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The 40th anniversary of the assassination of George Jackson

October 17, 2011

by David Johnson

I cannot begin to talk about Comrade without discussing my experiences, as our lives were entwined – in part by choice and the other the result of the common racist and twisted circumstances that surround our lives. It was the same dynamics that were ripping apart the fabric of our society with the Watts riot, Detroit riot and Kent State then and continue to do so to this very day in a more subtle way.

Willie Sundiata Tate, Luis Bato Talamantez and David Giappa Johnson – comrades since the days of Comrade George Jackson – reunited for Geronimo Day at Eastside on Aug. 21, 2011.
It gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement and, for a segment of my generation who shared a more radical and revolutionary worldview, we saw the emergence of the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army and the Prison Movement. It also give rise to a new Black leadership structure as well – Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Fred Hampton, Bunchy Carter, George Jackson – and the list goes on.

No matter how the government chooses to characterize our movement, I hold that our response to the circumstances and conditions that we were subjected to was valid, and we had – and have – every right to rebel. And no matter what methodology or rationale that the more nonviolent elements of our society use attempting to explain it away does not change the fact that it happened the way it did. This brings me to the main theme, who is George Jackson

Most people know of Comrade through his writings, ideas, thought process, perspectives and analysis of revolutionary struggle. Very few have met him, and those who have know the depth of his commitment to revolution. That came through in his writings as well.

The world met Comrade as a member of the “Soledad Brothers,” three Black prisoners who were accused of killing a prison guard in retaliation for the murder of three Black prisoners, whose deaths the local judicial system considered “justifiable homicide.” W.L. Nolan, Cleveland Edwards and Alvin “Jug” Miller were shot on a prison exercise yard, shot by a guard during an altercation with racist prisoners.

The world met Comrade as a member of the “Soledad Brothers,” three Black prisoners who were accused of killing a prison guard in retaliation for the murder of three Black prisoners.

No weapons were involved; it was a fist fight! A white prisoner was wounded also but not intentionally, his injuries were the result of a ricochet. So we can conclude as other prisoners did his being injured was accidental. Not so the shots that killed Nolan, Edwards and Miller.

In looking back, I could have been one of those prisoners gunned down on that yard. When I first arrived at Soledad in September of 1968 from Southern Reception Center at Chino, California, I was placed in O Wing. This was my introduction to Soledad Central, known as the “Gladiator School.”

It was there that I first started learning about the race war that was going on, how the guards manipulate and facilitate the murder of Black prisoners. One of them who had been killed before my arrival I knew from my neighborhood; his name was Len Andrews. Another prisoner killed was known as “Dopey Dan”; his real name was Clarence Causley. He was a friend of the Comrade.

I remember another Black prisoner who died at the hands of prison guards; his name was Powell. Any one of those prisoners could have been me, simply because I was Black. I met Louie Lopez, a Mexican brother from LA. He was in the Adjustment Center on Aug. 21, 1971. We knew each other from YTS (Youth Treatment Services).

Once I was on the mainline and settled, I started getting in touch with my comrades. I met Kumasi, a brother from Slauson, who schooled me on Bunchy Carter, who was from Slauson, another revolutionary who emerged from the California prison system to lead the LA Black Panther Party. He used to recite a poem written by Bunchy titled “Black Mother.” I knew Jug from the “Businessmen,” an LA street gang, was there, as he left the reception center along with another brother I knew from my CYA (California Youth Authority) days, Chili from the “Gladiators,” another LA street gang, two weeks before me.

We used to lift weights together and agreed that if I came to Soledad that they would look out for a spot for me on the weight pile. We knew each other from YTS, a California Youth Authority facility, so we had history.

It was on the weight pile where I first met Comrade George and Tony Gipson, and it changed my life. We would all meet on the weight pile after work call, do our workout and kick it. While at Soledad, I was brought into a collective of comrades, and Comrade was a part of that collective as well.

We started study groups and were introduced to the Comrade’s martial arts fighting style. In every prison these collectives existed. They were an essential part of our defense against the racist attacks that Comrade so eloquently described in “Soledad Brother” and had himself been a victim of many times. As he points out, “I’ve been the victim of so many racist attacks I could never relax again.”

Study group collectives were an essential part of our defense against the racist attacks that Comrade so eloquently described in “Soledad Brother” and had himself been a victim of many times. As he points out, “I’ve been the victim of so many racist attacks I could never relax again.”

