[News] George Jackson

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 14 14:37:29 EST 2005

"Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation,
understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying
who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives
if you fail to act."

-George Jackson

George Jackson


I woke up this mornin',
There were tears in my bed.
They killed a man I really loved
Shot him through the head.
Lord, Lord,
They cut George Jackson down.
Lord, Lord,
They laid him in the ground.

Sent him off to prison
For a seventy-dollar robbery.
Closed the door behind him
And they threw away the key.
Lord, Lord, They cut George Jackson down.
Lord, Lord,
They laid him in the ground.

He wouldn't take shit from no one
He wouldn't bow down or kneel.
Authorities, they hated him
Because he was just too real.
Lord, Lord,
They cut George Jackson down.
Lord, Lord,
They laid him in the ground.

Prison guards, they cursed him
As they watched him from above
But they were frightened of his power
They were scared of his love.
Lord, Lord,
So they cut George Jackson down.
Lord, Lord,
They laid him in the ground.

Sometimes I think this whole world
Is one big prison yard.
Some of us are prisoners
The rest of us are guards.
Lord, Lord,
They cut George Jackson down.
Lord, Lord,
They laid him in the ground.

Copyright © 1971 Ram's Horn Music

An Interview with George Jackson (with Karen Wald)*

Karen Wald: George, could you comment on your conception of revolution?

George Jackson: The principal contradiction 
between the oppressor and oppressed can be 
reduced to the fact that the only way the 
oppressor can maintain his position is by 
fostering, nurturing, building, contempt for the 
oppressed. That thing gets out of hand after a 
while. It leads to excesses that we see and the 
excesses are growing within the totalitarian state here.

The excesses breed resistance; resistance is 
growing. The thing grows in a spiral. It can only 
end one way. The excesses lead to resistance, 
resistance leads to brutality, the brutality 
leads to more resistance, and finally the whole 
question will be resolved with either the 
uneconomic destruction of the oppressed, or the end of oppression.

These are the workings of revolution. It grows in 
spirals, confrontations, and I mean on all 
levels. The institutions of society have 
buttressed the establishment, so I mean all levels have to be assaulted.

Wald: How does the prison liberation movement fit 
into this? Is its importance over-exaggerated or contrived?

Jackson: We don't have to contrive any ... Look, 
the particular thing I'm involved in night now, 
the prison movement was started by Huey P. Newton 
and the Black Panther Party.* Huey and the rest 
of the comrades around the country. We're working 
with Erika [Huggins] and Bobby [Seale],* the 
prison movement in general, the movement to prove 
to the establishment that the concentration camp 
technique won't work on us. We don't have to 
contrive any importance to our particular 
movement. It's a very real, very-very real issue 
and I'm of the opinion that, right along with the 
old, familiar workers' movement, the prison 
movement is central to the process of revolution as a whole.

Wald: Many of the cadres of the revolutionary 
forces on the outside have been captured and 
imprisoned. Are you saying that even though 
they're in prison, these cadres can still 
function in a meaningful way for the revolution?

Jackson: Well, we're all familiar with the 
function of the prison as an institution serving 
the needs of the totalitarian state. We've got to 
destroy that function; the function has to be no 
longer viable, in the end. It's one of the 
strongest institutions supporting the 
totalitarian state. We have to destroy its 
effectiveness, and that's what the prison movement is all about.

What I'm saying is that they put us in these 
concentration camps here the same as they put 
people in tiger cages or “strategic hamlets” in 
Vietnam.* The idea is to isolate, eliminate, 
liquidate the dynamic sections of the overall 
movement, the protagonists of the movement. What 
we've got to do is prove this won't work. We've 
got to organize our resistance once we're inside, 
give them no peace, turn the prison into just 
another front of the struggle, tear it down from the inside. Understand?

Wald: But can such a battle be won?

Jackson: A good deal of this has to do with our 
ability to communicate to the people on the 
street. The nature of the function of the prison 
within the police state has to be continuously 
explained, elucidated to the people on the street 
because we can't fight alone in here.

Oh yeah, we can fight, but if we're isolated, if 
the state is successful in accomplishing that, 
the results are usually not constructive in terms 
of proving our point. We fight and we die, but 
that's not the point, although it may be 
admirable from some sort of purely moral point of view.

The point is, however, in the face of what we 
confront, to fight and win. That's the real 
objective: not just to make statements, no matter 
how noble, but to destroy the system that 
oppresses us. By any means available to us. And 
to do this, we must be connected, in contact and 
communication with those in struggle on the 
outside. We must be mutually supporting because 
we're all in this together. It's all one struggle at base.

Wald: Do you see any signs of progress on the inside, in prison?

Jackson: Yes, I do. Progress has certainly been 
made in terms of raising the consciousness of at 
least some sectors of the prison population. In 
part, that's due to the limited victories we've 
achieved over the past few years. They're token 
victories, perhaps, but things we can and must take advantage of.

For example, we've struggled hard around the idea 
of being able to communicate directly with people 
on the outside. At this point, any person on the 
street can correspond with any individual inside prison.
My suggestion is, now that we have the channels 
of education secured, at least temporarily, is 
that people on the outside should begin to 
bombard the prisons with newspapers, books, 
journals, clippings, anything of educational 
value to help politicize the comrades who are not yet relating.

And we, of course, must reciprocate by 
consistently sending out information concerning 
what's really going on in here. Incidentally, 
interviews like this go a long way in that 
direction. There should be much more of this sort of thing.

