The Jamaican Who Helped Form The October Revolution’s Policy on Racism in the US

Jamaican Claude McKay: Report on the Negro Question – Speech to the 4th Congress of the Comintern, Nov. 1922

by Claude McKay

claude McKay 1922 2.jpgJamaican Claude McKay at the Fourth Congress of the Third International speaking in the throne room at the Kremlin, 1922.

Source:  marxisthistory.org

Comrades, I feel that I would rather face a lynching stake in civilized America than try to make a speech before the most intellectual and critical audience in the world. I belong to a race of creators but my public speaking has been so bad that I have been told by my own people that I should never try to make speeches, but stick to writing, and laughing. However, when I heard the Negro question was going to be brought up on the floor of the Congress, I felt it would be an eternal shame if I did not say something on behalf of the members of my race.

Especially would I be a disgrace to the American Negroes because, since I published a notorious poem in 1919 [“If We Must Die”], I have been pushed forward as one of the spokesmen of Negro radicalism in America to the detriment of my poetical temperament. I feel that my race is honored by this invitation to one of its members to speak at this Fourth Congress of the Third International. My race on this occasion is honored, not because it is different from the white race and the yellow race, but [because it] is especially a race of toilers, hewers of wood and drawers of water, that belongs to the most oppressed, exploited, and suppressed section of the working class of the world. The Third International stands for the emancipation of all the workers of the world, regardless of race or color, and this stand of the Third International is not merely on paper like the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. It is a real thing.

Related:  Black Liberation and the Communist International

The Negro race in the economic life of the world today occupies a very peculiar position. In every country where the Whites and Blacks must work together the capitalists have set the one against the other. It would seem at the present day that the international bourgeoisie would use the Negro race as their trump card in their fight against the world revolution. Great Britain has her Negro regiments in the colonies and she has demonstrated what she can do with her Negro soldiers by the use that she made of them during the late War. The revolution in England is very far away because of the highly organized exploitation of the subject peoples of the British Empire.

In Europe, we find that France had a Negro army of over 300,000 and that to carry out their policy of imperial domination in Europe the French are going to use their Negro minions. In America we have the same situation. The Northern bourgeoisie knows how well the Negro soldiers fought for their own emancipation, although illiterate and untrained, during the Civil War. They also remember how well the Negro soldiers fought in the Spanish-American War under Theodore Roosevelt. They know that in the last war over 400,000 Negroes who were mobilized gave a very good account of themselves, and that, besides fighting for the capitalists, they also put up a very good fight for themselves on returning to America when they fought the white mobs in Chicago, St. Louis and Washington. But more than the fact that the American capitalists are using Negro soldiers in their fight against the interests of labor is the fact that the American capitalists are setting out to mobilize the entire black race of America for the purpose of fighting organized labor.

The need to face the Negro question in the US

The situation in America today is terrible and fraught with grave dangers. It is much uglier and more terrible than was the condition of the peasants and Jews of Russia under the Tsar. It is so ugly and terrible that very few people in America are willing to face it. The reformist bourgeoisie have been carrying on the battle against discrimination and racial prejudice in America. The Socialists and Communists have fought very shy of it because there is a great element of prejudice among the Socialists and Communists of America. They are not willing to face the Negro question. In associating with the comrades of America I have found demonstrations of prejudice on the various occasions when the White and Black comrades had to get together: and this is the greatest difficulty that the Communists of America have got to overcome-the fact that they first have got to emancipate themselves from the ideas they entertain towards the Negroes before they can be able to reach the Negroes with any kind of radical propaganda.

However, regarding the Negroes themselves, I feel that as the subject races of other nations have come to Moscow to learn how to fight against their exploiters, the Negroes will also come to Moscow. In 1918 when the Third International published its Manifesto and included the part referring to the exploited colonies, there were several groups of Negro radicals in America that sent this propaganda out among their people. When in 1920 the American government started to investigate and to suppress radical propaganda among the Negroes, the small radical groups in America retaliated by publishing the fact that the Socialists stood for the emancipation of the Negroes, and that reformist America could do nothing for them.

Karl Marx’s interest in the emancipation of the American Negro

Then, I think, for the first time in American history, the American Negroes found that Karl Marx had been interested in their emancipation and had fought valiantly for it. I shall just read this extract that was taken from Karl Marx’s writing at the time of the Civil War:

When an oligarchy of 300,000 slave holders for the first time in the annals of the world, dared to inscribe “Slavery” on the banner of armed revolt, on the very spot where hardly a century ago, the idea of one great democratic republic had first sprung up, whence the first declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth- century, when on that spot the counter-revolution cynically proclaimed property in man to be “the cornerstone of the new edifice” — then the working class of Europe understood at once that the slaveholders’ rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy war of property against labor, and that (its) hopes of the future, even its past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic.

