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Land of the free is a prison of nations

Mumia Abu Jamal

Mumia Abu Jamal

Download this article as a leaflet

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The United States puts itself forward as a ‘democracy’; it calls itself the ‘land of the free’; it considers that it has the right to police the world, the right to label other countries as ‘undemocratic’ or lacking in freedom; it imposes sanctions and wages wars in the name of ‘human rights’.

And yet the US state, along with its fellow imperialist vultures in Britain and elsewhere, is the worst violator of human rights in the world.

By waging unjust wars for economic and geo-political advantage, the US and its allies deny millions of people the most fundamental human right: the right to life.

Through its economic stranglehold over the third world, imperialism is responsible for the extraordinary poverty that leads to the death of 13 million children a year from malnutrition-related diseases.

Prison state

Despite the US government’s ostensible love of ‘freedom’, the US increasingly resembles a fascist state, with repressive laws, political prisoners and a massive prison population.

- Over 1 percent of the adult population is incarcerated – a massive 2,319,258 people. The US leads the world both in absolute numbers and in the proportion of its population behind bars.

- The US population accounts for approximately 5 percent of the world population, but its prison population accounts for 25 percent of the world total.

- The US incarceration rate is 3.4 times higher than that of Iran and 6.3 times higher than that of China – both countries about whose ‘human rights record’ the imperialist media (and their liberal hangers-on) bang on incessantly.

- One in 15 black men and 1 in 36 Hispanics over the age of 18 are in prison, as opposed to 1 in 106 white males.

- Whereas African Americans comprise only 12.2 percent of the US population and 13 percent of its drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offences and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offences.

Why are so many US citizens in prison? Because of the dedication of its ruling class to ‘freedom’: the freedom to exploit and the freedom to own vast amounts of private property.

Even in the richest country in the world, the system of exploitation means that while a handful of people are living in Dallas-style luxury, millions more live in abject poverty.

- The US is the richest country in the world, and yet, such is the disparity of wealth that almost one in eight US citizens lives in poverty.

- According to the US Department of Agriculture, about 11 million people suffer “very low food security”.

- The poverty rate for blacks was 24.3 percent in 2006; for whites it was 8.2 percent.

- The unemployment rate for blacks was 8.4 percent in November 2007; for whites it was 4.2 percent.

The job of the capitalist state is to protect the private property ‘earned’ through exploitation, and so hundreds of victims of capitalism, driven to crime through a desperation aggravated by consumerism promoted by capitalism in the interests of enhancing the profits of the rich, are thrown into prison in order to maintain capitalist order.

Political prisoners

In addition to imprisoning petty criminals, the US is also in the habit of using the prison system in an attempt to silence discontent.

It has a long history of politically-motivated frame-ups, including those of Huey Newton, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

- Mumia Abu-Jamal has been in prison since 1981 and on death row since 1983.

- There is clear evidence that Mumia was the victim of a police frame-up.

- Mumia is behind bars because he is a journalist and political activist. He was an influential member of the Black Panthers, a talented organiser and publicist. The state tried to silence him by framing and locking him up.

Much like the British state, the US state does not respect civil liberties.

Under the guise of fighting against terrorism, the US has introduced laws that allow state agencies access to emails, telephone conversation recordings, medical records, financial records, etc. These laws are being used to clamp down on those who oppose the injustices of imperialism.

International human rights abuser

- The US is by far the most aggressive state in the world. Since the end of WW2, it has been involved in dozens of large-scale military actions: Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Cuba, Congo, Panama, Dominican Republic and Lebanon, to name but a few. These are illegal, ruthless and unjust wars, fought solely for the economic benefit of the US ruling class.

- The invasion of Iraq, led by the US and fully supported by Britain, has been a disaster for the human rights of the Iraqi people: well over 1 million have been killed, over 2 million are refugees abroad, another 2 million are internal refugees. There is chronic malnutrition, minimal access to clean water and electricity, unemployment is well over 60 percent, and most schools and hospitals are defunct.

- The US has dozens of secret prisons around the world, where it tortures its victims as far away from the public eye as possible. Britain is wholly complicit in this (and, of course, has its own extensive record of prison torture).

- More than six years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the US is still holding over 350 people prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. These men have been given no trial and have been subjected to routine torture in complete violation of international law.

- Conscientious objectors in the US are put in prison. For example, Kevin Benderman, a US Army sergeant, served 12 months for refusing to deploy to Iraq.

Nobody in their right mind could label the US as the ‘land of the free’.

Only socialism will bring us real rights

Ultimately, the working class and the oppressed masses have no lasting political rights under capitalism. To the extent people enjoy democratic rights under capitalism, it is only in so far as the rule and privileges of the super-rich – the bourgeoisie – are not under threat.

Only socialism will bring real human rights for all: the right to live, the right to work, the right to education, the right to health care, the right to participate in the running of society, the right to be free from exploitation, the right to develop as an individual.

