www.prisoncensorship.info is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.
On 12 August 2021, staff member Karber at Ionia Correctional Facility in Michigan censored Under Lock & Key 74 for the reason: “Pages 8 & 9 calling for Prisoners to organize for uprising for an up coming date.” These pages featured our center spread on Black August and the September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity. It is interesting that the oppressor sees prisoners coming together for peace and unity as an “uprising” and something that is deemed a threat to security (which would be necessary to lawfully censor any reading material in the United $tates).
On 7 September 2021, the staff in the mailroom at SCI Frackville in Pennsylvania disliked the same pages and censored ULK 74 for “Information on Page 8 Calls for Action (September 9).” In Amerikan prisons people do not enjoy the civil rights many Amerikans hold so dear. Their right to grieve or in this case to take an “action” is deemed illegal and punished. Banning peaceful protest and other such actions in prisons leads to violence.
Meanwhile a USW comrade in California reported,
“C.O. Solerio [a white female] emailed a Mental Health/Death Doctor a referral against me for displaying erratic behavior. I was exercising and calling cadence out loud ?? As is my custom, I commemorate Black August by demonstrating physical fitness and oratory skills, loud and proud, wherever I be. This year’s action continues to be opposed by C.O.s obsessed with social control.”
This comrade was in quarantine isolation, where ey could not organize eir normal group activities for Black August.
While the President offers up Juneteenth and Indigenous People’s Day as sanctioned celebrations, the imperialists simultaneously repress those trying to commemorate holidays that represent resistance to oppression. In case anyone was fooled into thinking that we’re all equal now.
14 October 2021 – Fifty five people were arrested for occupying the Bureau of Indian Affairs(BIA) with demands that the Bureau be abolished, that blood quantum be abolished and that the United $tates stop extracting fossil fuels from native land. Siqiñiq Maupin explained the purpose of the action on Democracy Now:
“The BIA was created to erase Indigenous people. It has always been against us. And today, or yesterday, and every day, we demand that it be abolished. We do not need a blood quantum to say how Indigenous we are or to qualify that. We know our Indigenous ways to protect this land, this Earth, this water. And we understand that the Earth is unbalanced. And we do not have time for negotiations, for compromises. We need to take this serious and take action now.”(1)
Indian Country Today reported:
Tobacco ties hung on locked doors. No one could get inside or outside. Everyone outside of the building looked through the windows of the doors to see what was happening inside and could hear demonstrators yelling.
Some security personnel were injured and one officer was taken to a hospital, according to an Interior spokesperson.(2)
In Washington D.C. the week of Indigenous People’s Day has been marked by indigenous-led civil disobedience actions, calling on President Biden to declare a climate emergency and stop approving fossil fuel projects. It began on Monday with the slogan “expect us” being written on the statue of Andrew Jackson in the U.$. capital. Over 530 climate activists have been arrested so far.(1)
This is occurring after President Biden issued the first presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 8th, along with an announcement to preserve lands important to native people.
In 2017, President Trump re-opened up a number of recently created national monuments for resource extraction, cutting the size of the Bears Ears National Monument by 85%. Biden reversed Trump’s move, reestablishing the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in southern Utah, more than 3.2 million acres – an area nearly the size of Connecticut.(3)
While President Trump declared genocidal Andrew Jackson to be his favorite president, President Biden was the first president to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This symbolizes the conflict within the Amerikan ruling class, and the white nation as well, in how to deal with the oppressed internal semi-colonies today. Biden’s multi-culturalism is friendlier, and even makes real concessions like preserving land important to native people. But as Biden himself said, it was the easiest thing he’s done as president. And it was just as easy for Trump to undo those designations during his tenure, leaving native people at the whims of the white man again.
As communists we strive for the resolution of this national contradiction via the project of liberation for all oppressed nations and their land once and for all, not waiting and hoping for one slightly friendlier sector of the oppressor to win out. The ongoing struggle for First Nation land liberation is tied to the struggle of all oppressed people for liberation. It is not surprising that the nation that ultimately waged a settler war for hundreds of years to seize this land is now the primary force keeping oppressed people down around the world. We have seen the limits of euro-Amerikan peace offerings.
