Tuesday, September 19, 2006


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



The fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal is at a critical juncture. A prize-winning journalist, former Black Panther Party spokesman, supporter of the MOVE organization and defiant opponent of racist state terror, Mumia was railroaded to death row in 1982 on false charges of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. On July 20, Mumia filed his opening legal brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, which last December put his case on a "fast track" for decision. The forces of the capitalist state have long been determined to carry out Mumia's legal lynching as a warning to those who challenge racist cop repression, to fighters against U.S. imperialist depredations, to workers who stand up for their rights on the picket lines. The Partisan Defense Committee—a legal and social defense organization associated with the Marxist Spartacist League—calls on all opponents of racist injustice, and in particular the labor movement, to mobilize for freedom now for Mumia!

Mumia's life is in grave danger. The court is expected to rule in a matter of months whether he will live, die or have further legal proceedings. Both Mumia and the prosecu­tion are appealing a 2001 ruling by U.S. District Court judge William Yohn, who overturned Mumia's death sentence but upheld every aspect of his frame-up conviction. The Third Circuit has refused to hear any evidence of Mumia's innocence and has only allowed him to challenge three of the more than two dozen constitutional violations in his case. For more than five years, state and federal courts have refused to hear the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Daniel Faulkner. In an affidavit reprinted in the PDC pamphlet The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal—Mumia Is Innocent!, Beverly says that he was hired to kill Faulkner, who was reportedly interfering with prostitution, gambling, drugs and police payoffs, and that "Jamal had nothing to do with the shooting."

The courts have suppressed the Beverly evidence because it demonstrates that the injustice done to Mumia was not the work of one rogue cop, prosecutor or judge but the workings of a "justice" system whose purpose is to repress the working class, minorities and the poor on behalf of the capitalist ruling class. The fight to free Mumia must be waged on the basis that he is an innocent man, the victim of a political and racist frame-up. The need to mobilize around this understanding is underscored by the fact that Beverly's confession and other proof of Mumia's innocence—including the suppression and coercion of eyewitnesses by police and prosecutors and their fabrication, some two months after his arrest, of a phony "confession" by Mumia—cannot even get a hearing in the capitalist courts.

The Beverly confession has been derided by liberals like the writer Dave Lindorff and all but ignored by reformist left organizations. Many liberals object to Mumia's treatment in the courts but see it as at most an "aberration" in an otherwise fair and just legal system, and they regard the idea that the cops would frame up an innocent man as absurd.

But to see that such frame-ups are routine procedure requires looking no further than a special prosecutor's report released on July 19, which examines nearly 150 cases in which Chicago cops used electroshock, suffocation and torture to beat bogus confessions out of black "suspects." Although the Chicago report is mainly a damage-control job, it nonetheless confirms that there was widespread torture and that police brass knew about it and gave a commendation to the cops who were doing it. It was well-documented at the time of Mumia's trial that the Philly police used similar methods.

Mumia's frame-up was not only racist—it was politically driven as well. The police and FBI had Mumia in their sights since his Black Panther youth and continued their vendetta as he became known as "the voice of the voiceless" for his searing commentaries on racism, poverty and repression—a role Mumia continues to play through his writings from death row.

The three issues covered in Mumia's new brief point to the racist and political bias that saturated his trial and appeals, proving that Mumia, like Dred Scott in 1857, has no rights that a court is bound to respect. One issue is the racist bias of the late hanging judge Albert Sabo, a member of the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) who presided over Mumia's 1982 trial and again at his post-conviction (PCRA) hearings in the 1990s. The court filings highlight a 2001 affidavit of court reporter Terri Maurer-Carter, who disclosed that at the time of the trial she overheard Sabo say, "I'm going to help them fry the n---r." During the 1995 PCRA hearings, Sabo routinely quashed Mumia's subpoenas, sustained prosecution objections and found all of Mumia's witnesses "incredible." Sabo jailed PDC attorney Rachel Wolkenstein, then a member of Mumia's legal team, and told another defense lawyer, "Counselor, justice is just an emotional feeling."

The brief also exposes the prosecutor's racist jury-rigging at the trial. Excluding black jurors was an official policy of the Philadelphia DA.'s office, codified in a 1987 training video directing prosecutors to strike "blacks from the low-income areas" from juries because they have "a resentment for law enforcement." Statistical studies prove that this was the practice throughout the 1980s. Mumia's brief documents that for his trial "a black person's odds of being struck were ten times higher than someone who is white" (emphasis in original).

Mumia's third challenge strikes at the prosecution's outrageous closing argument that the jury should err on the side of convicting Mumia because he would have "appeal after appeal." This argument blatantly erased the reasonable doubt standard, telling the jury that in case of doubt they should convict Mumia. Mumia's brief also responds to the prosecution's own appeal of Judge Yohn's 2001 ruling, which seeks to reverse the overturning of Mumia's death sentence. Yohn found the sentence to be unconstitutional because the sen­tencing form and jury instructions did not allow jurors to freely consider all the "mitigating circumstances" weighing against a death sentence. Yet Mumia has remained on death row this entire time.

Mumia's case is what the death penalty is all about. It is a legacy of chattel slavery and the ultimate weapon in the government's arsenal of repression aimed at the working class and oppressed. The capitalist rulers want to see Mumia dead because they see in him the spectre of black revolution, a voice of defiant opposition to their system of racist oppression. Acting as their spearhead is the F.O.P., which has tried to intimidate Mumia's sup­porters at every step.
On July 19, the day before Mumia filed his court brief, more than 130 British lawyers released a letter to the court calling to overturn his conviction. Their letter emphasizes that the courts' blatant bias against Mumia must be seen "in the light of the Katrina hurricane disaster in New Orleans, when television viewers in every country of the world witnessed an unparalleled display of racism on a massive scale, allowed (some would say enabled) by the US government." The National Lawyers Guild and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund will be filing amicus (friend of court) briefs on Mumia's behalf.

The frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal is an object lesson in the class character of the capitalist state—centrally the cops, courts, prisons and military—which is an apparatus of violence used to preserve bourgeois rule by suppressing the working class and oppressed. An international movement of millions stayed the executioner's hand in 1995 after Mumia's first death warrant was issued. But that movement was systematically demobilized by reformist organizations that tailored their appeals to the liberal "mainstream," to those who saw in Mumia's case a "miscarriage of justice" that could be remedied if only he got a new, "fair" trial. As Rachel Wolkenstein stated earlier this year, in a talk printed in The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal:

"This meant tying Mumia's defense to what Democratic Party politicians would accept, like the need for a new trial to clean up the image created by Sabo's indisputably racially biased trial and PCRA proceeding. This meant denying the truth about the capitalist state and its vendetta against black militants, the COINTELPRO targeting of Mumia, the murderous attacks on the MOVE organization.

"Appealing to the 'mainstream' also meant ambiguity on the question of Mumia's inno­cence—and on whether he lives or dies, is entombed for life or goes free—so long as there is a new trial. It meant rejecting the very reasons that millions around the globe had taken up Mumia's cause: revulsion with the injustices inherent in capitalism— poverty, racial and ethnic bias, war. There was broad identification with Mumia's fight against the 'system' and for justice for all of humanity."

Every legal remedy must be pursued on Mumia's behalf. But Mumia himself told the French Communist Party's newspaper L'Humanite (25 April) that he had "very little hope in a favorable decision" by the Third Circuit court. Since first taking up Mumia's cause in 1987, the PDC has warned against any illusions in bourgeois "justice," placing all our faith in mobilizing the social power of the working class and the oppressed in defense of Mumia. If successful, the fight for Mumia's freedom would, as Wolkenstein stated in her talk, "strike a blow against the government's 'anti-terror' campaign and the evisceration of democratic rights. It would give labor a sense of its own power. The fight for Mumia is the fight for black liberation, for the liberation of us all, part of the struggle for socialist revolution."

We must mobilize now to make Mumia's fight once again a rallying cry against racist "legal lynching," against black oppression, against government repression. Free Mumia! Abolish the racist death penalty!

Join the Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Contact the Partisan Defense Committee.
e-mail: partisandefense@earthlink.net • Web site: www.partisandefense.org New York: PO. Box

99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013-0099 • (212) 406-4252 Chicago: PO. Box 802867, Chicago, IL 60680-2867 • (312) 563-0442 Bay Area: RO. Box 77462, San Francisco, CA 94107-0462 • (510) 839-0852

Friday, September 15, 2006




It seems that every time this writer picks up any serious journal, newspaper or other periodical there is some article about the plight of the American working class family and the fact, which nobody bothers to deny at this point, that the class divide in this country (and elsewhere) is getting wider. I am not complaining about the fact of publication about the plight of the working class, mind you. After all anything that exposes the fact that there are, surprise, surprise, actually classes in American society warms this old Marxist’s heart. What bothers me is that after making their exposes the writers either have no prescription for solving the problem or, if they do believe that it can be resolved, it is by returning the Democratic Party to power on the national level. To state the problem I have with the prospectives of these writers this way is to give the answer. There will be no solution. The times, however, cry out for a solution. And the start of that solution is to break from the old capitalist party parliamentary solutions and build a workers party. Nothing new here. But it must be done. In short, don’t comment, organize!

