To the Man-Child, Tall, evil, graceful, brighteyed, black man-child
Jonathan Peter Jackson who died on August 7, 1970, courage in
one hand, assault rifle in the other; my brother, comrade, friend
the true revolutionary, the black communist guerrilla in the highest
state of development, he died on the trigger, scourge of the
unrighteous, soldier of the people; to this terrible man-child and
his wonderful mother Georgia Bea, to Angela Y. Davis, my tender
experience, I dedicate this collection of letters; to the
destruction of their enemies I dedicate my life.
*George L. Jackson
August 7, 1970, just a few days after George Jackson was transferred to
San Quentin, the case was catapulted to the forefront of national news
when his brother, Jonathan, a seventeen-year-old high school student in
Pasadena, staged a raid on the Marin County courthouse with a satchelful
of handguns, an assault rifle, and a shotgun hidden under his coat.
Educated into a political revolutionary by George, Jonathan invaded the
court during a hearing for three black San Quentin inmates, not
including his brother, and handed them weapons. As he left with the
inmates and five hostages, including the judge, Jonathan demanded that
the Soledad Brothers be released within thirty minutes. In the shootout
that ensued, Jonathan was gunned down. Of Jonathan, George wrote, "He
was free for a while. I guess that's more than most of us can expect."
**Ruchell Cinque Magee: Sole Survivor Still
**by Mumia Abu-Jamal**
*Slavery is being practiced by the system under color of law –
Slavery 400 years ago, slavery today; it's the same thing, but with
a new name. They're making millions and millions of dollars
enslaving Blacks, poor whites, and others - people who don't even
know they're being railroaded. -- Ruchell Cinque Magee
*(from radio interview with Kiilu Nyasha, "Freedom is a Constant
Struggle," KPFA-FM, 12 August 1995)
*If you were asked to name the longest held political prisoner in the
United States, what would your answer be?
Most would probably reply "Geronimo ji jaga (Pratt)," "Sundiata Acoli",
or "Sekou Odinga" -- all 3 members of the Black Panther Party or
soldiers of the Black Liberation Army, who have been encaged for their
political beliefs or principled actions for decades. Some would point to
Lakota leader, Leonard Peltier, who struggled for the freedom of Native
peoples, thereby incurring the enmity of the US Government, who framed
him in a 1975 double murder trial. Those answers would be good guesses,
for all of these men have spent hellified years in state and federal
dungeons, but here's a man who has spent more.
Ruchell C. Magee arrived in Los Angeles, California in 1963, and wasn't
in town for six months before he and a cousin, Leroy, were arrested on
the improbable charges of kidnap and robbery, after a fight with a man
over a woman and a $10 bag of marijuana. Magee, in a slam-dunk "trial,"
was swiftly convicted and swifter still sentenced to life.
Magee, politicized in those years, took the name of the African freedom
fighter, Cinque, who, with his fellow captives seized control of the
slave ship, the Amistad, and tried to sail back to Africa. Like his
ancient namesake, Cinque would also fight for his freedom from legalized
slavery, and for 7 long years he filed writ after writ, learning what he
calls "guerrilla law", honing it as a tool for liberation of himself and
his fellow captives. But California courts, which could care less about
the alleged "rights" of a young Black man like Magee, dismissed his
In August, 1970, MaGee appeared as a witness in the assault trial of
James McClain, a man charged with assaulting a guard after San Quentin
guards murdered a Black prisoner, Fred Billingsley. McClain, defending
himself, presented imprisoned witnesses to expose the racist and
repressive nature of prisons. In the midst of MaGee's testimony, a 17
year old young Black man with a huge Afro hairdo, burst into the
courtroom, heavily armed.
Jonathan Jackson shouted "Freeze!" Tossing weapons to McClain, William
Christmas, and a startled Magee, who given his 7 year hell where no
judge knew the meaning of justice, joined the rebellion on the spot. The
four rebels took the judge, the DA and three jurors hostage, and headed
for a radio station where they were going to air the wretched prison
conditions to the world, as well as demand the immediate release of a
group of political prisoners, know that The Soledad Brothers (these were
John Cluchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and Jonathan's oldest brother, George).