On 1 August 2021, supporters on the outside began a phone zap to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to protest a new policy that restricted many forms of imagery in the media prisoners received through the mail (Board Policy - 3.91). MIM(Prisons) also began distributing fliers to Texas prisoners, who were writing us from all over the state about this new policy. By 23 August 2021 we received the following update from a comrade in Texas TEAM ONE, a leading organization in this campaign:
“We’re hearing that BP-3.91 has been halted. Supposedly they’re to revise it again to make it more sensical, but it’s not in effect as of this date. However, mail room staff here have been holdin on to all materials, which fall under that policy. They are giving no record of receiving the mail, just holdin it until the policy is amended. So that’s an issue.”
In other facilities they seem to not be acting on the new policy at all.
a comrade in Telford Unit reported: …the policy never took place. The complete ban of publications is outright unconstitutional. I have written several grievances concerning publications. TDCJ-CID will never ban harmless publications (U.S. Weekly, Muscle Fitness, OK, National Geo, etc.). They have no right to and it will only cause problems for the TDCJ-CID. Being that the policy did not take affect 1 August 2021 I ask prisoners to give it no attention. Instead be happy about the victory of being able to receive post cards and not arbitrarily have your peers/loved ones self addressed stamps ripped off your letters that way you may know who is corresponding with you.
a comrade at Michael Unit wrote on 4 October 2021: I need a quick reply to Texas’s BP 3.91(Rev 5) step 2 grievance. My step 1 said:
“An investigation into your allegations has been conducted. It was found that Board Policy 03.91 revised the definition of”sexually explicit" photos. The revision was approved by the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. Inmates are given the opportunity to appeal the denial of all sexually explicit images denied through the Director’s Review Committee. No further action warranted."
MIM(Prisons): It is not clear to us if a new policy has been approved as implied by this response from a TDCJ official. What is clear at this time is that the masses mobilized quickly around this issue and the state is responding to that mobilization. Below are reports from some others organizing on this campaign, closing with excerpts from a longer statement by a new comrade explaining the hypocrisy of the new policy and encouraging everyone to stand up for what is right.
a comrade in Stevenson Unit: In regards to the new censorship policy, comrades I shared the sample grievance from Under Lock & Key 74 and directed others to file a grievance with DRC @ PO Box 99 Huntsville, TX 77342-0099. One comrade was given his car mags back after being confiscated by the mailroom. This was after filing the sample grievance you provided me! :)
a Texas comrade: We have already grieved BP-3.91 and we stand with those in Allred sacrificing to end solitary confinement even though there is no solitary here on this medium security unit.
a comrade in Jester Unit: I wanted to let you know everyone is grateful about the “Grievance Against Criminal Board” on the (pictures, magazines, and kill-shots) filed by your organization. I will send you my grievance next week, but not before I get some more signatures and people involved. Please find postage within this letter in support.
a comrade at Hughes Unit reported on 28 September 2021: I have 62 grievances filed on the 3.91 BP that is. I’m working on more. And I’m aware that I’m getting help from some female staff as well and they are putting together a form of unity to get rid of this bullshit B.P.-3.91 for their safety is a risk. They shaking us down as I speak for magazines. Women can’t show cleavage or nothing. And it’s sad.
a comrade in Hutchins Unit: Impede the correction, rehabilitation, and treatment of a prisoner, how? Relating to incoming pictures of “sexually explicit women” this is only understandable if enforced upon a sex offender therapy program… As a general population prisoner, rehabilitation and treatment is almost non-existent. TDCJ can only claim correction if it considers this is obtained through prolonged idleness. Prisoners are housed in their dorm where in most cases they only leave for meals and sometimes rec. There is little to no programming or opportunity to rehabilitate through education or vocation but TDCJ is worried about the content of our publications. Sounds like deliberate indifference to their priorities.
Therefore, impeding correction, rehabilitation, and treatment is only terminology intended for manipulation by and for officials convenience.
