January 1998

RAIL teach-in on the Criminal Injustice System Saturday March 28 Washington DC
UC Santa Barbara RAIL fights the Amerikan lockdown: Prison Awareness Week a success
Prisoner Awareness Week: End the Amerikan Lockdown!
Activist forced to plea bargain
Censorship in Massachusetts prisons
Film Showing: Incident at Oglala
New Jersey Work Slave
Michigan DOC violates its own rules on prisoner labor
The Bureaucrats Verses Campus Organizing
Midwest Critic
RAIL crazy about prisons?
Some words on RAIL's choice of words


RAIL teach-in on the Criminal Injustice System Saturday March 28 Washington DC

Come to the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL) teach-in on the criminal injustice system the day following the Jericho march. The organizing work leading up to and during the Jericho '98 march will certainly help us to aid prisoners' struggles. We are hosting this teach-in to broadly educate and mobilize activists to expose the Amerikan Injustice system as the tool of national oppression and genocide that it is.

RAIL sees that it is the entire prison system in Amerika that is a tool of oppression. It is not only the tactics of COINTELPRO and the imprisonment of political leaders and revolutionaries which have been tools to perpetuate oppression. We are committed to building support for the estimated 150-200 prisoners incarcerated specifically for political beliefs and actions. Our work more broadly covers building support for all struggles against oppression as well. And in this, we see that the disproportionate imprisonment rate of oppressed nationals alone necessitates a broad struggle against the current Amerikan prison system in its totality. Our work to organize support for prisoners' struggles has been going on for over a decade and has steadily intensified both inside and outside the prisons.

We argue that all imprisonment is political because of current inequality in Amerikan society, poor representation in the court system, disproportionate convictions and sentence lengths handed down to the oppressed and because of conditions in prisons which extend sentences as opposed to helping people to become productive members of society.

The teach-in will include sessions on the nature of the criminal injustice system as well as various organizers providing information on local and continental campaigns to build support for national liberation struggles and prisoners struggles. A preliminary agenda will be available shortly. Contact us if you or your organization is interested in presenting at the teach-in.

For more information, e-mail us at ra[email protected] or write to RAIL, P.O. Box 3576, Ann Arbor, MI 48106.

UC Santa Barbara RAIL fights the Amerikan lockdown: Prison Awareness Week a success

SANTA BARBARA, CA -- The Prisons Awareness Week (PAW) organized by the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) and the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL) in November at the University of California in Santa Barbara(UCSB) succeeded in raising broad awareness about the plight of prisoners in general, the existence of prisoners incarcerated in the u.$. specifically because of political beliefs and actions, and the political and social causes behind the rapid increase in u.$. imprisonment rate. PAW also solidified the practical unity of anti-imperialist and progressive organizations and individuals at UCSB. The PAW represented a big step forward for the local RAIL chapter, in amount and quality of organization, and in visibility.

There were three main events during the PAW. MIM and RAIL sponsored a screening of a documentary of the Attica uprising and a panel discussion on the Amerikan injustice system. Another progressive mass organization, ASIAN (Asian Sisters - and Brothers -for Ideas in Action Now!), sponsored a showing of the film "Through the Wire," which exposes the conditions at the Lexington control unit. Lexington was internationally criticized as a torture unit designed to break explicitly political prisoners mentally and physically. Throughout the Prisons Awareness Week, MIM, RAIL and their allies distributed agitational flyers in the streets and on campus.

The panel discussion on the Amerikan injustice system was hailed by veteran activists and newcomers alike as informative and insightful. Four speakers - a representative of the All-African People's Revolutionary Party(AAPRP), two independent researchers and activists, and a MIM representative - addressed issues from the plight of explicitly political prisoners in the u.$. to the expansion of supermax prisons to the social role of prisons in the u.$. (Although MIM and the AAPRP differ on significant issues such as the importance of criticizing modern revisionism, MIM had much unity with the AAPRP's presentation on prisoners incarcerated for political beliefs and actions. MIM and the AAPRP representative agreed on the basic points listed below.) Different speakers independently emphasized several points: (1) Amerikan prisons have nothing to do with combating crime or reforming so-called criminals, (2) Amerikan prisons are used to control dissent and rebellion -- sometimes even imprisoning people for minor crimes or no crime at all before they have a chance to develop a rebellious consciousness, (3) Amerikan prisons are expanding to control more people, especially people from the oppressed nations, and (4) Amerikan prisons are expanding because they are a source of profits.

Several weeks after the PAW, a critic wrote in to the UCSB newspaper attacking the PAW, claiming that there were no longer any political prisoners in the u.$. The critic also hurled typical anti-Communist slanders at MIM. This is further evidence of the events success. As chairman Mao said, "It is a good thing to be attacked by the enemy." This letter shows that (1) the PAW did indeed reach a broad audience, and (2) the PAW must have had the correct perspective, since a local reactionary felt the need to attack its essence. The UCSB paper later printed a letter by a MIM representative which provided basic factual information to explain why there are political prisoners in the u.$. (See MIM Notes #152 for the critic's letter and MIM's response.)

Of course, raising awareness is an important first step, but it is still just a first step. It must be followed up by action and deeper organization. The success of the PAW gives RAIL, MIM, and other progressive forces at UCSB a headstart on future work. In particular, Santa Barbara RAIL plans to follow up on the PAW next semester by organizing a contingent to attend or organize a rally mirroring the main Jericho rally in Washington D.C. Santa Barbara RAIL also plans on collecting books for the Free Books for Prisoners program and leading several fund-raisers for the Free Books for Prisoners Program. If you are interested in helping out with these projects or similar events building awareness about and opposition to the Amerikan injustice system, contact your local RAIL or MIM representative!

Prisoner Awareness Week: End the Amerikan Lockdown!

The rate of imprisonment in the united $tates increased more than fourfold from 1972 to 1990, from 100 per 100,000 to 455 per 100,000. Currently the u.$. imprisons people at a higher rate than any other country. Black men are imprisoned at a rate seven times that of white men, and one in three Black men is either in prison, on parole, or on probation. Private prisons are a growth industry. And politicians try to out-do each other with their proposals for more cops, more arrests, tougher sentencing, and more prisons allegedly to combat crime.

But a closer look shows that more cops, more arrests, and more people in prison does not deter crime. Using u.$. government definitions and statistics, the violent crime rate in the u.$. has remained about the same since the 70s, despite a 600% increase in the budget for cops, courts, and prisons. Furthermore, the very definition of crime and the application of anti-crime laws are used selectively. Why is it a crime to possess a small amount of crack cocaine, while it is business as usual for the CIA to import cocaine by the ton? Why are sentences for powder cocaine mostly affecting whites lighter than the sentences for crack cocaine possession which almost entirely affect Blacks?

