For backing Russia against U.S./NATO and protesting against black oppression, three members and supporters of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and the Uhuru Movement, APSP chairman Omali Yeshitela, Penny Joanne Hess and Jesse Nevel face five years in federal prison on spurious charges of conspiring to act as “agents” of a foreign power—Russia. They also face an additional five years for failing to register as “agents,” which for 81-year-old Yeshitela and 77-year-old Hess would be a death sentence. This racist witchhunt is a dangerous attack on the rights of free speech and association and a threat to labor, black people, socialists and anyone who opposes U.S. imperialism. It must be stopped. We call on all workers, civil rights, civil liberties and left organizations to demand: Drop all charges! Hands off Uhuru!
The prosecution’s “evidence” includes Yeshitela’s attendance, in 2015, at an international anti-globalization conference in Moscow; opposition to Russia’s ban from the 2016 Rio Olympics; publication of a “Petition to the United Nations on the Crime of Genocide Against African People” in the U.S.; and receipt of financial support for a U.S. speaking tour on reparations for black people—all allegedly under the direction of a Russian agent. To the Biden regime, these activities served to “sow discord” in the U.S. and to interfere “illegally” in U.S. elections. The administration claims Uhuru is spreading “Russian propaganda and disinformation,” which it acknowledges “does not refer to information that is necessarily false” but rather to facts that run counter to the interests of the U.S. ruling class.
Those are the interests of a dominant imperialist power in decline, conscious that it is sitting upon a volcano of discontent. No less than Trump and the Republicans, Biden & Co. are desperate to regiment the population behind U.S. designs abroad and quash class and social struggle at home. The Uhuru prosecution is part of the drive to resurrect long-dormant police-state measures from the McCarthy era and earlier to bolster the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state.
Upon taking office, Biden seized on the 6 January 2021 Capitol riot to revive prosecutions under the “seditious conspiracy” law. Although this law is wielded against the fascist Proud Boys and Oath Keepers today, its main targets always have been and will be workers and oppressed people engaged in struggle, e.g., striking government workers, trade unionists hot cargoing shipments of munitions to Ukraine and students occupying state university buildings. The rarely invoked Registration Act, under which Uhuru is being prosecuted, has its roots in the Espionage Act of 1917, which was used to send Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs to prison for speaking against the interimperialist First World War. Obama-Biden invoked this law more often than all prior administrations combined, including to punish those like Chelsea Manning who exposed the crimes of U.S. imperialism.
Since the FBI’s early-morning raid on Yeshitela’s home in St. Louis, Missouri, in summer 2022, the APSP has received statements of support from black nationalist, socialist and community organizations. Despite our vast political differences with Uhuru, we recognize the vital importance of stopping this witchhunt dead in its tracks through mass protest by the labor movement and left. Organizations fighting for black freedom and against capitalist exploitation have long been victims of government repression and cop terror. This is all the more reason to fight to open all police archives. Our campaign (see back page) seeks to unite the broadest possible forces to advance the struggle to defend black people against cop terror now, while exposing liberal misleaders, who chain black and workers struggle to a section of the ruling class. Class-struggle defense of Uhuru and all those in the sights of the U.S. imperialist rulers requires independence from the capitalist class and all its political parties.
The Partisan Defense Committee, a class-struggle legal and social defense organization associated with the SL, has contributed $1,000 to Uhuru’s legal defense. We urge others to contribute as well. Send contributions to Hands off Uhuru! Hands off Africa! Defense Campaign at opencollective.com/handsoffuhuru/donate.