Abolish the death penalty and national oppression

Based on a talk given at the Feb. 5 webinar “Global Class War: Lessons from Sam Marcy for workers struggles today.” Go to youtu.be/5Arb33Q8SN0 to view the webinar.

The national question, as analyzed by Comrade Sam Marcy and Workers World Party, has been so important to us in Texas, as we fight not only against imperialist wars, killer cops, racist border walls, but notably as we fight against the death penalty.

While there are many people opposed to the death penalty, the organization [Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement] that comrades in WWP helped found and are leaders in today, has raised the question of national oppression like no other. 

In fact, we are criticized by other very well-funded organizations for always talking about the fact that no government in this country has any authority to imprison or sentence to death people of oppressed nationalities.

Like Comrade Sam wrote about, there is racism, yes, for sure, but there is also national oppression. Because Black, Latinx and Indigenous people are from oppressed nations within the boundaries of the United States, they have the right to determine their destiny, their lives, their political decisions.

One of the first death row cases that we worked on was that of a Black man, Clarence Brandley, who was a custodian at a high school in Conroe, north of Houston, along with four other men who were white. 

A young girl was murdered in the gym before school started in 1981, and there was an outcry to get the killer. The cops arrested Clarence and an older mentally disabled man who was white. The cop looked at them and said, “one of you two is going to hang for this.” He then pointed his finger at Clarence and said, “Since you’re the N-word, you’re elected.” Clarence spent 10 years on death row and faced several execution dates before a mass struggle finally freed him. 

Comrades, here in Texas fully 75% of those on death row are people of color. Black people are only 12% of the general population. From the cops to the courts to the prison, people of oppressed nationalities are victims of the state.

We say that executions are legal lynchings. We say executions are racist and anti-poor. And it used to surprise us how critical others, who were opposed to the death penalty, were, telling us: “You don’t have to always talk about race.”

Well, we do this because we want ALL people to be involved in the struggle to abolish the death penalty, including those who look like those sitting on death row. And we are the only anti-death penalty organization anywhere that is truly multinational.

It is because of Comrade Sam’s writings that we have learned how to incorporate the national question into our active work against executions. We are based in a 50-plus-year-old Black community center. 

In fact, the only split we’ve had in our group is because some felt like we shouldn’t be based in a Black center but in the ACLU office. They said the Black neighborhood was “too dangerous” and would “scare” people.

We thank Sam for explaining the relationship of the class struggle and the national question. He taught us well. We carry on in his memory, as we fight for the liberation of our class here in the U.S., whether on the streets, in the study groups or in the prisons.

¡Que viva Compañero Sam Marcy! Abolition Now!

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