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Abolition Now!

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 12:01 pm    Post subject: Abolition Now!  Reply with quote

Abolition Now!
by Mark E. Smith

I’d never noticed that slavery hadn’t been abolished. I’m 68, born and raised right here in the U.S. of A., and until a few weeks ago I thought that slavery had been abolished. Except, of course, as punishment for a crime, but what’s wrong with that? I’m a law-abiding citizen, and criminals do need to be punished, right? But with slavery? Shouldn’t hard labor (involuntary servitude) or even the death penalty be sufficient?

Then I tried to imagine the death penalty being abolished except as punishment for a crime.

Doesn’t make sense does it?

That’s what we have now, the death penalty as punishment for capital crimes, and in countries that have abolished the death penalty, it no longer legally exists as a legitimate form of state violence. Either the death penalty exists as punishment for a crime, or it has been abolished. You can’t have it both ways. So how can slavery still exist as punishment for a crime and yet be said to have been abolished?

What woke me up was a talk by Robert Hillary King, the first of the Angola 3 to be released from prison where he’d spent 31 years, 29 of them in solitary confinement, for a crime he didn’t commit. A little research led me to understand that places like Parchman Farm, Angola State Prison, and other so-called penal institutions are just old slave plantations and that very little about them has changed since Abolition other than their names. Some of the white guards come from families who have lived on those plantations since the days of slavery, most of the prisoners are black, they do the same work under the same conditions that their ancestors did as slaves, and most are never released and die there.

If you think that racism isn’t involved, here’s part of a November 2008 statement from the Coalition to Free the Angola 3:

Albert Woodfox, who has spent 37 years in prison at Angola Penitentiary, must be released on bail, according to a ruling issued today by United States District Judge James Brady. On September 25th, Judge Brady overturned Woodfox’s conviction for the 1972 murder of prison guard Brent Miller. Though the State has announced its intention to appeal that decision, until such an appeal is successful, according to today’s ruling, there is no conviction on which to hold Woodfox.

In his decision, Judge Brady wrote:
“[Woodfox] is a frail, sickly, middle aged man who has had an exemplary conduct record for over the last twenty years. At the hearing before this Court on October 14, 2008, testimony was adduced that if released Mr. Woodfox would live with his niece and her family in a gated subdivision in Slidell, Louisiana. Mr. Woodfox has withdrawn that request because of fear of harm to his niece and her family by members… This change was brought about by counsel representing the State of Louisiana contacting the subdivision home owners association and providing them with information regarding Mr. Woodfox. The Court is not totally privy to what information was given to the association but from the documents filed it is apparent that the association was not told Mr. Woodfox is frail, sickly, and has had a clean conduct record for more than twenty years…this Court GRANTS Mr. Woodfox’s motion for release pending the State’s appeal.”

From what I can gather, the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime was ratified in 1865, and the Justice Department was established in 1870, supposedly to finish the work of Abolition. My guess is that if the 13th Amendment had abolished slavery completely, it would never have been ratified by the slave states and we would have had another Civil War. But given the loophole that allowed slavery to remain legal if a person was duly convicted of a crime, slave owners had no problem with so-called Abolition. What it meant in reality, since the slave states were run by the rich and powerful whites who had benefited from slavery, and the subsequently formed Justice Department was also in the hands of rich and powerful whites who had benefited from slavery, was that in the “former” slave states it was whites who decided what would and wouldn’t be a crime, who would or wouldn’t be arrested for such crimes, and until 1935 it was perfectly legal for all white juries to convict blacks of crimes like vagrancy and put them right back on the plantations where they or their parents and grandparents had been enslaved. The slave masters got their slaves back, it didn’t cost them a dime, and blacks spoke wryly of the “just-us system,” while most whites in the former free states actually thought that slavery had been abolished, even as it still continues today with the blessings of the Constitution and the Supreme Court.

Now that we have a black President, Abolition still isn’t on the agenda.

How could it be when so many people think it has already been taken care of?

