Response re: Conversation Techniques in ULK 70
This is a response to USW9 and UMT coordinator (ULK 70, Spring 2020).
USW9 is to be commended for starting a conversation with another prisoner. I’m not sure the timing of the murder of General Soleimani [the Iranian major general assassinated by Amerika while visiting Iraq in January 2020] was determined by the upcoming election, but it is a well-known fact that Trump did it for eir own economic and political reasons. This murder and the fascist media cover-up certainly merit discussion. Unfortunately, USW9 folded, and bewailed eir failure to “even preach to the crowd.”
USW9’s analysis is wrong. It is clear that USW9 was not talking to a choirboy (a revolutionary communist), but to a kapitalist imperialist. The first step in a successful debate or political discourse is accurate assessment of the audience.
I enjoyed UMT coordinators’ discussion and agreed with much of it. We need to come to a conversation “from a place of unity,” not division. I think, though, that eir understanding of debate and discussion was unclear.
Pointless discussion may break the ice at a party, but extended rhetoric about non-controversial trivia quickly becomes boring and is always unproductive. Successful political discourse always involves heated debate.
To begin, USW9 stated a sound theory in terms of eir own ethical values and morals, without first becoming acquainted with the potential recruit’s. USW9 was then discouraged when the recruit was offended not by Trump’s violence, but by USW9’s criticism. We must recognize that the recruit’s response was predictable and quite reasonable given eir unfortunate capitalist imperialist background. One must not assume that every inmate is an “oppressed prisoner” receptive to our ideas couched in our own terms.
USW9 then “just changed the subject to the San Francisco 49ers.” That didn’t work. Instead of making a mental note that next time he might mention another team or even a different sport, USW9 apparently just walked away.
I’m sorry USW9 feels like “no one is talking about unity or anything of that nature.” Most prisoners (not all) are in prison because they’re motivated by their own lusts and greed. That doesn’t change when people are arrested or put into a unit “that’s known for rampant drug trade and use.” UMT coordinator properly explained that talking about unity from a position of unity is our job.
I appreciate that it’s hard at times “to see any future victories” in light of the condition “of our present day society.” None of us is entirely immune to bouts of despair and despondency, but I don’t recall that Marx and Mao ever encouraged an attitude of defeatism. Our line calls for perseverance in a protracted struggle.
All three contributors to this discussion in ULK 70 (including UMT comrade) wrote with erudition and aplomb expressing sound ideas from slightly different points of view, all in a spirit of unity. What a wonderful dialog!
As a former teacher, I cannot ratify USW9’s negative self-assessment. We should all compare ourselves to Mao, but for criticism and self-improvement, not resignation.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We welcome readers’ examples of wins and loses in their efforts to reach others so we can keep having these kinds of tactical discussions. As a group, our knowledge is greater than as individuals and we can learn from the collective experience and try out what others have observed to work. We’ll just add that we would not say the prisoner USW9 was trying to reach was an “imperialist” as Packout states. Certainly they held pro-imperialist views as most people in the United $tates do. Most in this country are allies and supporters of U.$. imperialism because it serves them, and even some who are oppressed by it are taken in, maybe they think it will serve them in the future or it serves others around them. Either way most people in this country are petty bourgeois, or labor aristocracy and many are lumpen. And while their alliance with the imperialists is strong, different sectors of these classes, different individuals and especially the oppressed nations within this country can be won over to an anti-imperialist view with proper application of unity-struggle-unity.