Jamal Supporters Dispute Goes Public
“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim”-George Santayana
The following letter from the Partisan Defense Committee would not likely have been made public several years ago. It’s appearance now serves as yet another reminder of the continuing decline of the Mumia movement.
The (PDC) is the latest incarnation of a Trotskyist group that is a haven for armchair revolutionaries who delight in pointing out the shortcomings of other communist groups as much as they do in advocating a worker based, Marxist overthrow, of the “capitalists” and “imperialists”. Some years ago at Salon.com an article extolling the entertainment value of the group that amounts to a tiny, political sect, described it as “fundamentalist Trotskyists (who) have a flair for logic-chopping, and for mercilessly ridiculing their opponents, who are many. It has long been a point of pride for the League never to agree with anyone else — least of all the several other, virtually indistinguishable, Trot organizations spread thinly across the globe. Their means of differentiation have been curious indeed: For a long time, the League showed a strange enthusiasm for the Soviet military (exemplified by the unforgettable Spart headline/banner/slogan "Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!").
The PDC “Open Letter” to all twenty Mumia supporters that remain, is typical of the group’s polemical flavor, however their previous writings with regard to Mumia have a tendency to play up their ideas and talk up (PDC) attorney and former member of Jamal’s legal “scheme team”, Rachel Wolkenstein, rather than denigrate and attempt to marginalize current Mumia supporters.
Based upon what I know about the group and my experience with the Jamal cause, I believe that this provocative letter is part of an attempt by the PDC to reclaim their position as the key support group for Mumia. That is, because in the beginning, there was the (PDC). They were the first political group to really take up the Jamal cause and via the internet, take it around the world. And while Pam Africa is credited as being the architect of the “Free Mumia” movement, in reality it was groups like the PDC and Equal Justice who put Mumia’s name on the map of the political left, not the MOVE Organization. However, as Jamal’s stock continued to climb, MOVE’s investment in him grew. Because of Jamal’s devotion to MOVE, he backed up Pam Africa whenever conflicts would arise and in not much time at all, Pam had either marginalized competing Mumia groups or had her flunkies like Suzanne Ross in positions of power throughout the movement.
So, while the PDC does not mention Pam by name, they do take shots at Pam’s cronies like Suzzane Ross of the New York Mumia Coalition and the war against John Gilbride, Jeff Mackler who is Pam’s man on the West Coast, and Dave Lindorff whose book “Killing Time”, a decidedly pro-Mumia screed was initially demonized by the movement in general because it strayed slightly askance from the party line, but as hard times have set in, even Lindorff has a place in the Mumia movement and is a target for the PDC. By attacking Pam’s flunkies, the PDC is not so quietly, firing a broadside at her leadership, or lack thereof.
It certainly has not escaped the attention of the PDC that Pam Africa’s “International Family and Friends of Mumia” essentially no longer exists and has diminished to the point that it no longer even has it’s own website. The PDC is apparently looking to regain control of the movement they played a vital role in creating by demonizing those who do not subscribe to their absolutist view of Mumia as a “political prisoner” who was “framed” by authorities. Another silly position the PDC clings to is that all of the witnesses who tell the tale of an innocent Mumia should not be rejected. This partially has to do with Rachel Wolkenstein, the PDC attorney who left Mumia’s team over the Arnold Beverly debacle and her nearly hysterical insistence that Jamal’s defense and supporters cling to disgraced and obviously whacked out “witnesses”.
The other reason is that the PDC views the world in terms of absolutes, black and white, with no shades of grey, much in the same way that religious fundamentalist do. They are the self-appointed vanguard of revolution and those who do not subscribe to their newspapers or ideology can go to hell, which if it does exist, may just be stocked with PDC literature, complete with an endless stream of speakers lecturing on the distinctions between Maoism, Marxist theory, how evil the Stalinists are, etc...ad nauseam.
The PDC “Open Letter” is a glimpse into a generally pointless world of esoteric theories born out of a dead economic system, that is driven by old men who profit off of fear and ignorance. They are part of the freak show of the political carnival and are so morally blind that they are willing to trample over people in order to be the ones to carry the Mumia banner. But what is really important to them is the chance to reap in the blood money made off of the murder of Officer Faulkner. They are a cabal of true believers seeking to rule over a tiny kingdom of lies and the following letter shows this to be a sad truth.
