A farewell from one class-war prisoner to another

Raised fist in a broken chain next to the phrase
Poster from the Political Poster Workshop at the University of California, Berkeley.
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Freedom Fighter, Man of the People, Man for the People, and long-held political prisoner Thomas William Manning died on July 30 of a heart issue, at the federal penitentiary in Hazelton, West Virginia.

Tom — Tommy to his many comrades, family, friends, people that knew him — was a lifelong Revolutionary Freedom Fighter. From the early 1970s, Tom was a public activist and organizer and later a quite successful armed militant in the anti-imperialist underground. Captured in 1985, he and some of his comrades became known as the “Ohio7/UFF” (United Freedom Front) defendants.

After many trials Tom was hit with 58-plus 80-year sentences. He was then thrown into some of the worst, harshest prisons in the United States. Being in captivity did not stop Tom from continuing to work and struggle for justice, freedom, Human Rights and the socialist and environmentally sustainable future so many people and our planet so need. Tom struggled against abuses inside prisons and continued to work for the independence struggles in Puerto Rico and Ireland, the Palestinian struggle, and the then-ongoing anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. In fact, Tom was very likely one of the two last anti-apartheid activists still in captivity, anywhere in the world. Tom of course always continued to support the struggles of poor and working people in this country, the struggles of Black people, Native rights and land struggles, against police abuses and murders of civilians, people of color in particular.

Tom was an artist, an accomplished painter. His artwork truly captures some of Tom’s essence: his portrayal of the dignity of working people, children, women, the strength and determination of revolutionary fighters and leaders, and more. “For Love and Liberty,” a beautiful book of some of Tom’s art, was published in 2014.

Now Tom is gone. Our comrade, my comrade, who suffered years of medical neglect and medical abuse in the federal prison system, your struggle and suffering are now over, brother. But your example, your words, deeds, even your art, live on. You truly were a “Boston Irish Rebel,” a warrior, a person of compassion motivated by hope for the future and love for the common people.

We miss you and love you, comrade … and we will carry on the struggle!

Jaan Laaman is a political prisoner and the last member of the Ohio 7 still incarcerated for attacks carried out in the 1970s and 1980s on government and corporate targets.

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