While the men did not hurt any of their hostages, they did not reckon on
the state's ruthlessness.
Before the men could get their van out of the court house parking lot,
prison guards and sheriffs opened furious fire on the vehicle, killing
Christmas, Jackson, McClain as well as the judge. The DA was permanently
paralyzed by gun fire. Miraculously, the jurors emerged relatively
unscratched, although Magee, seriously wounded by gunfire, was found
Magee, who was the only Black survivor of what has come to be called
"The August 7th Rebellion," would awaken to learn he was charged with
murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, and further, he would have a
co-defendant, a University of California Philosophy Professor, and
friend of Soledad Brother, George L. Jackson, named Angela Davis, who
faced identical charges.
By trial time the cases were severed, with Angela garnering massive
support leading to her 1972 acquittal on all charges.
Magee's trial did not garner such broad support, yet he boldly advanced
the position that as his imprisonment was itself illegal, and a form of
unjustifiable slavery, he had the inherent right to escape such slavery,
an historical echo of the position taken by the original Cinque, and his
fellow captives, who took over a Spanish slave ship, killed the crew
(except for the pilot) and tried to sail back to Africa. The pilot
surreptitiously steered the Amistad to the US coast, and when the vessel
was seized by the US, Spain sought their return to slavery in Cuba.
Using natural and international law principals, US courts decided they
captives had every right to resist slavery and fight for their freedom.
Unfortunately, Magee's jury didn't agree, although it did acquit on at
least one kidnapping charge. The court dismissed on the murder charge,
and Magee has been battling for his freedom every since.
That he is still fighting is a tribute to a truly remarkable man, a man
who knows what slavery is, and more importantly, what freedom means.
FREE CINQUE !!
May 27, 1997 © 1997 Mumia Abu-Jamal - All Rights Reserved
From the Forward to Soledad Brother (1994) By Jonathan Jackson, Jr.
*I was born eight and a half months after my father, Jonathan Jackson,
was shot down on August 7, 1970, at the Marin County Courthouse, when he
tried to gain the release of the Soledad Brothers by taking hostages.
Before and especially after that day, Uncle George kept in constant
contact with my mother by writing from his cell in San Quentin. (The
Department of Corrections wouldn't put her on the visitors' list.)
During George's numerous trial appearances for the Soledad Brothers
case, Mom would lift me above the crowd so he could see me.
Consistently, we would receive a letter a few days later. For a single
mother with son, alone and in the middle of both controversy and not a
little unwarranted trouble with the authorities, those messages of
strength were no doubt instrumental in helping her carry on. No matter
how oppressive his situation became, George always had time to lend his
spirit to the people he cared for.
A year and two weeks after the revolutionary takeover in Marin, George
was ruthlessly murdered by prison guards at San Quentin. Both he and my
father left me a great deal: pride, history, an unmistakable name. My
experience has been at once wonderful and incredibly difficult. My life
is not consumed by the Jackson legacy, but my charge is an accepted and
cherished piece of my existence. It is out of my responsibility to my
legacy that I have come to write this Foreword to my uncle's prison
Today I read my inherited letters often those written from George to
my mother with a dull pencil on prison stationery. They are things of
beauty, my most valuable possessions, passionate pieces of writing that
have few rivals in the modern era. They will remain unpublished.
However, the letters of /Soledad Brother/ demonstrate the same insight
and eloquence the way George's writings make his personal experience
universal is the mainstay of his brilliance.
When this collection of letters was first released in 1969, it brought a
young revolutionary to the forefront of a tempest, a tempest
characterized by the Black Power, free speech, and antiwar movements,
accompanied by a dissatisfaction with the status quo throughout the
United States. With unflinching directness, George Jackson conveyed an
intelligent yet accessible message with his trademark style, rational
rage. He illuminated previously hidden viewpoints and feelings that
disenfranchised segments of the population were unable to articulate:
the poor, the victimized, the imprisoned, the disillusioned. George
spoke in a revolutionary voice that they had no idea existed. He was the
prominent figure of true radical thought and practice during the period,
and when he was assassinated, much of the movement died along with him.
