An important part of the work of revolutionaries and the working class movement is the defence of fellow radicals and other victims of state terror. The fight to defend and free class struggle prisoners serves several important purposes in the proletarian movement. Class struggle prisoners are heroic fighters for the workers or the oppressed who have been railroaded or framed by the criminal injustice system for the purpose of a state and class war on revolutionaries, labor, oppressed minorities, and women. The working class itself must be organized for the defence of these fighters.
The first purpose of the defence of class struggle prisoners is the intrinsic value, the "moral" imperitive to defend your own co-thinkers and actors. To not allow the state bourgeois terrorists to take one inch of ground or one fighter for the cause without struggle. This should be elementary, for to abandon the class struggle at the prison gates or at the court house steps means a great capitulation to the capitalist legal system, oppressors of Blacks, workers, and the poor. One very simple logical justifications for this is that if one wants to encourage solidarity among radicals and the oppressed, then radicals and the oppressed must band together for mutal self defence. If revolutionaries cannot defend themselves against small attacks by the system how can they expect to be able to act to overthrow this same system.
A second important reason to take up class struggle defence is the opportunity which the imprisonment of a "people's tribune" or "voice of the oppressed" creates to spread their word and the word of the socialist movement to the people. When "normal" means of propaganda do not reach or motivate enough people, the victimization of a leader of the oppressed can bring many people into open militant action. When socialism and revolution are scarry or too abstract for the masses, the issue of defending a single class struggle prisoner like Mumia Abu-Jamal or Leonard Peltier can animate youth and the uncommitted through the valor of their stories and struggles.
One might object that this is opportunisticly using one persons suffering to futher your own cause. Yes in a way it is taking advantage of the situation to further the struggle. However it needs to be done in such a way as to further the broad emancipatory goals of the class struggle prisoner.
This struggle must be a united front, and no capitulations from other grous should be asked in order for another groups support. The urgency of this fight must be carried on in a non-sectarian way. This struggle must be entirely for the prisoners benefits and for the benefit of those for whom they have spoken and fought.
Class struggle defence has a long history. Perhapse the best known case was the outpouring of International support for the Anarchists Nicolo Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti falsely accused of armed robbery. However other great traditions include the abolitionist defence and aiding of fugitive slaves, the international outcry over the framing of the Haymarket workers for which May Day is celebrated, the defence of the Passaic Strikers of 1926, the defence of Trotskyists and Communists arrested under the Smith Act, the defence of numerous Black Panthers attacked by the U.S. governments Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) including Abu-Jamal (See, Women and Revolution
no. 45, 1996, p. 24-36).
Currently, the Partisan Defence Committeee, initiated by the Spartacist League, is conducting a campaign to renew and revitalize the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, former Black Panther, MOVE supporter and fighter for Black freedom, falsely convicted of the killing of a Philidelphia cop in 1981. In addition this mobilization is an extention of the fight to end the racist death penalty in this country, a form of legal lynching which rouses race hatred among many whites. The link on this page is to a flier on Mumia. For more information see . Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!