Cuban Five speak about US prisons

gerardo cuban5 US prison
Gerardo Hernández (center) of the Cuban Five at Victorville prison in 2006, with fellow prisoners.

In December 2014, the remaining three of the five men known as the Cuban Five were released from their US prison sentences and returned as heroes to socialist Cuba. They had been imprisoned since 1998 on a range of spurious charges, following their arrests for espionage. The Five were indeed spies, but their mission was to protect Cuba by monitoring counter-revolutionary organisations in Miami, not to spy on the US government. Following their release they spoke to Pathfinder Press about their experiences; that discussion has been reproduced as the pamphlet ‘It’s the poor who face the savagery of the US “justice” system’ – the Cuban Five talk about their lives within the US working class.

 

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Trump continues racist anti-working class assault

So much Trump, so little space. The first two months of the Trump presidency have been nothing if not eventful. We’ll go through his achievements. Most spectacularly, his promised ban on Muslims entering the United States crashed, brought down by massive protests throughout the US, and by Federal judges who have ruled the ban unconstitutional. His revised ban, pruned of its more obviously discriminatory features such as exceptions for Christians, has now met the same legal fate, although this time the Trump administration has promised to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Trump’s plans to repeal ‘Obamacare’ – the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) – have met noisy demonstrations up and down the country. There are thousands of people who would be dead without the AHCA, and many, many more whose quality of life would be far worse. Republican lawmakers have found it impossible to craft legislation that would replace it without harming a significant slice of their constituents, and at lower cost than the AHCA. Trump was warned by Republicans in Congress that change could not come quickly, but he insisted that it go to a vote so he could shame moderate Republicans. The votes proved impossible to achieve and the Republican leadership pulled the bill. Unable to tweet his way out of this failure with ‘alternative facts’, Trump is loudly blaming the Democrats and liberal media. Sad!

 

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End prison slavery in Texas now! Part II: Class consciousness and international solidarity

'Open the Prison Gates' – Art: Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

FRFI are pleased to publish this guest article by Keith 'Malik' Washington, which was first published in San Francisco Bay View.

by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington, chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement and deputy chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter (NABPP PC), Texas Region

'Largely missing from mainstream discourse on mass incarceration is the history of slave rebellions and revolts, revolutionary internationalism and Malcolm X, COINTELPRO and the BPP. Yet it is within this history that we find the tools for combating not only mass incarceration but also the monster of institutionalized racism that created it. We must understand mass incarceration as deeply tied to the legacy of slavery. This provides the intellectual grounding for the prison abolition movement and relates to human rights struggles that call for international solidarity.' – Nyle Fort, 'Insurgent Intellectual: Mumia Abu Jamal in the age of Mass Incarceration,' p.144, Socialism and Democracy, Volume 28, 2014, Issue 3

 

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Free all political prisoners still behind bars in the US

free all political prisoners

In a victory for campaigners in the US and worldwide, 539 prisoners were granted clemency by outgoing President Obama in January 2017, including notable political prisoners:

• Chelsea Manning, a US Army whistleblower. She was arrested in 2010 and convicted in 2013 for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, exposing the brutality of the Iraq war, and sentenced to 35 years in military prison. Manning is a trans woman, and was denied the right to live as her gender or even grow her hair until 2015. In 2016, after undergoing a five-day hunger strike she was granted a request for genital reassignment surgery, considered life saving by many transgender people. She will be released in May.

 

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The ‘Global Gag Rule’: a death sentence for women around the world

abortion us

President Trump’s reinstatement of the anti-abortion Mexico City Policy, dubbed the ‘global gag rule’, is a direct attack on the lives and health of women - primarily poor and black women - around the world. The policy, introduced by US President Reagan in 1984 and subsequently twice rescinded by Democrats and bought in again by Republicans, prevents US-funded overseas recipients from discussing abortion. Trump’s position on abortion has moved rapidly from a very limited ‘pro-choice’ stance to a deeply conservative position condemning abortion – he says he ‘hates’ it - and to public support for the reactionary, Christian, large and active ‘pro-life’ movement in the US, who are overwhelmingly his supporters. Trump’s latest incarnation of the gag rule, signed on 23 January, on his fourth day in office, is even more restrictive, reactionary and dangerous than has been seen before.

