After digesting the New Hampshire results it is clear that Obama grabbed his fair share of the youth vote. However, that was not enough, not nearly enough. What happened? Apparently Obama can draw the crowds in rock star fashion but, in the parlance of traditional politics, he could not seal the deal. They didn’t show at the voting booths. Fair enough. Nobody said getting the iPod generation to either the booth or the streets was going to be easy. My reflections last week on the ‘surge’ of youth should thus be tempered a little by those results, or the problems reflected in them.

Nevertheless I believe that there is something on the wind going on among the youth that has been initially reflected in the energy of the Obama campaign. And if not now, soon. I do not believe that my comparison of the energy around Obama’s campaign with that of the fresh breezeof the Kennedys in my youth in the 1960’s as a catalyst for a break from the past is that far off. I stated at the end of The Winds of Change Do Shift commentary that it was not time to dust off the old Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) buttons yet. But keep a rag ready. I stand by that statement. Enough said for now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On the Palestinian Question


I HATE to write about the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Any half aware political person knows why without having to go into detail. Right? There are bad days with shots fired, hostages taken, rockets launched, separation walls built and tensions on both sides inflamed by their respective leaderships. Then it goes downhill from there. However in light of American President Bush’s ‘optimism’ about concluding a just peace and, moreover, some kind of peace treaty, before he leaves office a few words are in order.

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is a classic example of the fate of interpenetrated peoples who both have the right to national self-determination but the exercise by one of which, however, in effect denies the other of its right. There are other such situations, like in Ireland, but today this conflict is the one that is front and center. I have mentioned at other times in discussing the right to national self-determination that it is not a supra-historic right but is rather a basic democratic right. Whether or when it is exercised depends on the state of the class struggle and whether it helps resolve the national question satisfactorily. And that, my friends, is the point. Socialist support the right to national self-determination in order to take the nagging national question off the agenda and put the class question to the fore. And that is basically all we ask of it. As a general proposition, self evident in the age of ‘globalization’, the nation state is obsolete as a political entity. However, they are easier to declare obsolete than to get rid of.

For the most the part in the year 2008 the national right to self-determination does no come up as a question for most states. Although no Zionist wants to hear this, in the context of the question of Israel’s right to national self-determination, in short its right to exist, is not seriously in question. There may be a great deal of bluster on all sides about this but when the deal goes down Israel is by far the dominant military power in the region and by that fact alone assures its continued existence. Moreover, the subject Palestinian people, despite their occasional military efforts to the contrary, do not represent any threat to the existence of the state of Israel.

That, dear reader, brings us back to President Bush’s, or for that matter any party’s, efforts today to ‘resolve’ the national question here. Let us be clear, we support measures that represent even a distorted expression of the Palestinian right to national self-determination like the bi-national state. However, at the risk of sounding utopian the hard reality is that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is one of those that really cry out for a socialist solution that goes beyond the democratic question of national self-determination where the working people of the two countries create a bi-national state as part of a greater federation in the Middle East. Ya right, you say. Okay that does sound utopian today but YOU tell me another just and equitable way out. In any case, I forewarned you that I hate to write on this subject. Enough said.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

On Revolutionaries Running For President, Part II


In the Spring of 2007, at the height of the French presidential elections, I wrote a commentary concerning my take on the then current ‘controversy’ on the left about whether revolutionaries, and more importantly, revolutionary organizations can, on principle, run candidates for the executive offices of the bourgeois state (president, governor, sheriff, etc.). (See that article reposted below today’s commentary). I noted there that my comments did not represent my final thinking on the matter. One of my premises is that there is a fair amount of propaganda value in running for these high profile offices. Now that we are in the heart of the American presidential nominating process in early 2008 it is time to reconsider the points that I made in that commentary. Again this does not represent my final thinking on the matter.

The main proponent of the argument for opposing running for executive offices on principle has been the International Communist League (ICL), an organization that has for some time been running an internal and now external argument about this issue. Underlying the ICL’s position is their perceived need to clarify the question of the state that, at times, got rather murky in discussions during the first four Congresses of the Communist International which they (and I) stand on. Admirable as that quest may be I still do not believe that the question of running for executive office in the bourgeois state, with the obvious and longstanding proviso that it is clear we refuse to take office if elected, is in need of this clarification.