If it was on the ballot today, how many people would vote to keep slavery legal as punishment for a crime? We can sentence criminals to hard labor, to three consecutive life sentences, life without parole, or even to death, so why do we need to keep slavery legal? I don’t know of any judge or jury that has ever sentenced a criminal to slavery and there certainly could be no outcry from the justice system if it were no longer a legal punishment for a crime. The Civil war wasn’t about involuntary servitude. Involuntary servitude is not the same as slavery. While involuntary servitude should not be legal, it has no place in the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment was supposed to abolish slavery. It did not.

Will we?


comments? thoughts? email us at

publisher’s note: One of the most moving and jarring conference I had ever attended was an organization of New Abolitionists - who were present at the Boston Social Forum in 2004. (Part of the World Social Forum - check them out asap).

Among many of the wrongly accused, having spent years and years in Death Row, was Shuja Graham. If you ever get a chance to see him speak, I suggest you do. Listen to any wrongly convicted person for that matter.

I can’t begin to touch on the issues that the families and victims illuminated, but I can recommend a few links below as you learn more about this issue.

Campaign to End the Death Penalty

Ontario Coalition to End the Death Penalty

World Social Forum

Comment on the site by John-Michael:

December 24, 2008 @ 5:18 am

Great article, I couldn’t agree more.

My reply:

December 24, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

Thanks, John-Michael.

What the 13th Amendment actually says is that it is Constitutionally legal to put all U.S. citizens into slave labor camps (which have already been built) for the “crime” of dissent, the “crime” of creating a public disturbance, or even crimes like jaywalking, littering, or loitering. This may appear to be a black thing now, but it could impact every one of us at any time.

The danger of allowing slavery to continue to be Constitutionally legal for others, is that it is also Constitutionally legal for us. Both versions of the Golden Rule apply here, do unto others as you would have others do unto you, and he who has the gold makes the rules. If we allow slavery to remain Constitutionally legal, even in the case of blacks, undocumented immigrants, or convicted criminals, there is no question in my mind that we are the ones who will end up enslaved.

Last edited by Mark on Tue Dec 30, 2008 5:10 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 2:49 pm    Post subject: thanks for making the connection for me Reply with quote

Hey Mark,

Have known for years that the jails are big business rather than anything else. But you made the connection with slavery for me for the first time. Of course. Thank you. Let's call it what it is. Perhaps people will be more outraged. Any recommended action?

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are coalitions to support political prisoners in the U.S., who tend to be people of color like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal, but the compromises made for the sake of unity after the Civil War did not resolve the problem and that's why it continues today, Abbe.

The problem with activism on behalf of Abolition is that we still have too many people in this country benefiting from continuing slavery, racism, and genocides against people of color and indigenous peoples. We can't get a majority because not only do most white folks think that slavery has already been abolished or do not want it to be abolished, but we also have Uncle Toms like Obama who are benefiting from the system and perpetuating slavery. That's not strange at all as there are many African politicians who also sold out to the Europeans, the United States, Israel, and the big corporations, and who care more about personal wealth and power than about their own people.

Robert Hillary King says that although he was in maximum custody, we on the outside aren't free, we're just in minimum custody. And he's right. Most of us spent many years of our lives being taught lies in school, and we had no choice in the matter. Millions of white kids sit in all white or mostly white classes and millions of black kids sit in all black or mostly black classes in contemporary U.S. schools and are still being taught that Lincoln freed the slaves. The slaves won't be free until slavery is abolished and the descendents of slaves are given reparations for the slave labor their ancestors endured, and for the continuing discrimination that they and their children endure to this day due to the failure of our government to abolish slavery.

Abolishing slavery on paper would be a good first step. The 13th Amendment should say, "Section 1. Slavery shall not exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Any Member of Congress who, upon being made aware of the existence of slavery, even in the case of a single individual, and who fails to call the attention of Congress to that fact and to ensure that the victims of slavery go free and are given adequate reparations to ensure their continuing freedom, and to ensure that the perpetrators are punished to the full extent of the law, shall be deemed a traitor to their country and to this Constitution and shall be removed from Congress upon petition with accompanying documented evidence presented by any U.S. citizen. Any Congress which fails to act upon such a petition shall be dissolved and new elections held until a law-abiding Congress shall be elected.