Along the same lines this writer recently read an article by Tony Judt in, of all places, the very proper old Cold War liberal New York Review of Books on the possible resurgence of Marxism in some form. Obviously, I, personally, would link the creation of a workers party to a Marxian program. I have made that clear from the beginning of these postings. What is interesting is that that nature of the world since the ‘second phase’ globalization of capitalism has occurred over the last couple of decades that some commentators have picked up on the fact that the conditions of the international labor market now look an awful lot like those at the turn of the last century. In short, a lot of people are going to be presenting their solutions to the crisis and not all of them are in the interest of the international working class. Certainly Professor Judt does not want to see any resurgence of Marxism, having spent the better part of his career expounding on the benefits of the capitalist order against Stalinism. Stay tuned for more on this.




In a recent blog (dated, September 4, 2006) this writer mentioned that one of the Klan groups in this country held a demonstration at the Gettysburg National Cemetery over the Labor Day, 2006 weekend around a list of demands that included bringing the troops home from Iraq in order to patrol the U.S. borders. Symbols mean a lot in politics and the notion that Klansmen were permitted to demonstrate at a key symbol in the fight to end slavery and preserve the union raised my temperature more than a little. As I said then Gettysburg has been hallowed ground for generations of militants fought and paid for in great struggle and much blood BY Northern troops.

At that time I posed the question of what, if any, opposition to the demonstration leftists had put together to run these hooded fools out of town. In response, I was raked over the coals for calling for an organized fight by labor to nip these elements in the bud. Why? Apparently some people believe that running the fools out of town would have violated the Klan’s free speech rights. Something is desperately misunderstood here about both the nature of free speech and the nature of the Klan/fascist menace.

First, let us be clear, militant leftists defend every democratic right as best we can. I have often argued in this space that to a great extend militant leftists are the only active defenders of such rights- on the streets, where it counts. That said, the parameters of such rights, as all democratic rights, do not trump the needs of the class struggle. In short, militant leftist have no interest in defending or extending the rights of fascists and Klansmen to fill the air with their gibberish. Now that may offend some American Civil Liberties Union-types but any self-respecting militant leftist knows that such a position is right is his or her ‘gut’.

Moreover, let us take stock of what we are dealing with here. With the arrival of the Bush Administration we have heard from the left, especially the less politically sophisticated elements, the word fascist, etc. bandied about as a descriptive term for that crowd. Wrong. Yes, the Bush crowd is an extreme right-wing parliamentary cabal and surely harbors more than a few crypto-fascists in its entourage. However, they operate mainly within the norms of bourgeois democracy. Fascism (and here the Klan represents a home-grown variety of that trend) is based on the extra-parliamentary mobilization of the destroyed and decaying middle class. That seemingly subtle distinction is clear in the United States at this time. Militant leftists, if appropriate, can debate the right-wing parliamentary elements. You fight, to the best of your abilities and resources, the para-military forces as they surface in the streets. Supporting democratic rights for fascists/Klansmen, much less getting on the same debating platform with them, is not only foolhardy but sows dangerous illusions about the nature of their threat. There is nothing to debate.

In the final analysis we will be fighting the Klan-types on the streets and the issue will no be rights of free expression (except, maybe, in defense of ours) but the survival of our organizations. A short glance at history is to the point. One of the great tragedies of the Western labor movement was the defeat and destruction of the German labor movement in the wake of Hitler’s Nazi Party’s rise to power in 1933. That destruction was brought on by the fatally erroneous policies of both the German Social Democratic and its ostrich-like ‘see no evil' policy and that of the Communists parties and its “Third Period” isolationist policy. Thus, neither party fully saw the danger in time and compounded that error when they did see it and yet still refused to call for a united front of all labor organizations to confront and destroy Hitler and his storm troopers. We know the result. And it was not necessary.

Moreover, Hitler’s organization at one time (in the mid-1920’s) was small and unimportant like today’s Klan/Nazi threat. But that does not mean that under certain circumstances that could not change. By 1930 Hitler had 100,000 trained and disciplined storm troopers who were fighting the labor organizations in the streets and in the working class districts. And that, dear readers, is exactly the point of my argument. NO FREE SPEECH FOR FASCISTS/KLANMEN! ORGANIZE LABOR TO CLEAR THE STREETS OF THIS RABBLE WHEN THEY SURFACE! NIP THE KLAN/NAZIS IN THE BUD!

Monday, September 04, 2006





In a recent blog, dated September 3, 2006, this writer jokingly mentioned that the only people in the world who still supported the war in Iraq were in the immediate Bush entourage. Apparently I was not as far from the truth as I thought. The Bush Administration has clearly drawn a line in the sand on Iraq and has adamantly proclaimed that troops will stay in Iraq as long as that administration draws breathe. And Bush means every word of it. So we know exactly what he wants to do with the troops in Iraq. Leave them as hostages to the sectarian civil war there. Much more interesting are a couple of news reports concerning an American Al Qaeda operative and a Klu Klux Klan demonstration at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Even hard core American right-wingers and Islamic fundamentalists are getting into the anti-Bush act.

On the American Al Qaeda operative. Apparently this Californian trained at an Al Qaeda base prior to 9/11 and then skipped to the Middle East, shortly after those events, with the FBI hot on his trail. Recently he came forward as an English-speaking spokesman (oops, spokesperson) for Al Qaeda’s No.2 man. And here is what his take on the American troops in Iraq is. He has called for the troops to switch sides and support the Al Qaeda cause in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jesus, and all I want to do is withdraw the troops from Iraq. After that, while I do not expect them to turn their swords into plowshares, I sure as hell do not expect them to become cannon fodder for Islamic fundamentalists. Know this- militant leftists have, as a part of their business of changing the world, a fight against religious fundamentalism and that most definitely includes this crowd. It is not always true, and in this case it is definitely not true, that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. We just have to order our priorities- American imperialism is today the main enemy of the peoples of the world. We will deal with the other enemies in due course.

On the Klu Klux Klan demonstration. I do not, as of this moment, know if there was any opposition by militant leftists to the fact that this organization was allowed to demonstrate anywhere, let alone Gettysburg National Cemetery. Gettysburg is hallowed ground for all those who struggled against slavery and the preservation of the union in the American Civil War- the Second American Revolution. That the Klan be permitted anywhere near there is a provocation in itself. In any case, I will deal with the issue of free speech for fascists and Klansmen (oops! Klanspersons) in another blog. What I want to mention here is one of their demands. Their spokesperson called for the troops in Iraq to come home- and patrol the borders (presumably with Mexico) against the so-called immigration menace. What I mentioned above concerning Al Qaeda pertains to this group as well.

The Bush Plan. The Al Qaeda Plan. The Klan Plan. All their dreams are our nightmares. What about the Markin Plan? That’s a simple idea given today’s political conjecture. The only way out is for the troops in Iraq to figure a way out. Use history, particularly the Russian Revolution, as an example. Given the opposing plans presented here I do believe that Markin’s Plan takes the only rationale course. At least this writer’s proposal ultimately gets the troops out of harm’s way. Which is just a shorthand way to say that this writer will, shortly, be sending another open letter to the troops in Iraq (see blog, dated August 24, 2006 for first open letter)- this time with some suggestions for really organizing a troop withdrawal. Enough said.





NOVEMBER UPDATE: Well, the results are in and the good citizens of South Dakota have defeated HR 1215 by a fair margin. This is a small but important victory against the onslaught of the so-called 'right to life' forces. The results, at least temporarily, cuts those forces off the direct path to the United States Supreme Court that the authors of the legislation intended by its draconian provisions. However, be vigilant as these small victories are always subject to challenge in some other forum by the right-wing forces. The states are apparently still the battlegrounds for the fight to further restrict access to abortion-which means in practice poor and young women will find abortion harder to come by. Government out of the bedrooms! Defend the right to privacy! Forward to Women's Liberation.


This writer has spilled no little ink castigating the judicial decisions of the Neanderthals who pose as justices on the United States Supreme Court. And rightly so. And I am sure that I will have plenty of occasions to do so again. But some times these guys (and I do mean guys because at the time, in 1973, the court consisted of all men) get it at least partially right. That decision was Roe v. Wade which for all intents and purposes declared that a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion (or not) fell within her right to privacy and thus was constitutional protected against the snooping of the state. As far as that decision went in the direction of increased, if partial and reversible, democratic rights militant leftists supported the decision. And defend it today. Moreover, today we face yet another, apparently frontal, challenge to the decision this time in South Dakota. We are duty-bound to try to beat this one back as well.