Central to my premise, as noted in the earlier commentary below, was that it was unprincipled to accept funds (as revolutionaries did in France, also see below) but that the propaganda value of running for executive office outweighed not doing so as a matter of getting attention during an intense political period. I agree that there was a fair amount of confusion brought about in the Zinoviev-led Communist International around the various formulations concerning what types of workers governments could be supported, at what times and and under what conditions by revolutionaries. Moreover, I recognize that part of that confusion spilled over into Communist policy in Germany in 1923 in regard to support or non-support for various Social Democratic party administered bourgeois provinces. That said, this is nevertheless hardly an argument for not running your own candidates under your own banner for executive office.

Here, however, is where my main problem with refusal on principle comes in. There is no question, or at least there should be no question, that revolutionaries can use the united front policy on elections to critically support other worker formations in their campaigns, including their campaigns for executive office. Lenin, in Left-Wing Communism, can be cited authoritatively for that proposition. Part and parcel of that proposition is the premise that those critically supported worker formations would, if successful, administer the bourgeois state . Thus, revolutionaries would be in the position of remaining organizationally and individually ‘chaste’ while supporting, as a rope supports a hanging man, others who are not so squeamish about running and taking executive offices. I fail to see a reason, much less a principled reason, to draw that distinction here.

The ICL, as a democratic centralist organization, can rightly impose discpline on its members, including any dissenters on this question, now that the organization has publically committed itself to this position. Fair enough. The question therefore becomes whether this issue itself is, in Leninist parlance, a ‘split’issue' even if one considers that the ultimate ramifications might lead to differences on the question of the state. I say, hell no. But that brings me to my last comment. It is certainly not clear to me other than in the above-mentioned interest of historical clarification why given the immense tasks that confront the international working class movement in the fight for socialism that in the year 2007 (and now 2008) this question need take up so much of our attention. Running for but not taking executive office seems like a definitive enough policy to not be called into question at this time.

Reposted article from the Archives

On Revolutionaries Running for President(Now Part I)

The main bourgeois electoral political action of 2007 in the Western world has thus far been the French presidential elections. After the just completed first round the Gaullist and Socialist Party candidates are headed into the final round on May 6th. Recently, in a commentary on the workers movement and public campaign funding (see April 2007 archive), I used the example of the French presidential campaign in discussing the erroneous policy of ‘far left’ groups there, like the Revolutionary Communist League (English translation) and Worker’s Struggle (also English translation), of accepting campaign funds from the French state.

My position was that as a matter of integrity, the nature of our tasks and our own security this policy was unprincipled for revolutionaries. That stirred up some controversy; or rather I should say a 'tempest in a teapot', not so much around the question of accepting funds as the question of whether those organizations in France should have even fielded presidential candidates. Thus, the question is starkly posed. Can leftists in principle run for executive office in the bourgeois state and therefore take political responsibility for the administration of its policy? The following comments represent my take on this issue; however, they are by no means my final thinking on the matter.

Those of us who consider themselves Marxists owe two debts of gratitude to Vladimir Lenin. First, for leading the modern fight against parliamentary abstensionism, mainly a fight against anarchist and syndicalist tendencies in the worker’s movement to deny any importance to bourgeois elections as a means of getting out the socialist message. His classic polemic against those tendencies in ‘Left-Wing' Communism-An Infantile Disorder’ gives short shrift to such notions. Secondly, we owe Lenin for his sorely needed updating of the Marxist conception of the state and the need to replace the current bourgeois state with a workers state with its own institutions. His classic statement of the case in State and Revolution gives short shrift to the notion that a victorious worker’s revolution can take over the current state apparatus with just a little ‘fine tuning’.

Why do we need to invoke the tremendous authority of Lenin on what is a seemingly simple question of whether a revolutionary organization should or should not run for an executive office of the bourgeois state? On the basis of State and Revolution to pose the question would appear to give the answer. However, unlike other questions dealt with there this one is not one where to pose the question gives the answer.

Let us set the parameters of the debate. Nobody, or at least I hope nobody, believes in 2007 that running in elections will lead to socialism. I would also hope that nobody believes that we can simply take over the current state apparatus as is and go from there. I would further hope that no one, in some kind of anarchist funk, would fail to draw a distinction between administering the executive power of the capitalist state and using the legislative branch as a forum in order to be ‘ tribunes of the people’. Finally, for now and the foreseeable future no one should assume that this question is much more than a theoretical one. Otherwise something is desperately wrong with one's organizational priorities and one's grasp of political reality.

