18 Apr 2008

Mumia Abu-Jamal: a political prophet

There are world wide demonstrations tomorrow in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Mumia to me is a prophet. Demo details here followed by my article in the Morning Star today, if you want to get a political education read Mumia!

Free Mumia now!

Mumia Abu-Jamal
is innocent!

Abolish the racist
death penalty!

Build the united-front demonstration initiated
by the Partisan Defence Committee

Saturday 19 April
1pm, US Embassy,
Grosvenor Square, London W1A
(Nearest Tube: Bond Street)

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

27 years in prison but he's never seen justice
(Thursday 17 April 2008)

DEREK WALL reveals one of his political heroes.

Do you know who my favourite journalist is? Well, with all due respect to the excellent people who write for the Star from John Pilger to that guy McDonnell who also has a day job as a Member of Parliament, it's a writer who I don't think has produced an article for the Star or indeed any British newspaper.

Every week, he writes at least one beautifully crafted piece on politics, culture or society. To me, he is the greatest. He marries intellectual clarity with clear meaning in pieces that deliver a message in just a couple of hundred words.

He makes essential points that other writers are often simply unaware of. This paragraph on the US elections sums it for me.

"When's the last time you've heard any presidential candidate mention the words imperialism, poor people, or - heavens forfend! - capitalism? If they mention capitalism, it's almost like a religion that needs defending, for no 'viable' candidate criticises capitalism. For, like a religion, it must be believed in."

I have my biases, like all readers. I am an ecosocialist and so is he. Back in the 1980s, he produced a call for ecological resistance that was picked up by radical green groups like Earth First!

"Don't Mourn, Organise! Pull together, unite, come together to resist this system's usurpation of your inherent and god-given rights to freedom, clean air, uncontaminated earth, fresh water and an unpoisoned gene pool."

He is also backing Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. His name is Mumia Abu-Jamal, he is an African-American journalist and, guess what, he has been stuck on death row in Pennsylvania for 27 years.

His case is a clear miscarriage of justice and there has been a huge international campaign to free him. He was convicted of first degree - ie premeditated - murder of a police officer, Daniel Faulkner, who had been beating his brother.

Even with a tight prosecution case, it is difficult to see how the act could have been pre-planned. However, the prosecution case was far from strong. There was no forensic evidence linking Abu-Jamal to the shooting. Witnesses changed their evidence and there are suggestions that they had been leant on by the police.

Of the three witnesses presented at his original trial, one has since admitted to lying under police pressure, another has disappeared amid evidence that she too was under duress and the third initially told police that he had seen the killer run away but changed his story.

There were so many other irregularities that Amnesty International concluded in 2000 that the trial had been "in violation of minimum international standards" and added that "the interests of justice would best be served by a new trial."

It looks like a fit-up. During the 1980s, Abu-Jamal was about the only Philadelphia journalist to support the MOVE organisation, a radical mainly black ecology group which came into conflict with the authorities.

A MOVE commune was bombed in 1985 by the FBI, killing six adults and four children. Abu-Jamal had been a teenage member of the Black Panther Party. Not only a radical, he is a stunningly articulate radical. I would go so far as to say that he is a prophetic figure.

Prophets who proclaim socialism and shine a light on the hidden injustice of the US system tend to end up either in prison or dead.

Abu-Jamal was well aware of the Cointelpro system used by the FBI to destroy radicals. It involved infiltrating groups, manufacturing splits in political parties, killing key political activists and spinning the media.

The Panthers were victims, as was the American Indian Movement. Even radical environmentalists have been targeted.

Abu-Jamal has written of the injuries caused to Judi Bari, an Earth First! activist who worked with trade unions to protect nature. She was a prominent opponent of violence, but a bomb went off in her car, causing terrible injuries, and the FBI claimed that she had planted it. Abu-Jamal looks to be yet another Cointelpro victim.

Supporters have waged a long battle to free him. In 1995, right-wing Republican Governor Tom Ridge signed a death warrant giving Abu-Jamal just 30 days to live. Only a massive international campaign saved him. I am proud to say that the Green Party was one of many organisations that got involved.

A recent court ruling rejected demands for a new trial and Abu-Jamal remains in a US dungeon. But this weekend will see international demonstrations to put the pressure on the US state, including a protest outside the US embassy at 1pm on Saturday.

There are many other high-profile political prisoners in the US system, men and women locked up in high-security prisons essentially because of their political beliefs.

We need to raise awareness of the quite appalling state of human rights in the US.

Unlike some writers in the Star, I am highly critical of the human rights record of China in Tibet and I think that it would be fair to say that all socialists would challenge China's use of the death penalty. Around the world, there are many regimes that imprison dissidents, but let's not forget that the US is one of them.

It is also important, while working to free Abu-Jamal and other victims of injustice, to read his writing. I have found him quite vital for my political education, I think that we can all learn from him. He writes with a style marked by passion and beauty. He taps into a tradition of black political engagement which embraces the freedom of the whole planet and he deals with issues as diverse as religion, sexual freedom and ecology.

I just wish more people would listen to his words. Maybe Star readers can let a few more people know what he has to say.

Some of his thoughts on the legal system are well worth thinking about.

"We're often surprised when courts get it wrong, but why? It's because we expect them to get it right and therein lies the surprise.

"For, if history is any judge, we should all be surprised when they get it right. For courts are political institutions and politics is rarely about right or wrong - it's about power. As in who has it and who doesn't.

"Courts were set up to protect the wealth and property of the powerful, not the powerless, and any honest reading of legal history leads one back to that conclusion.

"Here in this country, courts were places for slavemasters, not slaves, and the words of a 'justice' of the North Carolina Supreme Court, Thomas Ruffin, are instructive as he illustrates what underpins the law of 1829. 'The power of the master must be absolute, to render the submission of the slave perfect ... As a principle of moral right, every person in his retirement must repudiate it. But in the actual condition of things it must be so'."

You can read or listen to Abu-Jamal's columns at mumiapodcast.libsyn.com, while freemumianow.blogspot.com gives updates on the campaign to free him.

Derek Wall is male principal speaker of the Green Party of England and Wales. He writes a monthly column for the Morning Star

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