An attack on global health

US foreign aid has not been able to fund abortions directly since the 1973 Helms Amendment. The Mexico City Policy goes further, preventing international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from receiving US money if they offer abortion-related information, services or referrals. Spending from other donors cannot be used for this purpose, including in countries where abortion is legal. Trump’s additions to the rule mean that not only will the $620 million USAID money, set aside yearly for family planning, be withheld from organisations offering abortion counselling or referrals, now so will the estimated $9.5 billion for ‘global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies’.

 

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Trump in power - What is really going on?

Trump

A thick cloud of controversies swirled round Donald Trump as he took the oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States at his inauguration as the country’s 45th President on 20 January. Quite apart from his racism, misogyny and Islamophobia, rumours circulate about his relationship with Russia and President Putin. On China, will his stance be the end of the ‘one China’ principle held by the US since 1979? His rants insisting on protectionism, his insulting attack on Civil Rights icon John Lewis, his decree that citizens of seven Muslim countries are banned from the US: all these and more raise more questions than answers. So what is really going on? Steve Palmer reports.

‘But what the hell? I’ll wing it and things will work out.’ – Trump

Donald Trump is not a politician, not even a businessman, but a salesman: he lives for ‘The Deal’. He is a lousy businessman, driving his companies into bankruptcy on six occasions. There is one, and only one product which matters to him: Donald Trump. ‘The show is “Trump” and performances are sold out everywhere,’ he says. All his pronouncements and tweets are fundamentally about promoting Brand Trump. In his book The Art of The Deal (p58), published in 1987, he writes: ‘The key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies … a little hyperbole never hurts. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration, a very effective form of promotion.’ In short, in English, he is a liar.

 

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Protesters brave police brutality and freezing weather at Standing Rock

Standing Rock solidarity march in San Francisco November 2016
Standing Rock solidarity march in San Francisco, November 2016

FRFI is pleased to publish this guest article by Taryn Fivek from the Workers World Party in the US, where self-described water protectors – Native Americans and allied opponents of the planned Dakota Access Pipeline that threatens to poison water supplies and sacred native lands – have been staging a peaceful occupation since August to protect the indigenous reservation of Standing Rock in the state of North Dakota.

Since writing, despite growing international support for the protesters, police have stepped up repression by firing water cannon on protesters and their camps. Used in freezing temperatures, there are serious concerns that protesters could develop severe hypothermia as a result. Police have also fired flash bang grenades, rubber bullets, Long-Range Acoustic Devices and tear gas. Among many serious injuries, a 21-year-old woman from New York is likely to have what remains of her left arm amputated after being hit by a concussion grenade. The CEO of pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners has reportedly offered to reimburse the state for law enforcement costs which have spiralled to $10.9m. You can follow Taryn on Twitter at @fivek.

 

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Racist Trump elected as US president

Trump election us

The election is over, the dust has cleared. Just as the Brexit referendum result shocked liberal commentators, so has the outcome of the US election. Polls, we were told, predicted a close but definite win for Hillary Clinton. There were even detailed analyses of the failings of the few ‘rogue polls’ which did predict a Trump win. Yet Trump defied the polls, and the immediate hopes of the US ruling class, to win the US Presidential general election. And so the ‘world’s greatest democracy’ is saddled with President Trump. Democrats are shell-shocked, seeming not to realise what has happened and why. Trump supporters are euphoric. Steve Palmer reports.

 

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Trexit: Trump wins US election

trump pence

Donald Trump has defied polls, and the immediate hopes of the US ruling class, to win the US Presidential general election. Democrats are shell-shocked, seeming not to realise what has happened and why. Trump supporters are euphoric. Steve Palmer reports.

Immediately prior to his victory the largely liberal media, the US ruling class and the markets were taking comfort from the last minute opinion polls, and, somewhat nervously but more confidently, were expecting a Clinton victory. Clinton was their favoured candidate because she was bought and paid for by Wall Street, and, despite her verbal claims to the contrary, represented business-as-usual. She had a superior ‘ground game’ – the get-out-the-vote machine on the ground – or so they thought. At least the rules of the game would have been clear, the policies would have been pretty-much-more-of-the-same and her election would have represented relative stability and predictability. By contrast, Donald Trump has made extravagant promises to his supporters, railing against free trade, the Washington political machine (‘We’re going to drain the swamp’), Wall Street and oppressed sections of US society. Exactly what policies he will actually pursue once sworn-in in January, is a complete unknown. Combined with his animation of dissident sections of the US working class, and his mercurial temperament, this unpredictability deeply scares finance capital in the immediate short term. This was reflected in the immediate reaction of global financial markets in the US and around the world which have totally cratered.

