Unity with SNY Threatens Credibility
This is a comment on the United in California article from ULK40. It is crucial MIM(Prisons) recognizes SNYs work or have worked with the prison administration against other prisoners. While as Maoists we know no oppression is overcome until all oppression is overcome, we can't possibly ask anyone affected by their actions to turn around and work with them. Would Mao have worked with Deng Xiaoping? I don't know Saif [the author] but the idea that there are "some good strong comrades" on SNY is not a convincing argument to administer against the overwhelming evidence of SNYs helping pigs at every opportunity. Even if it's by his exposing himself as a "leader." You're a man not a "leaf" if you can't hold on to the branch and fall, I can accept that, but we'll keep climbing without you.
While I don't promote violence against SNYs and in fact wish them well in any anti-imperialist work. I would strongly advise anyone against incorporating any SNY inmate into any work that may lead to repression from any government entity.
SNYs should keep using MIM(Prisons) as a guide in their work. But in promoting unification of SNY and "mainline" convicts in general terms MIM(prisons) blurs a crucial line. SNYs can challenge their SNY status administratively. I am a General Population inmate. Do you have "sensitive needs?" I don't. I can be housed around anyone, accept people who don't want to be around me, i.e. people with "sensitive needs."
Being scientific in our assessments of individuals involves being honest. SNYs work to reinforce the stigma that all GP convicts are inherently violent by allowing the administration to use them to say "if this inmate is housed on a GP line it may jeopardize institutional security." This stigma in turn imposes harsher restrictions on GP inmates and SNY inmates reap the benefits of the distinction....jobs, rehab programs, vocation, education, conjugal visits, etc. are given priority on SNYs, especially on the level IV yards.
MIM(Prisons) should analyze the SNY/mainline distinction in the same manner as oppressed nations within the U.$. It is my personal assessment that SNYs chose to work with the administration against other prisoners. They get to the SN Yards and realize that "no, the administration is not your friend" and then want to whine about it. Their issues are distinct from ours and while there are issues with the administration that are shared on both sides, I would not risk my standing with other GP prisoners by helping someone who is likely to have hurt them.
SNY/GP unity is not possible. The promotion of this idea undermines MIM(Prisons) credibility on GP yards. UFPP doesn't rely on this theory because SNYs chose to not be housed with us. So theoretically they can continue to uphold the principals on those yards, while we do ours.
MIM(Prisons) responds: For those new to ULK, we have explained our line on SNY in the movement in more depth elsewhere. We completely understand the reactions that many have to our position on working with those in SNY after the torture that so many people in California have gone through at the hands of the state prison system, with the complicity of many who went to SNY. Yet, practice seems to be proving our line correct both in terms of the contributions that SNY comrades make to building USW, and the direction that the CA prisons system is going overall. We do not take this question lightly, nor does working with SNY comrades mean we take security lightly. If this issue is important to you, please write to us to get a more extensive discussion of this topic.
The above comrade's contribution to this long-stading debate over the role of SNY status in the pages of Under Lock & Key is a unique perspective because unlike most anti-SNY writers, s/he advocates that SNY prisoners can do good anti-imperialist work, as long as they do it separately. The argument that SNY prisoners cannot be trusted or united with is based in the idea that all SNY prisoners have debriefed and sold out comrades on GP. But we know that debriefing is not required to get SNY status. This writer is correct that the administration plays SNY against GP, but we can't let them dictate who we work with. We must make that decision ourselves based on each individual's work and political line.
The author asks if Mao would have worked with Deng Xiaoping, as an example of working with enemies. And Mao already answered this question: yes. Deng was kicked out of the Communist Party of China and readmitted under Mao's watch. Communist China's prison system was focused on re-education, not punishment and ostracization. People who betrayed the revolution or took actions that harmed others were locked up to study and learn from their mistakes. This is a revolutionary model that we should emulate, even while we don't hold power.