But George Jackson cannot and will not ever leave. His life and thoughts
serve as the message George himself is the revolution.
The reissue of /Soledad Brother/ at this point in time is essential. It
appears that the nineties are going to be a telling decade in U.S.
history. The signposts of systemic breakdown are as glaringly obvious as
they were in the sixties: unrest manifesting itself in inner-city
turmoil, widespread rise of violence in the culture, and international
oppression to legitimize a state in crisis. The fact that imprisonments
in California have more than tripled over the last decade, supported by
the public, is merely one sign of societal decomposition. That systemic
change occurred during the sixties is a myth. The United States in the
nineties faces strikingly analogous problems. George spoke to the issues
of his day, but conditions now are so similar that this work could have
been written last month. It is imperative that George be heard, whether
by the angry but unchanneled young or by the cynical and worldly mature.
The message must be carried farther than where he bravely left it in
August of 1971.
Over the past twenty-five years, why has George Jackson not been an
integral part of mainstream consciousness? He has been and still is
underexposed, reduced to simplistic terms, and ultimately misunderstood.
Racial and conspiracy theory aside, there are rational reasons for his
exclusion. They stem not only from the hard-line revolutionary aspects
of George's philosophy, but more importantly from the nature of the
political system that he existed in and under.
Howard Zinn has pointed out in /A People's History of the United States/
that "the history of any country, presented as the history of a family,
conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often
repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves,
capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated." U.S. history is
essentially that type of hidden history. Without denying important
mitigating factors, the United States of today is strongly linked to the
values and premises on which it was founded. That is, it is a settler
colony founded primarily on two basic pillars, upheld by the
Judeo-Christian tradition: genocide of indigenous peoples and slave
labor in support of a capitalist infrastructure. Although the Bible
repeatedly exalts mass slaughter and oppression, Judeo-Christian
morality is publicly held to be inconsistent with them. This dissonance,
evident within the nation's structure from the beginning, informs the
state's fi rst function: to oversimplify and minimize immoral events in
order to legitimize history and the state's very existence simultaneously.
Ironically, traditional Judeo-Christian morality is a perfect vehicle
for genocide, slavery, and territorial expansion. As a logical
progression from biblical example, expansion and imperialism culminated
in the United States with the concept of Manifest Destiny, which held
that it was the colonists' inherent right to expand and conquer. Further
it was a duty, the "white man's burden," to save the "natives," to
attempt to convert all heathens encountered. Protestant Calvinism
provided a set of ethics that fit perfectly with the colonists'
conquests. Max Weber, in his definitive study on religion, /The
Sociology of Religion/, wrote, "Calvinism held that the unsearchable God
possessed good reasons for having distributed the gifts of fortune
unevenly"; it "represented as God's will [the Calvinists'] domination
over the sinful world. Clearly this and other features of Protestantism,
such as its rationalization of the existence of a lower c lass, ^1
only the bases for the formation of the United States, but still
prominently exist today. "One must go to the ethics of ascetic
Protestantism," Weber asserts, "to find any ethical sanction for
economic rationalism and for the entrepreneur." When a nation can't
admit to the process through which it builds hegemony, how can anything
but delusion be a reality? "The monopoly of truth, including historical
truth," stated Daniel Singer in a lecture at Evergreen State College
(Washington) in 1987, "is implied in the monopoly of power."
Clearly, objective history is an impossibility. This understood, the
significant problem lies in how the general population defines the term;
/history/ implies that truth is being told. It is an unfortunate fact
that history is unfailingly written by the victors, which in the case of
the United States are not only the original imperialists, but the
majority of the "founding fathers," dedicated to uniting and
strengthening the existing mercantile class among disjointed colonies.
