22 February 2019

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Now!

“Progressive” D.A. Continues State Vendetta

On January 25, Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner announced that his office was appealing the December 27 ruling of Judge Leon Tucker of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, in which Mumia Abu-Jamal won the right to challenge his frame-up conviction. A former Black Panther spokesman, MOVE supporter and award-winning journalist, Mumia has been in prison hell for 37 years—30 of them on death row—falsely convicted of killing Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981. Tucker’s ruling threw out the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions from 1998 to 2012 that rubber-stamped Mumia’s frame-up, because a judge on that court gave an “appearance of bias.” The judge, Ronald Castille, had been the D.A. during Mumia’s first appeal of his conviction and death sentence.

We welcomed Judge Tucker’s ruling and protest Krasner’s appeal, a further demonstration of his commitment to keep Mumia entombed for life. The ink was barely dry on Tucker’s decision when a host of liberals, radical activists and reformist socialists stepped up their campaign calling on Philly’s top prosecutor “to do the right thing.” Krasner is “doing the right thing”—for the capitalist class that he was elected to serve. The D.A.’s office, no less than the cops, courts and prisons, is at the core of the state machinery of repression whose purpose is to defend the profits and rule of the bourgeoisie.

An online petition to the D.A. initiated by Mobilization 4 Mumia, which includes Workers World Party’s International Action Center, demanded that Krasner not appeal, lauding his supposed “concern for justice.” It also declared: “It was a people’s movement that paved the way for your election,” as if the “people” could take over the instrument of their own repression and wield it for their purposes. Even after Krasner filed the appeal, his supporters were undeterred. A February 6 letter sent to Krasner, now another online petition, calls on him to drop the appeal, grotesquely groveling that he could “be the one to end this pattern of racism in Mumia’s case.”

The Spartacist League and the Partisan Defense Committee, a class-struggle, non-sectarian, legal and social defense organization associated with the SL, will not sign these appeals to the D.A. The petitions sow illusions that the Democrat Krasner could run the apparatus of the capitalist state in the interests of the oppressed.

In racist capitalist America, a key function of the state is and has been to terrorize, frame up and kill those fighting for black freedom, foremost among them members of the Black Panther Party, the best of a generation of black radicals who subjectively saw revolution as the road to black equality. The Panthers were met with surveillance, harassment, disruption, frame-up and assassination. As a teenager, Mumia was placed on the FBI’s Administrative Index designating him to be rounded up in case of a “national emergency.”

By filing the appeal, Krasner broke the hearts of those who envisioned him at the head of a class of “progressive” prosecutors. Workers World Party, which gushed that “Krasner’s election victory was significant” (workers.org, 15 November 2017), now laments: “It appears the new DA is the same as the old DAs” (30 January). Indeed! There is no such thing as a progressive D.A. Whether a liberal like Krasner or a more mainstream Democrat like Kamala Harris, who, as San Francisco D.A. and then California Attorney General, fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions, D.A.s administer capitalist “law and order,” packing people off to prison.

Last October, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) hailed Krasner’s campaign as a blueprint for how activists can help elect “progressive” D.A.s nationwide on the Democratic Party ticket. ISO leader Paul D’Amato responded that he prefers to “apply mass pressure without offering any political support” (socialistworker.org, 19 October 2018). The ISO’s strategy is pressure politics, whether helping Democrats win elections or demonstrating in the streets to beg them. Or, for that matter, attending monthly meetings of local activists with Krasner “to keep the DA aligned with the perspectives of the movement organizers” (socialistworker.org, 1 October 2018). As Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky said of the activity of such reformists, it is directed toward “training of the masses to become imbued with the inviolability of the bourgeois state.”

Krasner’s “progressive” credentials were based largely on his campaign promise to reduce mass incarceration. The reformists alibi the Philly D.A. by pointing to the pressure he is under from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), with the ISO inventing “the contradictions of his job” (4 January). Krasner has made absolutely clear that there are no contradictions; a D.A. doesn’t have to be tight with the FOP to be on the same side. In a 9 February Intercept article, Krasner defended his decision to appeal Tucker’s ruling for the “celebrity” Mumia out of concern “about all of the unfamous, poor, nameless people whose cases deserve individual justice.” Krasner is “concerned” that those victims of capitalist injustice might go free if Mumia prevails, as the D.A. bemoaned the possibility of “having to rehear possibly thousands of cases.”

While supporting Mumia’s use of every available legal means, our approach is one of class-struggle defense and our demand is for his freedom. Ever since we took up his case in 1987, we have fought for broader social forces, centrally the multiracial proletariat, to champion Mumia’s struggle while aiming to dispel any illusions in the “justice” of the racist capitalist courts. We seek to imbue the working class with the understanding that ending capitalist exploitation and racial oppression necessitates sweeping away the ruling class and its state apparatus and establishing a workers state.

We urge our readers to donate to Mumia’s legal defense. Checks payable to the National Lawyers Guild should be sent to the Committee to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal, Johanna Fernandez, 158-18 Riverside Drive W., Apt. 6C-50, New York, NY 10032, earmarked “For Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Legal Defense.”

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1149, 22 February 2019)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.