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News ::
24 Oct 2003

By Monica Moorehead
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Oct. 30, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Monica Moorehead

After a war waged by the U.S. military against Vietnam which took the
lives of more than 3 million Viet namese people and more than 58,000
GIs, the U.S. finally withdrew in 1975. It had suffered its first
official major military defeat by a united peoplestruggle led by the
Vietnamese, along with a mass U.S. anti-war movement.

Four years earlier, another heroic struggle of resistance had taken
place inside the U.S. The battlefield was in upstate New York at the
notorious Attica prison. Hundreds of prisoners--African Ameri can,
Latino, Native and white--organized a united front and took over the
prison for four days in September 1971.

These prisoners exposed to a largely uninformed U.S. population and to
the world that U.S. dungeons were nothing more than concentration camps for the poor. The demands they made of the prison officials and the ruling-class governor, Nelson Rockefeller, reflected both the daily inhumane treatment that exists for prisoners along with concerns for the worldwide problems caused by racism, capitalist greed and imperialist war.

Among the prisoners' demands was the right to be unionized to win a
decent wage with benefits like other workers. Anoth er demand was for
willing prisoners to be granted political asylum in socialist Cuba.

The political consciousness of these prisoners was inspired by the
writings of anti-imperialist Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh as well as
other revolutionary figures like Che Guevara, Karl Marx and George

This rebellion was drowned in blood as Rockefeller ordered the National Guard to open fire, resulting in a slaughter that left 29 prisoners and 10 hostages dead. What this uprising showed was that economic and political repression gives birth to social consciousness, solidarity and class struggle.


Fast forward to what is happening now. The names may have changed but
the struggle is the same. This time the U.S. military has carried out
another brutal war against Iraq and is bogged down in a racist
occupation of that once sovereign country. Like the Vietnamese, the
Iraqi people are putting up a heroic resistance. This occupation is part and parcel of Bush's so-called war on terror.

The economic and political repression inside the prisons has deepened
over the past 30 years.

During the era of Attica, there were an estimated 300,000 prisoners in
the U.S. Today U.S. prisons and jails are now filled with over 2.1
million poor and working people, more than any other industrialized

Women prisoners, many of them single mothers, constitute
the fastest-growing prison population. It has been documented
that at least 70 percent of imprisoned women and men were convicted
of non-violent, drug-related "crimes." Many suffer from HIV/AIDS,
other disabilities and illit eracy. Amnesty Inter na tional and other
groups have accused the U.S. prison system of violating many
international laws, especially the racist, anti-poor application
of the death penalty.

The building of private prisons, including juvenile detention centers,
has been one of the most profitable markets for Wall Street investors.
Prison slave labor has enriched the coffers of U.S. corporations to the tune of over $1 billion annually. This super-exploitation lowers the wages of many workers and undermines the campaign to organize the
unorganized. Unions should make it a policy to organize prisoners as
they are doing with immigrants and other low-paid workers.

One of the main reasons such blatant exploitation and oppression exists inside the prisons is institutionalized racism that permeates throughout the entire criminal justice system. According to Mother, in 2000 some 66 percent of those incarcerated were people of color. This is hugely disproportionate to their numbers in the population. There were more Black men in prison in 2001 than in college. (Justice Policy Institute)

People of color, especially youth, are demonized and criminalized in the media to help drive an invisible wedge between the multi-national and multi-cultural com munities, who have common interests.

This same divide-and-conquer tactic is a cornerstone of U.S. foreign
policy as leaders like Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro
are portrayed as "tyrants" and "dictators" by the mainstream media and
U.S. government to justify imperialist aggression.


The U.S. government likes to ostracize other countries for having
political prisoners--especially those countries that favor a different
economic system such as Cuba, North Korea and China.

The truth is that there are U.S. prisoners who have been victims of
illegal frame-ups because they have a history of being outspoken
opponents against racism, imper ialism and colonialism. The more well-
known political prisoners include Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier,
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown), the Cuban 5, the
Angola 3, the Puerto Rican independentistas, members of the MOVE 9 and
many more.

The repressive U.S. Patriot Act since 9/11 has sanctioned the illegal
detentions and torture of thousands of unidentified South Asian, Middle Eastern and Muslim immigrants within these borders and on a U.S. military base in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Palestinian detainees such as Professor Sami Al-Arian, Amer Jubran and
the Los Angeles 8 are being threatened with prison and/or deportation
for defending Pales tin ian resistance against Israeli occupation.

The movement for social change has important political allies locked
away who must never be forgotten in the heat of battle. While fighting
French colonialism, Ho Chi Minh wrote from his prison cell, "People who come out of prison can build up the country... Those who protest at injustice are people of true merit... When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out."

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
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