There can be no doubt that from the creation of this young nation,
history as a created and perceived entity moved further and further away
from the objective ideal. Genocide, necessary for "the development of
the modern capitalist economy," according to Howard Zinn, was
rationalized as a reaction to the fear of Indian savages. Slavery was
The personalization of history, the process by which we construct heroes
and pariahs, is a consequence of its dialectical nature. Without fail,
an odd paradox is created around someone who, by virtue of his or her
actions, becomes prominent enough to warrant the designation "historical
figure." There is a leap on the part of the general public, sparked by
the media, to another mindset. Sensational deeds are glorified, horrible
acts reviled. A few points are selected as defining characteristics. The
media, conforming to their restrictions of concision (which make
accuracy nearly impossible to attain), reiterate these points over and
over. Schools and textbooks not only teach these points but drill them
into young minds. Howard Zinn comments that "this learned sense of moral
proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is
accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press
conferences. It is therefore more deadly."
A few tidbits, factual or not, incomplete and selective, are used to
describe the entirety of a person's existence. They become part of
mainstream consciousness. We therefore know that Lincoln freed the
slaves, Malcolm X was a black extremist, and Hitler was solely
responsible for World War II and the Holocaust. All half-truths go
unexplained, all fallacies go unchallenged, as they appear to make
perfect sense to the everyday, noncritically thinking American. The
paradox has been created: The more famous a person becomes, the more
misunderstood he or she is. This accepted occurrence is incredibly
counterintuitive: the public should know more, not less, about a
noteworthy individual and the sociopolitical dynamics surrounding him or
This historical mythicization is not, for the most part, a consciously
created phenomenon. The media don't go out of their way to mislead the
public by constructing false heroes and emphasizing the mundane. Fewer
"dimly lit conferences" take place than conspiracy theorists believe. It
is the existing political system that is responsible for the information
that reaches the general public. The state's control of information
created the system, and it continually re-creates it. Propagated by
schooling and the media, information that reaches the public is subject
to three chief mechanisms of state control: denial, self-censorship, and
Denial is the easiest control mechanism, and therefore the most common.
If events do not follow the state's agenda or its ecumenical ideology
and might bring unrest, they are denied. Examples are plentiful: prewar
state terrorism against the people of North and South Vietnam and later
the bombing of Cambodia; government funding and military aid to the
Nicaraguan Contras; and support of UNITA and South Africa in the virtual
destruction of Angola, among many others.
Denial goes hand in hand with self-censorship. The media emphasize
certain personal characteristics and events and de-emphasize others, in
a pattern that supports U.S. hegemony. The information that reached the
public after the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 is telling. It was not
until much later, after the heat of controversy, that the average
citizen had access to the scope of the devastation. The effectiveness of
self-censorship in this case was maximized, as the full details of the
Panama invasion were patchwork for years.
While we may assume that the media have an obligation to accurately
convey such an event to the public, the media in fact perpetuate the
government's position by engaging in their own self-censorship. Noam
Chomsky points out in /Deterring Democracy/, "With a fringe of
exceptions mostly well after the tasks had been accomplished the
media rallied around the flag with due piety and enthusiasm, funnelling
the most absurd White House tales to the public while scrupulously
refraining from asking the obvious questions, or seeing the obvious facts."
Denial and self-censorship create a comfort zone for the U.S. citizenry,
generally uncritical and willing to accept digestible versions of
historical personalities and world events. The reasoning behind denial
and self-censorship: do not make the public uncomfortable, even if that
means diluting, sensationalizing, or lying about the truth.
Ultimately, when denial and self-censorship may not be sufficient for
control of information, the state resorts to imprisonment. All
imprisonment is political and as such all imprisonments carry equal
weight. Society does, however, distinguish two categories of
imprisonment: one for breaking a law, the other for political reasons. A
difference is clear: American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier,
serving a federal sentence for his supposed role at Wounded Knee, is
considered a different type of prisoner than an armed robber serving a
State policy reflects institutional needs. When the state as an
institution cannot tolerate an outside threat, real or perceived, from
an individual or group, the consequences at its command include
isolation, persecution, and political imprisonment. All may occur in
greater or lesser form, depending on the degree of threat.
