Reflections on Prison National Strike Against Slave Labour

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1664 ... September 11, 2018
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Reflections on Prison National Strike Against Slave Labour

Barry Sheppard

Prisoners in many states in the U.S. began a coordinated National Strike on August 21, the anniversary of the killing of Black Panther member and prison activist George Jackson by guards in an escape attempt, in 1971, at San Quentin prison in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the context of the times, a mass radicalization led by Blacks and youth, the incident became a cause celebre.

The strike was set to end on September 9, the anniversary of the great prison uprising at the Attica prison in New York, also in 1971. The rebellion was crushed in blood, in a massive attack ordered by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, billionaire scion of the oil industry... family. This too deepened the mass radicalization by exposing the horrors of U.S. prisons.

The central demand of the current actions -- which range from work stoppages, hunger strikes and sit-downs to boycotts of prison stores -- is an end to prison slave labour.

Most Americans and people around the world do not know that slavery is allowed in prisons by the U.S. Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment, which ratified the abolition of chattel slavery of African Americans won in the Second American Revolution (Civil War), contained a fatal flaw. It allowed slavery of people convicted of a crime, i.e. prisoners, although not of ownership of them (chattel slavery).

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