How do we support Political Prisoners & Prisoners of War?
Making sure PP/POWs are a part of their own support is crucial and one of the greatest strengths of the Federation. We directly communicate with as many PP/POWs as we can. A large part of this communication is working together with them to find out what they need and how then we can practically provide this support. The Federation’s Prisoners’ Committee (PC), made up of 5 PP/POWs who have shown interest in our work and helping it grow, serves on the ABCF’s Federation Council. Members of the Prisoners’ Committee rotate yearly.
The ABCF also works to build alliances with the communities and the movements the prisoners participated in prior to their incarceration. Through these alliances, we work toward increasing the awareness about various liberation movements and the political prisoners associated with the movements. It is through these coalitions that we continue to ensure that imprisoned comrades are not forgotten by their movements or our own.
We also produce information about PP/POWs, the struggles they came from and the movements they represent. Booklets, fliers, video/audio tapes, T/sweatshirts and calendars are produced featuring these prisoners. This not only informs people about their existence and daily struggles behind bars (where the struggle continues), it heightens their visibility in our communities and funds from this merchandise are sent to them.
That’s another important responsibility of supporting PP/POWs. Raising material support is crucial. It is not uncommon to find that PP/POWs are left with no financial support to pay for phone calls or postage stamps to communicate with their families, friends, and supporters; not enough money to pay for a newspaper subscription or buy books; no funds to get proper footwear or summer/winter clothing. If we call these prisoners our comrades, we can not allow this to continue. And we don’t.
We raise these funds mainly through the Warchest Program. Through the Warchest, we collect monthly donations from our own ABC groups and monthly or one-time pledges from other ABC’s around the country, supportive groups, and individuals. With these funds, we send out monthly checks of up to $30 to those PP/POWs who are receiving the least financial support to our knowledge.
Still, financial support and communication are but two forms of direct support needed to demonstrate to their keepers PP/POWs have not been forgotten. As enemies of the state, they serve the hardest time. The government often attempts to lock them far away from their families, friends, and supporters. We must not allow them to be isolated. When geographically possible, we go into the prisons and visit PP/POWs. This also brings the harsh reality of political imprisonment much closer to supporters. It reminds us that PP/POWs are not only names and figures, pictures on our T-shirts and leaflets, but people with personalities and personal needs. And if we forget this or neglect to include it in our work to defend them, our foundations will soon become weak.