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Justice for the Jena 6!
Drop the charges now!

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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 71/No. 36      October 1, 2007


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(lead article/editorial)
Justice for the Jena 6!
Drop the charges now!
The Daily Town Talk/Tia Owens-Powers
July 31 march through Jena, Louisiana, demanded justice for six Black students.

We stand with the thousands marching in Jena, Louisiana, and in solidarity actions across the country on September 20 to demand justice for the Jena Six.

These six Black youths face felony charges with possible decades-long prison terms because they stood up to racists who hung nooses at their high school. Far from an “innocent prank,” nooses are aimed at terrorizing Blacks and anyone else who gets “out of line” in capitalist society. They recall decades of legal and extralegal violence—from Klan lynchings to cop riots.

The harsh prison sentences hanging over the heads of the Six are all too familiar for millions of working people caught up in the capitalist “justice” system. Black men are more than seven times as likely to be imprisoned as whites. Blacks make up 41 percent of the prison population, but just 13 percent of the overall population.

Racism permeates the entire capitalist system. In the workplace, the employers profit from paying Blacks less and forcing them into the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs. This discrimination helps drag down the working conditions of all workers. Bosses foster anti-Black prejudices in an attempt to keep the class divided and to prevent workers from fighting together for better conditions.

But the racist oppression the rulers mete out is only one side of the story. Workers who are Black have a long political record in the United States of playing a leadership role in mass struggles that is disproportionately weighty compared to their numbers in the working class as a whole. This record begins in the closing years of the U.S. Civil War and the postwar battle for Radical Reconstruction, through the battles that built the unions and the industrial labor movement, through antiracist struggles during World War II. The mass civil rights and Black liberation struggles from the mid-1950s through the early 1970s had a social and political impact on the working class and the labor movement that continues to this day.

This legacy is an enormous strength for the working class today, as fights against deteriorating safety conditions, declining wages, and antiunion assaults become more and more pressing. Workers who are Black will be an indispensable component of the fighting political vanguard of the labor movement in the sharpening class battles ahead.

When asked by a reporter in 1965 if he was trying to wake Black people up to their oppression, Malcolm X replied, “No, to their humanity, to their own worth, to their heritage.”

Five decades ago, workers and peasants in Cuba woke up to their humanity. They took political power out of the hands of the exploiters and made a socialist revolution. With that act, they eliminated the material roots of racist oppression. Today, workers and peasants in Cuba have a powerful tool to combat racism—a government that represents the interests of the majority.

As Cuba’s toilers learned, the capitalist rulers will never correct injustice of their own accord. Joining mobilizations in defense of the Jena Six can help expose this frame-up and make the rulers pay a high political price for the blatant racism they foster. Justice for the Jena Six! Drop all the charges now!
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