Sexually explicit pictures only result in masturbation, which is a healthy alternative to sexual fulfillment and expression. Some men spend decades up to life in prison and to deprive them of such fulfillment could consequently result in homosexual tendencies and/or the rape and/or sexual harassment of prisoners and officers. Such dehumanizing intentions will result in the safety of prisoners and officers being jeopardized.
[MIM(Prisons): A number of writers mention female staff being concerned about the new policy. Of course, we object to this writer’s inclusion of homosexuality as a “dehumanizing” outcome of this policy. Rape is bad, sexual harassment is bad, they are oppressive. Even if homosexual rape and harassment is more the norm in prisons than in society, we should not confuse that with homosexual behaviors themselves being bad.]
This is not a unique problem. Prison officials are quick to slap on the windows newly enacted and revised policies that are overly restrictive, knowing the average prisoner is illiterate, uneducated, and at the least inexperienced in lawfully challenging/litigating.
We are not in the barbaric ages and as a maturing society we develop and become more morally and ethically inclined, including the treatment of prisoners; who we understand engaged in wrongful acts to a greater degree than that of the average person but is nonetheless human and capable of change.
This means as prisoners’ rights come to light and advancement, We are to a lesser degree inhibited by biased civil court systems who in the past ruled all officials actions to be reasonable and acceptable in the name of justice, punishment, and deterrence.
Therefore do not be deterred when intending to challenge the conditions of your confinement thinking that it will be in vain. There is more hope than there ever has been in the past. Instead be optimistic, adopting the perspective that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Presumably all major prison reformers that paved the way had doubts about a favorable outcome, however, their action in spite of that doubt has resulted in all fundamental change. The conditions we live in reflect such, while they’re not what they need to be they’re not what they use to be.
Stand with me in progression towards the common goal of more humane conditions and treatment. Do not refrain or procrastinate from submitting a complaint and possibly litigating for change; Just as officials do not refrain from arresting, sentencing, imprisoning, and punishing us in all aspects every day. We are held accountable so why should we allow them to manipulate policy and official position to their convenience?
Despite the feeling of helplessness officials intend to instill in us, we are far from that. Statements such as, but not limited to, “these people don’t care what we got to say”, “the system’s too big to fight”, “It’s only possible if you got money”, “This is just part of the game” etc are all excuses adopted by submissive prisoners who are too cowardly to fight. You would fight your fellow prisoner for less degrading treatment, right? I would hope.
Do you dare to challenge our oppressors? Do you dare to organize for progression with your fellow prisoners just as they do against us?
If so, please keep in mind that weapons of distraction are strategically implemented to keep us from achieving such a goal. If we are lost in our own world we won’t have time to envision and investigate their world, their motives, their actions, and how they negatively affect us.
We are distracted from spending time productively. Time is our most valuable asset as it is limited and required to organize and plan action.
Stop preoccupation; stop smoking, stop watching TV, stop gambling, stop gluttony, stop fighting your equals instead of the oppressor, stop idleness, stop procrastination, stop being submissive, stop feeling defeated, and most importantly, STOP investing time into unproductive endeavors and commit to progression and the achievement of an overall goal.
The poor and oppressed make up the majority of the world. We are only separated by knowledge that is accumulated through resources. If we can obtain the proper knowledge and organize with an intended goal we will overpower our oppressors.
…Break the ice and take action. Take it from a 22-year-old 8th grade dropout with seven plus years in the system. I only obtained knowledge through educational literature. I am self-educated and overcame the hindering circumstance of lack of resources and organized learning opportunities. I am only two years into a progressive perspective and actions and exceeded my expectations. Two years ago, education and progression were no where on my agenda. If I can achieve such, so can you. All there is to ask yourself if it appeals to you and if so make it a priority.
On 6 September 2021, 6 Palestinian prisoners of war have escaped an I$raeli maximum security prison known as Gilboa by digging a tunnel with plates and panhandles.(1) The tunnel was 72 meters long, and the I$raeli Security Agency has suspected that the excavation had started around November of 2020.(2) This incident is being talked of as the most significant prison break in the history of Palestine.
