Previous: Narodniki, Part 15
(xi) The Political Prisoners
The approach of revolution can be measured by the dynamic of the numbers of political prisoners. Vera Figner writes:
"While speaking to her (friend) about political exiles who went through the Archangel prison, which could accommodate up to 2000 people, I measured the numerical difference between the number of people who were involved in the revolutionary movement in the present time and in the former period. Thus, once, after student demonstrations in Petersburg, a thousand students were sent to the Archangel prison, according to her words. Formerly, in such cases, dozens were exiled".
Where do we see political prisoners in our times?
Every government carefully hides figures for its political prisoners. Reasons are given in the following:
“The U.S. government categorically denies it has political prisoners in its gulags. It does it primarily to cover up the nefarious, barbaric and even criminal acts and practices it carries out against us and other regular prisoners, and to do it with impunity. It uses the denial as its license to violate our most basic human rights by subjecting us to isolation and sensory deprivation regimens that are nothing less than cruel and unusual punishment. It uses it to hoodwink its own citizens to believe that it doesn’t criminalize dissenters or opponents of its wars and other imperialistic practices. It does it to perpetuate the lie that it is the ultimate defender of freedom, justice, democracy and human rights in the world. And it uses it at times to further criminalize the political prisoners and/or our families and to disconnect us from our families, communities, supporters and the just and noble causes we served and try to continue serving.”
-Oscar López Rivera, Statement to the American Studies Association conference in Puerto Rico,October 29, 2012, in Puerto Rico.
The U.S., Russia and South Africa are leading the world in the number of regular prisoners.
Main categories under which the U.S. prison population falls are: 1) violent crimes, 2) crimes against property, 3) drugs, 4) "other".
Most of the U.S. prison population are blacks (45% of the prison population, see here ). Most of the prisoners are there for reasons of poverty: petty theft, fighting pimps, abusive husbands, small-time drug pushers, etc.
There are both right wing and left wing political prisoners in the U.S. Thus, Tim McVeigh , who bombed the Oklahoma Federal Building, as a result of which over 140 people died, is one famous example of a right-winger executed by the Federal government. Left-wing political prisoners were involved in "the Black Liberation Movement, the Puerto Rican Independence Movement, the Native American Sovereignty movement, the anti-imperialist solidarity movement". Some more recent examples of left-wingers are those associated with cyber-warfare. One prominent example is Julian Assange , a founder of Wikileaks, who is hiding in an embassy of Ecuador in London. Another example is Chelsea Manning , now serving 35 years in U.S. for disclosing secret documents to Wikileaks.
In the former USSR, there are left and right wing political prisoners. Among the left political prisoners, we see people who were part of "the Odessa case" trial. This trial was about an armed gang in Ukraine and in Russia which tried to struggle for an independent territory on the part of Ukraine. Among them were Igor Danilov, Il'ya Romanov , Andrey Yakovenko, and Alexander Gerasimov. Among the right wing political prisoners, we find such famous names as Mikhail Khodorkovsky (a Russian millionaire), Yulia Timoshenko (former Ukrainian prime-minister) and Eduard Limonov, a leader of National Bolshevik Party. Fresh information about right and left-wing political prisoners in the former USSR can be found on site "Za Volu " (For Freedom).
We find political prisoners in China. Just as in the former USSR, there are left and right wing political prisoners. One of these of Yang Chunlin, born in 1954, a leader of "We don't need the Olympic games - give us the human rights!" campaign.
Egypt is on the brink of a civil war, provoked by the coup d'etat against its legally elected president in 2013, Mohamed Mursi of "Muslim Brotherhood". And hence we find a lot of right-wing and left-wing political prisoners there (read here ).
We find political prisoners in Asia, for example in Burma, the most famous of whom is Aung San Suu Kyi, a leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma.
There are many political prisoners in the jails of Latin America, such as Columbia, where there is an on-going civil war.
We find political prisoners in the Pacific ocean region, in countries such as Philippines, where there is a guerrilla war against the government.
Thus we see that the closer a country is to a civil war, the more government represses its citizens, the more political prisoners there are.