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Furthermore, there is some considerable awareness that ever since the days of slavery the U.S.A. is nothing but a vast prison as far as African descendants are concerned. Within this prison, black life is cheap, so it should be no surprise that George Jackson was murdered by the San Quentin prison authorities who are responsible to Americas chief prison warder, Richard Nixon. What remains is to go beyond the generalities and to understand the most significant elements attaching to George Jacksons life and death.

George Jackson: Black Revolutionary

Walter Rodney, a Guyanese-born African historian, wrote extensively on revolutionary thought and political practice.

On this date, August 21, (1971) 35 years ago, Comrade George Jackson was assassinated on the yard of San Quentin State Prison. The following article is by another revolutionary martyr, Walter Rodney, Guyanese historian, activist, and Pan Africanist, assassinated in a bomb explosion disguised as a two way radio transmitter by an agent of President Forbes Burnham in 1980 while running for office in Guyanese elections. His most influential book was How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, published in 1972.

By Walter Rodney (November, 1971)

Yet George Jackson, like Malcolm X before him, educated himself painfully behind prison bars to the point where his clear vision of historical and contemporary reality and his ability to communicate his perspective frightened the U.S. power structure into physically liquidating him. Jacksons survival for so many years in vicious jails, his self-education, and his publication of Soledad Brother were tremendous personal achievements, and in addition they offer on interesting insight into the revolutionary potential of the black mass in the U.S.A., so many of whom have been reduced to the status of lumpen.

To most readers in this continent, starved of authentic information by the imperialist news agencies, the name of George Jackson is either unfamiliar or just a name. The powers that be in the United States put forward the official version that George Jackson was a dangerous criminal kept in maximum security in Americas toughest jails and still capable of killing a guard at Soledad Prison. They say that he himself was killed attempting escape this year in August.

Official versions given by the United States of everything from the Bay of Pigs in Cuba to the Bay of Tonkin in Vietnam have the common characteristic of standing truth on its head. George Jackson was jailed ostensibly for stealing 70 dollars.

He was given a sentence of one year to life because he was black, and he was kept incarcerated for years under the most dehumanizing conditions because he discovered that blackness need not be a badge of servility but rather could be a banner for uncompromising revolutionary struggle. He was murdered because he was doing too much to pass this attitude on to fellow prisoners. George Jackson was political prisoner and a black freedom fighter. He died at the hands of the enemy.

Once it is made known that George Jackson was a black revolutionary in the white mans jails, at least one point is established, since we are familiar with the fact that a significant proportion of African nationalist leaders graduated from colonialist prisons, and right now the jails of South Africa hold captive some of the best of our brothers in that part of the continent.

Furthermore, there is some considerable awareness that ever since the days of slavery the U.S.A. is nothing but a vast prison as far as African descendants are concerned. Within this prison, black life is cheap, so it should be no surprise that George Jackson was murdered by the San Quentin prison authorities who are responsible to Americas chief prison warder, Richard Nixon. What remains is to go beyond the generalities and to understand the most significant elements attaching to George Jacksons life and death.

When he was killed in August this year, George Jackson was twenty nine years of age and had spent the last fifteen [correction: 11 years] behind bars— seven of these in special isolation. As he himself put it, he was from the lumpen. He was not part of the regular producer force of workers and peasants. Being cut off from the system of production, lumpen elements in the past rarely understood the society which victimized them and were not to be counted upon to take organized revolutionary steps within capitalist society. Indeed, the very term lumpen proletariat was originally intended to convey the inferiority of this sector as compared with the authentic working class.

Yet George Jackson, like Malcolm X before him, educated himself painfully behind prison bars to the point where his clear vision of historical and contemporary reality and his ability to communicate his perspective frightened the U.S. power structure into physically liquidating him. Jacksons survival for so many years in vicious jails, his self-education, and his publication of Soledad Brother were tremendous personal achievements, and in addition they offer on interesting insight into the revolutionary potential of the black mass in the U.S.A., so many of whom have been reduced to the status of lumpen.

Under capitalism, the worker is exploited through the alienation of part of the product of his labour. For the African peasant, the exploitation is effected through manipulation of the price of the crops which he laboured to produce. Yet, work has always been rated higher than unemployment, for the obvious reason that survival depends upon the ability to obtain work.

Thus, early in the history of industrialization, workers coined the slogan the right to work. Masses of black people in the U.S.A. are deprived of this basic right. At best they live in a limbo of uncertainty as casual workers, last to be hired and first to be fired. The line between the unemployed or criminals cannot be dismissed as white lumpen in capitalist Europe were usually dismissed.

The latter were considered as misfits and regular toilers served as the vanguard. The thirty-odd million black people in the U.S.A. are not misfits. They are the most oppressed and the most threatened as far as survival is concerned. The greatness of George Jackson is that he served as a dynamic spokesman for the most wretched among the oppressed, and he was in the vanguard of the most dangerous front of struggle.

Jail is hardly an arena in which one would imagine that guerrilla warfare would take place. Yet, it is on this most disadvantaged of terrains that blacks have displayed the guts to wage a war for dignity and freedom. In Soledad Brother, George Jackson movingly reveals the nature of this struggle as it has evolved over the last few years. Some of the more recent episodes in the struggle at San Quentin prison are worth recording.

On February 27th this year, black and brown (Mexican) prisoners announced the formation of a Third World Coalition. This came in the wake of such organizations as a Black Panther Branch at San Quentin and the establishment of SATE (Self-Advancement Through Education). This level of mobilisation of the nonwhite prisoners was resented and feared by white guards and some racist white prisoners. The latter formed themselves into a selfdeclared Nazi group, and months of violent incidents followed.


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