The 6 Palestinian prisoners were members of Palestinian nationalist organizations (The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the al-Quds Brigades) which have resisted the I$raeli occupation.(3) Out of the 6, four of the escaped freedom fighters were serving life sentences.(4)
In response to the prison break, the I$raeli Prison Service (IPS), launched a lockdown on Palestinian prisoners: break time has been cut to one hour a day; prison canteen has been closed; and the number of captives able to walk in the yard has been decreased. 400 prisoners, who have been deemed “Jihadist” and a threat to the security of the prisons, have been separated from one another as well. On top of this, family visits have been completely taken away by the pigs.(5) For our readers on the inside, these tactics by the I$raeli prison pigs to punish all for the actions of some sound similar as the United $tates and I$rael are very similar in character. Both are settler-colonial states, and both trade and exchange tactics/information used to better repress their respective oppressed nations.
The Day of Rage
In response to this crackdown, I$raeli prisons faced strikes and riots. In Katziot prison, seven cells were set on fire by Palestinian prisoners and hunger strikes have been set to begin in Gilboa on Friday, 17 Septemebr 2021.(6) The Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission has declared that 1,380 prisoners have joined the hunger strikes.(7)
Outside of the prison walls, the nationalist organization Hamas has declared a “Day of Rage” on the Friday of September 10th.(8) At the al-Aqsa mosque, supporters of the escaped freedom fighters have organized a sit in protest after the end of prayer. The I$raeli forces stormed the mosque in response to the protest and killed one man and arrested another. The man killed was a Palestinian doctor named Hazem al-Jolani.(9)
About a week after the escape, the 6 prisoners were recaptured into imprisonment. One of the freedom fighters, Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, was put in solitary confinement with nothing but a blanket and was subjected to physical and psychological torture.(10) All other prisoners involved in the escape were sent to separate high security prisons as well.(11)
Internationalism in the Prison Movement
While studying Engels’ writings on the bourgeois state, Lenin said the following:
“Engels elucidates the concept of the ‘power’ which is called the state, a power which arose from society but places itself above it and alienates itself more and more from it. What does this power mainly consist of? It consists of special bodies of armed men having prisons, etc., at their command.”(12)
As Lenin explains, prisons serve a class purpose in maintaining power in class society. In the world we live in today, the bourgeois class utilizes prisons to control their “unruly” populations under their command. Under socialism and proletarian dictatorship, prisons will exist as well albeit being conducted under scientific lessons of rectification of past socialist movements. For the case of not only the 6 prisoners of war who escaped Gilboa (but for all prisoners in Palestine and all prisoners in the United $tates), their very facilities are a material form of capitalist-imperialist power locking them up in their every move. Here in the United $tates, we have had historic moments of prisoners fighting against the repression and seeking for redemption and liberation through class struggle. The Attica uprising of 9 September 1971 is a prime example of that class struggle. With Attica as the battle cry of the revolutionary prison movement in the United $tates, we hope to reach that cry across the oceans and to Palestine itself.
From Attica 2 Palestine!
Down with the I$raeli Prison Service! Down with the Department of Corrections!
Bibliography1. Toi Staff, September 14, 2021, “Jailbreak probe said to find 11 Gilboa prisoners started tunnel dig in November.” Times of Israel2. Ibid.3. The Palestine Chronicle, September 6, 2021, “Six Palestinian Prisoners Break out of Gilboa Prison after Digging Tunnel”4. Ibid.5. Middle East Eye, September 10, 2021, “Palestinian killed during ‘day of rage’ solidarity protests for prison escapees”6. Khaled Abu Tomaeh, September 14, 2021, “Palestinian prisoners to begin hunger strike Friday,” The Jerusalem Post.7. Ibid.8. Ibid.9. Ibid.10.Yeni Safak, September 16, 2021, “Palestinian prison escapee to keep fighting for freedom.”11. Middle East Eye, October 1, 2021, “Israel: Recaptured Palestinian jailbreakers transferred to solitary confinement”12. Vladimir Lenin, August 1917, “State and Revolution.”