So now that I have safety guarded all those parameters, What is the big deal? And that is pretty much where I stand on the issue. Historically, revolutionaries have used bourgeois election periods to run on their programs and get a hearing in quarters they might not reach outside of the electoral process. In terms of executive offices, a revolutionary organization, like the Socialist Workers Party in the old days, ran for executive office with the proviso that if elected they would not serve. And that seems to me to continue to be the right policy. Those who want to carry out a policy of total refusal to participate in executive office campaigns, like the presidency, today have got to make a better argument for that decision than they have thus far.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Short Note on the Death Penalty- The Supreme Court Oral Arguments


One of the first, if not the first, issues that captured my passions as a young neophyte liberal politico was the fight against the death penalty. This fight seems like a never-ending battle that has had its own ebb and flows. In my youth here in Massachusetts that fight reflected the fact that no one had been executed in the state since 1947, and we wanted to keep it that way. It also reflected for me personally a fight in memory of Sacco and Vanzetti, the two Italian anarchists framed and executed in the 1920’s by this very same state of Massachusetts. Since then there have been a couple of serious attempts (one almost successful) to reimpose the death penalty. Current Republican presidential candidate and ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney attempted to lead one of those efforts. He failed.

The ebb and flow of the fight against the death penalty here has also been reflected nationally as there have been periods when more states added this statute to their books, especially for heinous crimes directed at particular groups of persons like governmental officials or their agents. Lately with the successes of the Innocent Project and better scientific methods, such as DNA testing, that will stand up in court there has been something of a slow down in that trend. Recently New Jersey banned the penalty and others may follow.

This brings up today’s subject, which is a little comment on the work of the United States Supreme Court. Last week the Court agreed to accept a case to determine whether any crime other than murder, like rape, can be considered a capital crime and therefore subject to the death penalty statutes for punishment purposes. Most importantly, on Monday January 7, 2008 the Court heard oral arguments on the question of whether three dose legal injection, a method used by most of the 37 states that have the death penalty on their books, is cruel and unusual punishment under the United States Constitution. A moratorium, of sorts, on executions in the states has been in effect nationally pending a decision in this case.

If ever a death penalty opponent needed ammunition for the argument against the death penalty a reading of the transcript of the oral arguments in this case is all that is required. Getting down to the technical details of the process of injection and whether the subject human being is, in effect, being tortured by the state before taking his or her life is an almost surreal and Kafkaesque experience. That will, however, probably not deter this august Court from finding that such procedures are not cruel and unusual. The original intent theorists like justices Scalia and Thomas, aided by their dear friends justice Kennedy and the two Bush appointees, will find that anything short of drawing and quartering, a common practice in the 18th century, does not “shock the conscience” of humankind these days. Thus, our fight goes on. Abolish the Death Penalty Now!

Monday, January 07, 2008

*Leon Trotsky on Literature and Art- A Book Review

Click On Title To Link To Leon Trotsky Archive 1938 Article "Art And Politics In Our Epoch". The Points Made There By Trotsky Are Still Relevant Today.


Leon Trotsky on Literature and Art, Leon Trotsky, ed. By Paul N. Siegel, Pathfinder Press, Inc. New York, 1970

Some of the points made here are taken from a review of Trotsky’s other compilation on this subject "Literature and Revolution". The first part of the book under review book draws from that work in discussing the question of ‘proletarian culture’ and its probabilities

Trotsky reputedly once wrote that of the three great tragedies of life- hunger, sex and death- revolutionary Marxism, which was the driving force behind his life and work, mainly concerned itself with the struggle against hunger. That observation contains an essential truth about the central thrust of the Marxist tradition. However, as Trotsky demonstrates here, Marxist methodology cannot and should not be reduced to an analysis of and prescription for that single struggle. Here Trotsky takes on an aspect of the struggle for mass cultural development.

