40th Anniversary – Marin Courthouse Rebellion


40th Anniversary – Marin Courthouse Rebellion

by Break the Chains on Saturday, August 7, 2010 at 11:13pm

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 petitions willy-nilly.

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 unconscious.

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 writings.

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 first
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 class,
http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/soledadbro.html#NOT01
were not 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 similarly construed.

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 her.

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 imprisonment.

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 five-to-seven-year sentence.

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, pollution,
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 possible consequence.

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 theory.

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 liberal 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, D.C.

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 level 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.

­George Jackson

Jonathan Jackson, Jr.

San Francisco

June 1994

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