Building Scientific Leadership Behind Bars

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[Organizing] [Theory] [ULK Issue 44]
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Building Scientific Leadership Behind Bars

dialectical materialist theory of knowing and doing
It's a beautiful thing when I read about the struggle for social justice and liberation of the oppressed, especially when it is prisoners who are developing politically or ex-prisoners who are released and get involved in activism of various sorts. The lumpen have a hystory of rising up in struggle against injustice. We see this when reading about Attica, the San Quentin six, and the California hunger strikes, as well as in the many revolutionary groups which developed within prisons. This is great, of course, but our development, actions, and theory should be based in science.

Science keeps us grounded in reality; it helps us proceed and understand the way things are. The opposite of science would be faith, a hunch, or metaphysical concepts in general. As revolutionaries we use the scientific method to make decisions on how we interact with the world we live in. The scientific method relies on observation and experimentation with the world that we live in so that we fully understand it and thus transform it.

Science, then, is a tool which helps us make the proper decisions and enables scientific leadership, focused on truth and reality. Scientific leadership allows for one to percieve truth because one studies hystorical events which have been tested and experimented with. Learning from all of this allows scientific leadership to make real power moves which advance the people, as opposed to decisions based on idealism or lofty visions.

What Does Scientific Leadership Look Like?

How much leadership can accomplish depends on whether it is scientific leadership or not. For example, scientific leadership in a political movement must study the world's hystorical movements to see what in hystory has worked, which social experiments have been successful and which have not.

By studying movements and revolutions one would know better than to invest time and programs on Trotskyism because one would quickly see that it has yet to liberate a people anywhere in the world. Science shows that Maoism was most successful because, among other things, it teaches that even after a nation is liberated class struggle continues — even after socialist revolution. Understanding this will reveal why nations such as Vietnam flip-flopped back to capitalism after liberation; it's because the leadership were not Maoists and did not accept that class struggle continues. In short they did not have scientific leadership.

Within prisons it becomes easy to stray off the path of science because in so many ways our methods for surviving in these dungeons and the ways we cope with an unbearable existence may not be anchored in our best interests. Because we are placed in survival mode by the state the minute we are imprisoned it becomes easy to try to come up at another prisoner's expense, but this method is incorrect and parasitic.

When we study hystory we learn that people around the world did not liberate themselves and their people by preying on other similarly situated or oppressed people. They did so by struggling together for their collective interests. One cannot at the same time exploit their own people and free them. Attempting to advance one's own people in order to better exploit them amounts to bourgeois nationalism. This is not scientific leadership because it means the leadership did not learn from hystorical cases of bourgeois revolutions.

Studying revolutionary nationalism reveals what scientific leadership looked like for oppressed nations. Mao's China gave us the greatest example of this so far. But Mao used science to continuously break ground and lead the social forces out of the woods of ignorance and dead-end politics. As he put it:


"Natural science is one of man's weapons in his fight for freedom. For the purpose of attaining freedom in society, man must use social science to understand and change society and carry out social revolution. For the purpose of attaining freedom in the world of nature man must use natural science to understand, conquer and change nature and thus attain freedom from nature."(1)

As Mao explains above, people seeking to push a movement forward must harness natural science and learn from our reality. Prisoners in our microcosm must do the same. Our "freedom" within U.$. prisons does not translate to seizing state power today, but the beauty of Maoism is that we can apply these teachings to our own environment, even the prison environment. Our freedom in U.$. prisons should be freedom from torture, freedom from abuse and other forms of oppression. We should seek freedom in the realm of ideas where we can read and write without censorship. We should be free to socialize and form study groups and politically educate our fellow prisoners without fear of being brutalized by the state or stuffed in a control unit.
Scientific Method
This flow chart is the bourgeois scientific method. While a good outline of the steps, it is linear with a focus on a final result. In reality, knowledge is ever-growing and more resembles a spiral or cyclical process as in the representation of Mao's "On Practice" above..