Political incarceration removes threats to the political and economic
hegemony of the United States. Even though in 1959 George Jackson
initially went to prison as an "everyday lawbreaker" with a
one-year-to-life sentence, it was his political consciousness that kept
him incarcerated for eleven years. In 1970 George wrote:
International capitalism cannot be destroyed without the extremes of
struggle. The entire colonial world is watching the blacks inside the
U.S., wondering and waiting for us to come to our senses. Their problems
and struggles with the Amerikan monster are much more difficult than
they would be if we actively aided them. We are on the inside. We are
the only ones (besides the very small white minority left) who can get
at the monster's heart without subjecting the world to nuclear fire. We
have a momentous historical role to act out if we will. The whole world
for all time in the future will love us and remember us as the righteous
people who made it possible for the world to live on. If we fail through
fear and lack of aggressive imagination, then the slaves of the future
will curse us, as we sometimes curse those of yesterday. I don't want to
die and leave a few sad songs and a hump in the ground as my only
monument. I want to leave a world that is liberated from trash, pol
lution, racism, nation-states, nation-state wars and armies, from pomp,
bigotry, parochialism, a thousand different brands of untruth, and
licentious usurious economics.
Nothing is more dangerous to a system that depends on misinformation
than a voice that obeys its own dictates and has the courage to speak
out. George Jackson's imprisonment and further isolation within the
prison system were clearly a function of the state's response to his
outspoken opposition to the capitalist structure.
Political incarceration is a tangible form of state control. Unlike
denial and self-censorship, imprisonment is publicly scrutinized. Yet
public reaction to political incarceration has been minimal. The U.S.
government claims it holds no political prisoners (denial), while any
notice given to protests focused on political prisoners invariably takes
the form of a human interest story (self-censorship).
The efficacy of political incarceration in the United States cannot be
denied. Prison serves not only as a physical barrier, but a
communication restraint. Prisoners are completely ostracized from
society, with little or no chance to break through. Those few outside
who might be sympathetic are always hesitant to communicate or protest
past a certain point, fearing their own persecution or imprisonment.
Also, deep down most people believe that all prisoners, regardless of
their individual situations, really did do something "wrong." Added to
that prejudice, society lacks a distinction between a prisoner's actions
and his or her personal worth; a bad act equals a bad person. The bottom
line is that the majority of people simply will not believe that the
state openly or covertly oppresses without criminal cause. As Daniel
Singer asked at the Evergreen conference in 1987, "Is it possible for a
class which exterminates the native peoples of the Americas, replaces
them by raping Africa for humans it then denigrates and dehumanizes as
slaves, while cheapening and degrading its own working class is it
possible for such a class to create a democracy, equality and to advance
the cause of human freedom? The implicit answer is, `No, of course not."'
How does a person inside or outside prison confront the cultural
mindsets, the layers of misinformation propagated by the capitalist
system? Sooner or later, what can be called the "radical dilemma"
surfaces for the few wanting to enter into a structural attack/analysis
of the United States. Culturally, educationally, and politically, all of
us are similarly limited by these layers of misinformation; we are all
products of the system. None of us functions from a clean slate when
considering or debating any issue, especially history as it pertains to
the United States.
George Jackson struggled against the constraints of denial and
self-censorship, to say nothing of his physical and communicative
distance from society. Political prisoners are inherently vulnerable to
an either/or situation: isolating silence or elimination. For George,
his vociferous revolutionary attitude was either futile or
self-exterminating. He was well aware of his situation. In /Blood in My
Eye/, his political treatise, he wrote:
I'm in a unique political position. I have a very nearly closed future,
and since I have always been inclined to get disturbed over organized
injustice or terrorist practice against the innocents wherever I can
now say just about what I want (I've always done just about that),
without fear of self-exposure. I can only be executed once.
George was equally aware that revolutionary change happens only when an
entire society is ready. No amount of action, preaching, or teaching
will spark revolution if social conditions do not warrant it. My
father's case, unfortunately, is an appropriate indicator. He attempted
a revolutionary act during a reactionary time; elimination was the only
The challenge for a radical in today's world is to balance reformist
tendencies (political liberalism) and revolutionary action/ideology
(radicalism). While reformism entails a legitimation of the status quo
as a search for changes within the system, radicalism posits a change of
system. Because revolutionaries are particularly vulnerable, a certain
degree of reformism is necessary to create space, space needed to begin
the laborious task of making revolution.