The answer is that the prison system in the u.$. is designed to maintain the systems of capitalist and national oppression. That is why poor people are disproportionately represented in prison. That is why people from oppressed nations like Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately represented in prison.

The fact that the u.$. prison system exists to maintain the political and economic status quo also explains why there are so many prisoners incarcerated in Amerikan gulags specifically for political beliefs and actions despite the government's denial of this fact. Why else did "Geronimo" JiJaga Pratt, a former Black Panther Party member, serve twenty-seven years on trumped-up murder charges (which were later overturned), while the average time served for murder is less than five years? Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and many others have won international recognition as political prisoners denied due process of law. Dozens of Puerto Rican revolutionaries linger in u.$. prisons because they struggled to end the exploitation of the Puerto Rican nation by the united states of imperialism.

The trend towards harsher and broader imprisonment and repression continues. MIM's recent projections based on u.$. government statistics show that if current trends in imprisonment continue, there will be almost 10 million prisoners in the u.s. by 2020. Blacks would be imprisoned at a rate of 9,517 per 100,000 if current trends continue that means almost 1 Black person out of every 10 would be in prison, not to mention on parole or on probation.(MIM Notes, May 1, 1997, p. 1)

This bleak future in not inevitable, but it will take the consistent efforts of activists within and outside of prisons to prevent it. This is why the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League initiated the Prisoner Awareness Week, and why RAIL encourages everybody who wants to learn more about the repression of prisoners in the u.$. and those who want to change it to come to the events scheduled for this week. Beyond this week, RAIL encourages all anti-prisons activists to get organized! RAIL will be sponsoring a contingent to the Jericho'98 march in Washington, D.C. RAIL will continue to rally for the freedom of all prisoners incarcerated for politial beliefs and actions and will continue to build support for all prisoners' struggles against oppression. RAIL also raises funds and books for the Maoist Internationalist Movement's Free Books for Prisoners Program. And of course, RAIL will continue to build public opinion for prisoner struggles and against the repressive prison system from the perspective that ultimately, the solution to the problems of the u.$. prison system require a political revolution to overturn the systems of oppression which prisons serve.

Activist forced to plea bargain

Richard Picariello, a long time political activist, was forced to plea bargain at his trial in mid-December after the cops came up with a number of "witnesses" who were willing to say that they saw exactly what the cops wanted them to see. Picariello was arrested in July for the crime of being in the student center at MIT and not being a student. The student center has stores that are open to the public, and Picariello was sitting in a chair outside the stores, apparently a crime if you don't look like a student. A cop out of uniform approached him, initiated a physical confrontation, and then when Picariello tried to defend himself, called for backup so that a gang of pigs could beat up Picariello. They charged Picariello with assault with a deadly weapon (the deadly weapon was Picariello's foot).

In spite of efforts by RAIL and other activists to help Picariello come up with witnesses who would testify about what really happened during the police assault, in the end the cops came up with many more witnesses (almost all of whom were police officers) willing to say whatever they needed to say to put Picariello in prison.

This case came to court just days after a big expose in the Boston Globe about police unwillingness to tell the truth when it might mean implicating one of their own. The Globe story focused on an undercover cop who was seriously beat up by another cop who mistook him for the bad guys (the undercover cop was Black). After several years of investigation no one has been able to get the pigs to tell the truth about this case even where the person who was hospitalized was another cop. Instead, every cop's story is filled with lies and contradictions and no one cares.

In fact, this practice of "testifying" is common. The Mollen Commission studied the problem of pigs lying on the stand in New York and concluded that many police officers "commit falsifications to serve what they perceive to be 'legitimate' law enforcement ends. In their view, regardless of the legality of the arrest, the defendant is in fact guilty and ought to be arrested. Officers reported a litany of manufactured tales." The Christopher Commission, which studied the LA Police Department, found the same problem.(1)

Picariello was in prison for many years for the political crime of attempting to overthrow the u.s. government. He never harmed another person, and he served his entire term, but the pigs are convinced that he is a criminal who must be put away for the safety of society. RAIL considers it a great asset to the revolutionary movement that people like Picariello continue to be activists and serve the people of the world even after so many years of torture by the criminal injustice system. But the pigs are correct that it is a threat to the safety of society to have revolutionaries outside of prison, because even though we are not waging an armed struggle right now, we are fighting to overthrow the very system that props up this decadent, patriarchal imperialist society.

Fortunately, because of the weakness of the pigs case and the clear contradictions, excessive use of force, and strong public pressure, the lawyers for the cops accepted a plea that did not put Picariello in prison. Although he was forced to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit, Picariello was given a 90 day suspended sentence with a year probation during which time the only stipulation is that he not be arrested. Picariello sees it as a "rape of my dignity" to have to admit to a crime he did not commit, but when we fight on the turf of the criminal injustice system the battle will never be fair. We have to continue to build public opinion around cases such as this one to expose the crimes of the system.

Notes: 1. Boston Globe, Dec. 11, 1997. p.A27.

Censorship in Massachusetts prisons

Prisoners across the country lack access to reading and other educational materials. Prison libraries are pitifully stocked if they have libraries at all. And there are very few outside resources to which prisoners can turn when they want books, magazines or newspapers. MIM runs a books for prisoners program which sends in copies of MIM Notes as well as political books and magazines. This program is financed entirely by donations and the demand from prisoners is far greater than MIM's supply of books, finances or labor power. Very often MIM Notes and books that we send in are censored. Sometimes we only find out about the censorship when a prisoner writes to ask why he did not receive the paper or book he requested. Sometimes this censorship is reported to us or to the prisoner (as is required by prison regulations) by the prison officials and the reasons given are explicitly political, and sometimes the prison officials try to hide behind bureaucratic rules to keep prisoners from receiving educational material.

One of the key aspects to a person's ability to educate him or her self is access to educational materials. Prisons in this country supposedly have the purpose of rehabilitating people, but they deny prisoners access to these educational materials. This censorship is not arbitrary, it is targeted against political publications and against prisoners who are politically organized. Sometimes we can win legal battles against this censorship and sometimes outside pressure will force the prison to obey their rules and allow in literature sent to prisoners. Below is the saga of censorship of MIM Notes to one prisoner in Massachusetts. This story is not unusual and it demonstrates the hypocrisy of the criminal injustice system.

Back in 1995 MIM received a letter from the Deputy Superintendent of Operations at the Old Colony Correctional Center prison in Bridgewater Massachusetts. This letter stated that MIM Notes was being rejected because it "poses a threat to security and good order of the institution." The reasons given:

"Commonwealth of Massachusetts Inmate Mail Regulation 481.15 (1) (e) Depicts, describes or encourages activities that may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption.