Karl Marx who drafted the above resolution is generally known as the father of Scientific Socialism and also of the epoch-making volume popularly known as the socialist bible, Capital. During the Civil War he was correspondent of the New York Tribune. In the company of Richard Cobden, Charles Bradlaugh, the atheist, and John Bright, he toured England making speeches and so roused up the sentiment of the workers of that country against the Confederacy that Lord Palmerston, [the] Prime Minister, who was about to recognize the South, had to desist.

Fighting wage slavery

As Marx fought against chattel slavery in 1861, so are present-day socialists, his intellectual descendants, fighting wage slavery. If the Workers Party in America were really a Workers Party that included Negroes it would, for instance, in the South, have to be illegal, and I would inform the American Comrades that there is a branch of the Workers Party in the South, in Richmond, Virginia, that is illegal — illegal because it includes colored members. There we have a very small group of white and colored comrades working together, and the fact that they have laws in Virginia and most of the Southern states discriminating against whites and blacks assembling together means that the Workers Party in the South must be illegal.

To get round these laws of Virginia, the comrades have to meet separately, according to color, and about once a month they assemble behind closed doors. This is just an indication of the work that will have to be done in the South. The work among the Negroes of the South will have to be carried on by some legal propaganda organized in the North, because we find at the present time in America that the situation in the Southern States (where nine million out of ten million of the Negro population live), is that even the liberal bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie among the Negroes cannot get their own papers of a reformist propaganda type into the South on account of the laws that there discriminate against them.

The fact is that it is really only in the Southern States that there is any real suppression of opinion. No suppression of opinion exists in the Northern states in the way it exists in the South. In the Northern states special laws are made for special occasions as those against Communists and Socialists during the War — but in the South we find laws that have existed for fifty years, under which the Negroes cannot meet to talk about their grievances. The white people who are interested in their cause cannot go and speak to them. If we send white comrades into the South they are generally ordered out by the Southern oligarchy and if they do not leave they are generally whipped, tarred and feathered; and if we send black comrades into the South they generally won’t be able to get out again — they will be lynched and burned at the stake.

I hope that as a symbol that the Negroes of the world will not be used by the international bourgeoisie in the final conflicts against the World Revolution, that as a challenge to the international bourgeoisie, who have an understanding of the Negro question, we shall soon see a few Negro soldiers in the finest, bravest, and cleanest fighting forces in the world — the Red Army and Navy of Russia — fighting not only for their own emancipation, but also for the emancipation of all the working class of the whole world.

US must end all military involvement in Africa

Source:  Presstv.com
October 11 2017

The US military must end its growing involvement in Africa and allow the nations of that continent to solve their own problems, otherwise the American people will pay dearly for these misguided actions, an African American journalist in Detroit says.

usa in Africa 2.jpgUS military outposts, port facilities, and other areas of access in Africa 2002-2015.  Source:  The US Military’s Best Kept Secret

“We cannot accept the explanation of the US government at its face value. The US should end these military missions in Africa, the drone stations, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) stations; all military involvement in the African continent should end,” said Abayomi Azikiwe, editor at the Pan-African News Wire.

“Africa must solve its own problems, through its own regional and continental organizations and mass organizations. Otherwise the Unites States and the people inside the United States will pay dearly for these misguided and of course unfortunate military actions,” Azikiwe said in a phone interview with Press TV on Wednesday.

PressTV-New US Army unit coming after Niger fiasco

The United States Army’s top officer says it is likely to “increase” its train, advise and assist (TAA) missions after the death of four soldiers in Niger by developing a new unit, he describes as “similar to special forces,” but “not special Forces.”

The US Army’s top officer said Monday it is likely to “increase” its train, advise and assist (TAA) missions after the death of four soldiers in Niger by developing a new unit.

General Mark Milley made the comments at the Association of the army’s annual meeting in Washington, not long after four special operations commandos were ambushed to death by militants in the Western African country of Niger.

The army’s chief of staff did not mention who was responsible for the attack although he asserted that the US military does know the group.

Two other Green Berets were injured on the October 4 ambush near the Nigerien capital Niamey by militants said to be linked with the Daesh Takfiri group in Iraq and Syria.

This represents yet another escalation by the US military in Africa,” Azikiwe said. “They are claiming that they are there just on a training mission.”

“Even though the US claims to be against these extremist organizations, they have worked with these groups in various geo-political regions including Libya, including Iraq, as well as Syria and Yemen,” he added.

