Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Radicalization of a Generation

The following speech, edited for space, was presented by Jeff Mackler to the Socialist Action National Educational Conference in San Francisco on Aug. 20.

Mackler is the Co-Coordinator of the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and a member of the National Committee of Socialist Action.



The state powers in Pennsylvania and nationally are preparing to execute by lethal injection the innocent Black political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal.

This individual, incarcerated in a tiny cell 23 hours each day for the past 18 years, revered by a growing layer of radicalizing youth, has come to represent a major threat to the legitimacy of capitalism’s democratic pretenses.

The forces arrayed against Mumia include the president of the United States, who made it a point to invite Maureen Faulkner, the wife of the police officer Mumia is accused of killing, to be prominently seated near Clinton at a Fraternal Order of Police gathering he addressed some months ago.

When 20,000 youth attended a Rage Against the Machine benefit concert for Mumia in New Jersey earlier this year, virtually all the major media carried the frenzied demands of police and state elected officials for the concert’s cancellation.

The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) followed up their full-page New York Times ad of last year, which demanded Mumia’s execution, with an unprecedented and dangerous action a few days ago.

Three thousand FOP delegates, representing some quarter of a million cops nationwide, approved a resolution to publish the names of all businesses, groups, and “individuals” who support Mumia. The national FOP computer web site will provide cops and other interested parties with an instant list of individuals and groups, who will now be subjected to the whims of the new witch hunters.

Make no mistake, there is an immediate threat to Mumia’s life. We are in the midst of a daily war of contending social forces over the most important individual civil and human rights case in recent memory.

Not since the federal government threw the switch that electrocuted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953, propelling the McCarthyite witch hunt into full gear, have so many eyes been riveted on a single victim of capitalist frame-up and injustice.

But we have progressed to the point that Mumia’s life cannot be taken easily. If he is executed, a major portion of today’s radicalizing youth will be compelled to draw conclusions far more radical than their initial democratic inclinations upon entering this struggle.

If we win and Mumia is free, the ruling class similarly loses, as a man who has been tortured, framed, and falsely imprisoned for 18 years will be among us, an integral part of the coming mass struggles for fundamental human and democratic rights and social equality, not to mention socialism.

In either case, the ruling powers are confronted with a serious dilemma. They are carefully calculating what decision to make to minimize the damage to their credibility already inflicted by the broad and united forces that are fighting for Mumia’s life and freedom.

Theirs will be political decision, having little or nothing to do with facts of the case and formal legalities. They will bend, twist, and mutilate the law to meet their political needs, no matter what their final decision.

What Mumia’s struggle confirms

Support for Mumia’s case is fueled by a multi-racial generation of radicalizing youth who are rapidly learning that there is no future in defending this status quo. There is nothing to defend when wages stand at an all time low, amidst the exploding wealth of the one percent who plunder at the expense of the vast majority.

Today’s youth flock to Mumia’s banner because his struggle confirms what they are learning every day in their own lives, that there is no justice in capitalist America.

The ruling class establishment has trotted out their intellectual elite to prettify and justify their failing system. These scholarly professors “prove” through their statistical manipulations and twisted arguments that unemployment in the U.S. stands at an all-time low of some 4.4 percent.

But since they define the unemployed as only those receiving unemployment insurance, they leave out of their computations an additional 8 percent of the population-whose 26 weeks of unemployment insurance has expired but who still have no jobs. And their statistics also exclude the millions of part-time workers who labor at humiliating wages, if there is work at all.

When they are compelled to admit the truth about the job market, their racist and sexist ideologues argue that the real source of unemployment is not the capitalist system, but foreign workers who supposedly take our jobs; or women, who instead of rearing children at home and providing free child care for the bosses, are entering the workforce and taking, through affirmative action, the so-called good jobs from men.

The paid propagandists for capitalism tell us that it is a definite advantage to be Black in America, since affirmative action decrees of the past, unless repudiated, give all the good jobs to Blacks, to Chicanos, and to others who-they imply with a racist twist-are really not qualified in the first place.

“I wish I were Black,” they sometimes have their duped defenders say to the obliging media. “Then I would be able to get the good jobs!”

A product of his times

Mumia has rejected this ideology. He stands, despite his death row status and the severe limitations placed on him, among the most published critics of capitalist war, racism, sexism, and social inequality. Mumia’s voice today represents the radicalizing millions of youth who see in him the best in humanity, and in his tormentors, the worst.

But there is another side to the Mumia equation. He too, is a product of his times, ever growing with the rising consciousness of the youth and all the oppressed.

Mumia is both an exceptional individual and a shining example of the new fighters produced by our changing times. History requires both elements for successful struggle, the aroused masses and conscious, courageous leadership.

Mumia’s audio-taped speech to the graduating class at Evergreen State University last June was a perfect example of the power of an individual who has the good fortune to live when ideas are in flux and social forces are in motion.

A lesser person might have moderated his remarks for an obvious national audience. Fearing a possible rejection from students at one of Washington State’s most prestigious universities, another person might have stressed the fundamental injustice in his case, the denial of his basic rights under the law, and the lies of those who bore false witness against him.

Mumia rejected this route. He appealed to the best instincts in today’s youth. He proclaimed his revolutionary identity, and urged the 800 assembled graduates to look to the example of their own revolutionary heritage in the United States, to the two revolutionary wars that were fought against tyranny and slavery in this country.