"Commonwealth of Massachusetts Inmate Mail Regulation 481.15 (1) (f) Encourages, facilitates or instructs in the commission of criminal activity."

The inmate who had been sent the publication received another notification of censorship which stated that the publication "has gang related material in it."

The inmate, Anthony-Sekou Saia, was unusual only in that he has trained himself in the law so that he could fight legal battles like this one which infringe on his so-called rights. He challenged the censorship insisting that the prison follow its own rules and allow him to review the publication. Upon review he wrote a letter detailing the article about gangs, pointing out that this article was a political commentary on the police repression of youth. The prison rejected this appeal without further explanation. The inmate wrote to the Superintendent of the Prison:

"Be advised that this publication was rejected under the banner of threat to the security of the facility, however, after I spoke to your right hand gestapo Al Saucier he indicated to me, as I stated in the appeal, that because MIM publication used the word 'pig(s)', which he claimed referred to state and government officials, as well as the fact that it was a Communist publication who believes in the overthrow of the current government, that was the reason it was rejected and would not be allowed. The fact of the matter is the word pig(s) were properly used and for your information allow me to give you a proper definition as I see it:

"A pig is of course a filthy animal that wallows in mud and the like and will eat all sorts of filth, so when that word is applied to people it represents those people are filthy in their thoughts and actions, and further, a pig (in that context) is usually one who uses his/her power or authority to hold others down, and that's putting it in a few words.

"In closing, I hope you don't take offense when I say that because my MIM publication was rejected for using the word pig(s) which is in direct violation of your very own policy (103 CMR 481.15 (2) (a): The Deputy Superintendent may not reject a publication solely because its content is religious, philosophical, political, social or sexual or because its content is unpopular or repugnant."), your actions are exactly fitting the definition of pig. So, since the term fits I have no other choice than to say you certainly are one defiant pig because you've got the balls of a brass monkey in simply ignoring your own written policy which was handed down by the courts decades and decades ago, so ride on with your baaad pig self and I shall see you at the courthouse door."

Anthony-Sekou Saia filed a suit in federal court in 1996 challenging this illegal censorship of MIM Notes. Another inmate wrote to us in January of 1997:

"In 1994 Sekou was transferred to the corrupt Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Sekou is more knowledgeable than I of the various political struggles going on in this country and he began to receive MIM Notes, that was until corrupt officials here in Massachusetts arbitrarily stopped him from receiving any MIM publications. The fight against this blatant censorship came to my attention when Sekou and I discussed the matter at length in 1995. Ever since May of 1995 I have been working the legal side of the censorship issue. I have, in concert with Sekou, who did much of the brilliant legwork on the administrative side of the censorship issue, completed a motion for summary judgment and a memorandum of law that is sure to make the corrupt prisoncrats of Old Colony Corruption Center squeal in pain!

"The total arrogance of the defendant prisoncrats is quite complete here in this New England state. Sekou is going to break ground with this motion and I am hoping that you will do all that is possible to support him in his efforts."

Saia followed up his court case with a motion for summary judgment that was submitted to the court on January 3, 1997. The defendants which included all the involved prison bureaucrats, filed a motion to dismiss the case. On October 3 a judge ordered the defendants to provide copies of the censored items of mail and allowed the case to proceed. This court case has not yet been settled.

A few copies of MIM Notes did get in to Saia over the course of the 3 years of this battle, but more often than not the paper was censored. On ?? 1997 Saia was transferred to Walpole prison (for political reasons?). And Walpole continued the tradition of censoring MIM Notes for Anthony-Sekou Saia. In response to his request that we send copies of back issues that had been censored for his use in the court case, we sent in a priority mail pack of old issues of MIM Notes. On August 12, 1997 Saia received a notice saying that the papers sent were rejected because "newspapers not from publisher." Sergeant MacKinnon wrote a note "notice a Boston post mark and an LA return address" implying that this proved that the papers were somehow illegal.

MIM responded to this challenge by writing a letter verifying that the newspapers did come from the publisher: MIM is the publisher of MIM Notes and MIM has several distributors, including one here in Boston. Several back and forth letters followed in which MIM demanded that the prison cease its censorship and the prisoncrats squirmed and attempted to justify their censorship based on the fact that they could not "verify your company". On October 23, 1997, prison Sgt. MacKinnon wrote the following:

"Let this letter serve as notice that inmate Anthony Saia will not be allowed to retain items sent to him from you. Questionable items sent to this institution are only delivered to an inmate at the discretion of the property sergeant, via the superintendent. I cannot verify your company as I cannot obtain a phone number, nor does a post office box allow me the opportunity to locate any information."

In response we wrote the following:

"You stated that you cannot 'verify your company.' We would like to know what is required for you to verify our company. What regulation states that a company must be 'verified' by the property department before it can send in literature to inmates? What criteria are used to 'verify' a company? Below you will find our phone number, e-mail number and address. Since the only criteria you offered us was the lack of a phone number, we will assume that this satisfies your requirement.

"Our organization produces literature which we send in free to prisoners. We are as legitimate an organization as any and your so-called policy that you must 'verify' a company in order to allow literature in to prisoners is nothing more than an excuse to prevent Anthony Saia from receiving literature from us. There is no basis for this in the Massachusetts CMR.

"As was stated in Anthony Saia's motion for summary judgment (1-3-97, Civil ac. No: 96-10272-MLW) 'Once an agency has seen fit to promulgate regulations, it must comply with those regulations. Kenny v. Commissioner of Correction, 393 Mass. 28 (1984), and individuals within the agency may not arbitrarily disregard agency regulations to the prejudice of a party's rights. DaLomba's Case, 352 Mass. 598, 603 (1967).' Your regulations regarding the receipt of publications in all Massachusetts correctional institutions are covered by 103 CMR 481, Inmate Mail. Court precedent does not allow for censoring of incoming mail unless it is 'detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution or if it might facilitate criminal activity. '(Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401 (1989)). Inability to ascertain the 'validity' of an organization is NOT legitimate cause for censorship of mail.

"Should you continue to refuse to allow our literature in to Anthony Saia we will not hesitate to take this to court. Be warned that we will be seeking compensation for time wasted as well as literature confiscated should we be forced to take this further."

MIM began ccing the superintendent of Walpole, Ronald Duval, on our protest letters and we received the following response on October 30, 1997 from him:

"I am writing in response to your recent correspondence concerning the denial of literature that you sent to inmate Anthony Saia.

"The Property Department is responsible to ensure that materials entering this institution meet the criteria set in the Property Policy. In accordance with policy, 'an inmate may possess a maximum of ten (10) books, magazines and newspapers and all publications must come directly from the publisher'. The newspapers you sent Mr. Saia were sent in 'bulk' and we cannot confirm that you are a publisher. Every attempt has been made to verify the legitimacy of your company to no avail.

