[Pnews] Jalil Muntaqim - What is a Political Prisoner?

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 31 10:06:03 EDT 2017


  Jalil Muntaqim - What is a Political Prisoner?

July 25, 2017

We begin with an understanding that the U.S. Corporate Government does 
not recognize the existence of political prisoners. That is because all 
dissenters of racism and capitalist-imperialism are prosecuted in 
criminal courts. As a result, subject to the criminal code of 
persecution, anyone convicted in those courts are considered criminals 
subject to the laws of the jurisdiction of prosecution. And here lies 
the problem; despite our understanding that dissenters are primarily 
engaged in struggle for socio-economic and political change, in as much 
as ideological opposition to the status quo, we’ve yet to persuade a 
significant number of people to not only recognize the existence of but 
to support our political prisoners. In as much the question is what are 
political prisoners, it is important to first consider why political 
prisoners would exist. To answer this question, I could go as far back 
as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which states:

“ . . . We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are 
created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain 
inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit 
of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted 
among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; 
that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, 
it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to 
institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, 
and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most 
likely to effect their safety and happiness...”.

I proclaim these words of July 4, 1776, immortalized as the 
determinative foundation for the existence of today’s political 
prisoners. If anyone doubts the significance of these words, and the 
intent of the so-called “Founding Fathers” of this now Corporate 
Government (despite many of them being slave holders), then, in my 
opinion, you have been severely duped. So, here we are in a continuing 
(r)evolutionary process to realize the true meaning of these words as a 
living mantra of a revolutionary experiment identified as the U.S. of A.

Therefore, it can be argued that American dissenters seek to manifest 
and realize the American mantra. Although they may voice their dissent 
in different languages, the heart of their dissent is codified in the 
Declaration of Independence.

This country’s history from its inception has been one of continuous 
turmoil, wars, insurrections and revolutionary initiatives to manifest 
people’s pursuit of happiness. Obviously, the system of capitalism 
creates class divisions and racism exacerbates these divisions ensuring 
conflict—in the dialectical unity and struggle of opposites. These 
conflicts are inherent in the nature of this system of government. By 
virtue of the nature of this system, logically and rationally, the 
system creates dissenters. For those who are anti-racist, 
anti-capitalist imperialism, and the varied minutiae of the many 
manifestations of such socio-economic and political conditions, they are 
subject to be persecuted by the U.S. Corporate Government.

Before anti-Vietnam war activists broke into a FBI field office in 
Media, Pennsylvania and subsequently discovered the COINTELPRO 
documents, there was a period in this country where anyone professing to 
be a Communist were blacklisted and some put in jail for failing to 
testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. These 
ideological struggles of competing socio-economic interests served to 
enhance class conflicts as to who is and is not a true American patriot. 
This period, known as McCarthyism, was ruthless and created animosity 
among friends and families; such actions by HUAC were VIRULENTLY 
supported by J. Edgar Hoover, who declared Communists “The Red Menace.”

Today, the identity of America continues to be debated as right-wing 
conservatives seek to “purify” the moral and racial identity of America. 
They proclaim the “Founding Fathers” never imagined a multi-racial and 
multi-religious America. Of course, those who dissent and oppose what is 
now identified as Alt-Right politics are generally fighting against 
age-old ideals of white supremacy that forced the U.S. into a civil war. 
The slavocracy of the Confederacy believed themselves to beholden to no 
one other than a single white nationalist determination. Naturally, 
those who oppose white supremacy in all of its variant forms have 
commonly been accosted as dissenters. The U.S. Corporate Government has 
never supported dissenters of white supremacy until they are forced to 
do so by a mass movement. And, when forced to do, the Government 
reluctantly seeks to appease dissent, not deal with institutional or 
structural systems of racial and/or economic societal oppressions and 
divisions. The struggle against Jim Crow segregation is a case in point 
of the Government being forced to institute reforms and appease a “mass” 
civil rights movement. In fact, Black freedom has never been a given; it 
has always and continues to be fought for and must be maintained in a 

For example, on March 9, 1968, J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI, 
issued a COINTELPRO memorandum that stated:

“Any negro youth or moderate who succumbs to revolutionary teachings, 
will be dead revolutionaries.”

It must be understood that FBI COINTELPRO did not begin with the 
Government’s efforts to destroy the Black Panther Party. However, 
COINTELPRO actions were directed more at the BPP than any other target 
of the FBI. Of the 394 “black bag operations” and other illegal 
activities by the FBI COINTELPRO from 1967 to 1970, over 300 were 
directed specifically at the BPP, leading to approximately 33 Panthers 
being killed. In essence, the FBI COINTELPRO applied every method and 
tactic this U.S. Corporate Government uses to destabilize a country to 
destroy the BPP.

Given this deliberately brief synopsis of the history of dissent in this 
country, we must come to terms with identifying those who are captured 
and imprisoned for their dissent. In 1977, while in San Quentin prison, 
I initiated a national prisoners campaign to petition the U.N. on the 
existence of U.S. political prisoners and prison conditions, One of the 
successful occurrences during that overall campaign is that a journalist 
asked then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Andrew Young were there political 
prisoners in the U.S. Ambassador Young responded “perhaps thousands” and 
for that admission, then President Jimmy Carter fired Andrew Young from 
his post. This is shared because, in 2017, former President Jimmy Carter 
wrote a letter to then President Obama, urging Obama to grant clemency 
to FALN political prisoner of war Oscar López Rivera. The irony of this 
event should not be lost on anyone, particularly those of us who 
continue to languish in prison 30-50 years.