The 13th Amendment was not supposed to establish slavery or involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime, it was supposed to abolish slavery. It is a fraud perpetrated upon this country and must be rectified.

But no, Abbe, other than attempts at consciousness raising, I have no idea how to go about it.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 5:49 pm    Post subject: Slavery ,crime and big business...generally speaking... Reply with quote

Once upon a time in"ye olde Angloland" a few had made the rest so poor that stealing bread was for the rest a matter of survival.Trouble was if you got caught you either got your hand cut off,transported to work abroad or forced to join the"voluntary kammakazee regiments"of HRH Army.Whatever the case the"name of the game" was about the few creating a situation whereby the most would support and therefore secure the mostly decadent and extravagent life styles of the few.Remembering that the English word for the German word"Reich"is Empire ,its not really surprising to learn that " olde Angloland Reich.."not only was built by exploiting the poor which the few had created in the first place but also by using the "free labour" available of which those convicted then made possible-a classic case if you like of creating the "...demand to meet the supply"!!!.Leaders(guess from where the saying"He´s a born leader" originally derives!) of the Roman empire..sorry... the British Empire(!)had relised that slavery was not only big business but by carefuly constructing laws and legal punsihment which served the needs of an elite owned constitution in a poverty stricken society this type of"man power"posed a rich source of free labour to the benefit and advantage of the Empire itself-mention no names 19th century Australia Wink .

Nowadays as Mark points out slavery has well and truly been abolished from the face of this planet!!!.That Britains prisons are over filled and that in response electronic tags equipped with senders are supposed to help reduce the costs of the upkeep of the convicted allowing those selected to spend their time "doing time"is now almost a mainstream known fact!.On the otherside of the Atlantic I suppose the death penalty also saves money!.As long as politicians do not admit mistakes the symptoms will always be treated not the cause and State violence will increase and get harder as the less positive effects/results it produces!. Evil or Very Mad

In recent times there has been talk of the so called New World Order and during a TV documentary about this subject one person whose identity was kept hidden actually said when asked about the role of the majority of the so called"working class"...They are not supposed to relise why and for what they are really working for...". Cool

There are therefore several types of slavery and perhaps one of the most evil of all is the one which parasites,extracts and exploits the work power of the potencially good and innocent nature of the every day labourers and trade workers by using methods of what could be termed as passive suppression or persuation.Those in prison can see their walls and feel their chains and will often obviously be glad to be occupied with some form of work and in some cases even earn a few cents. That comes under the convenient guise of"doing something usefull" of course whereas us lot out here will have to take time to think and get informed to relise just how much choice and how free we really are.For the majority I dare say will not be aware of the"walls"around their lives nor the invisible"chains" they have attached to themselves. Twisted Evil
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 5:58 pm    Post subject: Slavery etc Reply with quote

"..That Britains prisons are over filled and that in response electronic tags equipped with senders are supposed to help reduce the costs of the upkeep of the convicted allowing those selected to spend their time "doing time"is now almost a mainstream known fact!...".

Should read;

"....That Britains prisons are over filled and that in response electronic tags ATTACHED TO PRISONERS AND equipped with senders are supposed to help reduce the costs of the upkeep of the convicted allowing those selected to spend their time "doing time"AT HOME is now almost a mainstream known fact!.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know how it is in other countries, Paul, but the death penalty here does NOT save money. AND it executes so many innocent people that one governor felt so sick he commuted the sentences of everyone on death row in his state.

We really do need to abolish the death penalty, abolish prison labor, and put an end to wage slavery, but again, a good first step would be to finally and actually abolish slavery, at least on paper. It might not do much good in reality, but as long as slavery remains Constitutionally legal in the U.S., for any reason, it has not been abolished and we should not speak as if it has.

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