"I concur with Sgt. MacKinnon's discretion in this matter. The newspapers are deemed contraband and will not be allowed into this institution. In addition, this facility will not take responsibility in compensating you for your time or for the cost of said literature. Mr. Saia has the opportunity to have these materials returned to you at his cost.

"I will consider this matter closed."

We protested that the attempts to verify the existence of our organization only involved soliciting the opinions of his mail room staff in this blatantly political censorship of our publications. On November 9 we wrote:

"Your letter of October 30, 1997 continues this charade of running around in circles trying to come up with a reason to deny Anthony Saia literature from MIM Distributors. You state that 'The newspapers you sent Mr. Saia were sent in "'bulk'" and we cannot confirm that you are a publisher. Every attempt has been made to verify the legitimacy of your company, to no avail.'

"In fact, if we look back at the rejection notice you sent to Mr. Saia, the only complaint is 'Newspapers not from publisher.' The mail was sent in a priority mail envelop and included several copies of our publication requested by Mr. Saia. Nowhere does the regulation state that publications can not be sent 'in bulk' or that multiple copies of a publication can not be sent in the same envelope. Further you have made NO attempt to verify that our company is legitimate. Your rejection of these publications was followed by NO research into our organization. We have offered you contact information which includes a phone number, an address and e-mail.

"You have given us no indication of what steps you take to confirm the legitimacy of a publisher and as far as we can tell this includes only soliciting the opinion of your mailroom staff. This is not at all in accordance with your policy.

"We demand that you send us a list of the measures you have taken to verify the legitimacy of our company 'to no avail.' We have made every attempt to satisfy your request in this regard and you have sidestepped and disregarded the law and even your own institution's regulations at every turn. We will not tolerate this continued waste of our company's time and resources. As you can see from the enclosed letter, we have taken this matter to Commissioner Maloney. The state is liable for the illegal actions of its institutions and should you continue these illegal practices we will expect Commissioner Maloney to resolve the matter or expect to join the corrections personnel as a defendant in the case currently in court for illegal censorship of Mr. Saia's mail."

Duval responded on November 14:

"I am responding to your most recent correspondence regarding the denial of literature you forwarded to inmate Anthony Saia and my decision stands.

"Your assertion that I only solicited the opinion of my mailroom staff is incorrect. My office attempted to verify the legitimacy of your company via the telephone directory, telephone operator service and the Better Business Bureau. In addition, the correspondence that you have written is not on business letterhead.

"The package in question was not denied based on censorship of the material, but on the facts noted in my most recent correspondence and I will consider this matter closed."

We responded to Superintendent Duval on November 17:

"This letter is in response to your letter of November 14th regarding your attempts to verify the legitimacy of our company. Below we have enclosed the standards of membership for the Better Business Bureau for your information. You will note that this is a membership organization to which companies must apply and pay a fee in order to join. From this information alone you should be able to surmise that many businesses throughout the country are not members and this in no way implies that these businesses are less legitimate. We have no desire to pay for membership in an organization that will not serve our work in any way.

"You also stated that you checked on our company via the telephone directory and telephone operator service. Lest anyone be misled: these two services are the same and should provide the same information. If an organization maintains an unlisted phone number neither of these services will provide information on that organization. Since we sent you our phone number in previous letters, you clearly are aware that we have a phone. This number is in fact unlisted because we are a volunteer organization with no income that is not soliciting business or seeking attention through the phone system. Having an unlisted phone number does not make a business any less legitimate.

"Finally, you stated that the correspondence that we have written was not on business letterhead. Surely you are not so foolish to believe that letterhead paper is only produced by "legitimate" organizations? We did not consider correspondence with a prison superintendent who was refusing to allow us to send in free literature to an inmate because of some bogus claim about the legitimacy of our organization a reason to use our organization letterhead. But since you state that this will convince you of our legitimacy we will send this letter to you on letterhead.

"You have yet to clarify your definition of a legitimate business and so we continue to insist that you provide us with this information along with the CMR that states that only 'legitimate' businesses may send literature to prisoners. Your arbitrary decision that only businesses listed with the BBB or having listed phone numbers may send in literature is clearly an illegal violation of what limited rights prisoners in the state of Massachusetts retain with regards to mail censorship not to mention a disagreement with the judges and prison lawyers who have already consider MIM Distributors a legitimate organization.

"We are enclosing this information in the hopes that you will learn from this mistaken assumption that all businesses will be members of the BBB and have listed phone numbers in your future investigations of the legitimacy of organizations that wish to send free literature in to your inmates. In the mean time we expect you to give Anthony Saia the literature that your prison is holding now that we have verified our legitimacy with this letter."

On November 1st we took this matter to the commissioner of corrections in Massachusetts, Commissioner Maloney and sent him copies of all relevant correspondence. We informed him that failure to mandate that his employees resolve this matter and cease censorship would lead to his name being added to the list of defendants on the court case challenging the censorship. On December 2 we received the following response from James Bender, the Assistant Deputy Commissioner:

"I have been referred your letter to Commissioner Maloney and the issue you continue to raise with regard to MIM Notes.

"As you have been already generally advised, Massachusetts Regulations provide that all publications must come directly from the publisher. 103CMR403.10(7)(d). MIM Notes is a publication but your organization, as it's name so clearly states, is a distributor and not a publisher. Therefore, MIM Notes will not be accepted as a bulk mailed publication at MCI-Cedar Junction or any other secure facility and it will not be given the deference accorded a publication.

"Should you wish to send an inmate an issue of this publication, however, you may do so by enclosing an issue in ordinary mail and it will be scrutinized accordingly."

So now we've come full circle. The prison does not care if MIM is a "legitimate" organization or not. They are just looking for ways to keep prisoners from receiving literature that might help educate them. We will continue this battle, challenging the definition of a publisher and demanding that each issue of MIM Notes be reviewed based on the promise from the Assistant Deputy Commissioner that they will be reviewed and then sent on to inmates if approved.

In Massachusetts RAIL is taking up the battle of censorship by taking this struggle to the streets. We are asking individuals and organizations to endorse a petition opposing the censorship and as we continue the legal battle, we will build public pressure on the prison administrators and the commissioner of corrections. We encourage all readers to get involved in this fight against censorship in their own states. If you want to know which prisons are censoring MIM Notes or other political literature in your state, write to RAIL and we will get you all the information you need to start building the protests in your area.