 

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US prisoners demand an end to prison slavery

phoenix

On 9 September, prisoners across the US marked the 45th anniversary of the historic Attica prison uprising in 1971 by commencing a series of strikes and actions which is continuing as we go to press. Nicki Jameson reports.

This wave of protest is the most widespread expression of discontent and resistance to hit the US prison system since the 1970s; however the mainstream press has been largely silent about it. Alternative news website The Intercept, one of the few news sources to report on the strike, described the prisoners’ demands as follows:

‘...inmates are protesting a wide range of issues: from harsh parole systems and three-strike laws to the lack of educational services, medical neglect, and overcrowding. But the issue that has unified protesters is that of prison labor – a $2 billion a year industry that employs nearly 900,000 prisoners while paying them a few cents an hour in some states, and nothing at all in others. In addition to work for private companies, prisoners also cook, clean, and work on maintenance and construction in the prisons themselves.’

 

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US presidential election farce drags on

tump and hilary

The primary elections are over, the party conventions have finished. Now the two main contenders, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are facing off in the Presidential race proper, leading up to election day in November. Steve Palmer reports.

Cynics often repeat the jibe that the US ‘has the finest democracy money can buy’. Both candidates are buying big. By the end of August, Clinton had raised $795m while Trump had raised $403.1m, and the cycle of fundraisers continues apace, lubricating the election process, squeezing out third-party candidates and buying influence with the future President.

Both candidates are millionaires individually, yet, hypocritically, both claim to be defending US workers’ jobs and wages, though Clinton has long supported and promoted globalisation and Trump has a history of exploiting cheap labour and opposing labour organising in his hotel chain.

 

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US election woes

Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton

Nothing is working out the way the US ruling class hoped for the 2016 Presidential elections. Early last year it expected that Hillary Clinton would already be the Democratic candidate, while Governor Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio would be well on the way to receiving the nomination of the Republican Party. Today, that plan lies tattered and all hell has broken loose, with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump receiving massive popular endorsements and scaring the daylights out of the ruling class.

The trouble began a year ago. On 26 May 2015 Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination; on 16 June Trump announced he was standing for the Republican nomination. They were initially dismissed by the ruling class and its lackeys with contempt. But then people began voting for them – in large numbers. Contempt turned to concern, then consternation, then condemnation, then fear. Trump is feared because he has whipped up a racist mob and threatens to sweep away the cosy political games the ruling class plays. Sanders is feared because he has a social democratic programme of civil rights, free education and healthcare, which US imperialism can’t afford without threatening its profits.

 

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Prisoners’ work strike in Alabama

On 1 May, International Workers’ Day, a month-long prison labour strike began across the US state of Alabama. Stating ‘We will no longer contribute to our own oppression’, leaders of the Free Alabama Movement, a national movement against mass incarceration and prison slavery, have been organising for this state-wide prison work stoppage since 2015.

The strike began at Alabama’s Holman, Staton and Elmore Correctional Facilities, with St Clair’s and Donaldson Facilities following on 9 May. Prisoners announced that unless their demands were met they would refuse to leave their cells to perform the unpaid work which allows the prison to function. A statement on behalf of the striking prisoners said:

‘The Free Alabama Movement has chosen the non-violent and peaceful protest strategy of “shutdowns”/work stoppages to combat the multi-billion dollar Prison Industrial Complex that has incarcerated over two million people for the sole purpose of exploitation through free labour, private prisons, exorbitant fees, and more.

 

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Muhammad Ali: Revolutionary

Muhammad Ali, born on 17 January 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, is dead. An immense figure in social and political life as much as boxing, his death will undoubtedly be the leading story of all mainstream media outlets for days to come. Already, celebrators of his life are searching to find superlatives to describe a man known by most as simply 'the greatest'. For all the outpouring, one word is noticeably missing from the description of one of the most significant and iconic figures of the twentieth century: revolutionary.

