A Call to Prisoners:

Write to Revolution about "What to the Prisoner Is Your Fourth of July?"

June 9, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


In 1852, Frederick Douglass, a former slave and a leader in the fight against slavery, spoke at a rally celebrating the Fourth of July and said:

"What to the American slave is your Fourth of July?

"I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

"Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival."


We call on prisoners to draw on all you have learned about the world and your life experience to express your thinking on "What to the prisoner is your Fourth of July?" Your letters have challenged and inspired many readers of Revolution newspaper, and your insights on this topic will make an important contribution.

July 4th concentrates the lies the U.S. rulers promote as "champions of democracy" to cover up their endless crimes against humanity in every corner of the globe, and here in this country—all in pursuit of maintaining and expanding their power at the top of their capitalist-imperialist system. Endless wars and interventions overseas, terrorizing drone attacks with hundreds of civilian casualties, worldwide sex trafficking, the horrendous sweatshop conditions of super-exploited workers, including children... the list of nightmares goes on and on, and only revolution—nothing less can end this horror.

But this sham of justice and equality is not simply deception to camouflage the brutality of international exploitation and oppression. In Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, Bob Avakian describes the heart of American democracy with its roots in the Declaration of Independence:

In other words, because of racism and viewing Africans, mulattoes, and Indians as lesser beings not really deserving of freedom, white Virginians could, without feeling an acute contradiction, articulate, as Jefferson did in the Declaration of Independence, lofty principles about the equality and inalienable rights of all people. They were speaking about white people—and more specifically white men—while explicitly excluding these other groups of people—most especially the people of African origin whom they enslaved. The one went together with the other: the inclusion of some and the exclusion of others, the notion of equality among white people (though this too was not a reality) and the subjugation and enslavement of Black people, mulattoes, and Indians. Here is the paradox and the irony, here is a profound contradiction, built into the United States of America from its very beginning: These Virginians, whose ideas have exerted a very great influence on the conception of freedom in this country—and the embodiment of this in founding documents of this country—represented the interests of the slaveowning class among whites, yet they could declare that they were speaking in universal terms about freedom for all people. They could proclaim a republic, in opposition to a monarchy, they could extol the principles of a government consisting of representatives chosen by the people, and the freedoms associated with republicanism—and they could believe in this—even while practicing and defending slavery, as well as other forms of exploitation and oppression.

Photo: AP

The "pariah class" has been expanded over 200-plus years to include Latinos and other oppressed people. Today there is the mass incarceration of more than 2.3 million people, over half of whom are African-American and Latino.

As Bob Avakian says in BAsics 1:13: "No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."

On July 4, 2013, the relationship between the horrors the U.S. has wreaked on people all over the world and on those who catch hell every day in this country is highlighted by the determined hunger strike by prisoners in Guantánamo against torture and the nationwide hunger strike called to begin on July 8 by California prisoners who, like over 70,000 prisoners around the country, have been enduring similar torture in isolation cells for years and even decades.

Please send your letters addressing "What to the Prisoner Is Your Fourth of July?"quickly to:

Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
1321 N. Milwaukee #407
Chicago, IL 60622

PRLF volunteers will type the letters and forward them to Revolution so as many as possible can appear in the issue of Revolution people will be reading the week of Fourth of July.

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