Film Showing: Incident at Oglala

On 20 November, Ann Arbor RAIL hosted a showing of the documentary ITAL Incident at Oglala END, Michael Apted's movie about the 1973 FBI siege at Wounded Knee on Oglala Lakota territory, and how the FBI framed Leonard Peltier on charges of killing two Federal Agents. These two FBI men were killed one night when they drove onto the Jumping Bull compound on the Oglala reservation, where American Indian Movement (AIM) members were camped to protect the nation from ongoing violence. The film was well-attended by people who were interested in examining blatant and illegal FBI violence against First Nations trying to live peacefully on their rightful land, and the open theft of First Nation land by white Amerika.

ITAL Incident at Oglala END details the events of the siege at Wounded Knee, beginning with a history of how Dick Wilson's GOON Squads (the so-called Guardians of the Oglala Nation) terrorized the Oglala nation in the name of compradorism. Those people on the reservation who were not willing to follow Dick Wilson called on the American Indian Movement (AIM) to come in and protect them from harassment, brutality and murder by the GOONs.

The two FBI agents killed at Pine Ridge "were committing suicide," in the words of a fellow agent, by driving onto Nation territory unannounced and at night as they did. Any agent who was familiar with the situation in Lakota territory at that time would have known that the people on the reservation who were not friendly with Wilson's crowd lived in constant fear for their lives. They had been through long months of terror and justifiably believed that anyone coming onto their land without warning was coming to hurt or kill them.

RAIL introduced the film with a summary of the history of settler Amerika's terrorizing of the Oglala nation. The book ITAL Agents of Repression: The FBI's War on the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement END, which MIM distributes for $16, details the white nation's lust for the mineral-rich Black Hills territory and describes the Nineteenth Century siege at Wounded Knee in which bandits in military uniforms massacred many Lakotas. An important aspect of AIM's work was service to the people, what Leonard Peltier describes in the film as "part of the warrior's responsibilities," to the nation. AIM members built community gardens, cleaned the community spaces, helped to build and repair houses when necessary and generally worked on tasks that the Oglalas needed them to do. AIM's organizing principles, developed in part on the model of the Black Panther Party (BPP), instructed its members to take care of the First Nation people's basic needs. The purpose of the AIM is to build and strengthen the First Nations in the struggle for survival and self-determination.

One person attending the film took up a large part of the discussion before and after the film trying to get RAIL to talk about government conspiracies and how the space program in combination with international capital is controlling our lives. While RAIL considers conspiracy theories like this one to be baseless in terms of history and economy, it is important to note that discussions about large government schemes, like the FBI's Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) which directed the siege at Oglala and other attacks on AIM and the Black Panther Party, will often attract theorists like this one.

RAIL believes it is much more important to focus activists' attention on the real, provable, and combatable crimes of the Amerikan government against the oppressed. ITAL Incident at Oglala END is an important film for anti-imperialists to see because it demonstrates in cold detail the extent to which U.$. imperialism will go to oppose its victims' justified rebellion. Other participants in the discussion included an anarchist who was happy to see RAIL doing anti-imperialist work in which anarchists could participate. RAIL is open to working with all people who genuinely oppose imperialist domination of oppressed nations. If you are interested in working with us to expose the crimes of imperialism and to publicize your opposition, contact RAIL in your area, or write to the address on p. 2 of RAIL Notes.

New Jersey Work Slave

This comrade in New Jersey accepted a commitment to a "drug-rehabilitation" program in lieu of jail time. Some of the prisoners at this facility aren't even allowed to receive mail. We aren't sure if the literature we are sending through various means--much of it actually paid for by these prisoners--is successfully making it into this facility. However, the letter speaks to the resourcefulness and dedication of our incarcerated comrades to continue the struggle because it is correct, not because it is easy or fun. The comrade writes:

The [facility] RAIL network is glady responding to the call for submissions issued in RAIL Notes. We, too, feel that the independent publishing of RAIL Notes would be a great step forward for the revolutionary movement. [This facility] is part of what we see as the U.$ judicial system's "kinder, gentler" exploitation of the masses. Ostensibly a "work therapy" program for those with drug addictions, the reality is that it is a minimum security work-camp. Of its approximately 210 residents, only 5 are volunteer. The rest are either court-stipulated (given a choice between prison/jail or a program) or MAP (early release from prison). In exchange for the subjective vision of "more freedom" (though, I am told minimum security prisoners enjoy more freedoms), residents receive the objective conditions of working longer hours in harsher conditions for no pay, fulfilling contracts that the program makes with various outlying counties and municipalities. Programs like this allow the government to exploit the people more while presenting the image of helping them.

Luckily, many of those coming in from prison are politically conscious to varying degrees. This includes a few who were in Trenton State Prison with [a well known political prisoner]. Most of these are members of the oppressed nations, and as such, much of our political education and agitation revolves around the issue of reparations and past movements of the oppressed nations. We have a study course of BPP literature available to all interested parties. Much of our literature was donated by the Paterson Anarchist Collective and reproduced in-house. We have several fundamental ideological disagreements with PAC, but thank them for their support and look forward to cooperating on mutual goals. Support from the outside is much appreciated due to the repression we are receiving here. Despite having associates now in most positions of authority here, staff still censors all incoming political mail, and the known RC here is subject to numerous searches of his belongings to confiscate what literature has been smuggled in. The other associates here are all "undercover" so to speak, to avoid similar treatment.

While organizing within the program, we are fully aware that the struggle only truly begins when we are on the streets. However, we are using this time to fortify ourselves politically through education, criticism, and self-criticism. I know it is not much, but enclosed is a book of stamps. It is all we can spare, and we are not allowed to have cash.

In struggle,

--A RAIL Comrade

Michigan DOC violates its own rules on prisoner labor by Ann Arbor RAIL

We celebrated May Day, 1997 by honoring our comrades in prison. When they have jobs, most of these comrades are working in slave conditions for the Michigan State Industries (MSI), the manufacturing company for the Department of Kkkorrections. RAIL honored these prisoners by producing a fact sheet about their labor conditions, and holding a presentation and discussion about labor in prisons.

RAIL has been sending our fact sheet out to comrades in prison since May in the hopes that prisoners would correct or add to it. One thing we've found is that most prisoners in Michigan are not even fortunate enough to have jobs. But recently we received a big correction from one prisoner, showing that at least for one prison, the MDOC lies about how much it pays prisoners.

This comrade writes that for an eight-hour day of unskilled labor "such as a janitor, or recreation worker [pay] is between 71 cents and $1.35 per day. About the same as the slaves to big corporations in the Third World receive to make Nike shoes or Addidas volleyballs... Skilled jobs such as electrician or legal clerk can make up to $3.00 per day, but very few do."

Using booklets and annual reports published by the DOC and MSI, RAIL's fact sheet cited in part that unskilled MSI farm workers were paid $1.62 per hour in 1992, and that specialist farm workers could be paid as much as $4.94 per hour to start. These numbers sounded a little high to RAIL; it's been clear for years that prisoners in Amerika's gulags work, legally, as slaves. But this was the Official Information.