This was too much for the bourgeois order, whose lying media reported the Evergreen event nationally as a victory for Maureen Faulkner-who was present at the graduation ceremonies with placards against Mumia and police-paid full-page ads in the student press.

The multitude of newspapers and other media covering the story reported that three students walked out of their own graduating ceremonies to protest Mumia’s address. Another 13 turned their backs.

But they neglected to report that the remaining 800 rose in a standing ovation to signal their approval of Mumia’s call to challenge the prevailing powers. Mumia cast his fate with the truth and the youth, and won the day.

Another example of Mumia as a revolutionary with a keen sense of the times came with ABC-TV’s effort to interview him while its National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians (NABET) union members were on strike for a better contract.

In fact, the ABC workers had been locked out following a one-day work stoppage. ABC wanted to make an example of them, to break their union, to humble them by rejecting their every demand and inflicting major damage on their union contract.

A lesser person might have opted for the national coverage that an ABC broadcast could have brought. Mumia chose otherwise. With his life on the line, he said “No!” to ABC and proclaimed that he would not cross a union picket line, or to be more exact, would not allow himself to be interviewed by an anti-union scab crew.

Again, Mumia gauged right. The union technicians were shocked to learn when they listened to Sam Donaldson’s 20/20 Mumia hit-piece that Mumia had refused to cross their picket line to be interviewed. Prior to that moment, ABC had refused to even acknowledge that its employees had been locked out. Donaldson’s admission was ABC’s first public admission that workers were in struggle for their rights. And the workers gave Mumia the credit.

Our conclusions are obvious. Mumia placed his very life in the hands of working people, as opposed to the possible gains to be derived from the corporate media. He trusted in the good judgment of today’s radicalizing youth.

He stands in solidarity with all the oppressed. And in the process, he advances and broadens the struggle for his own life. He deepens the unity in action of all who seek justice in this country.

Bloch’s “confession” story is exposed

Mumia’s tormentors were singed by the Evergreen victory but rapidly responded with the newly-discovered “confession” story of former Pennsylvania Prison Society volunteer Phillip Bloch.

Bloch, with the assistance of the mass media, Maureen Faulkner, and the major government advocates of Mumia’s execution, loudly claimed a few weeks ago that Mumia had confessed to him in late 1992 while Bloch was visiting Mumia in prison.

Bloch’s Mumia “confession” story was touted in Vanity Fair magazine in an article by editor Buzz Bissinger that repeated the discredited lies and half truths long promoted by the FOP. Vanity Fair neglected to inform its readers that Bissinger was a chief publicist and campaign worker for Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and that Rendell had been the chief prosecutor in Mumia’s 1982 frame-up trial.

Bloch’s “confession” fabrication was repeated again in an updated broadcast on Mumia’s case engineered by ABC’s Sam Donaldson of the 20/20 “news” show. The “confession” became the subject of national news coverage, with the media promoting the thesis that the case was now over, that Mumia had confessed, and that-all the hype of his supporters aside-there was nothing left but to carry out his execution.

Mumia immediately labeled Bloch’s fabricated confession story a lie, but at first glance it appeared that the damage had been done, that his lone voice and denial would be overwhelmed by the thunder of his detractors. But again, Mumia would have the last word.

He found among the voluminous letters sent to him over the years, a July 13, 1992, letter from Phillip Bloch. It was dated six months after the alleged confession, and in it Bloch proclaimed Mumia’s innocence.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the 200-year-old Pennsylvania Prison Society reported that Bloch had been fired for misconduct six months before the date of Mumia’s so-called confession to him. Therefore, Bloch could not have had access to Mumia in prison at the time of the alleged confession.

In addition, the official list of all Mumia’s visitors, including all persons visiting Mumia through March 1993, six months after the “confession,” did not include Bloch’s name. And finally, Phillip Bloch’s name was found among the signatories of a 1995 full-page advertisement in a Philadelphia newspaper proclaiming Mumia’s innocence.

While Bloch’s story stands discredited, the same corporate media that promoted it stand mute, refusing the retraction that would further expose Mumia’s frame-up.

The battle over Mumia’s life is entering its final stages. The 50,000 people who demonstrated for his freedom in the nationally-coordinated rallies in Philadelphia and San Francisco on April 24 represent additional millions who have entered the struggle on his behalf.

In the months ahead they will be called upon to mobilize again and again to free Mumia from the clutches of capitalist injustice and its racist and classist killing machine.

Mumia’s struggle is our struggle! We proudly stand among his best defenders. We want him with us, alive and well, taking his place as a free man devoted to the liberation of humankind.

And we want you to be part of this struggle. It goes far beyond the life of one person. It is a struggle over our own lives and future as well.

Related Articles

Mumia’s Appeal Dismissed; The “Mumia Rule” Still in Force in the Bosses’ Courts

Abu-Jamal’s defense petition included newly discovered evidence that had been buried in the prosecutor’s own files showing key witnesses receiving promises of money for their testimony and evidence of favorable treatment in pending criminal cases, as well as prosecutors striking Black jurors during Mumia’s original trial.

VIDEO of Sept Rally Free Assange! Free Mumia! Free Palestine! 

SPONSORED By THE MOBILIZATION TO FREE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL & THE INTERNATIONAL CONCERNED FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL. CO-SPONSORS: Courage Foundation/Assange & Middle East Children’s Alliance, Arab Resource Organizing Center. HEAR Alice Walker, prize-winning novelist; Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers; Jamal Jr, Mumia’s grandson; Chris Hedges, prize-winning journalist