African prisoners of war

People who come out of prison
can build up the country. 
Misfortune is a test 
of people’s fidelity. 
Those who protest at injustice 
are people of true merit. 
When the prison doors are opened, 
the real dragon will fly out. 

Ho Chi Minh

Our ancestors, our elders, our (New) Afrikan Liberation prisoners of war suffering the most heightened forms of bestial oppression in america’s concentration camps, deserve more than flowery tributes and toothless appeals to a conscienceless empire. Only the naive or willfully ignorant can not see the failure of the ‘left’ to truly acknowledge the existence of or work toward the release of our political prisoners and prisoners of war. To do so would not only be an indictment of a fascistic socio-political order, but a revelation that the ideological and organizational counters to the social order are insufficient to say the least. Dhoruba Bin Wahad has long reminded us that our enemy has an institutional memory, and as long as the current crop of activists and organizers lack an attachment to historical memory, we will continue to reinvent failure. 

The confused and disoriented state of our People, and subsequently, our movements find themselves in does not exist in a vacuum. Resistance breeds repression, which can explain why the enemies of Afrikan liberation concentrate so many resources to divert the poor, working masses from their historical and ideological roots of struggle. The euro-colonizer endorses solutions of gradual integration, and even at times bourgeois separation, so that national liberation does not find its footing. With some negroes still clamoring for voting rights like its 1962, one can see clearly the uneven political development among the so called left, leaving those with the clarity of mind to fight along anti-colonial lines politically and militarily isolated. 

The relationship between the movement inside and outside the walls is (supposed to be) dialectical, but too often we adopt a romantic and reactionary lense, only speaking on political prisoners on their birthday or when they are terminally ill. Without contextualizing the plight of our freedom fighters, we reinforce individualism and bury the conditions that gave rise to their organizations and actions. When we aren’t mystifying them, we wash away their legacy with senseless claims like “all prisoners are political prisoners.” Prisons in general can no longer be viewed simply as instruments of class repression, where surplus value and labor is pooled and extracted. The overwhelming population of racialized people trapped in these fortresses along with blatantly fascist legislation such as the McCarran Act, reveal the prison’s true function; corralling, containing, and destroying national liberation movements. 

Our ambivalence about the immediate necessity to do what must be done stems from our hesitancy to accept that all ‘legal’ forms of redress are bankrupt and the american empire is illegitimate. We remain contaminated by strains of liberalism, unwilling to engage the likes of the Black Liberation Army as not only serious revolutionary theoreticians but as master practitioners of urban guerilla warfare. Questions of cultural reappraisal and economic reorganization have already been synthesized but “the creation of an infrastructure capable of fielding a people’s army” has been episodic at best. While we haggle through screens and keyboards, the real dragons remain caged. 

Today the struggle is in a rudimentary stage of (r)evolution. The responsibility of awakening our sleeping movement lies at the hands of the most politically advanced and developed, with much unsettled debate on who and what constitutes this force. Whoever assumes the role, must do so in absolute harmony with the People, and must not attempt to reinvent the proverbial wheel. Our failures to date have been generational, with the self appointed spokespeople of the struggle drifting into academic, corporate, and state comforts. 

No amount of abstract theoretical jargon will create the conditions in which our political prisoners and prisoners of war are any closer to amnesty. Only a protracted People’s War can bring our elders home to guide the building of a free, socialist society. Our revolutionary fervor will be tested in times of societal crisis, with the most pertinent questions about the preparation and sustainability of our movement left unanswered.

Let it be known that true reparations are paid after a war is won. To liberate the dragons, we first must assume their posture.

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Shane Williams is a student, preschool teacher, and organizer for People First Collective based in Michigan and a member of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party. Follow and support at @peoplefirst.collective on Instagram.