Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

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On the Mass Political Movement Inside US Prisons

Pelican Bay Hunger Strike: Four years and still fighting

July 14, 2015, SF Bayview Newspaper

by Claude Marks and Isaac Ontiveros

Four years ago prisoners in California – led by those in the control units of Pelican Bay – organized a hunger strike to demand an end to the torturous conditions of solitary confinement. Two more strikes would follow, with over 30,000 prisoners taking united action in the summer of 2013 – both in isolation and in general population in nearly every California prison.

“Will You Stand Up and Let Your Voice Be Heard July 8th 2013?” – Art: Michael D. Russell

The strikes reflected significant shifts in political consciousness among prisoners and their loved ones. The violence of imprisonment was further exposed by demands and heightened organization from within the cages. Prisoner-led collective actions as well as growing public support dramatically have changed the political landscape.

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Indian Political Prisoner Kobad Ghandy ends hunger strike

June 6, 2015

Kobad Ghandy, arrested in 2009

Kobad Ghandy, the 68-year-old undertrial lodged in Tihar Jail here, called off his hunger strike on Friday soon after a court ordered the jail authorities to provide him easier access to basic facilities and adequate health care.

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Canada: 25 groups protest against Modi visit

[As India’s Prime Minister Modi continues his deceptive diplomacy (“world’s largest democracy” and Gandhi imagery) to mask the realities of ongoing caste, class, tribal, and religious oppression and war against 80%+ of the people in India, he continues to run into growing diverse protests involving South Asians and internationalists, anti-inperialists, revolutionaries, and anti-fascists.  The latest took place in Canada. — Frontlines ed.]

Singh Station,  April 17, 2015

Vancouver – While Thousands chanted “Modi, Modi” to welcome Narendra Modi to Toronto on Wednesday night, there were about 25 groups who collated to protest as the Indian prime minister made his first visit to Canada.

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Book Review: About Black Prison Organizing

[The movement and struggles of prison activists has played a major, even central, role in the social movements in the US.  But it has not often been recognized or embraced by many other activists and movements which, led by liberal reformists and organizations, avoid the injustices and enslavements of the “criminal justice” system.  Prison organizers, political prisoners, and prisoners as a whole have played a huge role in social movements  in the US (and in most countries throughout the world, as seen from Ireland to Palestine, South Africa to India, Peru to China).  But in the US, the role has been magnified by the mass incarceration of millions, whose pathways and influences in an out of prison have multiplied as a result.  This book review traces recent writing on the roots and links of the prison movement. — Frontlines ed].

The Prisoner’s Rebellion at Attica Prison, New York, 1971

A Hidden Legacy of the Civil Rights Era

by JAMES KILGORE, Counterpunch

Dan Berger’s latest volume, Captive Nation, is perfectly timed. In a moment where interest in mass incarceration across the political spectrum is on the rise, sanitized versions of carceral history will doubtless emerge. Berger’s account offers an instant antidote to any such efforts. He warns us we will be negating a long history of righteous rebellions of the oppressed if we opt for quick fix policy packages that do not address the inequalities underlying the rapid growth of incarceration.

Berger’s personal profile as an historian casts him in a unique position to tell his tale. He represents a bridge between the praxis of the 60s and 70s and today’s decarceration campaigners. Back in the day, activists connected to those in prison by striking up extensive correspondence via snail mail and making in person visits. In this age of digital communication, Berger has stepped back in time and used those old “analog” methods to establish relationships with a number of those still incarcerated for their activities in that era, people such as Veronza Bower, Sundiata Acoli, Jalil Muntaqim (also known as Anthony Bottom) and David Gilbert. These relationships were key to Berger’s framing of the stories he tells as well as his analysis.

Prison Intellectual Culture: The Case of George Jackson

Two things particularly struck me as I read Captive Nation. The first was the amazing radical intellectual culture that emerged in prisons during this period, a culture, I should add, that appeared almost totally absent in the federal and state prisons where I resided from 2002-09. Berger’s depictions of the richness of political debate and the eagerness of people inside to connect prison resistance to the Black liberation struggle and other movements of the era, were staggering. The politics of the rebels/revolutionaries Berger describes were not mere legal maneuverings aimed at overturning individual cases or re-doing legislation. Rather, they aimed to depict and contest the political economy and ideological foundations of a “system.”