Wald: [Inquiring to whether the life of George's 
younger brother, Jonathan, was wasted when he was 
killed on August 7, 1970 in a courtroom shootout.]*

Jackson: Well, that's obviously a tough question 
for me because, emotionally, I very much wish my 
little brother was alive and well. But as to 
whether I think Jonathan's life may have been wasted? No, I don't.

I think the only mistake he made was thinking 
that all of the 200 pigs who were there would 
have, you know, some sort of concern for the life 
of the judge. Of course, they chose to kill the 
judge, and to risk killing the D.A. and the 
jurors, in order to get at Jonathan and the 
others. It may have been a technical error. But I 
doubt it, because I know Jonathan was very 
conversant with military ideas, and I'm sure it 
occurred to him that there was a possibility that 
at least one pig would shoot, and that if one 
shot, they' all shoot, and it’d be a massacre. Judge or no judge.

It was all a gigantic bluff, you know? Jonathan 
took a calculated risk. Some people say that 
makes him a fool. I say his was the sort of 
courage that cause men of his age to be awarded 
the Congressional Medal of Honor in somewhat 
different settings. The difference is that 
Jonathan understood very clearly who his real 
enemy was; the guy who gets the congressional 
medal usually doesn't. Now, who's the fool?

Personally, I bear his loss very badly. It's a 
great burden upon my soul. But I think it's 
imperative – we owe it to him – never to forget 
why he did what he did. And that was to stand as 
a symbol in front of the people – in front of me 
– and say in effect that we have both the 
capacity and the obligation to stand up, regardless of the consequences.

He was saying that if we all stand up, our 
collective power will destroy the forces that 
oppose us. Jonathan lived by these principles, he 
was true to them, he died by them. This is the 
most honorable thing imaginable. He achieved a 
certain deserved immortality insofar as he truly 
had the courage to die on his feet rather than 
live one moment on his knees. He stood as an 
example, a beacon to all of us, and I am in awe 
of him, even though he was my younger brother.

* This interview with George Jackson was conducted by Karen Wald.
* Editor’s Note: In May 1967 Bobby Seale and 
thirty other members of the Black Panther Party 
were arrested in Sacramento, California for 
protesting a proposed California bill which 
sought to outlaw the carrying of loaded guns in 
public. (The Party, originally the Black Panther 
Party for Self-Defense, supported the carrying of 
loaded guns in public as a means to discourage 
the widespread police brutality meted out upon 
African Americans.) This confrontation catapulted 
the Party to national attention and attracted 
scores of new members in California and 
throughout the country. In October 1967 Huey 
Newton was arrested and charged with murder in 
the death of a police officer. Eldridge Cleaver 
(a former convict and author of Soul on Ice) 
recruited Stokeley Carmichael, the former 
chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating 
Committee and a nationally known Black power 
leader, and together they built a national “Free 
Huey” movement on behalf of their accused 
comrade. In September 1968 Newton was found 
guilty of manslaughter. His conviction was later 
overturned in August 1970. In the subsequent 
years, Party chapters were opened in prisons 
across the nation, and led the move to politicize 
Black prisoners (such as in the case of - perhaps 
most notably - George Jackson himself). See 
Akinyele Omowale Umoja, “Set Our Warriors Free: 
The Legacy of the BPP and Political Prisoners” in 
Charles E. Jones, ed. The Black Panther Party 
(Reconsidered) (Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1998).
* Editor’s Note: At the time of this interview, 
Bobby Seale was Chairman of the Black Panther 
Party. In May 1969, he, Erica Huggins, and twelve 
members of the New Haven, Connecticut chapter of 
the BPP, the “New Haven 14”, were charged in the 
murder of an alleged police informant. The 
incarceration of these members forced the New 
Haven BPP to shut down. Although Seale and 
Huggins were eventually exonerated of the 
charges, several other New Haven defendants were 
convicted in the case. See Jones, ed. and Angela 
Y. Davis (with Bettina Aptheker), If They Come in 
the Morning: Voices of Resistance (New York: Third Press, 1971).
* Editor’s note: “Tiger cages” were the five feet 
by nine feet cement cells of the Con Son prison 
in South Vietnam. The cells, built by the French 
in the 1940s, were used to hold political 
prisoners in the 1960s. (Stanley I. Kuntler 
(Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War (New York: 
Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1996) 543-544.) Under 
South Vietnamese U.S. supported leader Ngo Dinh 
Diem, U.S. Special Forces instituted the 
“strategic hamlet” program in 1962. The program, 
based on a tactic used to suppress anti-colonial 
movement-building by the British in Malaya, 
relocated the South Vietnamese rural population 
into fortified, heavily policed hamlets in an 
attempt to cut off the spread of Communist 
support and destroy the infrastructure of the 
National Liberation Front. The program created 
deep, widespread resentment among the 
population.  (Gabriel Kolko, Anatomy of a War: 
Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern 
Historical Experience (New York: The New Press, 1994) 132-137.)
* Editor’s note: On August 7, 1970, Jonathan 
Jackson, George Jackson’s younger brother, age 
seventeen at the time, stormed into the Marin 
County Courthouse in California in an attempt to 
free Ruchell Cinque Magee, William Christmas, and 
James McClain. Jackson, the prisoners, the trial 
judge, the prosecutor, and several jurors (whom 
Jackson had taken hostage) were fired upon by 
police and prison guards while inside a van. 
Jackson, McClain, Christmas and the judge were 
killed, the prosecutor was paralyzed for life, 
and Magee and the jurors were wounded but 
survived.  See Bettina Aptheker, Morning Breaks: 
The Trial of Angela Davis (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999).

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