Behind Bars

Attica—1971 September 10 Thoughts

By Lynne Stewart

Where were you that fateful day? All of us who considered ourselves political were coming out of a decade of resistance and demands for change. We were all involved— whether it was housing, civil rights, or health, or schools—trying to bring about a better world for all, against great odds. We had seen Kent State and My Lai and Chicago and jailhouse rebellions. Assata, George and Jonathan Jackson, were as familiar to us as our own families—they were in fact our families! People who worked for the revolution we KNEW was coming, both in the underground—BLA (Black Liberation Army), Weather, and on the over ground on the streets. We believed it was inevitable—I still believe that but I have revised my timetable. (smile)

Then came the massacre at Attica and a new level of repression that many of us had not imagined. The brave heroes who captured Attica State prison that fateful day in September and took hostages for insurance, were ultimately defeated and lost their lives to the viciousness that underlies all things Capitalist and American. While the Attica Brothers thought they were negotiating in good faith with the State, and had all the liberal-radical celebrities on their team—Wicker, Badillo, Kunstler and others—the Plan of the Oppressor was always “Lock and Load.” Kill ’em All! Let us never forget that the Commander in Chief was a Rockefeller—one of a family who became filthy rich on the backs of working people and peasants as far away as Brazil. Pure exploitation—and they have only one answer when threatened and it’s not building a church on Riverside Drive! (Although that too plays a role.)

So, one lesson of Attica had been taught years earlier by the great Mexican Revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata—“Do not approach the government with hat in hand, but with rifle in fist!” We are still being lulled into the belief that if we can but find someone in government to “talk” to, we can win. We must learn that our enemies are more entrenched than ever and do not intend to yield to righteous demands or indeed ANY demands. Attica was led by men, some of whom were political by their own life’s dedication—Sam Melville from NYC’s own Lower East Side. Some had become political in the jails, and some joined and remained part of the resistance for life. Attica proved that the establishment must be more afraid of you than you are of them.

Attica was one of the major battles at the close of the ’60s, and when we lost we were hearing the footsteps of revolution fade into the background. The rest of the ’70s and into the ’80s saw the formation of small underground, clandestine groups that fought the military and the corporations but ultimately were crushed by the Government, and their members imprisoned.

What to do?? Are we still crushed by the exploiters who are now free to steal without challenge and then spend it on wars that are only important to protect their far-flung capitalist imperialist empire? Do we want a new society that can be rescued from drugs and alienation and TV, the movies, and Facebook? America has never fulfilled its potential. We must dare to struggle, dare to win!!

And on this day of remembering Attica—let us commit ourselves to the task of rescuing our political prisoners, POWs from the cruel prisons they have been captured in since before Attica! It is our most pressing task—if we cannot protect and free our comrades, we have no right to call ourselves revolutionaries—we are merely romantics looking back in sorrow at a “bad thing” that happened on a fall day in 1971.

When I remember pictures from the yard—I see the well packed slave ships and the trenches with the victims of My Lai, the piled up bodies of the Nazi concentration camps. Life is so cheap to them. Throw away people. It is only we who recognize and fight for the sanctity of all life; who can carry on from Attica and keep the forces of evil at bay. We must recognize what is important and how to strategize for VICTORY. I believe we can do it…we MUST do it.

Write to Lynne Stewart at:

Lynne Stewart #53504 – 054
Unit 2N, Federal Medical Center
Carswell, P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127

Write to Lynne Stewart Defense Committee at:
Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York 11216

For further information: 718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759