by Hans Bennett
Saturday Jul 12th, 2008
Claude Marks is the director of The Freedom Archives, a San
Francisco-based organization. Through the website and email
list-serves, it provides a valuable resource documenting both
revolutionary struggle and police state repression. Freedom Archives
also creates high quality audio and video documentaries, including
the recent video about the San Francisco Eight, titled "Legacy of Torture."
Legacy of Torture can be viewed online, as well as the previous films
Voices of Three Political Prisoners (featuring Nuh Washington, Jalil
Muntaqim and David Gilbert), Charisse Shumate: Fighting for Our
Lives, and Self Respect, Self Defense & Self Determination (featuring
Mabel Williams and Kathleen Cleaver, introduced by Angela Davis).
Hans Bennett: You are a former political prisoner. Please tell us
about your case.
Claude Marks: My co-defendant, Donna Willmott and I were indicted in
an escape conspiracy involving Puerto Rican Independentista, Oscar
Lopez, who was serving time in USP Leavenworth on charges of
seditious conspiracy. The case was part of an ongoing set-up by the
FBI, involved a snitch inside the prison, and clearly targeted the
Puerto Rican Independence movement and its supporters. We and a
collective of folks were underground until our negotiated surrender
in 1994, and the two of us served prison sentences.
HB: Why did you start the Freedom Archives?
CM: I have done radio and radical media since 1968 and been part of
creating radical news and political radio for many years. Myself and
many collaborators secured and maintained our programs which spanned
over 30 years. When I was in prison, I re-connected with many of
these people and we started discussing how valuable it would be to
preserve and re-purpose this radical political history and culture as
well as how to make it accessible. We founded the Freedom Archives
when I got out and have been building its reach and impact. We try to
produce a couple of documentary audio CDs and/or video documentaries
every year. We provide materials to others who are interested in this
history and culture. We also focus our efforts on working with
younger people in order to pass on this legacy. We say: "preserve the
past, illuminate the present, shape the future!"
HB: Your recent film "Legacy of Torture" documents the case of the
San Francisco 8.
CM: The prosecution of the SF 8 is about criminalizing the history of
the Black Liberation Movement, the Black Panther Party, and
delegitimizing resistance to racism and oppression. The government,
both state and federal, is keen on legitimizing torture and warning
activists today and into the future that the stakes are high if you
are committed to fighting for a more just and humane world. The case
itself rests on alleged confessions obtained under acknowledged
torture and has been thrown out previously on that basis.
The structures of capitalism and imperialism rest on hundreds of
years of land theft and genocide and sexual oppression. They will use
any and all means to maintain their hegemony. So this prosecution is
designed to discourage active dissent. Stemming from the old
COINTELPRO (Counter-intelligence program), this case signals a new
form of COINTELPRO.
COINTELPRO was exposed and condemned by congressional investigators
in the 1970s and was officially disbanded - but no agent or agency
was ever held accountable for the assassinations, false charges and
imprisonment of leaders, or the disorganization and neutralization of
movements and organizations that they unleashed. This prosecution is
part of today's COINTELPRO along with the stepped up "Green Scare"
prosecutions, the ongoing political use of grand juries (like the
current one targeting the Puerto Rican Independence movement), the
condoning of torture and indeterminate imprisonment in Guantanamo,
the extraordinary rendition programs and secret prisons, the mass
imprisonment of largely Black and Brown people, the ongoing
repressive presence of police in communities, and the denial of the
release of many political prisoners who have served decades inside cages.
It is our job to re-build a movement that will confront them and make
them look bad. They act with perceived impunity when they defy human
rights laws, scoff at the Geneva conventions, wage wars throughout
the world justified by their own lies, and belittle the violence and
human suffering that they are responsible for. The international
communities perceive this, but we have a special role to play within
these borders - to be part of holding the misrulers and torturers
responsible! Their arrogance and criminality and our organizing will
bring them down one day!
HB: What film are you working on now?
CM: A film called "COINTELPRO 101" that introduces people to the
history of government counter-intelligence while tying it to today's
reality - the world of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act. The
film will be an organizing tool, an opening of the door to those that
have no knowledge of this history.
We hope that people can use this video as a basis for re-opening
hearings on COINTELPRO and for holding people and agencies
accountable for state violence directed at people's movements. We
hope that we can build a stronger movement to win the release of
long-held political prisoners, those targeted by COINTELPRO who
remain captives of the government. We also want to give people hope
that we can work to transform the world and build a more humane society.
HB: Any film-makers you'd recommend?
CM: Costa Gavras and Ousmane Sembene.
HB: Any particular books?
CM: History, History, History! Not the BS in textbooks (see what AK
Press is putting out)!
HB: Anything else to add?
CM: I am optimistic. People, especially younger generations, know
that this monster is wrong. Our ability to work across generations is
important, but especially for us older folks, we need to give up the
reins and support those striving to live and create significant
challenges to the monster. We need to connect fighting against racial
and sexual oppression to saving the planet and fighting against US
hegemony. A brighter future is possible if we are willing to make
sacrifices. As Che always used to say: hasta la victoria siempre!
Hans Bennett (insubordination.blogspot.com), is an independent
multi-media journalist and co-founder of Journalists for Mumia, whose
website is Abu-Jamal-News.com