Our fact sheet also pointed out that in factories, unskilled prisoner labor goes for 24 cents an hour, with one penny raises given to prisoners after six months on the job. This seemed a little more in line with the net profit of $973,997,000 reported by MSI. Apparently, even one quarter per hour is too much for MSI to pay Michigan prisoner workers.

RAIL puts the focus on prisoner labor because we follow MIM's line that prisons are the most fascistic element of the Amerikan society and economy.(ITAL MIM Theory 11: Amerikkkan Prisons on Trial END, available from MIM for $6) Prisoners are one of the more revolutionary elements in the U.$. population because they live daily under imperialism's most brutal forms of repression. While technically many other people work in Amerika, the majority of these workers comprise what MIM calls the Labor Aristocracy. These white workers produce very little and live off of subsides from Third World Exploitation. Bonuses like extra access to resources, better pay, and pension plans make this white working class a non-exploited, non-revolutionary group in society. Right now in Amerika only the oppressed nations, Black, Latino and First Nation, are objectively revolutionary because they don't benefit from the system. This is also why they are disproportionately imprisoned as well. Though we don't see the white oppressor as a group as revolutionary, we do work to involve all individuals on the outside in the struggle against oppression through our work with prisoners and around prisons issues.

If you are in prison and have more information we should be publishing about prison conditions, please write to us. If you are not in prison but agree with RAIL that these vile conditions and violations of prisoners' rights must be opposed, please write to us and get involved. The strength of the people united against oppression is the weapon which must topple imperialism, join us in struggle!

The Bureaucrats Verses Campus Organizing

Starting a RAIL school group on campus is a great way to make students aware of and get students involved in radical political activism. Many college students tend to have spare time. They are in a special position because they have not yet bought into the capitalist, imperialist system of the United Snakes. Many college students are experiencing life outside of their parents house for the first time, so they are more likely to have some eye-opening experiences which could lead to activism. However, organizing on campus is not made easy.

It seems that the administrations of many schools have come to realize the potential for political activism on campus. These administrations have made organizing difficult by creating a thick cloud of bureaucracy. Since the turbulence in schools across the country in the sixties and its wave of student activism, many student life departments have grown into red tape dispensers. In the sixties we saw the police being called in to "subdue" students who were gathering in peaceful protests. Since then the administrations of many colleges have decided on a preventative method against student activism called bureaucracy.

To start a new school group at UMass Boston, one is first given a pile of paper work. Buried within this pile is a mandatory officers list and a petition for fifteen signatures to show interest in the group. These mandatory forms must be filled out before the group can be activated. The catch is that one cannot advertise or hold a meeting until the group is official. Any flyers put up on any bulletin board without the official UMass stamp on it will be torn down as soon as it's discovered. How are people to be sure they are interested in the group without a preliminary meeting of some sort? How are officers to be democratically voted in? The officers list requires a democratic election of officers by the members of this not yet existing group.

Even if this paperwork is somehow completed and turned in by the deadline, paperwork tends to get lost easily. Both the officers list and budget request form were lost for RAIL'S UMass Boston group, after having been completed and turned in on time. Perhaps this has something to do with the right-wing senate at UMass Boston. There was also a mandatory meeting RAIL was not informed of. We were not informed that RAIL was to have our own mailbox and that someone must check it daily for important notices. This meeting was later made up for by our attendance at a make-up meeting, but the whole incident caused the UMass Boston RAIL group to remain inactive and unofficial for an extra two weeks.

Another obstacle for organizing at this campus has been the flyering procedure. One must get the proper form from the student life office on the fourth floor. Then go to the first floor where the copying room is. once the copies are made, one must proceed back up to the fourth floor student life center and stamp each flyer. The maximum flyers allowed per event is sixty. Often these flyers will get ripped down before the day of the event, even with all the official bureaucracy being obeyed.

This bureaucracy is set up to make forming difficult. RAIL realizes that colleges and universities are still under the control of the imperialist bourgeoisie, but we also know the power that potentially revolutionary students hold. Instead of letting the imperialist control youth power, we urge groups to combat this explicit censoring of youth voice and power. Support and work with RAIL in an Anti-Imperialist movement to subvert bourgeois bureaucracy in efforts to build support for genuine international self-determination of all nations.

To find out about future events, subscribe to the Boston area Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL) e-mail event list. Send a message to [email protected] and type subscribe boston-rail in the body of the message.


Midwest Critic

The following are exerts from letter sent by a critic in the Midwest

...I'm sorry, but I don't think that police officers are picking people off the street (Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans or otherwise) and putting them in prisons. Are you suggesting that all 58% of Blacks in Michigan prisons are innocent? You and I both know that is not the case.

...Perhaps we, as human beings, could focus on how to bring everyone together as opposed to focusing so much on the negative. I also live by the rule that says: "As long as one person is oppressed, everyone is oppressed", so I see your efforts. I am just one person with an opinion. I hope you don't take this as an attack, but rather as a thought. ...Perhaps if I came to one of your movies, I would think differently or if I was directly influenced by a case of injustice.

RAIL responds:

Thanks for writing, we're always glad when someone who reads our literature will come forward with a criticism so that we can discuss and learn from each other.

No, we are not suggesting that everyone in prison is innocent, in fact we are asking the question in an entirely different way. RAIL's and MIM's work focuses much more on the question of who has authority to imprison so-called criminals, rather than on whether individuals are really guilty of knocking over a candy store, writing bad checks, having a bag of pot, etc. We agree that it's a bad thing when the people steal from each other or are violent with each other (although it's important to point out that close to 70% of Michigan prisoners are locked up for non-violent crimes), our question is why do people do these things? And what is the best way to approach the reasons why people steal and are violent?

RAIL, the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League, believes that imperialism is at the root of what is known as crime in this society. The current issue of RAIL Notes (Oct. 1997), which you can pick up for free around campus, gives some examples of national inequalities among people -- like how Geronimo Pratt was framed on murder charges as a result of his work as a leader of the Black Panther Party. There is another article in RAIL Notes about the recent incidents at the Nectarine Ballroom on Liberty street, in which bouncers at that club discriminated against oppressed nation students who were trying to get into the club. RAIL believes that these differences and instances of discrimination are systematic, and that they are part of the same system which has Blacks making up more than 20 percent of the poorest families in this country, while Blacks are only 13 percent of the general U.$. population.