The Partisan Defense Committee issued the following open letter on April 8.
The March 27 Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision condemns Mumia to either execution or the living death of life in prison. This ruling should make clear to all who are committed to the fight to free this innocent man that he can get no justice at the hands of the very forces that framed him up and sentenced him to die. At every step, the courts have made clear that Mumia has no rights that they are bound to respect and that innocence does not matter. Even those who have mobilized for many years on the basis that Mumia could get a “new, fair trial” now proclaim that there should be no illusions in the American injustice system. Now more than ever, mobilizing mass militant protest in the fight for Mumia’s freedom must be based on rejecting any reliance on the courts.
The Partisan Defense Committee and its fraternal defense organizations internationally have put out a call for united-front action, centered on the social power of the multiracial labor movement, from Oakland and L.A. to Chicago, London, Sydney and elsewhere under the slogans: “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Innocent! Free Mumia Now! Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!” These protests have been endorsed by trade unions, such as United Auto Workers Local 3212 in Chicago, the New York City chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the Finsbury Park Branch of the RMT rail and transit workers union in England; by former Black Panther Party militants, including Emory Douglas and David Hilliard as well as Ray Boudreaux and Richard Brown, two of the “San Francisco 8” who are being dragged through the courts on frame-up charges of killing a cop that had been dismissed 30 years ago.
But when we went to an April 5 meeting of the San Francisco Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal to propose that they endorse the Oakland mobilization initiated by the PDC and Labor Black League for Social Defense, they outright refused. Jeff Mackler, a leader of Socialist Action and director of the Mobe, pointed to the PDC/LBL mobilization call and denounced the criticisms there of Socialist Action and others who have subordinated the fight for Mumia’s freedom to the call for a “new trial.” He said that he would not want the “good name” of the Mobe tarnished by endorsing the Oakland demonstration. He accused us of being sectarian. In fact, the Spartacist League, with which the PDC is associated, gave critical support to Mackler’s 2006 Senatorial campaign.
Over two years ago, when the Third Circuit Court allowed Mumia to raise a paltry three—out of over two dozen—issues on appeal, Mackler declared that the ruling was “a major blow to the Pennsylvania legal establishment.” When the recent court ruling burst his bubble, Mackler conceded that his Mobe was in a “demoralized state.” Indeed, this meeting, which was to plan for a protest announced by the Mobe for April 20 in defense of Mumia, made clear that they have no concrete plans for a protest.
On April 6, PDC representatives attended a New York planning meeting called by the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC) for the April 19 demonstration in Philadelphia. Unlike their past appeals for a “new trial,” the Coalition’s flyer for the Philly protest declared, “We Say Free Mumia Now!” Recognizing that this opened the possibility of building a united-front action to mobilize the broadest number of forces on the basis of fighting for Mumia’s freedom, we distributed a letter signed by PDC counsel Rachel Wolkenstein and sought to present a motion motivating the need for united-front action. In response, Suzanne Ross, a leader of the New York Free Mumia Coalition, declared there would be no united front and physically excluded us from the meeting. What are they afraid of?
Ever since the PDC took up Mumia’s case over 20 years ago, we have sought to mobilize the broadest forces in his defense. Rallies and protests initiated by the PDC for Mumia’s freedom have always welcomed organizations and individuals representing diverse political viewpoints and encouraged them to air their points of view, including political differences. Indeed, we had offered the New York Coalition a speaker at the PDC/LBL-initiated emergency protest in lower Manhattan on March 28 (an offer they rejected). We also recognized that these forces were very far removed from our class-struggle perspective. Our fight to free Mumia and abolish the racist death penalty is part of our struggle to bring working people and the oppressed to the conscious understanding that the capitalist state, its cops and courts, is not some “neutral” agency that serves society as a whole, but rather exists to defend the class rule and profits of the capitalists against those whom they exploit and oppress. The frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal is a stark expression of the class and race bias of the capitalist courts and underlines the need for the multiracial working class to champion the fight for black liberation.