The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established in 2008 under former US President George W. Bush and strengthened and enhanced the following year during the presidency of Barack Obama.

The force has been operating in at least 35 countries across the African continent.

Steph Curry Declines White House Invite, LeBron James Brands Trump A ‘Bum’

Source:  TeleSUR
September 23 2017

lebron james 1Cavs star LeBron James branded U.S. President Trump a “bum” in Twitter.
| Photo: Reuters FILE

Trump stated that he was uninviting Curry, following the basketballer’s comment that he would not visit the White House.

Related:  Calling Kaepernick ‘Son of a Bitch,’ Trump Urges NFL to Fire All Protesting Players

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James branded U.S. President Trump a “bum” after the latter said he was withdrawing a White House invitation to Golden State Warriors’ star Steph Curry.

Trump stated that he was uninviting Curry, following the basketballer’s comment that he would not visit the White House. Lebron added that there was not invite since Curry had already declined.


LeBron James 

✔@KingJames

U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!

10:17 AM – Sep 23, 2017


“I don’t want to go,” Curry expressed on Friday. “My beliefs stay the same.” Curry added that it was important for the team “to understand the magnitude” of the decision whether to visit the White House or not.

“Just like our country, every opinion counts and matters,” Curry said, according to an ESPN report.

“Based on the conversations we’ve had in the past and what people have said to the media, to each other, I know pretty much where everybody kind of stands on it,” he said.

“But we want to respect the opportunity to represent not only ourselves, our own beliefs, but our organization because we’re obviously in this position because we won a championship and we did something special together. So for us to just really take the time to understand the magnitude of this decision and the right thing to do, the right way to go about it is important.”

steph curry 1.jpgGolden State Warriors Stephen Curry Photo: AFP FILE

Curry again reaffirmed his stance, on Saturday, following a practice session.

“My stance is the same as it was,” Curry told ESPN.com. “And even kind of cemented even further about how things in our country are going, especially with [Trump] representing us in a very damaging way.

“I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath a leader of a country to go that route. That’s not what leaders do.”

Similarly, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said though he was “disappointed,” he was “proud” of the players for “taking an active role in their communities and continuing to speak out on critically important issues.”

The NBA Players Association also supported the Warriors’ decision saying: “The National Basketball Players Association defends its members’ exercise of their free speech rights against those who would seek to stifle them. The celebration of free expression – not condemnation – is what truly makes America great,” the union said in a statement

Calling Kaepernick ‘Son of a Bitch,’ Trump Urges NFL to Fire All Protesting Players

Source: Common Dreams
September 23 2017

By Jon Queally, staff writer

‘This is the President of the United States referring to an American who has exercised his right to protest racial injustice.’

kaepernick trump protest.jpgIn this Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams. (Photo: AP)

Civil libertarians, racial justice advocates, and NFL players from across the league expressed outrage overnight after President Donald Trump called on owners of professional football teams to fire players who express their political views.

In a veiled reference to quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who last season started a wave of protest by kneeling during pre-game National Anthems in protest of police killings of unarmed black men, Trump said during a campaign-style rally in Alabama on Friday night, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now?'”

Bishop Sankey, running back for the Minnesota Vikings who called the president’s behavior a “disgrace,” was among the many players in the league who condemned the president for his comments.

Kaepernick remains unsigned to a team this season and though Trump did not mention him specifically by name the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has remained a key target among right-wingers who express the opinion that black athletes should keep quiet about their political opinions.

Kaepernick’s mother

When asked by a reporter about the president’s insult that appeared to reference her son, Kaepernick’s mother reportedly responded by saying, “Guess that makes me a proud bitch!”

Meanwhile, ESPN journalist Jemele Hill, who also became a target of the White House recently after stating publicly she considers Trump a white supremacists (a widely held belief which plenty of evidence supports), took to Twitter and predicted that neither owners nor league officials would speak out against the president’s latest statement.

And King, making the argument that Kaepernick remains unsigned specifically for his protests last year, added:

“If you don’t understand Trump’s threats against the @NFL have EVERYTHING to do with Kaepernick being unemployed you aren’t paying attention”.

Black Lives Matter in Cuba

Source:  TeleSUR
August 21 2017

By: Andrew King

Afro-Cubans in Havana Plaza | Photo: EFE

It is precisely because of Cuba’s anti-racist and pro-worker policies that the U.S. government has labeled the country “a violator of human rights.”

As activists unite to confront white supremacy in the United States, it is important for us to study other societies outside the U.S. that have made true strides in racial and economic justice, in order to better envision the world that we want to create.