When I say I could have been one of those prisoners gunned down on that yard, what I mean by that is this: that tension was high at Soledad; it reached a boiling point in July of 1969. There was a riot and the prison was locked down.

We made the decision to move on the racists first instead of waiting to get moved on. Comrade felt that they would lock him up; however, it was something that had to be done and he understood that. I was placed in O Wing in a cell next to W.L. Nolen. He sent me a care package – tooth powder, envelope and some reading material – along with a note explaining to me about the yard that was going to open and what was going to happen when we all hit the yard.

The reason I wasn’t there is they shipped me out to DVI, another prison in Tracy, California. There I met a comrade from San Francisco by the name of Waddell Lane and started to give him some of the knowledge that was given to me.

I was on the exercise yard in San Quentin’s B Section when a comrade hollered to me out of the hospital window what happened in Soledad, pointing out to me that I knew the comrades.

I had just arrived at San Quentin a few days before the incident on the exercise yard went down, and I had a layover in Soledad on my way to San Quentin. While there, I asked about some of the comrades that I knew – Fleeta Drumgo, John Clu, Comrade and my former cell partner, Willie Thompson, a member of the Black Panther Party. (In the book “Seize The Time,” he is the brother Big Willie.) All were still on the mainline.

It was at that time I was told that Jug was at San Quentin. Unbeknownst to them or me at the time, Jug was in O Wing. When I arrived at San Quentin, comrades told me Jug was transferred back to Soledad. I knew that was fucked up; when I heard that, I knew something wasn’t right. We just got shipped out there for being involved in a race riot where some white racist had been stabbed. After the court ruling the murder of the Blacks by the guard was justified and later hearing about the guard being killed, I knew the war was on as did other comrades.

It was in San Quentin’s B Section where I met Sundi (Willie Tate) and Bato (Luis Talamantez). None of us had any idea as to how intertwined our lives would become.

Comrade was an exceptional individual and driven by his passion for revolution. The immense amount of knowledge he had acquired prior to our meeting he had honed to be as sharp as a samurai sword. While in prison, he studied economics, history and philosophy, transforming himself into a political theoretician and strategist.

Comrade was an exceptional individual and driven by his passion for revolution. The immense amount of knowledge he had acquired prior to our meeting he had honed to be as sharp as a samurai sword. While in prison, he studied economics, history and philosophy, transforming himself into a political theoretician and strategist.

In his own words, he provides us with his methodology: “I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels and Mao when I entered prison and they redeemed me.” Defining himself as a revolutionary, he became known as Comrade and was greeted in that manner. George was also influenced by the writings and conviction of Ho Chi Minh, as he identified with the “Dragon,” a reference Ho made to people whose revolutionary mettle had been tempered by the brutality and hardship of imprisonment and their ability to build up society.

The complete Ho Chi Minh quote is: “People who come out of prison can build up the country. Misfortune is a test of people’s fidelity. Those who protest injustice are people of true merit. When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.”

Another quote from Ho that was taken to heart by comrades and was sent to George by Ulysses McDaniel when the Soledad Brothers were transferred to San Quentin was this: “Advice to oneself : Without the cold and desolation of winter, there could not be the warmth and splendor of spring. Calamity has tempered and hardened me and turned my mind into steel.” – “The Prison Diary of Ho Chi Minh”

“When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.” – Ho Chi Minh

During that time I would have to say those quotes reflected our sentiments exactly. I can unequivocally say that the Comrade had been tempered, and his example served to inspire and motivate prisoners to resist the brutality of a morbid and racist system. And we too went through a tempering and transformation process.

Through his writings and articles – which were circulated worldwide, in many languages – he earned the admiration and respect of progressive people everywhere who were involved in struggle to create a more socio-politically just world.

However, long before Comrade had published his books, he was recognized as a giant throughout the prison system for his courage, intellect, heart and indomitable spirit. George tells us that once you commit yourself to being a part of the transformation process, you will be subjected to the most reactionary violence the state can bring against you.

Comrade was recognized as a giant throughout the prison system for his courage, intellect, heart and indomitable spirit. George tells us that once you commit yourself to being a part of the transformation process, you will be subjected to the most reactionary violence the state can bring against you.

