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Abstracts for Social Justice Vol. 30, No. 2 (2003):
War, Dissent, and Justice: A Dialogue
James engages in a dialogue on shared leadership and political analyses that confront state violence, as well as the contributions and contradictions of political prisoners. Using Abu-Jamal's comments on "Love and Rage," she describes the tensions inherent in academic and activist venues. Although generally disparaged in its radical forms in the academy, activism prides itself on love and rage, immediacy and responsiveness. It embraces these human responses to life and pain as much as academia might distance itself from them.
Key words: activism, political prisoners, intellectuals, activists
The author, the late Safiya Asya Bukhari, provides a personal account of the development of political consciousness in a black female radical. Her political awakening during college to the plight of disenfranchised black people enabled her to reexamine dominant national myths that heralded the U.S. as a democratic utopia. Then, her experiences in prison solidified her disenchantment with the state and the ways in which she was rendered dispensable and dangerous due to her political beliefs.
Key words: activists, political persecution, political dissent, women, African Americans
The author, a longtime human rights activist and organizer, makes a theoretical statement about the relation of Blackness and the Black body to civil society: Black citizenship, or Black civic obligation, Wilderson states, are oxymorons. He discusses how antagonistic identity formation must come to grips with the contradictions between the political demands of radical social movements, such as the large prison abolition movement, which seeks to abolish the prison-industrial complex, and the ideological structure that underwrites its political desire. Today, the failure of radical social movements to embrace symptoms of rage and resignation is tantamount to the reproduction of an anti-Black politics that nonetheless represents itself as being in the service of the emancipation of the Black prison slave.
Key words: radical social movements, black history, slavery, African Americans, social conditions and trends
Sexton argues that an enduring challenge of resisting state violence is liberating black radicalism from its historical entanglements with various forms of sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny, from its frequent reliance on the strictures of homophobia and heteronormativity, and from its highly ambivalent and deeply problematic relation to the sexual color line. In each respect, the figure of Eldridge Cleaver presents a highly instructive case in point, not for the exemplary success of the story, but for the extremity and wildness of its failures. He examines Cleaver's claim in Soul on Ice to sexual terror on white women as a political means to reclaim black freedom and agency within a historical record abundant with white sexual terror on black women and men alike. Sexton sees an important lesson in the complicated logic of this connection between certain traditions of black liberation struggle and their often conservative, sometimes-reactionary political commitments regarding the intersections of race and sexuality. Such a connection is historical and contingent and not inherent or structural, that is, it is capable of being undone provided it is carefully worked through.
Key words: homophobia, rape, race, sexuality, politics, personal relationships, literary criticism, Cleaver, Eldridge
Fifteen years after the initial publication of Agents of Repression, Churchill discusses the continued threat of state policing and repression through a look at the recent history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's campaign against the release of American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Leonard Peltier and the high-level cover-ups regarding the murder of AIM member Anna Mae Aquash. The FBI's ongoing conduct with respect to Peltier, as well as the Aquash murder and many other still-unresolved homicides on Pine Ridge, indicates the extent to which the mentality and operational priorities of America's political police have remained constant despite the supposed reforms it underwent during the late 1970s. The book is timelier than ever given the Patriot Act, a measure that formally sanctions many of the worst abuses the FBI engaged in a generation ago.
Key words: political persecution, murders and murder attempts, activists, law enforcement, Native North Americans, atrocities, internationalists and anti-imperialists, Pictou-Aquash, Anna Mae, American Indian Movement (AIM), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Former U.S. political prisoner Whitehorn discusses the context of the armed struggle of the 1970s and 1980s, the repression and persecution of radical activists in the U.S. by the FBI's COINTELPRO destabilization program, and the importance of the ongoing campaigns to free political prisoners. Activists on the outside, she argues, must reach deep to find the enduring power and strength to carry out sustained programs to win the release of political prisoners.
Key words: political prisoners, racism, political persecution, activists, law enforcement, atrocities, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Giroux argues that the hollowing out of the state and the shift in its emphasis away from providing for people's welfare, protecting the environment, and expanding the realm of public goods has meant a heavier reliance on its militarizing functions and the criminal justice system as a model for how to manage and contain populations within a wide range of public spheres. Thus, the prison-industrial complex can best be understood as a model for enforcing the criminalization of social problems, policing communities, punishing and containing students of color, and redefining the state as a force for domestic militarization. For the first time in U.S. history, the role of the prison has become the main machine for "race making." The overgrown carceral system has become one of the most important institutions of symbolic production for equating black youth with the culture of criminality and defining the urban public school as a training ground for legitimating the models of authority and punishment that legitimate the regime of race-based incarceration. Giroux focuses on the appropriation and application of zero tolerance policies in the public schools.
Key words: youth, children public schools, atrocities, social control, community policing, public policy, school discipline, zero tolerance policies
The author offers points of departure for the theorization of prison praxis as a field of radical social theory. The essay argues that the emergence and rapid growth of a qualitative carceral formation since the early 1970s, outside and symbiotic to the hegemonic social formation, has produced its own historical bloc of counterhegemonic radical intellectuals. It revisits the epochal moment of the Middle Passage to elaborate the social logic of the new prison regime, which is similarly premised on mass incarceration, immobilization, and immanent extermination. Then, it looks to the work of Frantz Fanon -- specifically, his conception of social truth -- in an attempt to generate a new modality for the critical, interdisciplinary study of (and political engagement with) the work of imprisoned radical intellectuals.