OPINION: Britain’s Open University Bows to US Pressure over Cuba

After listening to President Donald Trump’s June speech on Cuba, in which he reversed all the steps that the Obama administration had made to improve relations, one might not think to look towards this island nation as such an exemplary society. However, one must understand the history of Cuba to see why the U.S. government is escalating the six-decade war and embargo against the socialist country. It is not hard to see that the issue of race is central to the capitalist empire’s war on this socialist stronghold.

The Revolution’s Early Measures Against Racism

Like most colonial nations, institutional racial oppression was brutal in pre-revolution Cuba. Black Cubans formed the most oppressed sector of society: they faced rampant job discrimination in which they had no access to most positions in government, health care, transportation, and retail. A system of Jim Crow-style segregation relegated Afro-Cubans to specific neighborhoods and schools, and they were banned from hotels and beaches.

Illiteracy was widespread among the most oppressed sectors, and medical care was out of reach. Few know that after Castro’s failed guerilla attack on the Moncada Garrison in 1953, it was a black lieutenant from then Dictator Fulgencio Batista’s army that found him in the hills, and — sympathizing with the rebel cause — saved Castro’s life by sending him to jail in Santiago rather than to the Moncada Barracks where he would have been shot and killed along with the 70 guerilla soldiers who met such a fate. History works in mysterious ways.

When the revolution triumphed six years later, one of new government’s first measures was to abolish racial discrimination in employment and recreational sectors. When the rebel army tanks entered Havana, they crushed the hotel fences, which represented the old racial order signifying where the black and poor could not go. Castro’s government abolished the private school system of the white Cuban elites and established a well-funded and integrated public school system for all.

OPINION: US Human Rights Record, Not Cuba’s, Should Be Condemned

Laws were passed to outlaw racial discrimination

Revolutionary laws were passed to outlaw racial discrimination in housing, employment, healthcare and education. Hence, while the white upper class Cubans fled to Miami, there were no questions of loyalty from working class blacks as to whether they would support the socialist government. The fight against racism and the struggle for socialism go hand in hand.

The revolution dramatically improved the socioeconomic conditions of black workers and farmers, cutting rents in half, redistributing land, and providing universal free education and healthcare to all. Before 1959, over a quarter of Cubans were illiterate. The revolution launched a massive literacy campaign, sending brigades of student teachers into the most remote areas of the countryside, and in 1961, Cuba was declared free of illiteracy. Today Cuba has a 99.8 percent literacy rate, the highest in Latin America.

Solidarity with African-Americans

fidel y malcom.jpgCuba has always been a guiding light in the black freedom movement. Fidel’s historic visit with Malcolm X in Harlem’s Theresa hotel in 1960 was symbolic of the Cuban revolution’s blow against colonialism and world white supremacy. Both Malcolm and Castro understood the centrality of racism to the capitalist system: “you can’t have capitalism without racism,” Malcolm once famously said. Along the same vain, at the 2001 World Conference against Racism , Castro argued that:

“Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are not naturally instinctive reactions of the human beings but rather a social, cultural and political phenomenon born directly of wars, military conquests, slavery and the individual or collective exploitation of the weakest by the most powerful all along the history of human societies.”

Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur, former leader of the Black Liberation Army and one of “America’s Most Wanted’, escaped prison in the 1970s, and sought refuge on the socialist island. Cuba has vowed to protect this revolutionary heroine, a crime for which the empire will never forgive her. This past June, when President Donald Trump demanded that Cuba return Shakur, Cuba’s Deputy Director of American Affairs said: “It is off the table .” Throughout the ‘70s, other African-American revolutionaries such as Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael all visited the revolutionary Caribbean nation. Over the decades, black pastors and community leaders have led key US-Cuba solidarity initiatives such as Pastors for Peace which has made over 20 annual trips to Cuba and raised awareness to end the embargo of the island. Indeed, the African-American people have been the most consistent and loyal of friends to the Cuban people.

Cuba’s Contribution to African Liberation Movements

Less well-known is Cuba’s historic and pivotal role in supporting the African Liberation movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. For a period spanning over a decade, the small island nation sent over 300,000 volunteer soldiers to Angola, not in pursuit of diamonds, oil or natural resources like the imperialist nations, but to assist the anti-colonial fighters of Angola in their struggle against the South African apartheid army which had invaded the newly independent nation.

Fidel y Amilcar Cabral.jpgAs Guinea Bissau’s legendary independence leader Amilcar Cabral once said of this selfless solidarity: “When the Cuban soldiers go home, all they will take with them are the remains of their dead comrades.” Cuban forces struck the decisive blow to defeat the apartheid army in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale.

