Notes on Advancing the Struggle Inside: ghettos and imprisonment

Can you do layout? Help out by laying out pamphlets and study packs to mail to prisoners. help out

Notes on Advancing the Struggle Inside: ghettos and imprisonment

There can be no doubt a capitalist system excludes a majority of any country's populace from decision-making processes. These people are excluded only for their class and nation characteristics. Capitalism has two ways of addressing this exclusion: ghettos and imprisonment.

Oppressed nations, lower classes and lumpen are all corralled into poverty-stricken ghettos or barrios. Once there, the oppressor class can turn a blind eye for the most part. Only one problem stops them from completely ignoring the ghettos — crime. We oppressed nations face a disparaging reality. Poverty, violence from authorities and among our own, remedial education, dismal employment opportunities and little to look forward to other than prison or death. This is part of popular control. Noam Chomsky previously pointed out, "isolation makes it easier to shape people's perceived realities and influence them according to your agenda."(1)

Reality in our barrios push many towards crime which in turn brings them to the attention of the oppressors. Existence in the ghetto or barrio tends to culminate in our introduction into the "justice" (injustice) system. Imprisonment is another aspect of popular control. In order to address capitalistic exclusion of so many oppressed nations and lower classes, mass incarceration has developed into the primary solution. Here I am only reiterating what is a well-documented fact.(2) We all know that life in the barrio — where opportunities are close to non-existent, oppression is ever present, help is unknown and the future is bleak, at best — leads many to either helpless struggle and/or outright rebellion against injustice. Crime is a common occurrence among those of us attempting to survive and those rebelling. Its outcome is generally imprisonment.

The cycle is simple: capitalism excludes masses of people from decision-making processes, isolates them in poverty-stricken barrios, limits access to legitimate means of survival and pushes oppressed nations to seek alternative means: crime. A cycle ending in the authorities imprisoning and further isolating the oppressed. Of course this is not a linear process but rather circular. Once released from prison one has the "credential of a criminal record,"(3) and can only hope to gain employment and meet society's and authorities' expectations (i.e. police, parole, probation, and such), and as a result of slim prospects turns back to what ey knows. Crime and the barrio. And around and around we go. Where does it stop?

Only those caught up in this vicious cycle can say when enough is enough. Whether in society (see: Notes on Advancing the Struggle Outside) or in the dungeons, there comes a point in which one must join the revolution. Becoming class conscious and politically aware is only the beginning. After studying theory for the real circumstances oppressed nations, lumpen and lower classes face, we must contribute to the struggle of toppling capitalistic systems. Knowledge is meaningless unless it is put into practice by direct action. Dungeons can be the force in which revolutionary awareness is built, hardened and sharpened into the many blades necessary to behead this many-headed hydra of capitalism.

For as long as capitalism rules there will be oppressed nations existing in perpetual turmoil, never equal nor finding happiness. Sigmund Freud asked a good question, "what good is a long life if it is difficult and barren of joys, and if it is so full of misery that we can only welcome death as a deliverer?"(4)

1. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Noam Chomsky; Chapter 4, ibid.
2. Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci; Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison, Michael Foucault; The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander; Marked: Race, Crime and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration, Devah Pager.
3. Punished: Policing the Lives of Latino and Black Boys, Victor Rios, quoting Pager in Marked, ibid.
4. Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud, Chapter 3, ibid.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is right on about the cycle of imprisonment created by the criminal injustice system in the United $tates. But we want to clarify that it is actually a majority of people in this imperialist country who are being represented by the government. The majority enjoy economic benefits from the exploitation of Third World peoples. We agree with the author that the government is using prisons for social control, alongside the barrios. But when we look at who is locked up and who is in the barrios, we see a minority of the population of this country. And mostly oppressed nations. Not a majority of the Amerikan people.

The author says that the reason the government doesn't ignore the ghettos is crime. But this is the reason the government wants us to believe, not the real underlying problem. Crime, in the forms of guns and drugs, was promoted into the ghettos by the government. There is much documentation, for instance of the CIA's role bringing in cocaine to the Crips and Bloods as a part of their attempts to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s. This drug trafficking served two purposes: 1. to finance the imperialist-backed Contra army in Nicaragua and 2. to sidetrack potentially powerful New Afrikan lumpen organizations with drugs. And these drugs created the perfect excuse to round up New Afrikans for imprisonment during the so-called war on drugs that followed.

It is true that the ghettos create the conditions for crime, but we also see a long history of the Amerikan government promoting and perpetuating crime in the ghettos. And of course this makes it even harder for people to break out of the cycle of imprisonment that this author describes. And in the end, this comrade is 100% correct: the only solution is to take down the capitalist system.