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Rights Defenders Condemn India’s Political Arrests of Activists

[The arrest of civil rights activists in Andhra Pradesh is a dramatic extension of the state’s intensified suppression of rights activists.  Eleven were arrested — for organizing a press conference, and for organizing a protest petition against — but police claimed this was only to deal with the “Maoist threat.”  Here, below, is the response of civil liberty organizations, followed by a mainstream (police directed) article which equates Maoism with rights activism. — Frontlines ed.]

October 10, 2014

Detention of civil rights activists in Vishakhapattanam “a threat to constitutionalism, rule of law”: PUCL 

The police thwart the committee’s call for a public meeting in protest against operation Green Hunt, an anti-Naxal operation by the security forces in various the states

Deccan Chronicle: “The police thwart the committee’s call for a public meeting in protest against operation Green Hunt, an anti-Naxal operation by the security forces in various the states”

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has strongly condemned “arbitrary and illegal” detention of civil liberties activists and human rights defenders in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, on October 9, 2014 when they were trying to hold a press conference at the Civil Library, Vishakhapatnam, to announce a meeting on October 12 to protest against Operation Green Hunt. “The hostile and intimidatory action of the police was supported at the highest level in the state government”, said PUCL, adding, this was clear “when the Vizag police arrested five other human rights activists who had gone to the Camp Office of DIG, Vishakhapatnam Range, to bring to his notice the illegal arrests of their colleagues.”
Signed by Prof Prabhakar Sinha, national president, PUCL, and Dr V Suresh, national general secretary, PUCL, the statement by the influential civil rights group said, “The fact that the Andhra Pradesh police released the activists subsequently does not mitigate from the fact that the government and police’s action constitute a serious threat to constitutionalism, rule of law and fundamental right to free speech and expression, assembly and dissent.”

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Anger Grows Against Hong Kong crony capitalists and China’s capitalists alike

Economic Inequality Underlies Hong Kong Protests

Over the past week, the protesters in Hong Kong have focused on well-defined political demands, with full democratic elections and the resignation of Chief Executive C.Y. Leung at the top of the list. But protesters have also been driven to the streets by a variety of longstanding grievances, many of which stem from the economic inequality which has built up in Hong Kong society, putting the city at the top of The Economist’s “crony-capitalism index,” or list of “countries where politically connected businessmen are most likely to prosper.” The gini coefficient, which measures the gap between rich and poor, is at the highest levels ever for Hong Kong, according to a 2013 report from Bloomberg:

Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, rose to 0.537 in 2011 from 0.525 in 2001, the government said last June. The score, a high for the city since records began in 1971, is above the 0.4 level used by analysts as a gauge of the potential for social unrest. 

Hong Kong’s close business ties to mainland China, especially since the handover in 1997, have exacerbated these inequalities. But as the recent protests show, economic issues are quickly becoming political for residents of Hong Kong who are missing out on the boom. Neil Gough reports for the New York Times:

China is grappling with a political problem in part because Hong Kong is dealing with an economic one. Underlying the current unrest in Hong Kong, an affluent city of 7.2 million that was a British colony for 155 years before it was returned to China in 1997, is a widening wealth gap. Continue reading

The system tortures, and they call it democracy

The Guardian:  “Gitmo hunger strikes are a cry for help. Why is the US fighting back with secret torture?……..Force-feeding at Guantánamo shames America – not just in the bad old days of George W Bush, but today, in 2014. And you deserve to hear the truth, loud and clear.”

by Cori Crider,, Tuesday 30 September 2014

gitmo fence hand

Gitmo is a warehouse of the forgotten, run by a military that doesn’t know how to treat the sick souls it’s caged without charge for over 12 years. Photograph: Dar Yasin/AP

“Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent”: so goes the slogan of the world’s most famous offshore prison. It’s an Obama-era rebrand, a bid by Gitmo’s PR people to persuade Americans that today’s is a kinder, gentler Guantánamo Bay. There’s just one wrinkle: Gitmo is still dangerous, nasty, lawless and secretive – and the evidence just keeps piling up.

At the forefront of this war over the truth is the first-ever trial concerning the practice of force-feeding prisoners on hunger strike, due to start Monday. My client, Abu Wa’el Dhiab – a Syrian man who has never been charged, and indeed has been cleared to leave Guantánamo by the US government for more than five years – has been fighting for over a year to reform the way he and other hunger-strikers have been treated. He’s finally about to have his day in court.

But the Obama administration refuses to accept this unusual intrusion of justice into its island idyll. On Friday, US justice department attorneys filed a motion asking the court to hear all evidence in the trial entirely in closed court, save a short, anodyne opening statement from lawyers on both sides. Continue reading