We fight for mass protest for Mumia’s freedom based on labor’s social power, which lies in its ability to choke off the profits that are the lifeblood of capitalism. To that end, the PDC has fought for genuine united-front action in Mumia’s defense—i.e., unity in action based on agreed-upon slogans and complete freedom of criticism. That means an open debate about what strategy is needed to rebuild the movement for Mumia and fight for his freedom. The call for a “new trial” is based on a political program of reliance on the capitalist class, its politicians and courts to afford justice to fighters for the oppressed. Nobody ever called for a “new trial” for Angela Davis, Huey Newton or Nelson Mandela. Had the political counterposition between our call to “Free Mumia” and those advocating a “new trial” been openly debated over the past decade, the movement for Mumia today would have been stronger and firmly based on the need to mobilize to free this innocent man.
Our exposure of how the liberals and reformists have undermined the fight for Mumia’s freedom with their calls for a “new, fair trial” has earned us the wrath of those who are hostile to the perspective of a class-struggle movement for Mumia’s freedom. The rejection of our urgent call for united-front action by the Mobe and the New York Coalition is political cowardice. At this urgent hour, they are subordinating the fight for Mumia’s freedom to their fear of political debate.
The call for a “new trial” was consciously tailored to appeal to liberals whose concern lies with preserving the fraud of American “democracy,” not with Mumia’s freedom. A prime example is journalist David Lindorff, who openly stated in his book, Killing Time, that “I’m not convinced that Mumia Abu-Jamal was simply an innocent bystander” and that Mumia may have shot officer Faulkner. Lindorff is welcomed with open arms by the reformists while the PDC, which has fought for 20 years to prove Mumia’s innocence and win his freedom, is excluded.
When Mumia was faced with imminent death at the hands of the state’s executioner in 1995, mass protests, including by unions and other organizations representing millions, were mobilized around the world and stayed the executioner’s hand. Before this, Socialist Action and others had little to say about Mumia’s case. Court hearings that summer to overturn his frame-up conviction revealed more and more evidence of Mumia’s innocence, much of it uncovered by PDC counsel Rachel Wolkenstein and Jonathan Piper, who served on Mumia’s legal defense from 1995 to 1999. But rather than using this evidence to arm Mumia’s supporters and win new activists to the fight for his freedom, the reformist left adopted the call for a “new trial.” As each new witness gave further proof of Mumia’s innocence—William Singletary, Veronica Jones, Pamela Jenkins—the reformists deepened their commitment to promoting illusions in American “justice.” This demobilized a movement of millions—the clear message was: Why mobilize on the streets and in the unions if Mumia can get justice in the courts?
By 2001, the reformists were actively burying evidence of Mumia’s innocence. In March of that year, Dan Williams, then co-counsel to Leonard Weinglass on Mumia’s legal team, published Executing Justice, which denigrated evidence of Mumia’s innocence, denouncing the confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, killed officer Faulkner, before that evidence was filed in court. For this betrayal, Mumia fired Weinglass and Williams. In May 2001, Mumia’s new legal team filed the Beverly evidence in state and federal courts along with sworn declarations by Mumia and his brother, Billy Cook, that Mumia had nothing to do with Faulkner’s shooting. These statements only amplified the mountains of evidence of Mumia’s innocence. But they were too hot for the reformists and liberals to handle. Speaking to them, Mumia wrote in May 2001: “Many of you have said that you don’t believe in the system, yet, in your hearts you refuse to let it go.”
Four months later, in the face of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the liberals and reformists recoiled under the pressure of increased repression and “national unity” patriotism. In December 2001, federal district court judge William Yohn overturned the death sentence while affirming Mumia’s frame-up conviction. This was a demoralizing blow to the advocates of a “new trial,” who had long preached that Mumia would find justice in the federal courts. But rather than mobilizing on the call to free Mumia, they told activists to look to the next federal appeals court. Protests that once drew tens of thousands were reduced to a few hundred at best.
Time is short. Mumia has nearly reached the end of the legal road, and there is no reason to believe he can receive a better outcome before the full Third Circuit Court or from the neo-segregationist U.S. Supreme Court. Mumia’s struggle embodies the struggle against this system of capitalist exploitation and racist oppression. This underlines the urgent need to mobilize the social power of labor in his defense. There can be no flinching on Mumia’s innocence, on the need to fight for his freedom and to abolish the racist death penalty. We call on all fighters for Mumia’s freedom to mobilize now and join in genuine mass united-front protests. Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent! Free Mumia now! Abolish the racist death penalty!