On 11 September 2021, Chairman Gonzalo has been reported to be dead by the Peruvian prison service and the Peruvian government.(1) The president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, has tweeted in regards to Gonzalo’s death:
“The terrorist ringleader Abimael Guzmán, responsible for the loss of countless lives of our compatriots, has died. Our stance of condemning terrorism is firm and unwavering.”
Born as Abimael Guzmán, Chairman Gonzalo was the leader of the Partido Comunista del Perú(PCP) also known as the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path in English). The PCP initiated People’s War in Peru in 1980, and waged a righteous struggle against the U.$.-backed regimes in Peru until the capture of its leadership in 1992. Arguably the first communist leader to explain Maoism as the next stage of communism, Gonzalo was instrumental in pushing these ideas within the international communist movement.
At age 86, Gonzalo had lived in complete isolation in a Peruvian prison for 29 years. Long-term solitary confinement is a form of torture used around the world to combat political dissent. It is used most extensively within the United $tates, where in recent years over 100,000 people languished in such conditions.
Religious Idealism Barks
Gonzalo was an infamous figure in Peruvian society. The revolutionary violence of the PCP sparked hostile reactions especially from the petty bourgeoisie, the middle-peasants, and the likes within Peru. One outspoken figure which repeated these sentiments condemning Gonzalo on his death day was Archbishop Eguren of the Catholic Church in Peru. During a mass on September 12, a day after Gonzalo’s death, Eguren said this referring to the Maoist ideology and the Maoists of Peru:
“Along with him fell the principal members of his communist, terrorist, genocidal, and murderous gang, which caused the massacres of entire communities of poor inhabitants of our Andes and jungle regions in the 1980s and 1990s.”(2)
The Archbishop continued:
“The day Guzmán was captured was also one year after the start of the campaign ‘Peace in Peru is well worth a Rosary.’ This campaign was conceived and promoted by Bishop Ricardo Durand Flórez S.J., a great Peruvian bishop who, throughout his life and ministry, worked hard for the poor according to the Gospel.”(3)
After condemning Marxism through the usual Christian idealism, Archbishop Eguren replaces the anti-capitalist vacuum with the Catholic church’s historical response to poverty and capitalist ills: distribution of wealth and charity to the poor. We Maoists do not believe in the metaphysical notion that “the poor will always be with us,” nor that walking across a homeless person on the street is a test by god to prove ourselves of our good heart and soul. We believe poverty – and the impoverished proletariat along with the rich bourgeoisie – comes out of material phenomena: rise of capitalism through revolution, class struggle, and change of production relations. Thus, the elimination of poverty and capitalist ills will be done through the proletarian revolution against capitalism, class struggle, and change of production relations as well; not through wealth redistribution nor through charity.
Along with condemning Marxism, Eguren used this chance to call for the elimination of the politicians and bureaucrats of the current Peruvian government who had historical ties to the Maoist movement:
“We Peruvians should not forget, for an instant what this intrinsically perverse ideology embodies, as well as the immense suffering it has caused in the recent history of our country, much less allow it today to be able to seize total power. Therefore: Mr. President, clean up your cabinet!”(4)
Chairman Gonzalo and the PCP’s legacy in Peru is often associated with the “violent left.” So it is appropriate that one of the most popular opportunist and reformist newsletters, Jacobin, condemned Gonzalo by saying that Peru’s left is finally free to “move forward.”(5)
In the article, “The Shining Path’s Abimael Guzmán Helped Keep Peru in the Past,” Jacobin news cited the Lucanamarca massacre and the violence of the PCP against the indigenous masses as one of the main arguments against the PCP. The Communist Party of Peru (PCP) has mentioned in eir writings the attacks against the masses by the masses, and how the state security used the differing class levels of the peasantry against itself (poor peasants, middle peasants, rich peasants). These tactics to divide the masses are used against the communists of India as well. In the remote and countryside regions under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist), the capitalist lapdogs in India find it much more useful to use local reactionaries against the guerrillas than using the army. If not the local police, it is the paramilitary organizations of rich peasants, middle peasants, lumpen-bourgeoisie, lumpen-proletariat, etc. that is attacking the Maoists. In Peru, the majority of the PCP guerrillas were indigenous themselves as the main population base in the communists’ base areas were indigenous.