In addition, Cuba sent troops to battle alongside independence fighters in Algeria, the Congo, Ethiopia and Guinea-Bissau. In his 2000 speech at Harlem Riverside Church, Fidel exclaimed that:

“Half a million Cubans have carried out internationalist missions in numerous countries in different parts of the world, especially Africa. They have been medical doctors, teachers, technicians, construction workers, soldiers and others. When many were investing in and trading with the racist and fascist South Africa, tens of thousands of voluntary soldiers from Cuba fought against the racist and fascist soldiers.”

It was these historic feats of internationalist solidarity that prompted Nelson Mandela to visit the Caribbean nation after his release from prison, where he proudly stated : “The Cuban people have a special place in the hearts of the people’s of Africa.”

Socialist Health Care

One of the landmark pillars of the revolution has been the establishment of a world-class health care system which provides free, quality medical care to all Cuban citizens, and has disproportionately benefitted the island’s black and historically marginalized citizens. While all Cubans have free access to comprehensive medical care, people of color in the United States (the richest country on earth) face extreme health disparities and make up over half of the 32 million nonelderly uninsured. Cuba has twice as many primary care doctors per capita than the United States, due to its prioritization of community-level preventative care.

OPINION: The World Must Learn From Cuba

Infant mortality rate is an important indicator of a country’s health. In pre-revolution Cuba, the infant mortality rate was over 50 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Now it is down to 4.3 . Meanwhile the United States, one of the richest nations on earth, has a rate of 7.7 . Further, when you look at underserved regions of the US like Mississippi — which has the largest black population of any state – the infant mortality rate is 9.6 , double that of the Cuba’s. In other words, Black babies matter in Cuba — more so than they do in the US.

Revolutionary Doctors

If there’s one accomplishment the international community cannot ignore it is Cuba’s ‘medical internationalism’ which in 2014, saw 50,000 Cuban doctorssaving lives in over 60 developing nations across the globe. While activists around the world attend protests, Cuba demonstrates her belief that black lives matter by sending doctors and medical personnel overseas to African and Caribbean nations to literally save black lives. Cuban doctors operate a comprehensive health program, which makes 3,000 doctors available for the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Speaking on Zimbabwe, a nation where the former apartheid regime did not train any black doctors, Fidel explains that, “We sent teams of 8 to 10 doctors to every province: specialists in comprehensive general medicine, surgeons, orthopedic specialists, anesthiologists and x-ray technicians.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Cuban government assembled the Henry Reeve Brigade — 1,500 fully equipped health professionals trained in disaster medicine — which were brought together on an airstrip, ready to depart for New Orleans immediately to help save black lives.

Cuban doctors in Haiti

President Bush rejected the offer. Many of these same doctors then went to Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s first free black republic, where today there are several hundred Cuban doctors and specialists providing free health care to 4 million people. After the deadly 2010 earthquake, Cuba health professionals arrivedwithin 72 hours as some of the first responders.

OPINION: Representation and Resistance: Slavery Depictions in Cuba vs. US

The United States, on the other hand, sent thousands of marine soldiers to the island. This juxtaposition speaks volumes regarding the values of capitalist and socialist societies. In the aftermath of catastrophic disaster, one society exploited the crisis and sought to control black life; the other sought to save it. More recently, the same international Medical brigade spearheaded the fight against the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, sending surgeons, intensive-care doctors, epidemiologists and pediatricians. These efforts earned Cuba an award from the World Health Organization.

Over 100 scholarships for African American and low-income students from the United States

If it were not enough to export its own doctors to countries in need, the Cuban revolution has also taken up the admirable task of training doctors from other countries free of charge in Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). ELAM currently has an enrollment of over 19,000 students most of which are from Africa and Latin America. Medical school is free for all students, and this includes over 100 scholarships for African American and low-income students from the United States who have agreed to use their training to serve low-income communities at home.

Despite these social gains, Cuba is far from a racial utopia; blacks are still underrepresented in high-level government positions and in the lucrative tourism industry, and whites have had disproportionate access to the new market-driven sector of the economy that emerged during the special period. However, most can acknowledge that it is quite difficult for a society to overcome a racial legacy of 400 years of colonialism, in just 50 years of revolution. The struggle against racism in Cuba is an ongoing process.

Lift the embargo on Cuba

It is precisely because of these anti-racist and pro-worker policies, and Cuba’s audacity to stand tall in the face of empire, that the U.S. government has labeled her “a violator of human rights.” On the contrary, it is the U.S. government whose police forces continue to take black lives with impunity, and wage a war on the poor, who is the real human rights violators. Let us lift the embargo on Cuba and put the embargo on US capitalism and racism. Let us not forget that if there ever was a place where black lives truly matter, it’s Cuba.