Between hardcore boxing fans the debate will continue as to whether Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis or Rocky Marciano is truly the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. Regardless of the outcome, in terms of thrilling the fans of the sport with his inimitable style in the ring and electrifying charisma outside, Ali is the undisputed champion. In his prime he presided over the strongest era in heavyweight boxing, beating all competitors, losing only to Ken Norton and Joe Frazier, losses which he later avenged. From winning his Olympic gold medal in 1960 to a series of brutal and punishing fights which would lead to him becoming a three-time world champion, Ali fought the strongest and won. He would describe his bout with Joe Frazier in 1975 as 'the closest thing to dying that I know'. His greatest fight however, was not against an opponent in the ring but against the establishment, racism and imperialism.

 

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Trump knocks Republicans out

Frankensteins monster

Every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, he vomits up reactionary sewage, yet he is still the most likely Republican presidential candidate. Liberals are appalled, shocked and have no idea how to respond except to vent their repulsion. The grandees of the Republican Party establishment are also appalled because they fear that Trump’s candour will cost them the presidency. Much is at stake: with Justice Scalia’s death in February, the Republicans lost one of the five conservatives who control the nine-judge Supreme Court. The Court is the final court of appeal and interpreter of the Constitution, so can have enormous power over the final effects of legislation. Justices are nominated by the President and have to be approved by the Senate, so whoever gets to appoint Scalia’s replacement will shape the court for a generation, determining the social programme of the United States with respect to abortion, civil rights, the relationship between church and state, gun control and many other social issues. If Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination, the Republican leaderships fears that the conservative programme is doomed and a vital opportunity lost, since they believe he is either unelectable in the November general election or completely inappropriate to be President.

From reconstruction …

It has taken the Republican Party 150 years to transform the ‘Party of Lincoln’ into the filthy racist sewer Donald Trump wallows in. It was founded in 1854, bringing together Whigs and ‘Free Soilers’, a coalition of northern business, free white labour and independent farmers, opposed to the extension of slavery to the western states and territories where labour was free. Attitudes to slavery in the party ranged from simply maintaining the status quo, to full abolitionism. Lincoln was elected President in 1860, defeating a Democrat coalition. Seven (later joined by another four) of 15 slave states seceded from the Union, forming the Confederacy. With the Confederacy’s attack on Fort Sumter, the Civil War began. Secession led to the resignation of most Southern Congressmen and enabled the Republicans to pass their economic programme, including building the transcontinental railroad, introducing tariffs to protect northern industry and to secure higher wages for white workers, establishing a national banking system, the issue of fiat currency, and passing the Homestead Act which was intended to grant land to independent farmers rather than plantation owners.

 

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US economy: a moribund giant

In his last State of the Union address on 12 January 2016, President Obama claimed that ‘the United States of America, right now, has the strongest most durable economy in the world’; in its last report the US Federal Reserve Bank talked optimistically of ‘economic momentum’, ‘solid gains in household spending’ and ‘a strengthening economic recovery’. Yet a closer examination shows that this economic miracle is something entirely different. Steve Palmer reports.

US capitalism has had a difficult year. Despite all media talk of a ‘strong recovery’, there are critical indicators of stagnation. The inability to accumulate profitably was shown by the year-on-year decline, in the second and third quarters, of capital expenditure by the largest 500 non-financial corporations (the S&P 500 ex-fin). At the same time idle cash and short term investments amounted to $1.45 trillion, the second highest level in ten years. Capital expenditure has decreased almost 5% over the year.

 

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US interest rate dilemma

According to the mythology of capitalist economics, adjusting interest rates and the money supply can enable capitalist economies to negotiate their way successfully between maintaining full employment, ensuring a stable currency and controlling inflation. This is precisely the charter of the US Federal Reserve Bank, the US central bank. For the last seven years, the Fed has feverishly printed dollars, while keeping interest rates near zero, attempting to revive the US economy. Last December, with the US economy supposedly recovering, the Fed started talking about the need to ‘normalise’ monetary policy. Ever since, capitalist markets, companies and commentators have been asking: will they raise interest rates or won’t they? Now it finally seems likely that the Federal Open Market Committee will go ahead and raise rates at its meeting on 15-16 December 2015. Why should this tinkering with the capitalist economy be of any interest to us?

 

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California prisoners win victory against solitary confinement

On 1 September 2015 prisoners in California who had since 2011 been waging a sustained struggle against the oppressive and torturous use of solitary confinement won a significant victory, as a legal agreement was reached between prisoners and the state. Nicki Jameson reports.