In a healthy post-capitalist society mass cultural development would be greatly expanded and encouraged. If the task of socialism were merely to vastly expand economic equality, in a sense, it would be a relativity simple task for a healthy socialist society in concert with other like-minded societies to provide general economic equality with a little tweaking after vanquishing the capitalism mode of production. What Marxism aimed for, and Trotsky defends here, is a prospect that with the end of class society and economic and social injustice the capacity of individual human beings to reach new heights of intellectual and creative development would flourish.

The most important and lasting polemic that Trotsky raised here, however, was the fight against the proponents of ‘proletarian culture’ inside the Russian Communist Party. The argument put forth by this trend maintained that since the Soviet Union was a workers state those who wrote about working class themes or were workers themselves should in the interest of cultural development be given special status and encouragement (read: a monopoly on the literary front). Trotsky makes short shrift of this argument by noting that, in theory at least as its turned out, the proletarian state was only a transitional state and therefore no lasting ‘proletarian culture’ would have time to develop. Although history did not turn out to prove Trotsky correct the polemic is still relevant to any theory of mass cultural development.

The second half of the book is made up of commentaries, using the Marxist method, to discuss various cultural and political figures. These include an incisive essay on Tolstoy, acerbic comment on Winston Churchill, fair eulogies of the Russian poets Essessin and Mayakovsky and a polemical article reviewing Andre Malraux's fictional work on the Chinese revolution of the 1920's. Not a bad combination to show the power of Trotsky’s thought and the range of his interests. Also, to some extend, this is a study on his progression as a writer from the somewhat florid early Tolstoy pieces to the solid polemic of the Malraux article. Read on.

The Winds of Change Do Shift

The Winds of Change Do Shift

On Friday January 4th in the aftermath of Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses I noted that victory and also speculated that this event represented, perhaps, the first manifestation of a leftward trend in politics after forty years in the wilderness. (See entry entitled Obama ‘The Charma” and the Baby Boomers, January 4th 2008). In response I received a comment from a reader that implied that apparently in my old age I have grown soft and now, at least tacitly, see a bourgeois politician as the hope of the future. Hell no, a thousand times no. That road is well worn with the political corpses of many of my generation. Enough of that. However, as I will point out below, there is some political significance to the Obama phenomena that actually may help those of us to the left of and opposed to the Democratic Party. Listen up, carefully. But first directly below I have reposted for the record my Friday introductory statement….

“On the day after Obama’a decisive victory in the Iowa caucuses it is only fair to acknowledge that victory even though I am politically far removed from traditional parliamentary politics. I have noted earlier this year in this space and on my American Left History blog site that the winds of change seem to be blowing leftward for the first time in forty years. That was the time of John Kennedy trying to slay the conformist dragons of the 1950’s. It is rather strange to see Hillary as the Eisenhower of this year’s drama. In any case, Obama seems to be the first national manifestation of that change. Below is a commentary made earlier this year as Obama staked his place out in the sun.”….

As any one can see this is hardly a left-handed way to declare for Obama. Look, the last forty years or so have been a disaster for leftist politics. Some of this was, surely, of our own making. Some was obviously due to international politics. But in the final analysis we were defeated because our forces were too small to fundamentally change the way political business was done in this country. In the ensuing forty plus years of cultural wars the yahoos have run rough shot over the country, and us. I would argue, however, that making a political football out of the case of the unfortunate Terri Schiavo was a watershed in the rightward drift and that event signaled its high (or rather low) watermark. The midterm 2006 Congressional elections, whatever else they represented, rather codified my thinking on this question (although the net results caught me a little by surprise).

Do these events mean that we have entered a revolutionary epoch? Hell, no. Not at least from today’s configurations. What it does represent is the fact that we of the left now have more breathing room to fight for and get an audience for our politics. That, dear friends, is where the comparison to the Kennedy days (and in any event probably more the Robert Kennedy days that Jack’s. Some of Obama’s mannerisms and speech patterns rather eerily evoke Bobby) comes in. At that time the cultural wraps of the Eisenhower years were untightened and good political work could be done. The fight for nuclear disarmament opened up, the black civil rights struggle opened up, the fight for a more democratic society opened up. Hell, it was even okay to hobnob with communists in those fights (as long as you didn’t yell it from the rooftops). Is that what the Kennedys wanted? Again, hell no. But that is where the winds of change did shift.

