Seizing on the Critical Moment

By C. Clark Kissinger

Revolutionary Worker #1048, March 26, 2000

Following are the closing remarks by C. Clark Kissinger, Refuse & Resist!, RW correspondent, and one of the organizers of the Emergency National Conference to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal.

"First. The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal has now become an enormous battle ground in society, on which all are being asked to take sides. The reasons for this are not hard to discover. This is a case that concentrates and highlights so many other issues of injustice and inequity in this society. At the same time, the movement that has developed around justice for Mumia is threatening the entire political agenda of speeded-up executions and the criminalization of whole sections of our youth. So where you stand on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal has become today a benchmark for where you stand on the fundamental issues of social justice.

"Second. This fight to save Mumia is going to proceed through a series of advances by our side and vicious attacks from the other side. Let us not forget what they have done in just the last year: the attack on the Black United Fund in Philadelphia, the hatchet job by 20/20, the phony confession story in Vanity Fair, a whole new round of attacks on MOVE, on Pam Africa, and on the International Concerned Family & Friends in Philadelphia, the call to boycott and cancel artists who have dared to speak up. And believe me, you ain't seen nothing yet. This fight is going to get real dirty before it's over.

"But we can't become disoriented by these attacks, nor can we just get angry as a response. Instead, we have to seize on each and every attack as a new organizing opportunity for us, an opportunity to expose the other side and to tell Mumia's story to ever wider audiences. As Mumia said in his message to this conference: `Every attack, every assault, every angry outburst rebounds to our favor. We are growing!'

"Third. We have to continue to uphold a correct dividing line between friends and enemies. Everyone who honestly opposes the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal is an ally; an ally whom we must make welcome in our movement, and for whom we have to develop forms for their active participation. We will not all be doing the same things, or speaking with the same voice. But we are on the same side, and we have to treat one and all with cooperation and respect and look for the unique ways in which each can contribute.

"Fourth. We must now seize on this critical moment for the whole case, the petition to the federal district court for a writ of habeas corpus. Mumia's legal struggle is now measured in months, not in years. As Len Weinglass pointed out this morning, the next 90 days are decisive. This is when the government will be taking the temperature of society to see what they think they can get away with. With one voice we must demand: The evidence must be heard!

"Fifth, and last. We must proceed from the sober assessment that we are not yet where we have to be to save Mumia's life. But through the darkness we can see the light toward which we are going.

"To those who are fixated with taking Mumia's life, we must raise a specter: We must raise the specter of high schools and universities across the nation shut down by striking students. We must raise the specter of people of conscience chaining themselves to the White House fence. We must raise the specter of debate and controversy breaking out in every sector of society. We must raise the specter of millions marching in the streets. We must raise the specter of teachers, artists, and influential writers losing faith in the system itself--and communicating their infection to others. We must raise the specters of Los Angeles and Seattle. And we must make the United States a pariah in the international community, a country whose very name is synonymous with racism and legalized murder. A situation, in short, where they would have to pay an unacceptable price in every arena of society. Then and only then--and not for reasons of right and justice but for reasons of protecting their own butts--will the rulers of this country back down on the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

"And to those among the people who are basically good yet continue to waiver and stand on the sidelines, we must raise a different specter: What will happen if the execution of Mumia is not stopped? Won't those who rule claim with new brazenness that it is legally and morally acceptable to execute a Black revolutionary--despite the blatant racism and injustice of his court proceedings? Do we really want to set that dangerous precedent, including the use of the death penalty against those who would dissent and defy?

"Wouldn't such an execution give a big boost to the government's death penalty policy--at a time when dozens of people have been rescued from death row in recent years after proof of their unjust convictions came out. Wouldn't the government turn Mumia's execution into an ugly celebration of their power to take revenge on any Black person who defies the police--the first line of defense for their white supremacist system? And what effect would such an execution have on millions of Black youth and youth of other nationalities? What would it say to the next young Black writer who aspires to be the voice of the voiceless?"

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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