Andrew King is a public policy doctoral student at UMass Boston, an activist-scholar, and has supported Black Lives Matter organizing and other racial and economic justice campaigns. Andrew has also done solidarity organizing with and research on Latin American social movements and has traveled to Venezuela and Cuba. He can be reached at andrew.king003@umb.edu.

 

A New Angle in Abu-Jamal’s Case

Source: Consortiumnews.com

August 12, 2017

The decades-old case of convicted police killer Mumia Abu-Jamal has always centered on whether the legal process was rigged against the black political activist, an argument that has new life, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

A potential new front has opened up in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal has always maintained his innocence and has spent the last 30 plus years trying to prove it.

mumia 5.jpgMumia Abu-Jamal (Flickr 4Ward Ever UK)

Along the way, there have been some victories. First he fought his way off Death Row. Then he fought a battle to get medical care that he was being denied, a situation that sent his health into a dangerous spiral. Now he and his lawyers are citing new information about possible judicial bias that could have a direct impact on the legitimacy of his murder conviction.

Decades of imprisonment

During his decades of imprisonment, Abu-Jamal has continued to practice the art of journalism, crafting well-researched columns on issues of racism, human rights — and doing it, first, from death row then from maximum security lock-down. Sometimes his columns, as Emily Dickinson used to say about a good poem, can take the top of your head off.

Tens of thousands of his supporters are charmed and moved by his Weekly Radio commentaries from prison. Many of his supporters assert that the former public radio reporter, and Black Panther Minister of Information (at 15), is a political prisoner, the victim of arguably one of the most corrupt police departments in the United States.

I spoke recently with Rachel Wolkenstein, an attorney for Mumia Abu-Jamal, about the latest development in this decades old case.

Who is Mumia Abu-Jamal?

Dennis Bernstein: Set this up for us. We are hearing that new information has surfaced. We’d like to get a complete debriefing, but first please remind people briefly who Mumia Abu-Jamal is, in case they haven’t heard about this celebrated case.

Rachel Wolkenstein: Mumia Abu-Jamal is a political prisoner, a “class-war prisoner,” as I consider him. He is a former Black Panther member, a MOVE organization supporter, a radical journalist who was known as “the Voice of the Voiceless.” He was an award-winning radio journalist in Philadelphia in the late 1970s until his arrest on December 9, 1981 in connection with the murder of a police officer. This is a crime that Mumia did not commit and he has always maintained his innocence.

His case has always been racially biased and politically motivated. Mumia was framed by the Philadelphia police department and the prosecution, with help from the Attorney General’s office and the FBI, because he was so outspoken in his defense of the oppressed, particularly the politically oppressed, such as the MOVE organization at that time in Philadelphia. As a teenager he was communications director and journalist for the Black Panther Party. He was known throughout Philadelphia for his beautiful voice and his passionate social and political commentary.

Police department under federal investigation

DB: He was also known throughout Philadelphia by perhaps the most corrupt police department in the nation at that time, a police department and prosecutor’s office that were studied for their corruption and under federal investigation.

RW: That is correct. Frank Rizzo had been the police commissioner. Interestingly, many elements of the federal COINTELPRO program were actually based on things that Rizzo had done. He then became the mayor of Philadelphia and organized the raids on the Black Panthers when Mumia was a member and a spokesman for the Party. You are absolutely correct, the efforts to have him exterminated were very clearly orchestrated by the FBI.

Mumia’s ability to speak out in advocacy

One of the early things I worked on with my colleagues from the Partisan Defense Committee at that time was obtaining Mumia’s COINTELPRO records, which showed that they had a dossier on him when he was just 15 years old, in the late ‘sixties. There they said, in effect, despite his young years, he should be on the ADEX file (a list of who the FBI felt should be rounded up and put into concentration camps if there was any political turmoil in the country). They said Mumia belonged on that list because of his ability to speak out in advocacy.

Mumia went to Chicago to witness the murders that had been committed by the FBI and the Chicago police and to speak about what was happening. He was featured in a front-page story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which described this young man who was speaking out in defense of the Panthers and against police brutality. The cops in Philadelphia knew who he was and they were tracking him.