George understood the importance of political consciousness and its role in the development of a prison movement and how that movement relates to other movements that are struggling for liberation. Other comrades did as well. George spoke of the Black guerrillas he met: Big Jake, Ulysses and Little John Gordon.

I mention theses comrades for a reason and that is this: George has been credited with founding/co-founding the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF). That is incorrect. The three comrades mentioned above were instrumental in the founding of that organization. It has its origin in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center in 1970, in solidarity and support of George and the struggle that was being waged.

As George points out, “Now with the living conditions deteriorating, and with the sure knowledge that we are slated for destruction, we have been transformed into an implacable army of liberation.” He goes on to say, “They have learned that resistance is actually possible.”

Through his writings he became the strategist and tactician, and this was in line with the primary goal that had been established: the transformation of the criminal mentality to a revolutionary mentality. He did not waver from that objective, and he could see the fruits of his and other comrades’ labor as he again points out: “They are now showing great interest in the thoughts of Mao Tse-Tung, Nkrumah, Lenin, Marx and the achievements of men like Che Guevara, Giap and Uncle Ho.” His impact on the mentality of imprisoned humanity was worldwide, and he emerged as a spokesman for the oppressed and a voice of resistance.

The political thought of George Jackson

George was farsighted and that was manifested in “Blood in My Eye.” His analysis of this country becoming a fascist state was on point in the sense that it was evolving into a more repressive entity. How you want to define it is up to you. George took fascism as his reference point. He also stated, “The final definition is still open, simply because it is still a developing movement.”

Look at the multitude of laws that have been introduced to suppress any opposition to this government’s actions. Torture has become an accepted practice. Be classified as an enemy combatant and you can be held without a trail indefinitely. And intellectuals still argue whether Amerika is a fascist country.

So the question is, “What is to be done?” George makes it clear to us: “Our purpose here is to understand the essence of this living, moving thing so that we will understand how to move against it.” While we argue over the definition of the phenomenon – whether or not it is fascism per se – the practice and methodologies have definite parallels.

Take racism and apartheid, for example; different definitions to define similar phenomena. Both practices were state sponsored – Jim Crow laws, segregated academic institutions and usurping people’s right to vote. Even today in the wake of Obama’s election, there is a movement in several states to suppress and stifle the Black vote. I think we should reread “Blood in My Eye” – the section “After The Revolution Has Failed.” These are the dangerous times George warned us about!

Was George a political prisoner?

The answer to that question is yes, not because of his activities prior to his coming to prison, but due to his evolution while in prison, his responses to racist attacks and inhumane treatment. As he points out, for his efforts he was in the crosshairs of the state.

Political prisoners exist as the result of the economic, political and social conflicts that occur in societies, and there are no societies which are without their share of conflicts, so it can be said every society will have political prisoners. America denies the fact that it has political prisoners, but we have witnessed the actions of COINTELPRO, the FBI’s so-called “Counter Intelligence Program” initiated under J. Edgar Hoover, which was actually aimed at infiltrating, dividing and destroying all progressive movements in the U.S.

America denies the fact that it has political prisoners, but we have witnessed the actions of COINTELPRO, the FBI’s so-called “Counter Intelligence Program” initiated under J. Edgar Hoover, which was actually aimed at infiltrating, dividing and destroying all progressive movements in the U.S.

It has resulted in the death and imprisonment of comrades who have resisted the evils of this system. Some of those who survived the murderous assaults live in exile. And we should never forget them and the sacrifices they made endeavoring to create a more equitable society.

George Jackson leaves us with a legacy of resistance, courage and brilliant insight. He was able to forge unity among prisoners in spite of the intense racism that permeated the prison system, which was reinforced by the guards. And that should not be forgotten.

David Johnson can be reached at gengiap@yahoo.com.

 

2 thoughts on “The 40th anniversary of the assassination of George Jackson

  1. FredBrace

    I won`t mourn for anyone who supports:

    Africa for the Africans,Asia for the Asians,white countries for EVERYBODY!

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives alike say I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

    Reply
  2. Selina

    "Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white"
    ____________________

    I agree to be anti-white is to be exaclty anti-imperalist and anti-white supremacy
    ___________

    They only way the race problem would end world wide would be that every person of color of various nationalities for all to go back to their country of origin and means not only the Africans of the Diaspora leaving the the US for Africa but for the Euros to GET Out of Africa meaning all of the coroporations including the tourist.

    Reply

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