One of the virtues of the extreme concentration on presidential electoral politics by the media is that they poll everything that is not tied down. This time in Iowa they actually have provided some useful information that we can use. The breakdown of the youth vote is illuminating. A major fight today centers around getting the masses of youth of this country back into left wing political struggle. Yes, like in the 1960’s. The hallmark of the 1960’s, whatever else they may have produced, was the wholesale entry of the young into political struggle. Except episodically, the past forty years have not until today witnessed such a phenenomon. Again to look at history the Kennedy victory in 1960 was the catalyst for bringing many, including this writer, onto the political stage although from there we moved in our own direction.

That again is where the comparison with the rise of Obama is apt. I think that one quote from a student in Iowa kind of sums it up nicely. Drake University student Stacey Wilson stated that “No one was expecting the student turnout. Just because we’re not protesting or getting tear-gassed doesn’t mean we don’t care. I’m just glad we shocked everybody”. Yes, I am glad too. Does this mean we must dust off the old Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) buttons? No, but we better keep a rag handy. Enough for now.

Obama "The Charma" and the Baby Boomers, Part II

In the aftermath of Obama’a decisive victory in the Iowa caucuses it is only fair to acknowledge that victory even though I am politically far removed from traditional parliamentary politics. I have noted earlier this year in this space that the winds of change seem to be blowing leftward in America for the first time in forty years. That was the time of John Kennedy trying to slay the conformist dragons of the 1950’s. It is rather strange to see Hillary as the Eisenhower of this year’s drama. In any case, Obama seems to be the first national manifestation of that change. Below is a commentary made earlier this year as Obama staked his place out in the sun.


It has been several weeks now since Illinois Senator Barack Obama announced his candidacy to run for President of the United States on the Democratic Party ticket. Some readers might have expected that I would drop everything to comment on this development as soon as that candidacy was announced, especially as here we have a serious (and ‘clean’) black candidate who moreover has challenged the political pretensions of baby-boomers, my generation.

Let us be clear on this, I actually agree with the Senator that it is time for newer, younger leadership to assert itself and not wait until the last grave of the last boomer is covered over before new voices can be heard on the political scene. And I offer as specimens #1 and #2 the two most recent presidents, Bush and Clinton, baby-boomers both, as prime evidence for the bankruptcy of conventional bourgeois politics. Every rationale person should go screaming into the night at the thought that another Clinton (or Bush, what about Jeb?) will be taking her apparently alternating dynastic place in the White House.

I have noted, sarcastically, elsewhere that my parent’s generation, the generation that went through childhood in the Depression of the 1930’s and fought World War II, has been misnamed “the greatest generation” for basically being quiet (in the 1950’s and 1960’s when it was time to scream like hell). Unfortunately the boomer generation has also long ago given up the ghost of whatever dreams animated our youth and made the 1960’s and early 1970’s a time-‘when to be alive was very heaven’. Some got tired, some burned out, some copped out and a few, very few, of us are left to tell the tale. Well, for what it is worth we made every error in the book of social change, there were excesses to be sure and most certainly we were defeated politically not only by the likes of one Richard M. Nixon but by ‘wannabes’ from my generation like the Bushes and Clintons who offered more of the same old politics.

But, hold on a minute. If Senator Obama wants to lead a new ‘children’s crusade’ against the current boomer establishment I want to know one thing and that is what is your program? Call me jaded but his campaign is very long on dreamy talk and very short on a program that addresses the key needs for working people-education, living wages, defense of civil liberties, repairing the physical infrastructure of the country, making New Orleans and the ghettos and barrios livable, health care and I could go on but you get the point. In short, those things that are desperately needed today but go far beyond the norms of even ‘left’ Democratic Party politics and require a workers party fighting for a workers government.

Now I can tell why I did not respond to sooner to the announcement of Obama’s candidacy. As it is Black History Month I have been concentrating on writing about various historical figures and events important to the black liberation struggle. And as a natural part of that work the name and life of Malcolm X has taken prominence. Frankly, in the presence of such a real black mass leader, the voice of the rage of the ghettos in the 1960’s, to friend and foe alike, it was hard to take the time to comment on yet another ‘clean’ black Democrat. As I pointed out in a review of the Autobiography of Malcolm X today’s black leaders like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Obama the “Charma” please take a step back, very far back. Enough said for now.