RAIL's analysis of all of this starts with the fact that if life were "fair" and if conditions were applied evenly, then the percentage of poor Blacks would not be greater than the percentage of Blacks in the general population. Similarly, while we are not interested in saying who in prison is "guilty" and who is not, how could it be possible for Blacks to justifiably be close to 60 percent of the prison population and less than 14 percent of the general population? Guilty or not, something is fishy here. Unless you think that Blacks are so disproportionately more criminal than whites, you have to look at this situation and recognize that the laws are applied unevenly. And because the laws are applied so unevenly, RAIL questions the motivations of these laws and their application.

As I said above, we are very happy to have your opinion and we hope that you are willing to take ours into consideration and to discuss this further with us, since the fact that you took the time to write indicates that you must be genuinely concerned with the well-being of all people. On the question of whether "when one person is oppressed, we are all oppressed," RAIL agrees with you ideologically -- meaning that we agree that a system of oppression should be impetus enough to convince all people to work against oppression. But at the same time we see that there are systematically unequal living conditions in this country and around the world. We work to convince all people to join us in our struggle to end this oppression, while pointing out where the oppression exists.

Then this observer in the Midwest wrote back the following day:

I better understand RAIL's position. I will keep my eye out for postings of movies in the future and, if I have the time, I will go. I have much respect for people who stand up for what they believe in and are willing to discuss differences with people who are perhaps not in agreement with them. This demonstrates to me that you, as a representative of RAIL, are not out to "prove" anything. You are, however, out to inform people. Ignorance is a big problem in America (or Amerika, if you wish). Thank you, again, for your prompt response and good luck with RAIL.

RAIL crazy about prisons?

The following letters appeared in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the student newspaper at the University of Massachusetts. RAIL and other organizations had organized an annual series of events in defense of prisoners and against the criminal injustice system, to which a student objected. RAIL's response follows.

October 30

To the Editor:

Last Tuesday, I sat down to eat in Franklin Dining Commons. Sometimes there are little cards on the table to inform students of happenings around the campus. That night, I saw something that made me so sick that I lost my appetite. There was a card for "Prison Awareness Week."

Why in the world would we have such a thing in this country? This is an event that fights for the dregs and degenerates of society who are locked up so that they can't harm people anymore. Who in their right mind would have the nerve to stand up for a murderer or a pedophile that has destroyed people's lives? It is truly sick that this type of program advertises to get people involved. It upsets me that this entire week there will be people protesting for the rights of lowlifes like the two men who killed ten-year old Jeffrey Curley and then sexually molested his corpse with beer bottles. If I had it my way, these people would not only lose their rights, but they would lose their lives as well.

It's called "Prison Awareness Week" -- well guess what? I'm already aware of what goes on in prison. Hell, I'm proud of what goes on. It's nice to know we live in a country where the true scum can go to a place where they will get what they deserve. I will never support this type of a program, and I hope that everyone on campus would use common sense and do the same.

--UMass Student

RAIL responds:

We aren't sorry that our work to defend prisoners from a corrupt Amerikan judicial system cost someone their appetite. That system kills people and destroys communities in a manner more cold-blooded than any murderer currently behind bars.

In Amerika, incarceration has nothing to do with crime, but about the political, economic and military control of the Black, Latino and First Nations. The incarceration rate for Black men is 7 times higher than for white men.(1) To make a global comparison, the United Snakes imprisons 4 times as many Blacks per capita as the old apartheid South Africa.(2) RAIL targets prisons and the police in our organizing, because we recognize their role as key weapons in Amerika's war on the oppressed.

You can't argue that Blacks commit more crimes, as the evidence doesn't support that. It's telling to look at drug charges, as the 58% of federal prisoners are in there for drugs. Blacks are 12% of the U.S. population, and 13% of monthly drug users, but they are 74% of the drug possession sentences given out each year.(3) Crime has nothing to do with incarceration and the whole system is just a charade to weed out most of the whites from sentencing and send the Blacks and Latinos to jail.

According to a telephone poll conducted in 1996 by the UMass administration, 50% of students admit to using marijuana in the year prior, and 17% to driving while intoxicated. These are definitely considered crimes, but you don't see large numbers of students at the disproportionately white UMass heading of to jail.(4).

There is no evidence that locking people up or killing them affects the crime rate. If what you want is a reduction in crime, then you will need to find another strategy to support. If you want to see the worst drug dealers punished, we suggest you target the CIA for bringing drugs into North America by the plane and boat loads to fund their dirty wars. If you want to stop murder, target the likes of Reagan, Bush and Clinton who have killed hundreds of thousands of people in invasions and attacks on Third World nations. If you want to stop rape, then organize against the U.$ military and it's legions of brothels that surround every U.$. military base in the Third World.

As for Jeffrey Curley, what apparently happened to this boy is a horrible and incorrect thing. But how will locking up these two men do anything to change the societal problem of child abuse and molestation?

The great majority of child abuse occurs within the home by family members, but these cases are very rarely prosecuted. What the rabid frenzy around stranger-molestation does is distract attention from the real cause of child abuse--the patriarchal family--and end up prolonging the system that says that children are property. All that going gung-ho after the very rare stranger rape cases does is tell the rest of society that when daddy rapes daughter, that's OK. By eliminating the patriarchy and the parental ownership of children we can stop all of this horrible crime against humanity.

While a great many Amerikans will oppose our efforts because they benefit from Amerikan apartheid, that does not make our cause any less correct or any less necessary. The struggle for true justice requires that we recognize that the Amerikan justice system is not about justice at all, but instead about maintaining an apartheid system.

In February, we will be conducting a People's Tribunal to judge the Amerikan injustice system for the crimes of genocide and oppression. Defenders of the system are welcome and encouraged to assist the defense in this public event. We are confident that the facts can speak for themselves and in the long run the people will end the tyranny of Amerikan injustice.



1. Walkin' Steel, Spring 1994, p.1. Committee to End the Marion Lockdown PO Box 578172, Chicago IL 60657-8172. 2. William Dan Perdue, Systemic Crisis: Problems in Society, Politics and World Order (NY Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1993), p. 515-6. 3. The Real War On Crime: The Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, edited by Stephen R. Donziger (HarperPerennial, 1996). 4. Alcohol and Drug Use Survey (F96-H) 19 November 1996. Student Affairs Research Information and Systems.

RAIL's response to the Collegian letter was printed and drew this response.

Negative first impression

To the Editor:

In the Nov. 7 Collegian a letter was written by X of the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL). To be quite frank, it was pointless and rude. The letter rambled on about how RAIL hates families, the United States, and the entire white portion of the human population of the Planet Earth. This brought me a negative first impression of X and his organization.

X tells us that blacks are 13 percent of the monthly drug users, yet are 74 percent of prison inmates convicted on drug charges. Perhaps he forgot that acts such as dealing and transporting such substances are also illegal. I guess such acts aren't crimes, or that is what X was thinking when he stated "You can't argue blacks commit more crimes, look at drug charges."

