by Steve Xavier, originally published on Socialist Action, Feb 10, 2018
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is attempting to ban the Workers World (WW) newspaper for its coverage of the Florida prison strike. According to WW, “The immediate reason given in the DOC’s Jan. 29 letter is that ‘information contained on pages 1 and 6 calls for action that may advocate criminal activity within the correctional facility.’ The title of the offending article by J. White in the Jan. 18 Workers World issue was ‘Fla. prisoners launch strike against slave labor.’” (1)
Socialist Action rejects this egregious act of censorship and urges all of our readers to act to defend the First Amendment and the right of prisoners to read ideas that are critical of state repression and the capitalist system. Prisoners have the right to know how this system, which is based on white supremacy, functions. They have the right to know that millions of people are struggling to end police brutality, mass incarceration, and racism.
Workers World has the right to publish these ideas and to advocate for an end to oppression and exploitation. The principle of unconditional solidarity must be upheld with those targeted for state repression. “An injury to one is an injury to all” is more than a slogan; it is a bedrock principle of the workers’ movement.
Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections tried to ban multiple issues of Workers World. One issue was withheld because it advocated a May Day general strike. In another instance, the August 2017 issue of the newspaper was “denied to all inmates” due to the inclusion of “articles that call for people to join the fight against white supremacy.”
According to a DOC statement, they interpreted a call to fight white supremacy as a “literal call to violence.” In a statement at the time, the Philadelphia branch of the Workers World Party refuted this notion by saying, “It is difficult to fathom how a statement that advocates opposing white supremacy can be interpreted as promotion of violence, particularly given that the overwhelming violence in our society, now and historically, here and abroad, is and has been fueled by notions of white supremacy.”
In January, the New Jersey prisons lifted a ban on the book “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander at two facilities after a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union. “The New Jim Crow” details how mass incarceration has eroded the gains made during the Civil Rights era.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice bans more than 10,000 books, including the dangerous “It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas” but allows the Nazi bible, “Mein Kampf,” authored by Adolph Hitler. In December 2017, the socialist newsweekly The Militant won a victory after issues of the paper were held back from prisoners. The Militant reported, “The Oct. 30 issue was banned for an article reporting that the Literature Review Committee had reversed four and upheld three of seven previously impounded issues of the paper in Florida prisons.”
Mass pressure to support free expression is necessary. We can’t rely on the capitalist courts, politicians, or even the mainstream media to defend First Amendment rights. Socialist Action urges all of our readers to contact Department of Corrections, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050, as well as 717-728-2573 and . Demand that they cease attacks on Workers World and on press freedom. Demand the rights of prisoners to read and learn.