Since 1973 later Supreme Court memberships have attempted to nullify abortion rights by making the scope of Roe v. Wade much more restrictive than the original court decision, generally under some compelling state interest rationale in creating more restrictive procedures. State legislatures have also contributed their ‘wisdom’ by narrowing its scope and making the procedures, especially for the most vulnerable- teenage girls and poor women, as hard and impractical as possible. To add fuel to the fire various so-called “right-to-life” groups have, at times, spent much time and effort in intimidating women at abortion clinics.

Now the South Dakota legislature has passed a law which has all the hallmarks of an openly declared war cry in order to get this issue before the Supremes again. The legislation, HR 1215, is intentionally so restrictive of the conditions under which an abortion would be legally permitted as to totally negate the right. The only stated condition that would make an abortion legal in South Dakota is if the mother’s life was in danger. Not even rape or incest cases would qualify. Thanks a lot. Christ, where the hell do these people who make such proposals come from. However, the legislation is up for a vote by the citizens of South Dakota on November 7th. This bill must be voted down.

Militant leftists must remember, or be made aware, that the political environment in 1973 when Roe. v. Wade was officially decided was a time of social protest and the awakening of the women’s liberation movement. Such protest has quite a lot to do with how the decision came down and that it was decided at all. There is a lesson for us here. The long and short of it is that every democratic gain must be defended strongly against the inevitable war to chip away those rights. A women’s right to choose falls in that category. But it is not enough to merely defend that right. To make the right real we need to insure those poor women, teenagers and others who do not have easy access to abortion clinics have that access as part of free, yes free, universal quality health care. This fact starkly comes home in the case of South Dakota where, according to news reports, there is only one abortion clinic in the whole state. Thus, the beginning of wisdom on this issue is that we need to fight to implement the socialist program. But until that time- DEFEND ABORTION RIGHTS. NO ON HR 1215. FREE ABORTION ON DEMAND. FREE QUALITY UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE FOR ALL.


*Labor's Untold Story- The 19th Century Labor-Farmer Alliances

Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for Farmers' Alliances and link from there.

Every Month Is Labor History Month

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

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

Sunday, September 03, 2006

*Labor's Untold Story- Honor The Labor Organizer And Women's Rights Fighter Lucy Parsons

Click on title to link to The Lucy Parsons Project.

Every Month Is Labor History Month

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

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

*Labor's Untold Story- Honor The Haymarket Martyr Labor Organizer Albert Parsons

Click on title to link to the "Autobiography of Haymarket Martyr and labor leader Albert Parsons. This hardly the last you will hear about this man in this on-going labor series.

Every Month Is Labor History Month

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

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






As noted in the commentary below the thrust of the fight on the issue of same-sex marriage has returned to the states with a vengeance. Since the original blog the midterm 2006 elections have produces seven more states that have passed resolutions or state constitutional amendments defining marriage in the old fashion way-one man, one woman. Arizona is the only state that bucked the trend. Also since the summer the New Jersey Supreme Court has held that same-sex marriage does not violate the state constitution. However, unlike Massachusetts the justices left it up to the state legislative to run with the issue. The struggle continues but remember- Government out of the bedrooms!

Originally posted: August 2006

Earlier this year, when the United States Senate was discussing and voting on a proposal to make the prohibition against same-sex marriage a constitutional amendment this writer pointed out that with the defeat of that measure in the United States Senate the battle ground would again shift to the states and particularly to the judiciary. (see blog, dated June 7, 2006). The states have been the battleground for quite some time. Numerous states have overwhelmingly approved various state constitutional amendments, statutes, etc. banning same-sex marriage. This summer the highest courts of New York and Washington states have rendered decisions along that same line. What is striking is the legal reasoning used to justify the majority decisions in these cases. One would think these cases were about prohibitions against indentured servitude rather than marriage. Here’s why.

One would have thought that in this day in age the act of marriage, at its core, represents nothing more than the act of registering the fact two people decided to legally fortify their relationship. Apparently this writer is way off base in that assumption. According to the legal reasoning put forward by the majorities in the aforementioned states procreation is a fundamental state interest. Fair enough. However, to those majorities the point of marriage, the fundamental point, is to ensure that procreation is protected within that act. Odd, odd indeed. While it would be easy to punch a hole (or rather about 10,000 holes) in that reasoning I will let it go. Let me say this- by the courts’ reasoning whole categories, way beyond the targeted same-sex couples, would be affected if their reasoning is followed through to the end. A rule of thumb in judicial- decision making is to tailor the decision as narrowly as possible while addressing the facts of the case. It takes an active act of judicial malice to take a swipe at most of society in order to get to your sacrificial lambs. Nice going Washington and New York Supremes.






The recent events in the Middle East and elsewhere have highlighted the irrational nature of trying to confine economic, social and political developments to the nation-state system in the age of imperialism. Every conflict from the sectarian civil war in Iraq to the Israeli- Lebanese border war to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle cries out for a socialist solution. That is a fight to the finish, not between ethnically divided populations, but a working class based solution. Today’s political configurations, including the prevalent of religious fundamentalism on all sides in every struggle, make that proposition seem utopian at best and irrelevant at worst. This writer will concede that it is entirely possible that just solutions to these conflicts may proved ultimately intractable nevertheless it is equally obvious that the capitalist nation-state system provides no way out of this dilemma. Sometimes one must fight for what is necessary as well as what is right.

Ironically, Marxists have historically had mixed feelings about the role of the nation-state in history. In the age of the rise of capitalist development at a time when the capitalist system as a whole was a truly progressive historical development, that is until about World War I, Marxists welcomed the formation of nation-states against the particularist , provincial nature of the feudal system. Since World War I, that is since the rise of the full blown imperialist age, Marxist have generally opposed the nation-state in the metropolitan areas. Nevertheless, even today Marxists extend support to national liberation struggles and defend the right to national self-determination for oppressed and neo-colonial peoples. The right to national self-determination has been an integral of the revolutionary program since the early days of the Communist International. The support for struggle of the Palestinian peoples for their own, even if truncated, state falls under that premise. Why? To take the national question off the agenda and place the class question to the fore.

While this little note makes no pretense to do anything but pose the question, to be taken up in future blogs, of the strategies necessary to replace the nation-state with other forms of political organization it does take issue with the notion, currently fashionable, that the process of ‘globalization’ will solve the problems of the nation-state by making borders irrelevant. Well, this writer for one would be more than happy if that were to be the case. However, who is the utopian here? If anything the process of globalization-let us call it by its right name, the international capitalist system- has intensified the tensions in the nation-state system. This ‘globalization’, by the way did not start recently. The whole development of the capitalist system from its progressive beginnings to its imperialist decay has been the struggle to internationalize the market. In short, the capitalists have had their chance - it is time to move on over and let others solve the question of international economic, social and political development. More, much more, later.







In the press of other commentaries this writer has had to delay commenting on proposed legislation this summer by Congress concerning the obviously connected issues of the abolition (or severe reduction) of the federal inheritance tax and the marginal increment of the federal minimum wage standard (see blog, dated July 5, 2006 concerning the minimum wage proposal). Obvious, you ask? Yes, those few thousand heirs who are trying to stampede Congress to protect their billions (and have spent many millions to get their way) and those millions fighting to make minimum wages (even at a lousy $7/hr) and thus avoid leaving their heirs to inherit the wind is compelling. Agreed?

At least that connection is compelling interest group politics in the demented minds of the Republican congressional leadership which parleyed these two items together in an effort to embarrass (if that is possible) the Democrats. How? By forcing an up or down vote on the counterposed issues and thus forcing the Democrats to vote against the federal minimum wage proposal. The Democrats initially, with a view to the fall congressional elections, supported an increase in the minimum wage in order to grandstand to a part of their constituency. As if any self-respecting person could, with a straight face, support much less propose a $7 minimum wage in this day in age (see below). Democratic politicians not having to personally live on the minimum wage apparently have weird senses of humor. The Republicans, responding to their very different base, faced no such embarrassment. Their proposal to severely cap, if not eliminate, the inheritance tax for millionaires and billionaires set just the right tone. And avoided an increase in the minimum wage, which they did not want, to boot. My hat is off to the Republican leadership for joining the two issues together. Just when this writer thought that parliamentary cretinism had reached a bottom line beyond which no rational politics could go he finds out that there is an abyss instead. Well you live and learn.

In an earlier blog, cited in the first paragraph, I counterposed to the minimum wage the fight for a living wage. I stand by that idea here. What one may ask is a living wage? Well, for openers the current median household income. That is somewhere near $50,000/yr. Do the math on the proposed federal minimum wage of $7/hr. Anyway one cuts it the total is about $15,000/yr. That, these days, just barely covers a family’s energy, housing and food costs. Get real. It is embarrassing to this writer to have to discuss the concerns of a small part of society which is worried (and seriously worried) about inheritance taxes when several million people have to get by on that $15,000/yr. Hell, I couldn’t. Can anyone else? Something is desperately wrong with this society’s priorities.