Free Mumia! Free all US political prisoners!
No freedom while imperialism lives. Forward to socialism!

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Leaflet issued by the CPGB-ML in April 2008.

Sadly, the only change since we wrote the article above is that the situation has got worse - and there are two more criminal wars to add to the charge-sheet. The war against Libya and the war against Syria.

The graphic below shows just how many US citizens are locked up - and who benefits from their incarceration.

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No Justice For All

Myanmar government making moves to conciliate the West

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November

There has been an unexpected decision by the government of Myanmar (formerly Burma) to free some 600 political prisoners, following the release last year of Aung Suu Kyi, the prominent pro-western dissident. The moves appear to be linked to a hope of lifting of western sanctions against the country, supposedly imposed because of Myanmar’s violation of human rights and suppression of political freedom, but actually intended to force Myanmar into alliance with the West at the expense of China.

At the end of September the Myanmar government suspended a hydroelectric dam project led by a state-owned Chinese company, the Myitsone dam project, that had been criticised by Aung Suu Kyi and environmental groups, but which would have been the first to span the Irrawaddy river, the largest waterway in Myanmar, and would have produced massive amounts of electricity for the benefit of both Myanmar and China.

A thousand Palestinian prisoners freed

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November

Sergeant Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas since June 2006, has been released in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, including all Palestinian women prisoners except eight.

The 6,000 Palestinian prisoners who remain incarcerated in Israeli jails (including important leaders such as Marwan Barghouti) have mostly been convicted on unreliable evidence, or simply for their political affiliations, while hundreds of others have never been charged. Some 200 of the freed prisoners will not be allowed back into the West Bank but will either be sent to Gaza or into exile.

What may have brought about the deal is the need for the Israeli government to do something to please the Israeli people, who have become very disaffected as a result of rising prices. They have indeed been pleased by the return of Sergeant Shalit, an event aimed at showing that the Israeli government takes care of its own – very important in a country that relies on conscription to maintain its armed forces at the necessary level.

A similar deal has been done between Israel and Egypt. Israel is to release dozens of Egyptians imprisoned by the Israelis in return for an American law student (who has Israeli nationality) who has been charged with spying for Israel.

Free Ricardo Palmera, Colombian freedom fighter and US political prisoner

Via FightBack News

The National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera is launching a petition campaign targeting US Attorney General Eric Holder. The National Committee is demanding the US government immediately release the Colombian revolutionary and stop violating Palmera’s human rights.

Angela Denio said, “The US government is acting like a tyrant in Colombia and abusing Ricardo Palmera in a Colorado prison by chaining him from head to toe with the constant threat of electric shock. It is outrageous. Where is Obama on all of this? He promised to stop torture.”

Despite solitary confinement in the Florence, Colorado Supermax prison, Ricardo Palmera continues his fight for freedom. Born into a wealthy family, Palmera spent most of his life organising with peasants, workers and professionals to make reforms benefiting the people. However, wealthy landlords and big business, backed by US corporations and the US military, opposed progressive change. Most of Palmera’s fellow activists were tortured and killed by the Colombian military and their death squads.

At the age of 37, Palmera’s dedication to the Colombian people in their struggle for equality, peace and justice led him to join the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). As an armed guerrilla in the countryside, he spent much of his time travelling to collect economic data and teaching peasant fighters. He also became a peace negotiator in talks with the Colombian government.

In this new role as peace negotiator, he travelled to Ecuador on his way to meet UN officials. Despite an agreement with the Colombian government, US intelligence kidnapped Palmera, extradited him to a Washington DC prison and put him through four trials. The trials were slanted and corrupt. Chief Judge Hogan was caught cheating with Prosecutor Ken Kohl and forced to step down. The US government repeated the trials until they won. Despite never committing a crime in or against the US, Ricardo Palmera is now serving a 60-year sentence.

Jeremy Miller of the Colombia Action Network said, “The US government is mistreating and abusing Ricardo Palmera. It is part of US intervention in Colombia and Latin America. It sends a message to anyone who rebels. If you are someone who loves your own country and your own people, then the US will make you pay!” Miller continues, “Now the Obama administration is escalating the US war in Colombia by occupying seven new military bases. Support for revolution grows in Colombia, while the US is losing its grip on Latin America. The Pentagon has command and control over the Colombian military, but is still losing after ten years. So direct US intervention is the next step in the war. Just like Vietnam, Obama is looking more like Kennedy.”

As a US prisoner held under ‘Special Administrative Measures’, reporters are not allowed to interview Palmera. The US Bureau of Prisons denies letters from his American supporters and his lawyers are not allowed to speak about his trials. The latest oddity is that the Colombian government is conducting a trial of Ricardo Palmera while he sits in a US jail cell. This ‘virtual trial’ means Professor Palmera cannot face his accusers in person, just by video. This virtual justice adds to the perception that Ricardo Palmera is a political prisoner of the US empire.

The petition to Free Ricardo Palmera can be found here.