When the MOVE commune was surrounded and attacked in 1978 and when, in the aftermath, Delbert Africa, a former Panther, was beaten on the street (in the first televised police beating in the country), Mumia again spoke in defense of the MOVE members and against the attack. He was also specifically targeted by Rizzo and by Edward Rendell [former Philadelphia District Attorney who oversaw Mumia’s prosecution], who I consider to be directly responsible for the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Trying to silence his voice

So there is a long history there of knowing who Mumia was, targeting him, trying to silence his voice and ultimately to murder him. What happened on the night of December 9, 1981 was that Mumia came across a police altercation in the street. He was driving a cab at that point because he had been drummed out of mainstream news reporting for his defense of the MOVE organization. In the midst of a purported shoot-out, a police officer named Daniel Faulkner was shot and killed. The chief inspector arrived on the scene, a guy named [Alfonzo] Giordano, who had been Rizzo’s right-hand man a few years earlier and who was also under investigation for corruption and being on the take.

The conscious frame-up of Mumia

Giordano knew very well who they had found on the street that night and he began the conscious frame-up of Mumia. They claimed that Mumia confessed that night, they said that Mumia’s gun was found on the scene and that it was the murder weapon. They brought forward two witnesses, one a prostitute who was actually doing tricks for the cops and working as an informant so she could do her work on the streets. The other witness was a cab driver who we later learned was coerced into testifying against Mumia.

I should say that I have been working with Mumia for thirty years now and I was involved in a major investigation during his post-trial hearings in Philadelphia from 1995 through 1999. There we brought out an enormous amount of concrete evidence of prosecutorial and police misconduct in the frame-up of Mumia for a crime he did not commit.

New evidence

DB: Obviously, Mumia was someone who was way ahead of his time, taking on the issue of police violence long before most people had any sense of how systematic this was. So there is apparently new information, new evidence in the case. Tell us about that.

RW: Well, about a year ago, a very important case was decided by the United States Supreme Court. It involved the fact that one of the justices who became the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Ronald Castille, had been the prosecutor in Philadelphia, following Rendell as the chief DA.

He had been a DA and ran on a law-and-order platform, and was endorsed and received major funding from the Fraternal Order of Police. Nonetheless, when he became a Philadelphia Supreme Court justice he sat and ruled on a number of cases, including Mumia’s case, despite requests for him to remove himself on grounds of bias and conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest and a denial of a fair and impartial appeal process

About a year ago, in a different case, after many attempts to get a ruling, it was found that it is a conflict of interest and a denial of a fair and impartial appeal process to allow a judge to sit who had previously been personally involved in a significant fashion in the earlier prosecution of the same case. Basically, it required all the appeals that that judge had sat on and that had been negatively decided against the defendant to be thrown out and to be able to start over again.

Based on this ruling, Mumia’s lawyers brought an action last August to challenge Mumia’s appeals, because Castille was the district attorney who was in charge of all the appeal issues on Mumia’s case at the time that dealt with his Black Panther membership, the rigging of the jury selection to keep blacks off the jury, and various other issues. In all significant issues of Mumia’s case, Castille was the person who argued the decisions should be upheld.

Statues of Lady Justice can be found around the world, this one atop London’s Old Bailey courthouse.

Violation of a fundamental precept

When Castille became a supreme court justice, he had already been the architect of all the DA’s support of Mumia’s conviction. During the period of my involvement in the case, and with all the challenges to Mumia’s conviction that began in 1995 and went on through 2008, Castille refused to removed himself from the case and instead ruled against Mumia in each of these cases. The argument is now being made that Castille violated the fundamental precept that as a prosecutor involved in the case he should never have sat as a judge.

So now Mumia’s case in court has finally gotten some arguments. The DA’s office tried to get it thrown out on grounds that it was brought too late and didn’t apply anymore. The judge ruled that it did in fact apply and that the case should go forward. Then it became an issue of the DA’s office being ordered to come forward with evidence that shows Castille’s involvement. They have been noncompliant with the order and recalcitrant in not providing real information, no record of his involvement in Mumia’s case.

This in spite of Castille’s statements in his supreme court run that he took personal involvement in these appeals, particularly appeals to the US Supreme Court. So Mumia filed another motion for the DA’s office to comply and search their records again and they came up with one paragraph saying, “Well, we had two people going through 31 boxes looking for this and that.” But there is no mention whether they went through Castille’s files as DA or his chief assistant’s files.

Concealing information

Also, one of the people at the DA who has been working on Mumia’s appeals since 1986 and has been in the courtroom through all these hearings during the ‘90’s was personally appointed by Castille to be in charge of the appeals division. He is actually arguing the case on behalf of the DA’s office now. He is still working on the case thirty years later. We have nothing indicating what role he played or any statement at all indicating whether he had any consultations with Castille regarding this case.