Do not get me wrong about the inheritance tax issue. In the final analysis a workers government will not simply confine itself to taxing the rich but will confiscate their inheritances as part of the social redistribution process. And not shed a single tear about it. The rich can work just like the rest of us, at first for their daily needs and by those deeds promote the good of society. However, that is music for the future. The point now is that the current inheritance tax does not hurt the people we care about-working people. The point at which the tax sets in is far, far above anything a worker’s estate would trigger. In short, the fight over this tax, one way or the other, is not central to our fight for a more just society.

Beyond that, various schemes to tax the rich which periodically spring up on the part of leftists as a means of the redistribution of the social surplus are generally put forth in order to deflect the need for class struggle. Needless to say to really put a crimp in the lifestyles of the “rich and famous” working people need to take state power. We need that solution in order to do more than inherit the wind. Forward.







In a recent blog, dated September 3, 2006, this writer jokingly mentioned that the only people in the world who still supported the war in Iraq were in the immediate Bush entourage. Apparently I was as not as far from the truth as I thought. The Bush Administration has clearly drawn a line in the sand on Iraq and has adamantly proclaimed that troops will stay in Iraq as long as that administration draws breathe. And Bush means every word of it. So we know exactly what he wants to do with the troops in Iraq. Leave them as hostages to the sectarian civil war there. Much more interesting are a couple of news reports concerning an American Al Qaeda operative and a Klu Klux Klan demonstration at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Even hard core American right-wingers and Islamic fundamentalists are getting into the anti-Bush act.

On the American Al Qaeda operative. Apparently this Californian trained at an Al Qaeda base prior to 9/11 and then skipped to the Middle East shortly after those events with the FBI hot on his trail. Recently he came forward as an English-speaking spokesman (oops, spokesperson) for Al Qaeda’s No.2 man. And here is what his take on the American troops in Iraq is. He has called for the troops to switch sides and support the Al Qaeda cause in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jesus, and all I want to do is withdraw the troops from Iraq. After that, while I do not expect them to turn their swords into plowshares, I sure as hell do not expect them to become cannon fodder for Islamic fundamentalists. Know this- militant leftists have, as a part of their business of changing the world, a fight against religious fundamentalism and that most definitely includes this crowd. It is not always true, and in this case it is definitely not true, that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. We just have to order our priorities- American imperialism is today the main enemy of the peoples of the world. We will deal with the other enemies in due course.

On the Klu Klux Klan demonstration. I do not, as of this moment, know if there was any opposition by militant leftists to the fact that this organization was allowed to demonstrate anywhere, let alone Gettysburg National Cemetery. Gettysburg is hallowed ground for all those who struggled against slavery and the preservation of the union in the American Civil War- the Second American Revolution. That the Klan be permitted anywhere near there is a provocation in itself. In any case, I will deal with the issue of free speech for fascists and Klansmen (oops! Klanspersons) in another blog. What I want to mention here is one of their demands. Their spokesperson called for the troops in Iraq to come home and patrol the borders (presumably with Mexico) against the so-called immigration menace. What I mentioned above concerning Al Qaeda pertains to this group as well.

The Bush Plan. The Al Qaeda Plan. The Klan Plan. All their dreams are our nightmares. What about the Markin Plan? That’s a simple idea given today’s political conjecture. The only way out is for the troops in Iraq to figure a way out. Use history, particularly the Russian Revolution, as an example. Given the opposing plans presented here I do believe that Markin’s Plan takes the only rationale course. At least this writer’s proposal ultimately gets the troops out of harm’s way. Which is just a shorthand way to say that this writer will, shortly, be sending another open letter to the troops in Iraq (see blog, dated August 24, 2006 for first open letter)- this time with some suggestions for really organizing a troop withdrawal. Enough said.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-British Miners Fight for All the Oppressed

Click on the headline to link to a"LibCom" website entry for the British miners' strike of 1984-85. This link is provided to give some "color" to the story at the local level from a different political prospective from mine.

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1985 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


British Miners Fight for All the Oppressed

The British coal miners' strike now in its eleventh month is a crucial class battle whose outcome will shape the social and political climate of the country for years to come. Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is seeking with unrestrained savagery to bludgeon and starve the miners into submission. If the miners lose, they and the whole British working class will be dealt with in the same spirit of limitless vindictiveness that Thatcher unleashed on the helpless young Argentine sailors of the Belgrano during the Falklands/Malvinas war. Thatcher personally supervised this gratuitous war crime when the ship, miles from the war zone, was dispatched to the bottom of the icy Atlantic.

But the British miners do not intend to lose. Standing alone thanks to the treachery of the Labour Party/ Trades Union Congress tops, they have held out against everything that bloody Thatcher and her cops could throw against them. They have endured thousands of arrests and countless injuries and they are still fighting. And their courageous defiance of the vicious "Iron Lady" has won to their side the most oppressed layers of
British society. The heat of sharp class struggle has tended to forge a spirit of solidarity between the miners and oppressed sectors such as blacks, Asians and Irish.

This political point was emphasized by comrade Eibhlin McDonald, a leader of the Spartacist League of Britain, during her recent visit to the U.S. We reprint below comrade Eibhlin's remarks at a public Spartacist forum in New York last November 16 (originally published in Workers Vanguard No. 367,23 November 1984) and her speech to a national internal meeting of the Spartacus Youth League (WV No. 368, 7 December 1984).

Women have played an active role in the miners' strike. Although women do not work in the British mines, being barred by law from doing so since 1942, the miners' wives have taken their place alongside their men. And they have made their presence felt since the beginning. When one week into the strike Thatcher deployed 10,000 cops in a martial law operation, Kent women beat back a police blockade at the Dartford Tunnel aimed at sealing the Kent strikers off, and went on through to join a demonstration in Leicestershire. In addition to organizing collections of food and money for the strikers' families, the women have been active strike militants. Their participation on picket lines has been especially important given the awesome scope of police attacks, where sometimes hundreds of miners are arrested in a single swoop. When 20,000 coal field women and supporters marched through London last August 11, one prominent slogan was "No surrender!" Here in the United States, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee have been campaigning to win political support among American unionists for the embattled British miners, and to raise desperately needed funds for the miners and their families. As of February 16, a total of $16,905.63 had been raised. W&R appeals to our readers to generously support this effort. Please make checks payable to: Aid to Striking British Miners'Families; mail to: Partisan Defense Committee, Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013.

I'm a member of the British section of the Spartacist tendency, and I'd like to take a few moments to describe to people particularly the British miners' strike which has been going on now for about nine months, I believe. In fact, we had a demonstration recently in London organized by the Spartacist League on the question of South Africa, where a number of miners attended. And we raised the slogan, "African Gold Miners, British Coal Miners— Same Enemy, Same Fight, Workers of the World Unite!" [Applause.] And this slogan had a really powerful resonance—one which is very deeply felt in Britain, primarily as a result of the experience of these miners after nine months on strike. Because you have to understand, two miners have been killed on picket lines; several others have died on the way to picket lines; and most recently people have been killed trying to salvage coal from rubbish tips in order to heat their homes. If you imagine what it's like to have been without money for your family for nine months—no money for food, they have no heating, t nothing like that.

However, they're pretty solid. They're not going back. Because they know that to go back means 20,000 jobs will be lost, and whole communities will be devastated. And, in fact, several thousand of them have been arrested, just simply for picketing. Thatcher has learned a few lessons from Botha's South Africa. They've recently adopted the tactic, instead of throwing people in prison—you obviously can't throw eight, nine, ten thousand miners in prison, because the prisons will overflow—so what they've started to do is to deport them within the country. People are sent off from English coal mines to the north of Scotland, and are not allowed to return home until after the strike.
So there was a certain identification with some of the stuff that was described recently in South Africa among the British miners. There is, of course, a scabbing operation, pretty well funded, we believe probably by the Vatican. Although if you listen to the news reports, then you could very easily be misled. Because as one miner told us recently in one of our meetings— according to the news reports there are now 3,500 scabs in his pit, which he finds very hard to believe, since only 500 people work there [laughter].

Now, there are two things that I want to draw out from the British miners' strike. One is that such a hard-fought class battle against the Thatcher government has inspired whole sections of the population in support for the miners. It's particularly noticeable among the black and Asian community. Something that is very new in Britain—you have a situation where miners, when they come into the city of London from their areas in order to collect money, of course the cops hound them throughout London, and arrest them for trying to collect money and so forth. They go along to a pub in the black ghetto, and the cops come into the pub— "Where are these miners?"—they want to arrest them. But the word had gone out that the cops were arriving, so of course the local people had hidden them. You know: "What miners? There are no miners here." Now, this kind of thing never would have happened before, because capitalism fosters those kind of divisions, and given that the miners union is predominantly white, this solidarity is a direct result of the struggle against Thatcher.

Another aspect of it is that women, mainly miners' wives and families, who'd come from pretty isolated communities, have in fact become political and taken on a leadership role in the strike and have organized themselves into strike committees.