When judging the legacy of a People’s War and a revolutionary party, communists should know when to throw away the baby with the bathwater and when to still keep it. Before the capitalist roaders overthrew socialism in the Soviet Union, many of the errors of what would become the capitalist line (commandism and economism) has been planted by Stalin as well and other comrades. This did not cause Mao to throw away Stalin’s legacy. In the same breath, when Fidel Castro liberated Cuba from imperialism and semi-feudalism, his merits were part of a worldwide movement for national liberation of the colonies at the time – it isn’t until Castro’s selling out of the entire island to the Soviet social-imperialists as a sugar factory that Maoists should throw Castro away.
Heavier Than Mount Tai
It is well within the realms of material reality that the PCP’s legacy among the general Peruvian society lies not only in the Peruvian comprador bourgeoisie who propagate the ideas of the PCP as bloodthirsty terrorists, but also within the bad lines and practices of the PCP as well. It is an often repeated idea we hear that if the revolution fails, it is the fault of the revolutionaries. In the same light, it’s the internal characteristics not the external of a communist movement that will ultimately decide its success and failures.
We must draw a clear line between us and those who condemn the PCP because they waged People’s War. Whatever internal contradictions led to the collapse of the Peruvian revolution, it was a shining example in theory by leading the world to the concrete ideas of Maoism and in practice in mobilizing the Peruvian people to control a majority of Peru before their fall.
Communists should learn their lessons from their errors in history. For the enemy to say, “Denounce Gonzalo!” is for them to also say “Don’t learn your lessons! Give up revolution!” Nevertheless, no matter what the Catholic idealists or the writers of Jacobin wish, the PCP and Chairman Gonzalo’s legacy will not go away as easily as they wish.
Long Live Chairman Gonzalo – Death Heavier than Mount Tai.
Notes1. RPP, September 11th, 2021, “Murió Abimael Guzmán, el sanguinario cabecilla del grupo terrorista Sendero Luminoso.”
2. David Ramos, September 13th, 2021, “Archbishop calls on Peruvian president to rid his administration of ties to Shining Path.” Catholic News Agency.
5. Miguel La Serna, September 15, 2021, “The Shining Path’s Abimael Guzmán Helped Keep Peru in the Past.” Jacobin.
A few weeks ago lots of Black folks were celebrating Juneteenth, which they claimed was about the banning of slavery in the U.$. Say what? Apparently none of these folks have read the actual 13th Amendment, which only banned plantation slavery, while opening up far more slavery with its Exclusion Section, which basically said “slavery as punishment for a crime is just peachy.”
…how about you get the May 2021 issue of Prison Legal News and read the main article, “The Punishment Economy: Winners and Losers in the Business of Mass Incarceration.”
A fact not mentioned in the article was that businesses (owners) in many foreign countries are making money “servicing” U.$. prisoner needs.
Until just a couple of weeks ago, me at 75 years old, with various health problems, was forced under threat of write-up to work as a kitchen slave. So I get to read the labels on the products used there.
Oranges and mixed vegetables from Mexico. Cut carrots from Spain. Franks (weenies) from Canada. Cucumbers from Mexico. Broccoli from Mexico. Pineapple from Indonesia. Heat sealed plastic gloves from China. White plastic “sporks” from Vietnam.
Do you think the owners of these businesses make donations to U.$. politicians that always vote for more laws, more prisons, and more money to cops?
Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: We share this writer’s concerns about prisoners being used as a source of exploited value by capitalists. When Third World countries begin to delink from the united $tates economically, Amerikans will face serious crisis and imposing fascism on segments of the u.$. population in the form of slavery is a likely outcome as we saw fascist Germany do.