In 2011 FRFI reported how on 1 July that year prisoners in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay prison, California began an indefinite hunger strike in protest at their prolonged detention in conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. By the following week, at least 6,600 prisoners in 13 prisons across the state had joined the protest. On 15 July the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) responded to pressure from the prisoners and their supporters by commencing negotiations, but these quickly broke down as it became clear that the CDCR was not interested in meeting any of the prisoners’ demands. 

On 26 September 2011, hundreds of SHU prisoners resumed hunger striking. As a result there were further negotiations, which again broke down, followed by further protests in July 2013. All the protests focused around Five Core Demands:

 

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Remember the MOVE massacre

13 May 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of an indelible and bloody day in US history – an event that shocked the world. GRACE UHURU reports.

The MOVE organisation was formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1972 by John Africa. It was a loose-knit, mostly black group whose members all adopted the surname Africa, advocated a back-to-nature lifestyle and preached against materialism and the injustices of the establishment.

On 13 May 1985, after years of police brutality against MOVE, the state police shot 10,000 rounds of ammunition into the MOVE house, before dropping a bomb on its roof. This horrific attack resulted in a blazing fire and ultimately the deaths of six adults and five children. Among the dead was John Africa. The only survivors of the bombing were Birdie Africa, aged 13, and Ramona Africa. Following the attack Ramona was hospitalised for a month with severe burns and taken into custody before being given a seven-year sentence for ‘inciting a riot’.

 

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Student loans: lessons from the US

Owe the bank £100, the old saying goes, and you have a problem; owe the bank £1 million and the bank has a problem. In the US almost 40 million people owe a total of $1.16 trillion in student loans. Since British capitalists have decided to follow their US counterparts onto the same slippery slope of financing higher education privately, it is worth having a closer look at the contradictions in this system.

Loans in the US

Student loan delinquencies are rising fast: loans more than 90 days delinquent are 4.3% of all consumer debt and 3.1% for mortgages: for student loans, the rate is 11.3% and increasing. When we take account of the fact that half of all these loans are in deferment, grace periods, or forbearance – in short, not in the repayment cycle – the delinquency rate more than doubles. With some putting it as high as 30%, it is clear there is a problem.

 

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The rage undammed

UCLA rally shortly after the Rodney King Verdict.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 107 June/July 1992

‘lt is no coincidence, either, that it all happened in the American city that most epitomises the burgeoning growth under Presidents Reagan and Bush, of a powerless underclass – a Rich v Poor polarisation in a city here the world’s most obscene conspicuous consumption of wealth exists so closely alongside Third World-type ghettoes, where Bel Air can seem like exclusive parts of Johannesburg and South Central Los Angeles more like Soweto.’ Andrew Stephen, Observer  

On 29 April, following the acquittal of four police filmed beating a black man, Los Angeles erupted in the fiercest uprising seen in the US since the 1960s. The rising left 58 people – mostly black or Hispanic – dead, 12,000 arrested, 3,700 buildings and 10,000 businesses destroyed. An estimated $1 billion damage was done. The fighting, which continued for over two days, only stopped when the Bush government deployed 5,000 police, 1,590 sheriffs, 2,300 state police, 1,000 FBI, 6,000 National Guard, 3,000 7th Infantry and 1,500 marines.

 

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Fire next time... US uprisings in the 1960s

watts

‘What White Americans have never fully understood – but what the Negro can never forget – is that White society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, White institutions maintain it, and White society condones it.’

 

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Solidarity with the Baltimore uprising: justice for Freddie Gray – PSL statement

Below we reprint the statement from our comrades in the US Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), on the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent rebellion led by the black youth of Baltimore. Visit the PSL’s website for more reports and analysis of events in the US: www.liberationnews.org

Baltimore’s rebellion: what happens to a dream deferred

If the young people of Ferguson had not rebelled, Mike Brown’s name would have been forgotten. The town would still have the same mayor and police chief. The cops would still be fining and arresting Black people for every conceivable thing, including 'Manner of Walking in Roadway,' 'High Grass and Weeds,' and even bleeding on police uniforms during a beat-down. There would have been no Justice Department investigations or presidential commissions. If the young people of Ferguson had not rebelled, the city would be, for most of the country, just another dot on the map; just another forgotten impoverished Black community.