And the other thing that I want to draw out of it is on the Russian question. It comes up most concretely and revolves around the question of Polish Solidarnosc', in Britain, and it's very sharply felt. Because the background to this miners' strike was in fact—the leader of the British miners, Arthur Scargill, happened to mention before a trade-union conference a year ago that Solidarnosc' was an anti-socialist organization. For this he was witchhunted and hounded by not only the capitalist class, the Tory party and so forth, but by a whole section of the trade-union leadership. And it has now become very clear, the people who were most outraged by Scargill's statement are today urging their union members to cross miners' picket lines quite openly. The leader of the Solidarnosc' movement in Poland has sent a message of solidarity... to the scabs. And so Solidarnosc is hated and despised, not just among the British miners, but among whole sections of the population. Which is actually quite a good thing, because it doesn't bode well for Thatcher's war preparations against the Soviet Union.

They do the same kind of thing there. Talking about the "evil empire" in Russia. Except that in Britain a lot of the population now doesn't believe it, because they have seen miners go off to the Soviet Union and have very nice holidays on the Black Sea, you know, for their families and so forth. And they see this on television, and say, well, this is "totalitarian Russia"...it really doesn't look so bad looking at it from Britain [laughter].

Now, just in conclusion. One of the things that is patently obviously missing from the situation is a revolutionary party with a policy directed to the overthrow of capitalism. Because in order to cohere together the struggle, particularly in a situation where old frameworks are breaking down within the country, to cohere and direct that struggle requires a program for the overthrow of capitalism. And that's what the existing trade-union leadership and the Labour Party in Britain doesn't have. For example, twice in the course of the miners' strike, the dockers were out on strike, and were sent back, having gained absolutely nothing. Because these leaders understand that in order to go all out and do what is necessary in order to win the strike, you must be prepared to at least play around with the question of power. And that's what they're not prepared to do.

That in a nutshell is the strategy and program that the Spartacist League has been fighting for there. Because simply in order to win this strike, it's necessary to spread it to other sections of the working class. We hope as the outcome of that kind of successful class battle that you will have the basis for building a revolutionary party. Because in Britain, in South Africa, in fact in the U.S., you can have very hard-fought class battles which may lose or in fact may be frittered away, if you're not prepared to go all the way and address the question of power, for the working class in power, like they did in Russia in 1917.

The Red Avengers [see article, page 24] is kind of a hard act to follow, but let me make one point that one comrade made in the forum in Toronto the other night: the British miners would really love the Red Avengers.

What I want to try to do is give you a flavor of the political situation in Britain, because it really is in marked contrast with Reagan's America right now. But there's something that I would like to underline, which is that the Thatcher government is in the second term of office and went in with a pretty big majority in the election in 1983, not quite as big as Reagan's. The first real opposition they ran into came from the British miners. And it's important to have the understanding and the hope that Reagan will run into the same kind of trouble, because it really does alter the political contours in the country.

You'll have noticed in the press here recently a lot of ballyhoo about a big "back-to-work" movement. And you could very easily be misled, because if you really added up the figures for people that have gone back to work then you probably would get more than is actually in the miners union, in the NUM itself. However, it is true that there has been a certain erosion within the strike recently. (Unlike what the bourgeois press tells you, it's not because of the Qaddafi connection. Miners think that it's really wonderful if they get money from anywhere, and one of them has said recently, in a meeting where someone mentioned the Qaddafi connection, "Well, you know, if we can't get money from Qaddafi, maybe we can get guns. We can use them." And it's not because of getting money from the Soviet Union—they'd love it.) But as of now, there's not much prospect of industrial struggle alongside the miners, and so they're basically now having to dig in to try and survive through the winter pretty much on their own against all the forces of the capitalist state. And that does have an effect on certain elements in the union.

Now, some of the things that are most striking about the course of the struggle. First of all, the way in which whole sections of the population who are normally deeply divided have rallied behind the miners and have seen in the miners' strike a possible solution to what they suffer under Thatcher. This is particularly true for the racially oppressed minorities. The blacks and Asians in Britain have become some of the most solid supporters of the miners. If you understand that the miners union is predominantly white, and pretty elitist in its political attitudes, for them to find allies in the black and Asian population is really quite a change in British politics. The reason for the identification is that the kind of treatment that's being dished out to the miners in the course of the strike is something that has been dished out to the black and Asian population in the inner cities in Britain for quite a long time.

And there's also the fact that the racial minorities tend to do the dirtiest, most dangerous and worst paid jobs in Britain. In actual fact British mining almost falls into that category, because you have to understand that miners or craftsmen in the British mines might take home, at the end of having worked 40 hours, less than $100 a week. And that's someone who's gone through an apprenticeship. And it's really dangerous and there's a lot of accidents. So there's that reason for identification as well.

It's also true of the Irish population. Previously if you had an IRA bombing in the mainland of Britain, regardless of what the target was, it was always followed by a wave of anti-Irish hysteria. You know, a pretty bad period. Whereas recently when the IRA bombed the hotel where a lot of Tories were staying during their conference the response was everybody cheered because one of the people who suffered most was the employment minister, Norman Tebbit. They showed these pictures on television of this guy lying under four or five floors of rubble and then being dragged out by his feet, and everybody cheered and clapped and thought it was wonderful. And someone had the response, whoever did this should be shot—for missing the target. They're really sorry they missed Thatcher.

There's also another example of the way in which the social divisions have broken down. There's an organization in London called Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners, and they have regular weekly meetings. Miners come along and address their meetings and express their solidarity with them, and they collect money and they give it to the miners. This is previously inconceivable in Britain.

And this seems true in other unions. There's a lot of workers in other unions who really desperately want to strike alongside the miners and to support them, but their leadership really doesn't want to take on that question.

The other thing that's really striking is on the Russian question— It's really clear that the miners' strike has done more to thwart Thatcher's war plans against the Soviet Union than all the peace demonstrations—and there have been a lot of them in Britain. You know, there's a big CND organization, you've had Greenham Common women, and so forth. And I tell you, the Greenharn Common women have become really insignificant by comparison with the miners' wives, who are out there organizing and fighting for support of the strike. And in more ways than one they really are the backbone of the strike.

The third thing is that, given that so much depends on the outcome of this strike, unless you're prepared to address the question of power, then you cannot even bring this strike to the conclusion that is possible. What I mean is that this strike could have been won several months ago. You had the dockers out on strike twice, and Britain is an island economy so the docks are pretty important. The dockers are a militant union. And you have this situation where the leadership of the trade-union movement and of the Labour Party itself are actually divided. The right wing of both the Labour Party and the trade-union bureaucracy—they're openly anti-Russian, anti-Communist; they were the people who really witchhunted [NUM leader] Arthur Scargill when he denounced Polish Solidarnosc'. And it's really clear today, they just tell their members to cross miners' picket lines, ignore the strike and don't give them any money.
On the other hand you've got the left wing of the trade-union bureaucracy and of the Labour Party that are not openly anti-Russian. But they simply will not call their members out on strike action. So you have a situation like when the dockers were out on strike, or the railwaymen. Several hundred members of the railway unions have been victimized, locked out and sent home, for refusing to handle scab coal on the trains. And their union is doing absolutely nothing to defend them, having originally instructed them to not handle the scab coal.

Now, the Labour Party. I believe that never before in its history has the Labour Party been more discredited. And this was as a result of the miners' strike. There's this character Denis Healey in the British Labour Party who's well known to have connections with the CIA and there's a clot of people around him, and we raised the slogan that this guy should be driven out of the Labour Party because the sort of dislocation that it would cause would be really interesting and would break the mold of British social democracy. And Tony Benn came here to New York and various other places and argued that well, of course, the last thing in the world the miners want is to see the Labour Party splitting right now. Well, I'll tell you this is a lie. Most of the miners could see these guys in hell, never mind driven out of the Labour Party. The general secretary of the TUC appeared in a meeting recently and the miners hung up a noose for him in the back of the room. Because you know, they have declared their open animosity to the miners' strike.

We're going to do this fund drive in the U.S. And there's a lot of miners that are really keen to come and meet the Spartacist League and the SYL in the U.S. They're really excited to come here and they desperately need the money. So I think that this will be really important for the international tendency. And it'll be important for the miners.

*Labor’s Untold Story- Reclaiming Our Labor History In Order To Fight Another Day-And Win!:An Introduction For 2006

Click On Title To Link To Site With Information About The Book Used In This Commentary. This Link Is Placed Here By The Writer Merely For Informational Purposes To Assist Those Who Wish To Get A Copy Of The Book.

Every Month Is Labor History Month

Book Review

Labor’s Untold Story, Richard O. Boyer and Herbert Morais, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers Of America (UE), New York, 1976,

As I have often noted this space is dedicated to the struggles of the American (and international) working class and their allies. Part of understanding those struggles is to know where we have been in order to have a better grasp of where we need to head in order to create a more just, socially inclined world. In my travels over the past few years I have noted, even among those who proclaim themselves progressives, radicals and revolutionaries, a woeful, and in some cases willful, lack of knowledge about the history and traditions of the American labor movement. In order to help rectify that lack I will, occasionally, post entries relating to various events, places and personalities that have helped form what was a very militant if, frustratingly, apolitical (or not purely anti-political, especially against its left-wing) labor history.