George's statement "Combat Liberalism" and the general reaction to it
typify the gulf between the two philosophies. George was universally
misunderstood by the left and the right alike. As is the case with most
modern political prisoners, nearly all of his support came from
reformists with liberal leanings. It seems that they acted in spite of,
rather than because of, the core of his message.
The left's attitude toward COINTELPRO is a useful illustration.
COINTELPRO, the covert government program used to dismantle the Black
Panther Party, and later the American Indian Movement, is typically
cited by many leftists as a damning example of the government's
conspiratorial nature. Declassified documents and ex-agents' testimonies
have shown COINTELPRO to be one of the most unlawful, insidious cells of
government in the nation's history. COINTELPRO, however, was really a
symptomatic, expendable entity; a small police force within a larger one
(FBI), within a branch of government (executive), within the government
itself (liberal democracy), within the economic system (capitalism).
Reformists in radicals' clothing unknowingly argued against symptoms,
rather than the roots, of the entrenched system. Doing away with
COINTELPRO or even the FBI would not alter the structure that produces
the surveillance/elimination apparatus.
In George's day, others who considered themselves left of center, or
even revolutionary, concerned themselves with inner-city reform issues,
mostly black ghettos. The problem of and debate about inner cities still
exists. However, recognition of a problem and analysis of that problem
are two very different challenges. The demand to better only
predominantly black inner-city conditions is unrealistic at best. In the
capitalist structure, there must be an upper, middle, and especially a
lower class. Improving black neighborhoods is the equivalent of
ghettoizing some other segment of the population poor whites,
Hispanics, Asians, etc. Nothing intrinsic to the system would change,
only superficial alterations that would mollify the liberal public. As
Chomsky asserts in /Turning the Tide/:
Determined opposition to the latest lunacies and atrocities must
continue, for the sake of the victims as well as our own ultimate
survival. But it should be understood as a poor substitute for a
challenge to the deeper causes, a challenge that we are, unfortunately,
in no position to mount at the present though the groundwork can and
must be laid.
Failure to understand the radical, encompassing viewpoint in the sixties
led to reformism. In effect, the majority of the left completely
deserted any attempt at the radical balance required of the politically
conscious, leaving only liberalism and its narrow vision to flourish.
Nobody comprehended the radical dilemma more fully than George Jackson.
Indeed, he developed his philosophy not out of mere happenstance, but
with a very conscious eye upon maintaining his revolutionary ideology.
He writes in /Blood in My Eye/:
Reformism is an old story in Amerika. There have been depressions and
socio-economic political crises throughout the period that marked the
formation of the present upper-class ruling circle, and their
controlling elites. But the parties of the left were too committed to
reformism to exploit their revolutionary potential.
George's involvement with the prison reform movement should therefore be
seen as a matter of survival. Unlike the reformist left, prison
oppression was /directly/ affecting him. His balanced reform activities
improving prisoners' rights while speaking out against prison as an
entity were required to make living conditions tolerable enough for
him to continue on his revolutionary path. Simply, he did what he had to
do to survive created space while simultaneously pursuing his radical
The reform George Jackson did accomplish was and still is incredible,
transforming the prison environment from unlivable to livable hell, from
encampments that he called reminiscent of Nazi Germany to at least a
scaled-down version of the like. With his influence, these changes
occurred not only in California, but throughout the nation. Only now is
his influence beginning to slip, with reactionary politics bringing
about torture and sensory deprivation facilities such as Pelican Bay
State Prison in California, as well as the reintroduction for adoption
of the one-to-life indeterminate sentence. This type of sentence is
fertile ground for state oppression, as it is up to a parole board to
decide if an inmate is ever to be let go. A prison can easily and
effectively create situations that transform a one-to-life into a life
sentence. (Tellingly, the indeterminate sentence is being promoted not
by the right, but by a California senator formerly associated with
mainstream libera l causes.)
