Friday, October 8, 2010

Love Struggle: a letter from Lynne Stewart

A couple days ago I found the most exciting treat in the day's mail: a letter from Lynne Stewart! A card, actually, but filled up on all three sides with her handwritten note. I'd written Lynne back in January and sure enough, as her husband Ralph Poynter had predicted when he told me that she replies to every letter she gets even if it takes her a while, she now replied. My letter, of course, was an expression of love, support, solidarity, and I'll be damned if her reply wasn't the same.

We don't know each other personally. As I'd noted when I wrote her, we've been in the same room at meetings and rallies, on the same picket lines, at the same demonstrations many times over the years, we've smiled, even hugged, and so I think she probably knows my face, would recognize me to say hello, but she doesn't know me by name--yet I feel such a kinship, a closeness with her, because of who she is and what she's done. A love. And her card to me was also filled with a love. Love of those of us on the outside who support her, of her comrades in the fight to fix the world, of all the workers and oppressed.

To cynics, or those deeply in thrall of bourgeois consciousness whether or not they realize it, perhaps all this talk of love cloys. They're missing the whole point of the revolutionary project. It's appropriate to dwell on the point today of all days. For today is the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Che Guevara, our beautiful brother who cared for nothing but human liberation and who said not long before he died:
At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.
Which brings us back to Lynne Stewart. Today is also her birthday. She's 71 today. Seventy-one years spent mostly defending the rights of the poor, the discriminated against, the brutalized, the radicals, the militants, the fighters for fairness and justice, against racism and war. During most of her long career, she was little known outside the movement. But the enemy class knew very well of her work, wanted badly to bring her down, and made their move a few years ago under the guise of the "war on terrorism." Now this devoted, brilliant, humble and beloved advocate for people's rights sits in prison.

This evening, supporters will gather outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan where she's incarcerated, and sing Happy Birthday while those inside join in serenading her. I can't go to stand and sing because I'm still supposed to be staying off my feet after a minor medical procedure, but as the fight to free her proceeds I'll be there, lending whatever strength I can to this dear dear sister.
Lynne signed her note to me LS. Not just her initials, these two letters stand for Love Struggle, her slogan. She's for love and she's for struggle. And she loves the struggle. She embodies, then, what Che was talking about.

One other thing. Lynne is a big reader. In her note to me, and also in a statement she released to an anti-war conference over the summer, she talked about Lisbeth Salander, the protagonist of Swedish author Stieg Laarson's bestselling trilogy of which the best known novel is the first, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Various folks have recommended these books to me but I've pooh-poohed their suggestion. Not because I'm a snob, I hope, not because I have anything against bestsellers; I've read more than a few myself. Only because I'm always disappointed in these murder thriller/detective/mystery novels. But now I've got Lynne Stewart's word that these books are worth reading. I'm putting them on my list.

Tear down the walls! Free Lynne Stewart, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier and all political prisoners!