 

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Behind the US ‘recovery’

It is taken for granted in the bourgeois financial media that the US is experiencing a ‘recovery’ of its economy; debate then moves to the possibility of it pulling the rest of the world out of stagnation and deflation. It is true that the US economy gives the impression of some kind of growth since the depths of the Great Recession: the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a stock market index, has risen from a low of 6547 in March 2009 to around 17500 today – an increase of more than 260%. Since the second quarter (Q2) of 2007, before the crunch hit, real GDP has risen by 8.5%. The official unemployment rate has fallen from 9.9% in Q3 of 2009 to just 5.7% five years later.

 

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Ferguson burns as racist cop walks free

Once again the people of Ferguson have had to display their righteous anger in protest over the death of Michael Brown. This time it was provoked by the announcement that Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson, would not face any indictment. This was compounded by Wilson’s remorse-free announcement that his conscience was clear. What feeling breathing person, faced with this injustice and contempt, could easily restrain themselves from venting their anger? The furious people of Ferguson burnt cars and businesses and fought the police. In response the ‘Civil Rights’ fire brigade showed up to pour cold water on the popular rebellion, to condemn rioting and insist that all protests be peaceful, ie ineffectual. But their efforts at collaboration were themselves ineffectual as justice-minded people across the United States and internationally protested against this travesty of justice. In California, roads were blocked for three consecutive nights and hundreds arrested as they marched through Oakland and Los Angeles.

 

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Mid-term blues in the United States

The US mid-term elections, where 36 Senate seats and all 435 House of Representatives seats were contested, were held at the beginning of November. Polls had been divided about the predicted outcome, but when the dust settled Republicans won 244 House seats versus 186 for the Democrats, and 53 Republican seats in the Senate versuss 46 for the Democrats (five House races were undecided at time of writing, while Louisiana’s Senator will be decided in a December run-off election).

 

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Support the struggle of prisoners in Georgia

Recent years have seen repeated protests and hunger strikes in US penitentiaries, as prisoners in the world’s largest and most brutal system of incarceration desperately attempt to highlight the consistent use of solitary confinement as a form of torture, together with a sea of other abuses which, had they taken place anywhere else on the planet, would have resulted in an international outcry. The persistence of protesters in California has succeeded in galvanising some national and international attention; however similar actions in Georgia have been largely ignored. In December 2010 tens of thousands of Georgia prisoners participated in the biggest work strike in US prison history, alongside a hunger strike (see ‘Georgia prison strike’ in FRFI 219). There were further protests in 2011 and earlier this year. FRFI has received a letter from Tamarkus Wright, setting out the background to the February/ March 2014 protest in the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison/Special Management Unit (GDCP/SMU).

 

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United States: Low-paid workers rebel

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

According to official census statistics, in 2012, the official US poverty rate was 15 per cent, with some 46.5 million people living in poverty. Most of the adults counted in these figures are ‘working poor’ – employed, but paid a very low wage. Official inflation figures do not represent real changes in the cost of living, and the cost of living index has been manipulated for political reasons. Independent statisticians calculate that the real inflation rate is about three percentage points higher than the official rate. It is therefore no surprise that low-paid workers are fighting back. Our US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

 

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Review: Shackled and Chained – Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America

Eugene Puryear, PSL Publications, 2013

A great deal has been written in recent years about the US prison and criminal justice system. Much simply graphically describes the absolute horror of torture and death which exists at the heart of the world’s largest ‘democracy’, exposing death row, solitary confinement, mandatory minimum sentencing, juvenile detention and so on, while some commentators try to explain how US society got to the point where a staggering 7.1 million people are either in prison or being monitored by the criminal justice system (on probation, parole etc).

Eugene Puryear writes from an overt Marxist perspective and Shackled and Chained locates mass incarceration squarely in the framework of the development of US capitalism, as well as exposing the key role of ‘liberals’ and the Democratic Party in making mass imprisonment the norm in late 20th and 21st century USA. Writing in a non-academic and accessible style, the author also seeks to debunk a range of right-wing ‘theories of crime’ and critiques some popular liberal view on mass incarceration, in particular the prevalent idea of the ‘prison industrial complex’.

 

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Obama’s immigration dragnet

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

Family members of those detained inside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., rallied outside the facility on Monday in solidarity with detainees on hunger strike.

On 7 March, 1,200 immigration detainees at the North West Detention Centre in Tacoma, Washington State, began a hunger strike, demanding an end to deportations and the separation of families, better food, medical care and wages for work inside the prison, where they currently receive just $1 a day for their labour. STEVE PALMER reports from the US on the struggle against Obama’s repressive immigration policies.

 

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