Left-Leaning Unity with Radicals and Reformers
You encourage all groups in prison to set aside their differences and come together (collective action). As always in my letters to you, I believe the socialist effort will not be successful unless it makes contact with most or all of the radical/reform groups and encourages collective actions between them.
Think about it. If you could start a dialogue with other groups then you would gain the chance to educate them about how mass imprisonment is a standard feature of any capitalist government. Imprisonment is the favored control method for the masses. As long as people are propagandized to believe capitalism is good, you will have thousands of laws to control the lumpen and minorities -– hence, prisons.
Per the September 2016 newsletter of the Coalition for Prisoners' Rights (P.O. Box 1911, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-1911), it was reported that the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples Movement (FICPM) had a conference on September 9 in which over 500 people attended, of which people from over 30 states were in attendance. The FICPM wants to organize the 65 million people who have been screwed over by the U.$. system as a political voting block. This group has the possibility of actual success.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There are two separate points we want to address in this letter. First the question of what will be necessary for the socialist effort to be successful. This comrade believes that we can succeed by bringing together the radical/reform groups (presumably within the United $tates). Where this author says we would be able to educate these groups on a deeper understanding of the relationship between capitalism and prisons, we agree that doing this on an individual basis is possible and has been proven with success on the ground. Some people enter the reform groups because that's all that they're aware of at the time. When they seek a more thorough way to address the world's problems, they may decide to switch to revolutionary organizing instead. We aim to be available for these people, ready to work with them when they're ready to switch.
But as far as winning over whole groups, this hasn't worked out successfully when tried in the past. And we understand this phenomenon in the context of our class analysis, because the vast majority of people within imperialist countries are bought off and actually support their imperialist government. They may protest a few policies, but they are very much opposed to revolutionary change in the interests of the world's majority because that would have a negative impact on their persynal financial situation in the short term.
Because of this, we see socialist revolution coming from the oppressed nations, both internationally and within U.$. borders. For the most part we anticipate it will need to be imposed on imperialist countries (like the United $tates) from the outside, but there is an important role for revolutionaries living within the belly of the beast. We must do all we can to weaken the government and also support the revolutionary struggles of oppressed nations globally. We can break off as many allies for the struggle as possible. But we shouldn't be unrealistic in our expectations of what we can achieve behind enemy lines.
With that said, we do agree that building unity with progressive organizations on the streets is a good goal. We set a baseline goal for this unity around either a political action or a political line. For instance, we work to build unity around battles against the criminal injustice system with all who will support these battles, regardless of their political positions on other issues. For the anti-imperialist struggle we build unity with all who truly oppose imperialism.
But coming back to our first point, we do not think that groups that, for instance, promote recycling, are actually opposing imperialism. They are just helping to put a pretty pseudo-ecological face on capitalism (also termed "green washing"). So when someone tells us to unite with all "radical/reform groups" to achieve our goals of building socialism and opposing imperialism, we have to call this out as a request that we sacrifice revolutionary politics in the name of false unity. We don't actually have unity in the fight against imperialism with those reform groups that are trying to make imperialism a bit kinder, but whose strategy keeps the overall system in place. It's important that we define our political principles and understand who are truly fighting on the side of the oppressed people of the world.