In order to provide a starting point for these snapshots in time I am using what I think is a very useful book, “Labor’s Untold Story”, Richard O. Boyer and Herbert Morais, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers Of America (UE), New York, 1976, that I can recommend to all those militants interested in getting at least a first taste of what the once mighty organized American labor movement was all about. For those unfamiliar with labor history the UE, cited here as the publisher, was a left-wing union that was split by the main labor federations during the “red scare” of the 1950’s for being “under Communist influence” and refusing to expel its Communist Party supporters. The other organization created at the time was the International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The history of that split and its timing that caused a wasteful break in the struggle for a single industry-wide union that has been the goal of all thoughtful labor militants will, of course, be the subject of one of these entries at a later date.

That UE imprimatur, for this writer at least, is something of a plus but you know upfront that this is a pro-labor history. That said, this 400 page book is chock full of events, large and small, complete with very helpful footnotes giving greater detail (mercifully placed at the bottom of the page where the subject is mentioned), that helped turned the American labor movement from an atomized, motley group of conflicting racial, ethnic and political tendencies in the last part of the 19th century to something like a very powerful and somewhat self-confident organized force by the 1940’s. After that period there is a long term decline that, for the book, ends with the period of the “red scare” noted above and for the rest of us continues until today.

In any case here you will learn about the embryonic stages of the modern labor movement after the American Civil War with its urgent industrial demands to provide goods for a pent-up market war-ravaged market and creation of a transportation and information system adequate to meet those needs. Needless to say labor received short shrift in the bargain, especially at first before it was even minimally organized. The story here it should be made clear, the story anytime labor is the subject of discourse, is organized labor. The atomized working class as a whole minus this organization does not exist as a historical force. That, my friends, is a great lesson for today as well.

As such, it important to note the establishment in the 1870s of the National Labor Union and its offshoots, later the Knights of Labor and the role of its class collaborationist leaders. Also noted is the fight in the coal mines of the East and the legendary saga of the “Molly McGuires” in Pennsylvania our first well-know labor martyrs. Then the fight moves west to the lead, copper, silver and gold mines. That push west can only mean the establishment of the Western Federation of Miners, the emergence of the paragon of an American labor leader Big Bill Haywood, his frame-up for murder in 1905 and the subsequent rise of the Industrial Workers of The World. Wobblies (IWW). Along the way there are various attempts to form a workers party, the most promising, if amorphous, being the Tom Watson-led Populist Party in 1892 before the somewhat more class-based Socialist Party took hold.

Of course no political study of the American working class is complete without a big tip o f the hat to the tireless work of Eugene V. Debs, his labor organizing and his various presidential campaigns up through 1920. While today Debs’ efforts have to be seen in different way in light of the fact that our attitude toward labor militants running for executive offices in the capitalist state and his ‘soft’ attitude on the question of the political organization of the working class with an undifferentiated party of the whole class, he stands head and shoulders above most of the other political labor leaders of the day, especially that early renegade from Marxism, Samuel Gompers.

The first “red scare” (immediately after World War I) and its effect on the formation of the first American communist organizations responding to the creation of the first workers state in Russian ( and of the establishment of the internationally-oriented Communist International), the quiescent of the American labor movement in the 1920s (a position not unlike the state of the American working class today), the rise of the organized labor movement into a mass industrial organization in response to the ups and downs of the Great Depression, the ‘labor peace’ hiatus of World War II, the labor upsurge in the immediate post-World War II period and the “night of the long knives” of the anti-communist “red scare” of the 1950s brings the story up to the time of first publication of the book. As to be expected of a book that pre-dates the rise of the black civil right movement, the women’s liberation movement and the struggle for gay and lesbian rights there is much less about the role of race and gender the history of the American labor movement. Not to worry, the black, feminist and gender scholars have been hard at work rectifying those omissions. And I have been busy reviewing that work elsewhere in this space. But here is your start.

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

A Short Note On The Pro-Stalinist Perspective Of "Labor's Untold Story"


Okay, okay before I get ripped apart for being some kind of Pollyanna in my review of today’s book “Labor’s Untold Story” let me make a preemptive strike. I am, painfully, aware, that, at least back in the days when such things counted, the United Electrical Workers union was dominated by supporters of the Stalinist American Communist Party. The reason that I am painfully aware of this fact was that, back in that same day, I organized the unorganized under the auspices of that union. On more than one occasion various middle level figures in that union took me up short every time I tried to “step on the toes” (that is a quote from a real conversation, by the way) of some member of their vaunted “anti-monopolist” coalition. That coalition, my friends, was (and is for any unrepentant Stalinist still around) code for various politicos associated with the American Democratic Party. That, I hope, will tell the tale.

Notwithstanding that experience, I still think that “Labor’s Untold Story” is a very good secondary source for trying to link together the various pieces of our common American labor history. The period before World War I, that is, the period before the creation of the American Communist Party and its subsequent Stalinization, is fairly honestly covered since there is no particular political reason not to do so. The authors begin their “soft-soap” when we get to the 1920s and the Lafollette presidential campaign of 1924 and then really get a up a head of steam when discussing the role of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the labor struggles of the 1930s in the interest of the Popular Front (read: the 1930s version of that “anti-monopolist” coalition mentioned above) up until about 1939.

Then, please do not forget, the authors make the ‘turn’ in the party line during the short period of the Hitler-Stalin Pact there was nothing that a good right-wing American First Committee member could not have applauded. Of course, once the Soviet Union was invaded the authors went all out in their version of defense of that country (a correct position) when World War II heated up by supporting wholesale the “no strike” pledge and assorted other anti-labor actions (incorrect positions). Then when the Cold War descended in the aftermath of the war and the “red scare” hit the unions big time they cried foul when the capitalists circled the wagons against the Soviet Union and its supporters. Yes, well I knew all that before I re-read the book and wrote the review. Still this is one of the few books which gives you, in one place, virtually every important labor issue from the post Civil War period to the 1960s (when the book ends). Be forewarned then, and get this little book and learn about our common labor history.

Friday, August 25, 2006

*"THE EARTH IS FLAT?"- The Planet Pluto Get's The Bum's Rush

Click on the title to link to a "Sunday Boston Globe", December 13, 2009, interview with scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the villain behind the demise of Pluto as a planet. Our day will come, brothers and sisters.



Not all this writer’s political commentary is earth-bound. Here is proof. The news out of Prague recently centered on the decision of a congress of international astronomers to downgrade the planet formerly known as Pluto to the status of some thing called a “dwarf planet”. Well, so be it. This writer does not know enough of the science involved to determine whether this decision is right or wrong. But, as it turns out that there were partisans on both sides of the question. Fair enough. Science moves on in such fashion.

What interests this writer is the fact that no heads will roll over the decision (at least I assume none will roll). At an earlier time in human history such monkeying with the nature of the universe would have called forth hellfire and damnation on the heads of any who challenged the then currently accepted nature of the universe. One need only think of poor Galileo, among others, who was forced to recant his studied belief that the earth was not the center of the universe. The Catholic Church, such as it was in those days, exacted a heavy toll on inquiring minds and only took a mere few centuries to apologize to brother Galileo. Unfortunately, as occurs too frequently in such cases, he was not around to benefit from the pardon. Those of us who still see ourselves as the children of the Enlightenment can take some solace that in this small area of human endeavor humankind has made some progress. In such areas as stem cell research, the fight against creationism (or its currently fashionable disguise-“intelligent design”) as an explanation for human evolution and a more broad-based view of the death process the fight continues today. Hey, let real scientists fight it out just as they have done in Prague.

Finally, let me bring matters back to earth, so to speak. This writer makes no bones about the fact that he is an earth- chauvinist. We have enough on our plate to solve the ills that beset this little speck of the universe. Unless someone can give me a cogent argument about the need to fight for the right to self-determination of Pluto I will hold stubbornly to this view. In the meantime I will occupy my time by fighting against the very real wars in Iraq and elsewhere, the dangers of religious fundamentalism of all stripes, the attempts to roll back the gains of the Enlightenment and the international capitalist “race to the bottom” among other issues. Enough said.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Your Commander-In-Chief and Chain of Command have stabbed you in the back.
The politicians, Democratic and Republican, have stabbed you in the back and spit in your face.
The anti-war movement has failed you miserably.
Damn, the ball is in your court now. It is time to leave.

This writer usually relies on his own resources to distribute his commentaries. For this important commentary, he urgently asks for the help of anyone whether you agree, agree a little or for that matter violently disagree with the contents to disseminate it. Let the service men and women in Iraq decide what they want about it. If you have friends, relatives or know anyone serving in Iraq e-mail, fax, call or write a letter (if anybody does that anymore) to them about this commentary.