The scientific leadership within U.$. prisons is a minority and is most reflective in the pages of Under Lock & Key. If Maoism is the highest or most scientific ideology today, then Maoist prisoners are the scientific leadership in U.$. prisons, even if we are not yet currently "in power" within U.$. prisons.

A scientific leadership should ensure that its people are a politically educated people. To monopolize on knowledge and hoard education within a chosen few means that should these leaders get slammed down in the hole or control unit the masses become lost. This is why educating the people is something that should be constantly focused on. Building cadre is investing in a movement's future.

Can the People be Led Without Science?

Prison can be a brutal environment. In the old days it was the most brutal who rose to the top of the heap and led, although it may have been down a dead-end road. Without understanding who is oppressing you, the oppressor will not only continue to oppress you, but you'll end up focusing on those who are not oppressing you. You consequently never dig yourself out of the hole that you don't even realize you are in.

Unfortunately the people can be, and in many cases are, led by unscientific leadership. The prison rebellion in Santa Fe, New Mexico was a concrete example of what happens when leadership is not based in the scientific method. Violence and parasitism are promoted rather than steering the people toward liberation. Lumpen organizations (LOs) that are not scientific will more often than not be swayed to lumpen-on-lumpen crime. They are not looking at their social reality from political lenses and instead they will look more to immediate needs and self-gratification. This is the breeding ground for escapism and individualism. This does nothing to combat the oppressor and almost always reinforces national oppression.

Unscientific leadership is not a revolutionary leadership. It is not for the people's real interest and will never get past making a little money here and there and gaining some recognition from those in prisons and other lumpen, while never rebuilding their nation or contributing to freeing their nation.

This means that people will be led, but it will be down a path which leads nowhere productive. If anything, it is a path which helps destroy their own people. Their goals will remain in self-destructive behavior which works alongside the state in many ways. The un-scientific approach ends up being an enabler to the state and one's very own national oppression. One essentially ends up tying the knots for our oppressor which binds us, helpless and vulnerable.

So What is Scientific Leadership For?

Ultimately people are led towards a goal. Scientific leadership is communist and working toward liberating oppressed people. Prisoners within U.$. borders are mostly from the internal semi-colonies, so for us scientific leadership works toward independence from Amerikkka. All of our decisions as a scientific leadership should be with the intent of inching closer to our goal of liberating our nation(s) and obtaining complete independence.

Emancipation will take work, but prisoners can contribute in many ways. Scientific leaders within U.$. prisons should first identify their political hystory and who they are as a nation. This means guiding one's flock to also understand who they are and to become politically educated. Independent institutions need to be created, which includes revolutionary publications. Those who are already politically conscious need to be harnessed so that they can be political instructors for those who do not yet grasp their political reality. Liberation schools need to be created, and better relations with others who are similarly situated and oppressed need to be coordinated.

Outside political institutions also need to be created which help link people outside prison walls with our imprisoned struggles for justice in these concentration camps. We can still hustle in prisons, but our hustles should not oppress others and our hustles should not be for our own come up, but for building our revolutionary movement.

At the end of the day the role of the imprisoned scientific leadership is to transform prisons, to revolutionize the prisons. Our aim is freedom. We cannot shy away from the very real contradictions that exist within the lumpen population. There is a lot of work to do, but things are changing and the imprisoned lumpen are becoming more and more conscious. This is reflected in many things, from more frequent prison uprisings, more imprisoned revolutionary organizations springing up, more prison theoreticians developing ideology, and most importantly more lumpen unity behind prison walls. All of this and more points to the imprisoned lumpen acquiring more scientific leadership. Imprisoned revolutionaries should help accelerate these developments because this is what all LOs originated for in the beginning, for their people to be free from oppression behind prison walls.


Notes: Mao Zedong, "Speech at the inaugural meeting of the Natural Science Research Society of the Border Region." February 5, 1940.

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