Many of us were contemporaries of Nelson Mandela in his fight opposing 
Apartheid, while we fought against the institution of Jim Crow 
segregation. While Nelson Mandela was recognized around the world for 
his political internment, there is a collective failure to recognize and 
give honor to our courageous revolutionaries and freedom fighters. In my 
book, “We Are Our Own Liberators” in the chapter “A Case Against United 
States Domestic (neo)Colonialism”, a detailed and legally established 
definition of political prisoners and political prisoners of war is 
presented. Suffice it to say that all those who have dissented and 
opposed white supremacy in all of its manifestations, socio-economic 
oppression, and racist police repressions at that point of dissent, and 
are imprisoned, are identified as political prisoners.

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham 
Jail” he was announcing himself, and all those who were engaged in that 
struggle, as a political prisoner, which is a point in reference to 
Andrew Young’s affirming perhaps there are thousands of political prisoners.

However, it is extremely important to delineate between those 
incarcerated for crimes of self-aggrandizement and economic survival and 
those who consciously fight the system of racist oppression. While we 
can agree that the system is exploitative, racist and divisive, our 
conscious response to such socio-economic and political realities must 
be analyzed and understood.

For example, a drug dealer or sex trafficker by no sense of the 
imagination would be considered a revolutionary, progressive or, when 
imprisoned, a political prisoner. His/her relationship to the system of 
racist capitalist oppression is reactionary and detrimental to the 
general welfare of the social order. Similarly, those engaged in other 
criminal economic pursuits, in spite of having no direct control of the 
socio-economic or political environment in which they must eke out an 
existence, are still manifesting behavior destructive to the overall 
revolutionary determination. These lumpen-proletarians are for the most 
part reactionary and a detriment to the struggle. It is only when they 
are educated and conscious of how their negative actions serve to 
preserve the system of repression that the potential exists for them to 
evolve toward a revolutionary posture and practice. This is especially 
important as it pertains to those engaged in street organizations, which 
generally prey upon the inhabitants of the oppressed community. Hence, 
when any of them in prison become politicized, their relationship toward 
the system of repression becomes a political one. These politicized 
prisoners forge a conscious political determination of opposition, 
joining the ranks of political prisoners.

It is extremely important to make this distinction between so-called 
social prisoners and the politicized prisoners. One is ultimately 
reactionary and potentially an enemy of the struggle, while the other 
has become a conscious participant in a revolutionary determination. As 
for those who are captured and confined for their political dissent, 
they qualify as political prisoners, and those who committed deliberate 
acts of rebellion, fighting against the system of racist repression, can 
be identified as political prisoners of war. Also, if aligned to a 
politico-military apparatus, they must be given recognition, rights and 
protections of POW’s under the covenant of Protocols I & II of the 
Geneva Convention. (see, We Are Our Own Liberators).

Here, I attempted to present a historical reality that Black people, in 
particular, have been engaged in a struggle for “life, liberty and the 
pursuit of happiness,” since the inception of this country. There is a 
continuum from Crispus Attucks, to Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser, Nat 
Turner and John Brown, and Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. 
Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, Queen Mother(s) Moore & Iyaluua Ferguson to 
Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, Asa Phillip Randolph, Malcolm X, 
Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Robert Williams and James Farmer 
to Imari Obadele, Huey Newton, Jonathan and George Jackson, Safiya Asya 
Bukhari, Assata Shakur, Angela Y. Davis and Yuri Kochiyama. This 
tradition of resistance is embodied and lives in Romaine Chip 
Fitzgerald, the longest imprisoned BPP member for nearly 50 years, in 
Ruchell Cinque Magee, who epitomizes the transition of a social prisoner 
into a staunch revolutionary political prisoner, being the first to 
proclaim himself a slave of the state by virtue of the 13th Amendment to 
the U.S. Constitution, Kevin Rashid Johnson, Sundiata Acoli, Herman 
Bell, Robert Seth Hayes, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Mumia 
Abu Jamal, David Gilbert, Tom Manning, Bill Dunne, also Leonard Peltier, 
Oso Blanco, Xinachtli (Alvaro) Luna Hernandez, Jaan Laaman, and Imam 
Jamil Al-Amin, to name a few identified as political prisoners of war. 
This rich history of dissent and resistance imposes on all Americans the 
need to reflect on the so-called “Founding Fathers” ideal for this 
country (see above quote).

Hence, in our opposition to racist capitalist-imperialism, we need to 
realize our collective obligation to preserve this awesome tradition of 
dissent established in the Declaration of Independence. Our history of 
resistance opposing this corrupt U.S. Corporate Government demands this 
of us, and it is our duty to support our political prisoners.

Revolutionary Love & Unity
Jalil A. Muntaqim

Remember: We Are Our Own Liberators!

July 25, 2017
Shawangunk Correctional Facility

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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