Politically, George Jackson provided us all with a radical education, a
viable alternative to viewing not only the United States but the world
as a political entity. He gave the disenfranchised a lens through which
they could clearly see their situation and become more conscious about
it. He wrote in April 1970:
It all falls into place. I see the whole thing much clearer now, how
fascism has taken possession of this country, the interlocking
dictatorship from county level on up to the Grand Dragon in Washington,
Crucially, George's treatment is a concrete, undeniable example of
political oppression. Race is more times than not the easy answer to a
problem. Among people of color in the United States, the quick fix,
"blame it on whitey" mentality has become so prevalent that it shortcuts
thinking. Conversely, stereotypes of minorities act as simple-minded
tools of divisiveness and oppression. George addressed these issues in
prison, setting a model for the outside as well: "I'm always telling the
brothers some of those whites are willing to work with us against the
pigs. All they got to do is stop talking honky. When the races start
fighting, all you have is one maniac group against another." On the
surface, race has been and is still being put forth as an overriding
issue that needs to be addressed as a prerequisite for social change. In
fact, although it seems to loom as a large problem, race as an issue is
again a symptom of capitalism. Of course, on a paltry le vel and among
the relatively powerless, race does play a part in social structure (the
racist cop, the bigoted landlord, etc.), pitting segments of the
population against each other. But revolutionary change requires class
analysis that drives appropriate actions and eliminates race as a
mitigating factor. Knowing these socioeconomic dynamics, George Jackson
was first and foremost a people's revolutionary, and he acted as such at
all times without compromise. His writings clearly reflect his belief in
class-based revolutionary change.
Considering the many structural elements affecting him, it is easy to
see why George and his message have been misinterpreted. The quick takes
on him are abundant: it's assumed that he was imprisoned and oppressed
because he was black, because he had publicized ties with the Black
Panther Party and was a well-known organizer within the prison reform
movement. Although George became a "prison celebrity," a status that
certainly didn't help him in terms of acquittal and release, ignorance
of the actual forces responsible for his prolonged imprisonment is
inexcusable. The radical viewpoint is absolutely indispensable when
regarding both George's life circumstance and philosophy. His life
serves not as a mere individual example of prison cruelty, but as a
scalding indictment of the very nature of capitalism.
In these times, there are two very different ways to be born into
privilege. First and most obvious in the system of capital is to be born
into wealth. Second, and not precluding the first, is to have an
intellectual, politically conscious base from which to grow as a person
philosophically and spiritually. Radical figures in modern society
Lenin, Trotsky, Ché Guevara, my father, Jonathan Jackson, and my uncle
George Jackson have the capability of providing this base through
their examples and writings.
Those not born into privilege can achieve a politically conscious base
in different ways. No veils separate the lower class from the realities
of everyday life. They have been given the gift of disillusion.
Bourgeois lifestyle, although perhaps sought after, is in most cases not
attainable. Daily survival is the primary goal, as it was with George.
Of course, when it finally becomes more attractive for one to fight, and
perhaps die, than to live in a survival mode, revolution starts to
become a possibility. Not a riot, not a government takeover by one or
another group, but a people's revolution led by the politically conscious.
This consciousness doesn't simply appear. Individuals must grow and work
into it, but it's an invaluable gift to have insight into and access to
an alternative to the frustration, a goal on the horizon.
The nineties are an unconscious era. The unimportant is all-important,
the essential neglected. What system than capitalism, what time period
than now, is better suited to naturally create the scape-goat, the
seldom-heard political prisoner, misunderstood in his
cult-of-personality status, held back in a choke hold from society? It
is not only our right, but our duty, to listen to and comprehend George
Jackson's message. To not do so is to turn our backs on one of the
brilliant minds of the twentieth century, an individual passionately
involved with liberating not only himself, but all of us.
Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our
situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are
dying who could be saved, that generations more will die or live poor
butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover
your humanity and your love in revolution. Pass on the torch. Join us,
give up your life for the people.
*Jonathan Jackson, Jr.*
Friday, August 31, 2012
To the Man-Child, Tall, evil, graceful, brighteyed, black man-child