Brother and Sister Soldiers, Sailors and Air Personnel in Iraq, you and I need to talk. However, before we do so I want to come to the table with clean hands. Directly below are the headlines and first paragraph of a blog (dated, August 4, 2006- see my blog site at the end of this letter) written by me and placed on several Internet sites recently:



“In light of the recent seemingly never-ending revelations concerning American military atrocities toward Iraqi civilians it is high time to set the record straight about the appropriate slogans that anti-war militants use to affect the political outcome of the situation in Iraq. For those militant leftists, including this writer, who have opposed the American war aims since before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 our main slogan expressing our opposition to imperialism has been for the immediate withdrawal of all American and Allied forces from the Middle East. That continues to be the thrust of our political struggle today. But, more, much more, is necessary to accomplish that goal. It is no longer up to us-the ball is in the court of the rank and file service personnel in Iraq………”

As you can see it calls, in unambiguous terms, for all anti-war activists who have not done so already to renounce the Support The Troops slogan which has motivated many activists and declare forthrightly for Immediate Withdrawal Now- ‘cut and run’ if you will. This writer, an old militant leftist who has known army life, has opposed the Iraqi debacle from before its start under that slogan. I made no apologies for any of the above then and I make none now. But, hear me out.

It has become a truism but it bears repeating- Your Commander-In-Chief, President George W. Bush, abetted by your Chain of Command from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on down has lied to you the troops who have had to carry out their policy. Did you find, what now seems like an ancient question, weapons of mass destruction? No. Were you ‘liberators’ of the Iraqi peoples? No. Are you making the world ‘safe for democracy’? Hell, no. The Iraqi government, such as it is, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United States government. The Iraqi government’s writ extends no further than the Green Zone, if there. Now, as of August 1, 2006, some of your fellow soldiers are being sent from other parts of Iraq to Baghdad, essentially as hostages, in the ongoing sectarian war. As of August 22, 2006 President Bush has declared, as he has in the past, that the troops will not be withdrawn from Iraq on his watch. He means every word of that.

And how about the generals? This misadventure started out as a generals’ war. “Shock and Awe”. Remember? But, it sure in hell is not a generals’ war now. Look at the lists of those killed. I do. There are plenty of sergeants, corporals and PFC’s there but mighty, mighty thin at the officer level. Surprise, surprise. A look at the wounded lists would undoubtedly show the same thing.

Are your senior officers on the ground trying to keep your butts out of harm’s way and get you out of that inferno? Hell, no. They are at least smart enough to know not to leave the Green Zone-it is dangerous out there beyond the zone. Hell, you know that. Now, as of August 3, 2006 your senior command staff no longer believes in the mission. Before a Senate Armed Services Committee panel your day to day operational commanders have sounded the retreat. Read between the lines, please- the war is lost. Today, that idea is just in their minds, tomorrow they will be moving on to the next adventure. But, you ain't going nowhere. In short, your civilian and military leaders in the chain of command are stabbing you in the back-and they like it that way. As long as you don’t complain.

But something must be up because Marine Corps General Pace during the week of August 15, 2006 made a point of addressing his Marines in Iraq in person telling them essentially all is well and to stay the course. Damn, you know these generals never talk to the rank and file soldiers unless they want something. Hell, yes you have questions about the mission in Iraq but do not expect a straight answer from the brass. They want something and it’s your butt on the line that they want. General Pace, on the other hand, flew out of Iraq the next day. Get it.

The following has also become a truism-Your Congressional leaders, Democratic and Republican, the people who fund the war have stabbed you in the back. They continue to vote the war budget to keep you there- Read this from a recent blog of mine:

“Well the votes are in from various proposals for withdrawing from Iraq put forth by some Democrats. The results speak for themselves. On the parliamentary level anti-war militants are alone. Forget the ‘softball’ non-binding Levin-Reed proposal. Jesus, they all vote for those things as a cheap way to bolster their tarnished images. They can vote for that kind of proposition all day. No, I am talking about the Kerry proposal. That went down 86-13.

In this series the writer has been trying to hammer home the one real question that counts on the parliamentary level. Yes or No on the war budget. We had our answer on that one last week- 98-1 for the war budget. Enough said.”

Translation- these people do not want you out of Iraq anytime soon. While you are getting shot at, blown away and desert-addled they can wait until next year, or the year after or (my favorite) when the situation in Iraq becomes stabilized. Christ, your grandchildren will be fighting over there by then. Enough said, indeed!

And what about the anti-war movement? We, and the writer takes his fair share of political responsibility on this, did not have, and still do not have a political strategy that would stop this war. In the final analysis, the only way to do it is to change the government which started it in the first place. For what it is worth the only time that a war was stopped was when the workers and soldiers took over the government and stopped it in World War I. That event was the revolution in Russia in 1917. That does not help us right this minute, though.

Let me just relate one thing. The name Markin is a pseudonym I write under. Let me tell where it comes from. Markin was a working class sailor in the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Navy in World War I. As war-weariness developed and it became abundantly clear that Russia could not continue in the war and revolution was in the air Markin started organizing sailor and soldier committees to challenge the brass and, ultimately, the government. To make a long story short Markin, and eventually many other Markins were really the individuals who stepped up the plate and did the right thing for themselves and their buddies. Unfortunately it now is up to you. What are you going to do? Are there any Markins out there in Iraq?

I do not know whether this is still a part of basic training but when I was in boot camp during the Vietnam War the Drill Sergeant used to beat into our closely-shaven heads that the American army does not retreat. Bull! That pearl of wisdom is o.k. for green troops but any half-ass officer knows you damn well better have a retreat plan. Where do you think the word ‘skedaddle’ came from? Call it ‘skedaddle’, ‘cut and run’, declare a victory in Iraq, however you want to justify it- but it is time to leave.

I have said enough. Some talking head from cyberspace cannot do your thinking for you. Do this, though- talk it over with your girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, parents, children, anyone you care about and who cares about you. Then talk to your buddies in the barracks, on guard duty, at the PX, wherever. You know what the right thing to do is. But above all keep your own counsel. Markin in his time knew what to do. Remember Markin. When the troops in Iraq take up the slogan Support the Troops-Hell, No! then you know the end of the war is near. Enough said, for now.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006





This writer has recently taken some flack for going mainly after Democratic Party politicians. Well, what of it. This writer has not hidden his belief that the Democratic Party is not progressive and therefore is an obstacle to the formation of a workers party. However many people still do not believe that proposition. Thus, the struggle is mainly against those illusions.

Moreover, does anyone seriously want to argue that there is anything progressive about the Bush Republican party? Oh, yes, I forgot about those two “log cabin “ Republicans- but they do not count because they never read the history of the Republican Party after the Civil War and Lincoln’s time. Furthermore, I thought I covered the Republican Party in recent blog when I argued that Anne Coulter should be the unopposed Republican standard bearer- she is the soul of the Republican Party. Now I can announce that Senator Lieberman should run as her Vice-President in a National Disunity Party. In any case, to placate any disgruntled readers here’s my take on one punitive Republican presidential candidate- Massachusetts Governor Mitt (Does anyone have a real name like that?) Romney. This promises to be short and sweet.

Governor Romney stands for the proposition that in Massachusetts, at least, Democratic Senator John Kerry is not the only “flip-flop” presidential candidate as Romney has scampered to turn all his previously supported positions around, for example on abortion, in order to go after the main chance. And the main chance is to placate the right wing (the only wing) of the Republican Party. Yes, indeed this boy has the “fire in the belly”. However, it must be something in the water about this flip-flop thing among the bourgeois politicians of Massachusetts.

Governor Romney also stands for the proposition that competence (or the appearance of it) should get one far in politics. This is based most recently on his leadership around the Boston “Big Dig” tragedy and fiasco. In short, the ability to tell people that Elmer’s Glue is not a good way to keep a tunnel together is suppose to add fuel to his bid for the presidency. Please.

Actually the most interesting thing about Governor Romney is not about him. As most readers probably are aware Massachusetts, through its judiciary, has declared that gay marriage is a state constitutional right. Governor Romney and other Neanderthals oppose this right and have supported efforts recently to put through a vote for constitutional change. In opposition, gay rights activists staged a protest demonstration. At that demonstration I noticed one interesting sign. The gist of the slogan was that Governor Romney’s Mormon great-grandfather has five wives and the gay sign holder only wanted one. Now Great-Grandpa Romney is a man I would want to meet. Talk about executive ability. The great-grandson is a punk in that league. Step aside, sonny.

I told you this was going to be short and sweet- Enough said.






This writer started his blog site in February 2006 (see below for blog site) so this is the first Labor Day scorecard giving his take on the condition of American labor. And it ain’t pretty. That says it all. There was little strike action this year. There was little in the way of unionization to organize labor’s potential strength. American workers continue to have a real decline in their paychecks. The difference between survival and not for most working families is the two job (or more) household. In short, the average family is working more hours to make ends meet. Real inflation in energy and food costs has put many up against the wall. Forget the Federal Reserve Bank’s definition of inflation- one fill up at the pump confounds that noise. One does not have to be a Marxist economist to know that something is desperately wrong when at the beginning of the 21st century with all the technological advances and productivity increases of the past period working people need to work more just to try to stay even. Even the more far-sighted bourgeois thinkers have trouble with that one. In any case, here are some comments on the labor year.