So they are stonewalling, they are concealing information. And it will continue to take a great deal of political pressure in the form of demonstrations and protests to make it clear to the DA’s office that we are demanding that they finally open up their files.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.

Pan African solidarity with the Cuban people

Source:  Pambazuka News

A Statement by the North American Delegation to the 8th Pan African Congress on the passing of Comrade Fidel Castro Ruiz

PanAfrican Wire

The Pan African Congress – North America

His anti-imperialist policies, socialist initiatives and strong internationalism have earned him a lasting place in world history.

November 30, 2016

 

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The North American Delegation to the 8th Pan African Congress would like to express its solidarity with the Cuban people at the moment when Comrade Fidel Castro joined the ancestors. For over 60 years Comrade Castro gave leadership to first a rebellion and then a revolution after which he was appointed as Prime Minister and later as President and Commander-in-Chief of Cuba, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and Secretary General of the Non Aligned Movement. His anti-imperialist policies, socialist initiatives and strong internationalism have earned him a lasting place in world history.

Leadership 

Noted for many of the internal social policies which addressed the quality of life for Cuban people such as increasing the literacy rate to 98% and decreasing the infant mortality rate to 1.1%, Comrade Castro and the Communist party of Cuba gave leadership to the peoples of the Caribbean, Central and South America. Castro was an undying opponent of all forms of colonialism and provided moral and political support to the Puerto Rican Independence movement.

Unswerving support for the anti-colonial struggles

Among the African descendants, Fidel will be remembered for his unswerving support for the anti-colonial struggles.  Soon after the decisive victory of the revolution, in the early 1960s Comrade Castro and the revolutionary leadership introduced a call for a “Marshall Plan” type program for Latin America. To counter this, the John F. Kennedy administration launched the Alliance for Progress to stifle the progressive initiatives of Cuba to support the oppressed of the American hemisphere.

Fidel y malcolm 5.jpgIt was among African Americans in the USA where the solidarity was manifest in numerous ways. Castro encouraged African Americans to visit Cuba, as a non-discriminatory country, and provided refuge for Pan African revolutionaries such as Robert Williams. Up to today, Assata Shakur is being protected in Cuba by the Cuban state. His visit to Harlem in 1960, talks with Malcolm X and other African-American leaders reaffirmed the growing ties between the two communities.

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A decade later he was one of the first to support President Salvador Allende against the right-wing elements of the Chilean military. In many ways it was the solidarity of the African progressive forces that cautioned the USA against an open invasion after the Bay of Pigs debacle in 1961. After that it was reported that there were over 600 attempts at the life of Comrade Castro by the US intelligence services.

Deep and abiding ties to Africa

Comrade Castro had deep and abiding ties to Africa, beginning with his connections to the African descendent community in Cuba. After visits in the 1970s to Guinea and Algeria, he led Cuba to become a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, and encouraged revolutionary movements everywhere, including Vietnam and Palestine. Comrade Castro actively supported the liberation forces of Africa and sent military advisers to assist Angolan President Agostinho Neto in 1975. Cuba then strengthened its support of the revolutionary forces in Mozambique and Southern Africa. In 1977 Comrade Castro was able to tour Algeria, Libya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Angola and in each country was warmly greeted as a true friend of African liberation.

fidel-y-neto-2During the period of the Reagan and Thatcher counter-revolution, the CIA and apartheid intensified their efforts to crush the freedom fighters in South Africa and Namibia. When the United States and South Africa increased their support for the forces of UNITA in Angola and the MNR in Mozambique, the Cuban government dispatched over 25,000 troops to Angola which led to a major victory at Cuito Cuanavale. Fidel Castro personally worked with the commanders on the ground, and his military clarity during the battles at Cuito Cuanavale led to the decisive victory. This was the battle that changed the history of Africa and ended white minority rule in Namibia and South Africa. Afterwards Castro rightly stated that, “The history of Africa will be divided into before and after Cuito Cuanavale.”

Support for Reparations

Comrade Castro supported the Global Reparations campaign and his support for the position of the Caribbean position at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001 shifted the position of most of the progressive forces in Latin America to support the reparative claims of African descendants in the Americas. Pan Africanists remember Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolutionaries for their strong support for the health programs in Africa at a moment when the IMF and the World Bank called on governments to cut health expenditures. It was this tradition which was manifest in 2014 when Cuba dispatched thousands of doctors to West Africa to assist Africans in containing the Ebola virus.

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The North American delegation of the Global Pan African movement salutes the bravery and focus of Comrade Fidel as we pledge to continue the fight against capitalism and racism.

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Hasta la Victoria Siempre!  Patria o Muerte!  Venceremos!