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Philly socialists accuse prisons of censorship

Socialist magazine says penitentiary blocked delivery.
The Workers World Party – Philly Chapter. Credit: Provided

A Philadelphia socialist group is questioning how their magazine was denied entry into a state prison over language regarding "white supremacy."

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) has apologized for a letter that stated that an August 2017 issue of Worker's World newspaper was being "denied to all inmates" due to "articles that call for people to join the fight against white supremacy."

The DOC said in a letter released to media that the publication was only denied to one inmate, and the denial was "based on language in an article about white supremacy that was interpreted as a literal call to violence rather than an ideological statement."

Members of Philly-area socialists' chapters were skeptical of the new explanation.

"It is difficult to fathom how a statement that advocates opposing white supremacy can be interpreted as promotion of violence, particularly given that the overwhelming violence in our society, now and historically, here and abroad, is and has been fueled by notions of white supremacy," members of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Workers World Party said in a statement. "When viewed through the lens of history and current reality, a call to fight white supremacy is thus a demand for universal human dignity, to call for unification of people of conscience to move collectively toward justice and an equilibrium that values the lives of the black, brown and poor as much as it does the white and rich."

Workers World has had issues refused by the prisons before, including one that advocated for a May 1 general strike.

They appealed the censorship, demanding that issues be released or inmates be compensated $50 per confiscated issue. They also got the attention of other media outlets due to the original rejection letter, of which "many expressed initial disbeliefs that the DOC would be so blatant in their support for white supremacy until the DOC confirmed the authenticity of the letter," WW said.

The DOC said that letter was a "poorly written reason for denial" when they issued a response to the controversy to the Washington Post.

"The reason for the denial was grossly inaccurate," they said. "The Department of Corrections does not tolerate racism in any form and supports policies of equality. …  The reason had nothing to do with white supremacy other than what was interpreted as a call for a potential violent act."

Workers World is not currently banned in state prisons and can be mailed to inmates, the DOC said.