Key words: imprisonment, intellectuals, political persecution, political prisoners, activists, justice, Fanon, Frantz
Appel explores the role and various manifestations of white supremacy in leftist politics, specifically in the emergent movement against the prison-industrial complex. Her critique of white progressives is that their actions, though well intentioned, are laden with manifestations of white supremacy; she challenges them to embrace a more radical politics, one that makes antiracism a central tenet in any analysis and subsequent action against a white-supremacist state.
Key words: racism, white supremacists, activists, radical groups, political prisoners
The extraordinary growth and carceral thrust of criminal justice policy and procedure over the past 25 years have transformed the United States into a "prison nation." Leaders in the U.S. offer mass criminalization and incarceration as surrogate responses to persistent poverty and unemployment, drug abuse, violence, mental health problems, and failing public schools. The ascendance of this fundamentally inhumane, fiscally absurd, and socially dysfunctional criminal justice apparatus signals the failure of societal leadership. Ward and Marable consider how mass criminalization and incarceration have affected African-American individuals, families, and communities, particularly in terms of civic capacity and participation. They provide an overview of the Africana Criminal Justice Project, a research, education, and organizing initiative aiming to help identify and eradicate dimensions of racialized social and political exclusion that are generated, reproduced, and intensified by past and present U.S. criminal justice policy.
Key words: leadership, criminal justice, imprisonment, African Americans, reforms, Black studies, Africana Criminal Justice Project
In introducing Marilyn Buck's Incommunicado: Dispatches from a Political Prisoner, Willmott notes that less than one hour after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a number of political prisoners throughout the U.S. were abruptly rounded up and taken into solitary confinement. This segues into Buck's poem, which is in part a distillation of her own experience of being held incommunicado during the period; and her reflections on the importance of never surrendering one's voice, of not giving in to his or her fears, become increasingly important in this Orwellian time, when people are living under a shadow government and being silenced under the "Patriot Act." The poet's voice reminds us, from the other side of the razor wire, of the importance of continuing to speak out and act against injustice at a time when the state is demanding consensus and criminalizing dissent.
Key words: political prisoners, political dissent, literary criticism, poetry
Marilyn Buck's poem appears in its entirety.
Key words: poetry, prison poetry
The U.S. Constitution and accepted ethical and criminal procedure norms guarantee that every defendant is entitled to legal counsel and zealous advocacy, but Elijah shows that the government's repression of dissenters includes attorneys who chose to follow the Code of Professional Responsibility that mandates that they should not decline representation because a client or a cause is unpopular or community reaction is adverse. Special attention is paid to the indictment of New York lawyer Lynn Stewart, who represented unpopular clients such as David Gilbert, Bilal Sunni-Ali, and Richard Williams.
Key words: political prisoners, legal services, attorneys, legal defense, civil liberties, professional responsibilities
Naar-Obed articulates the position a community of faith-based activists, Jonah House, which is dedicated to living out nonviolence, community, and resistance to militarism. The author believes that the current war on terror is in reality a cover for controlling Middle East and Caspian Basin oil supplies.
Key words: terrorism, activism, peace, militarism, social conditions and trends, Jonah House
Zacharias frames her initial reaction to the U.S. interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq in this thoughtful essay. She views the Bush administration's war as a politically renewed project of global expansion of U.S. military power allied to its capitalist agenda as we move into the resource crunch of the 21st century. Essentially an analysis of the ways in which the media was used to justify an expansive U.S. militarism, it is also a dialogue with Sunera Thobani, and thus an analysis of the post-September 11 masculinist rollback of women's rights abroad, while proclaiming the opposite. For the author, war is an integral part of capitalist patriarchal culture; it silences and disempowers women, excludes them from decision-making processes, ties their rights to nationalist objectives, and demands a misogynistic, masculinist culture of emotional steel from both men and women. The author details how U.S. policy has undermined the status of women in Afghanistan for at least a quarter century. The Taliban's repressive gender politics emerged from a decades-long culture of war, just as America's global military aggression emerged from another type of war culture that capitalism, the media, and the state perpetuate. Refusal by the U.S. to pursue a lengthy process of justice, to avoid dialog, negotiation, and peaceful alternatives come from a culture of hypermasculinity that fears feminine tactics as expressions of weakness. The essay concludes that military intervention will empower fundamentalist forces in the region and in the world; what is needed are anti-fundamentalist, nonmilitary solutions for all conflict.
Key words: social movements, politics, terrorism, justice, gender, racism, women's organizations -- India and Near East, Afghanistan
This essay describes attempts to use alternative media to make the voices of political prisoners more accessible and immediate. The heart of these efforts is to let the prisoners speak for themselves. This is an essential step in opposing their demonization (as common criminals and, more recently, as terrorists) by the state and supporting efforts to obtain their release. Marks and McBride state that political prisoners held by the U.S. could contribute to the entire range of progressive movements, and Internet media should be used to make their voices heard.
Key words: political prisoners, media, Internet, human rights, audiovisual communications
In this essay, Molina asserts that the social direction of technology continues to be alarming -- militaristic, intrusive, and with enormous potential for abuse. Furthermore, the struggle for human rights shapes, and is partially shaped in, cyberspace. Characteristic are the gathering and centralizing of information, enhancing existing relationships between repressive agencies, the dropping of bureaucratic borders between states, law-enforcement agencies, and right-wing movements, as well as increasing cooperation in the drafting of policy and strategy between European governments and the U.S. in the planning of repression against dissent and resistance movements. The author pays special attention to how prisons are now being used to advance repressive technologies.
Key words: prison surveillance, human rights, Internet, political persecution, technology, law enforcement, activism, intelligence gathering
Copyright © 2003 by Social Justice.