Another of X's statements I found interesting was this: "Crime has nothing to do with incarceration and the whole system is just a charade to weed out most of the whites and send the blacks and Latinos to jail." I would love to know the source of this "information." I bet I could find it in a stall in the men's room.

It is true that things are not perfect in our nation. However, when groups like RAIL start to complain about how they think everything sucks, it gets annoying. Whining solves nothing. Local comedian Dennis Leary sums up this point best when he says "Life sucks, get a helmet."

--Student November 17, 1997

Advocating caution, change

To the Editor:

A recent letter by [student] railed against "pointless and rude" comments by a Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL) member that conviction and imprisonment for crimes in America falls most heavily upon "oppressed nations" such as the black and Latino subcultures. [Student] saw no big deal that blacks comprise 13 percent of monthly drug users, yet make up 74 percent of prison inmates convicted of drug charges. (And he wondered if RAIL sources were graffiti from the stalls of a men's room.)

The same day that [Student] appeared in the Collegian, I noticed other newspaper coverage of a report by the Massachusetts attorney general that "white collar crime is fueled by the lack of a jail threat." A.G. Scott Harshbarger's report indicated that of every 100 individuals and corporations convicted of white collar crimes, two thirds never get jailed. To these people (who often prey upon the elderly), theft and embezzlement seem no more than interest free loans if they get caught and complete windfalls if they don't. Harshbarger urged jail time for white collar criminals to try to reduce the "fraud tax" that costs Massachusetts residents billions of dollars every year.

(White collar criminals are not blacks or Latinos, but are overwhelmingly upper and middle class white males, particularly those who steal the most, as I learned in history and sociology classes at UMass.)

Fraud is rampant this time of year. An "Extra" TV expos -- reported that charitable donation fraud will bilk U.S. citizens out of two billion dollars in the November/December holiday season. So check the charities before you give to them, or only go with the bell ringers and others that have a proven track record.

Life may not be perfect (or "it sucks" to quote [Student]), but by realistic caution, constructive criticism, and (r)evolutionary change things can get improved. As I wrote these words, a radio newscast said that next year's automobile insurance rates will drop an average of $25, because the A.G.'s office has aggressively been prosecuting insurance fraud.

--Z November 27, 1997

RAIL adds: The point about white collar crime is a good one. Thanks for speaking up in defense of, and in unity with, our positions and work.

As for [Student] RAIL is not an organization of complainers. We are an group of ORGANIZERS. One of the first steps in revolution is the act of building public opinion.

As for facts, RAIL always tells people where it's facts come from to avoid avoidable arguments. The Collegian choose to keep our long letter intact, but dispensed with the footnotes. The footnotes are included in this paper for your review.

It is our duty as revolutionary leaders to sum up history and empirical facts. We then provide analysis and launch campaigns for change.

If you don't like our analysis, we challenge you and the world to come up with a better explanation for how so many Blacks and Latinos end up in jail. Surely you won't be able to prove that Blacks and Latinos commit more crimes. The pages of this publication as well as that of allied organizations are open to you.

Instead of writing off political activism, we encourage [student] and the millions like him to open your eyes to reality, acknowledge that you can make real changes in the world around you. Finally work with us as the most effective way to change this disgusting society.

Some words on RAIL's choice of words

When the Collegian printed RAIL's letter, quotation marks were inserted around some of RAIL's words such as Amerika and United Snakes. We sent the below letter to the editor on a not-for-publication basis to explain our position and see if a compromise could be reached for the future. Several constructive suggestions were made by the editor. We print the letter here because RAIL often receives letters about our use of words. This letter may serve to answer that common and important question.

Dear Editor,

Thank you for printing our letter about Prison Awareness Week on Nov 7 1997. It is important to be able to defend ourselves when criticized in print.

One comment: You inserted quotation marks around some of the words we used, notably, "Amerika". Words express ideas, and the people who control this society are the same ones that control the language via dictionaries, style guides and the sheer force of the volume of publication.

Take the white people who control this country: They claim to speak for everyone within their borders, when in fact Blacks, Latinos and Indigenous peoples are not represented--but colonized by--this government. In fact, these white people call their country "America" despite the fact that people elsewhere in this hemisphere call themselves Americans. Spelling America with a k allows us to make the distinctions above, as well as linking Amerika's true objectives with the stated objectives of the KKK.

We aren't post-modernists that believe we can change society merely by using different words. But when old words don't fit our needs, we create new ones. Language has never been a static thing, it's always evolving or being revolutionized to fit new circumstances and new concepts and items. Within politics, we then use these new words as part of our organizing to create a new society.

So Amerika has a specific meaning and reasoning for use. To put quotations around the word confuses people as to how and why we use the term, since it looks like we put the quotes there.

We appreciate being able to write for the Collegian and would like to do so in the future. In the past, the Collegian has sometimes allowed our spellings and other times not. Please let us know if the above constitute sufficient argument to allow us to spell words as we see fit.

If not, do let us know as we would rather be forced to stick to your style guide in our original submission than to have quotation marks put around our words.

Again, thank you for printing the letter.




...All of these people [editors] produce a unique end result, varying based on their personal editorial prerogatives and their interpretation and enforcement level of our style guide. The style guide calls for words spelled "Amerika" to be changed to "America." Putting it in quotes was, I assume, a way of disclaiming stylistic responsibility on the part of the Collegian. This leaves you several choices. One is to send us all of your pieces in AP/Collegian style, with the mainstream spellings. You can then have a reasonable expectation that those spellings will remain as you submitted them. Another is to come down and speak with our managing editor, X, when or before submitting any text, to discuss the way the text will appear. Another is to send us texts with the spellings you want, as you want them. In the last case the results will likely continue varying as they have in the past. At least in some instances you will get the spellings you want. Please remember that we reserve the right to edit all letters for style, length, and clarity.

Collegian Editor


Dear RAIL:

Hi. I'm not into this MIM stuff. I thought it was interesting at first,but I realized that you guys are fighting for a lost cause. Please removemy name from your mailing list (both e-mail and normal mail). I'm tired ofgetting your mail, and I don't want to see any more of it. Have a goodone.

RAIL responds:

We appreciate being notified when our mailings are not being appreciated sowe can save time and money.

We disagree that fighting for the end of oppression is a "lost cause". Since we take our work very seriously, we would appreciate being notified about any superior political practice you discover.

But your nihilism won't help the victims of imperialist genocide one iota. Instead, apathy and inaction only work to support oppression by simply not fighting it.

We encourage others who take fighting oppression seriously to unite with RAIL against a nihilist breeding society and build organizations working to put real, active power in the hands of the oppressed.