The key, although not the only action necessary, to a turn-around for American labor is the unionization of Wal-Mart and the South. The necessary class struggle politics that would make such drives successful would act as a huge impetus for other areas of the labor movement. This writer further argues that such struggles against such vicious enemies as Wal-Mart can be the catalyst for the organization of a workers party. Okay, okay let the writer dream a little, won’t you? What has happened this year on this issue is that more organizations have taken up the call for a boycott of Wal-Mart. That is all to the good and must be supported by militant leftists but it is only a very small beginning shot in the campaign (See blog, dated June 10, 2006)

The issue of immigration has surfaced strongly this year. Every militant leftist was supportive of the May Day actions of the vast immigrant communities to not be pushed around. Immigration is a labor issue and key to the struggle against the race to the bottom. While May Day and other events were big moments unless there are links to the greater labor movement this very promising movement could fizzle. A central problem is the role of the Democratic Party and the Catholic Church in the organizing efforts. I will deal with this question at a latter time but for now know this- these organizations are an obstruction to real progress on the immigration issue. (See blog, dated May 1, 2006)

By far the most important labor action of the year was the transport workers strike of Local 100 in New York City just before Christmas 2005. Although this turned out to be three day work stoppage that eventually has to rank as a defeat for the labor movement there are some lessons militant leftists can learn from the experience.

*It appears that every time the left, and not only the left, gives up on the possibility of the international labor movement being capable of coming close to what Marx and other projected as its historic role in creating a new society something happens to pull that theory up short. In my generation it was the events which led to a workers general strike and semi-insurrection in France in 1968. Now is it the example of the New York transit workers. Although both efforts were defeated, mainly through the treachery and class collaboration of the trade union leadership, no one then or now can deny the potential political power of the working class. We militant leftists are not just blowing smoke when we say that labor must rule. The key is to channel those possibilities into a struggle for power for a new, more just society.

*Although the transit workers proved to have more than enough militancy to succeed the leadership, frankly, got scared when the capitalists rulers started to play rough. The issues in dispute were hardly radical issues- pensions, wages, working conditions. Actually they represented a rather defensive effort on the part of the transit workers to stop falling further behind in the capitalist race to the bottom. This fight nevertheless could have been won. Perhaps it is because the labor movement has lost continuity with its historic roots in the huge and successful struggles of the 1930’s. But know this -every serious effort at class struggle by the working class will be met by the same kind of reaction and worst that was meted out by the ruling class in New York. Not only do militant leftists have to know this fact but also that every labor action has to be planned carefully to ensure victory. In short, that means a new labor leadership based on a program of struggle is needed. More on this another time. Start reading about the labor struggles in the 1930’s- in auto, the Teamsters, steel, electrical workers, etc. Those were the days.

*The transit workers strike brought out the underlying class tensions of society. Sure the yuppies, ruling class, etc. were inconvenienced as were working people, however, working people in general supported the transit workers’ struggle as their struggle. Know your enemies- yes. But, also know your friends. As for enemies note the ugly role played by the International Transit Workers Union bureaucracy in leaving the New York workers in the lurch. Also note well the treacherous role of the rest of the New York labor bureaucracy in not calling out their members to support the strike. That support was the key to success. A general strike was in the cards there. Needless to say I do not even have to mention the role of the politicians, both Democratic and Republican, in outbidding each other in denouncing the strike.

*The transit workers as governmental workers prove you can strike against the government. But you need to defend against the capitalist onslaught by insisting on amnesty for your membership and for the leadership before going back to work. Also know this, if you did not already, that the courts, the cops and the politicians are not your friends. If nothing else the defeat in New York should burn these lessons in the memories of every serious militant. Next time we can win. Plan for it.

If one needed one more example of why the American labor movement is in the condition it is in then an article this summer by John Sweeney, punitive President of the AFL-CIO, and therefore one of the titular heads of the organized labor movement brings that point home in gory detail. The gist of the article is that the governmental agencies, like the National Labor Relations Board, have over the years (and here he means, in reality, the Bush years) bent over backwards to help the employers in their fight against unionization. Well, John, surprise, surprise. No militant leftist, no forget that, no militant trade unionist has believed in the impartiality of governmental boards, agencies, courts, etc. since about 1936. Yes, that is right, since Roosevelt. Wake up. Again this brings up the question of the leadership of the labor movement. And I do not mean to turn it over to Andy Stein and his Change to Win Coalition. We may be, as some theorists imagine, a post-industrial society, but the conditions of labor seem more like the classic age of rapacious capitalist accumulation of the last century and the early part of this century. We need a labor leadership based on a program of labor independence and struggle for worker rights- and we need it damn soon.


*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Class- Struggle Defense Work In The U.S. - Building on the Heritage of the International Labor Defense

Markin comment:

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


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

We print below an edited speech by Deborah Mackson, executive director of the Partisan Defense Committee, prepared for April 7995 regional educationals in New York, Chicago and Oakland as part of a series of meetings and rallies sponsored by the PDC to mobilize support for Mum/a Abu-Jamal and the fight against the racist death penalty.
Mumia Abu-Jamal describes his current conditions of incarceration on death row at the State Correctional Institution at Greene County, Pennsylvania as "high-tech hell." When Governor Tom Ridge assaults all of the working people and minorities of this country by initiating the first execution of a political prisoner in America since the Rosenbergs, he must hear a resounding "No!" from coast to coast. Because Jamal is an articulate voice for the oppressed, this racist and rotting capitalist state wants to silence him forever. He is indeed dangerous. He is indeed a symbol. He is, indeed, innocent. Hear his powerful words, and you will begin to understand the hatred and fear which inspires the vendetta against this courageous fighter:

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

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

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

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

The Roots of Black Oppression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

America's Racist Death Penalty

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

In 1976-the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty and has been expanding it ever since. In 1986 the court ruled it unconstitutional to execute the insane, but gave no criteria for defining insanity; in 1988 it approved the execution of 16-year-olds; in 1989 it ruled for the execution of retarded persons. Since 1976, 276 people have been executed in this country. Between January and April of 1995, 17 were killed. And innocence is no barrier, as the Supreme Court recently decreed in the case of Jesse Dewayne Jacobs, executed in Texas in January 1995 after the prosecution submitted that he had not committed the crime for which he had been sentenced. The Supreme Court said it didn't matter, he'd had a "fair trial." What an abomination!
Perhaps the most telling case in recent history was the 1987 McCleskey decision. The evidence submitted to the courts illustrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that racism ruled the application of the death penalty. Overall, a black person convicted of killing a white person is 22 times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the victim is black. When the McCleskey case went to court, liberals across the country hoped for a Brown v. Board of Education decision in regard to the death penalty. The evidence of racial bias was clear and overwhelming. But while the Supreme Court accepted the accuracy of the evidence, it said it doesn't matter. The court showed the real intention of the death penalty when it stated that McCleskey's claim "throws into serious question the principles that underlie our entire criminal justice system" and "the validity of capital punishment in our multi-racial society." Or as a Southern planter wrote in defense of the slave codes, "We have to rely more and more on the power of fear.... We are determined to continue masters" (quoted in Kenneth Stampp, The Peculiar Institution).

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

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

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

Early History of Class-Struggle Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"If they attempt to murder Moyer, Haywood and their brothers, a million revolutionists, at least, will meet them with guns.... Let them dare to execute their devilish plot and every state in this Union will resound with the tramp of revolution....
"Get ready, comrades, for action!... A special revolutionary convention of the proletariat...would be in order, and, if extreme measures are required, a general strike could be ordered and industry paralyzed as a preliminary to a general uprising."

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

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

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

The Labor Movement and World War I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tradition of International Labor Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

The united front is a tactic we use today. Our call for labor/black mobilizations to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and abolish the racist death penalty has brought together many different organizations and individuals to save Jamal's life. At these rallies and demonstrations, we

have insisted on the right to argue for our program to put an end to racist injustice and capitalist exploitation through socialist revolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Defense and Union Struggle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Lynching in the American South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Class-Struggle Defense Work

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

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

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

We take to heart Cannon's point:

"The problem of organization is a very significant one for labor defense as a school for the class struggle. We must not get the idea that we are merely 'defense workers' collecting money for lawyers. That is only a part of what we are doing. We are organizing workers on issues which are directly related to the class struggle. The workers who take part in the work of the ILD are drawn, step by step into the main stream of the class struggle. The workers participating begin to learn the ABC of the labor struggle."
Class-struggle defense is a broad category. We are a small organization and must pick and choose our cases carefully, with an eye to their exemplary nature. The case of Mario Munoz a Chilean miners' leader condemned to death in 1976 by the Argentine military junta, is a good example. This was the PDC's first major defense effort. Co-sponsored with the Committee to Defend Workers and Sailor Prisoners in Chile, the international campaign of protest by unions and civil libertarians won asylum for Munoz and his family in France.

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

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

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

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

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

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