Saturday December 6 saw an outpouring of international solidarity for U.S. political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther Party member and outspoken journalist who has spent his life fighting racism and social injustice in the U.S. He was one of the targets of the F.B.I.'s COINTELPRO program, which sought to "neutralize" Mumia's political activity, by any available means. The FBI file on Mumia is literally hundreds of pages long.
Mumia was railroaded to jail 16 years ago for allegedly killing a Philadelphia police officer, even though it has become clear that his conviction was the product of perjured testimony and falsified ballistic evidence.
The recent demonstrations in support of Mumia took place in cities around the world, including: San Francisco, Philadelphia, Oslo, Wellington, Auckland, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto and Chicago. The San Francisco rally was attended by almost 5,000 people, and featured Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as one of the speakers. In Philadelphia, a "People's Tribunal," to expose the lies behind Mumia's conviction, included prominent civil rights lawyer, Leonard Weinglass, and recently released political prisoner, and former Black Panther, Geronimo Pratt.
Comrades of the International Bolshevik Tendency participated in the international day of solidarity with Mumia. In Toronto, Wellington and Auckland IBT comrades, along with other leftist and labor groups, were among the active builders of the united front actions. Although the groups participating represented a wide spectrum of political perspectives (including several different socialist groups, anarchists, black nationalists as well as followers of MOVE founder John Africa) in the cities where we were active everyone agreed to unite behind three slogans: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Abolish the Death Penalty! and End Police Brutality!
Do We Want To `End Police Brutality'?
In Toronto the Trotskyist League (affiliated to the Spartacist League/U.S. whose legal defense organization, the Partisan Defense Committee, did important early work in Mumia's defense) attended the initial united front meeting but refused to participate when it became clear that the demand "End Police Brutality" was to be included. One of the anarchists at the meeting commented that he had thought that everyone, except the police, was opposed to police brutality. In Toronto the TL has played an important role in united front actions in defense of Mumia in the past, so it was unfortunate that TLers chose to exclude themselves on this occasion. But it is clear that this was not a local aberration. In an article, ironically titled, "For NonSectarian, Class-Struggle Defense!," (WV No. 679) the SL/U.S. explains its refusal to participate in the united-front defense committees:
"Only liberals and those who wish to foster illusions in the capitalist system of injustice believe this system, will `stop' unleashing their police on workers and the oppressed."
Many well-meaning liberals do indeed harbor such illusions. All leftists (including the SL) oppose police brutality. Marxists differ from liberals not over whether police brutality should be opposed, but over how it can be stopped. Police violence against the oppressed is not an arbitrary policy, it is not the result of the actions of a few "bad apples" on the police force. It is endemic to capitalist rule. To "serve and protect" the interests of those who own and control the wealth in this racist, capitalist society the police must behave in a brutal and oppressive manner, particularly toward those at the bottom of society.
Police violence against blacks (and other minorities) is one of the worst manifestations of racism in North American society. And the only way to end it once and for all is to uproot the social system that has produced it. But recognizing this no more compels us to oppose the call to "end police brutality," than recognizing capital's need for a "reserve army of labor" (i.e., a certain level of structural unemployment) compels us to stop demanding "Jobs for All!"
Mumia's life remains in danger, it is necessary for revolutionaries to do everything possible to make our protest more effective. The campaign to free Mumia is also a campaign to expose the endemic racist police violence in capitalist America. The 6 December mobilizations were important but we must be continue the campaign until we win. Mumia's freedom will be a great victory for all victims of police racism and capitalist injustice.
The following remarks were made by Paul Frazier for the IBT at the 6 December Toronto demonstration:
We stand together today to show our solidarity with a great fighter for the oppressed. For 15 years, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the "Voice of the Voiceless", has had to face tormenting isolation in prison, with the constant threat of the executioner's noose hanging over his head. Despite being forced to live in these barbaric conditions, Mumia has dedicated his time in prison to something he has dedicated his whole adult life, speaking up for the oppressed.
Ever since his days as a young teenager fighting for racial equality and social justice in the Black Panther Party, the U.S. government has targeted Mumia for elimination. The FBI has a file 700 pages long on Mumia, and called him "Armed and Dangerous" even though he had committed not one crime in his life. The rulers of this society want Mumia dead for the "crime" of exposing the racist nature of American capitalism.
His conviction 15 years ago was the product of phony evidence and perjured testimony coerced from alleged witnesses. In fact, even though Mumia's lawyers have cut through all the lies and exposed the political agenda behind the persecution of Mumia, he remains on Death Row.
Why is it that people like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier and, until recently, Geronimo Pratt have to languish in jail? The answer is simple. We live under a social system which promotes racism and inequality, where it more rational to send young people to prison than give them a decent job, education, and housing. Governments across North America are slashing their budgets on social spending, while they build larger prisons. All this goes on while banks boast of record profits. It is obscene. It is high time that we take Mumia's struggle to heart. But if we are to fight against racism and inequality, it is necessary expropriate the wealthy robber barons that brutalise and exploit the majority, and fight for revolutionary change, for an egalitarian socialist society.
The International Bolshevik Tendency joins with many other organizations and people around the world today to condemn the horrible injustice done against Mumia. The demonstration today in Toronto was a joint effort of a number of organizations, who worked hard to make it a success. I'm sure that all of us here today, despite our political differences, are united behind the call to:
Abolish the Death Penalty! End Police Brutality!