However, we think the concern about foreign companies selling cheap produce to u.$. prisons is misled. In fact, most of the value created in producing that food in the Third World is stolen from those who make the food and realized in the First World (see our recent review of John Smith’s Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century). Even those Amerikans reaping the profits on these food sales to Amerikan prisons are not likely backing prison construction. Food is about $2.1 billion of the $182 billion spent on mass incarceration each year in this country.(1)
But what about this question of prison labor? The persyn above has written us numerous times to challenge our line on prison labor. In 2018 we did a survey of ULK readers to further research this subject. And we have extensive articles on the economics of the U.$. prison system available to those interested. But we are always keeping an eye out for new info, so let’s look at this Prison Legal News article.
As it turns out, this article does not offer much information on prison labor at all, far less than our research does. The article is a thorough documentation of many ways that companies are making money by offering services to the government related to prisons and to families of prisoners; what we might call profiteering or even extortion in the case of fees charged to families.
1 in 8 U.$. jobs rely on prisons - Big if True
Daniel Rosen doesn’t cite the source of this one in eight jobs estimate towards the beginning of eir article. Regular writers for ULK have long called Amerika a pig nation. Then why does Rosen turn around and ask, “are we just producing greater corporate profits at American families’ expense?” It is Amerikan families who are getting payed labor aristocracy wages to work these 1 in 8 jobs that relies on this system of punishment. Meanwhile, the majority of people suffering from the injustice system are members of internal semi-colonies, not Amerikans. And this is the exact contradiction we try to bring to light every time we get into this debate.
After citing the exorbitant amount spent on staffing prisons, Rosen offers a section on how employees are underpaid. In states like California, prison guards start at salaries that most reading this newsletter will never see in their lives. To make eir point sound reasonable, Rosen claims “pay for starting prison guards is usually in the range of $25,000-$35,000.” This range actually represents the lowest 10% of prison guards in the country, with the median actually being at $45,000 per year starting salary.(2) Is this underpaid? As regular readers of our work will already know, employed Amerikans are generally in the top 10% income earners globally, including those that make $25,000 per year. An individual living on $45,000 per year is in the top 2%.(3) And as many of our readers know, overtime and hazard pay are a regular occurrence in that line of work, easily putting annual prison guard salaries into six figures.
Our writer contacted us about prisoner labor, not prison guard labor. The reason this is relevant though is that it represents the economics of those who see prisons as a product of corporate interests. It often comes hand-in-hand with those who see $50k/year pigs as the oppressed and exploited opposed to the corporate interests. Even if they’re in the top 2%, they are still in the bottom 99% that the left wing of white nationalism sees as allies. This idealism wants to see all people come together for a common cause, ignoring the different material interests of different groups in the world today. We focus on prison organizing because there is a greater consciousness in prisons that these pigs are part of the imperialist system and that they serve the enemy because they benefit from that system.
I Pay Your Salary, Buddy
Rosen starts off his article with the message that U.$. taxpayers are paying $80 billion per year to lock people up. While there has been an upsurge of concern about spending on incarceration in the halls of Congress, why is it that the same “fiscal conservative” voters who don’t want social services are quick to yell “lock them up” when it comes to so-called “criminals”? Our explanation is that the system that is trying to control the rebellious oppressed serves them. It serves them with some of the highest incomes in the world, from which they pay taxes. These incomes, and taxes, are superprofits stolen from the international proletariat.
We know many in the prison movement are not Marxists, and therefore may not accept the labor theory of value. With such people we are working from different theoretical models and different terminology. It is not a coincidence that such people are predominately reformists. We need to be debating Marx vs. bourgeois economics. Even many self-described “Marxists” in the imperialist countries think there is an infinite amount of wealth to go around.
Rosen writes, “Recidivists are the primary ‘product’ of the punishment economy and the real source of its profits.” It’s true, unlike the military-industrial complex, there is no real product being made here, just ancillary services like phone calls and food delivery. But are recidivists the source of these companies profits? No, the only source of profits is surplus value from surplus labor time. And as we’ll reiterate here, that is coming from the Third World proletariat.
The Endless Road to Reformism
Of course, most of the concerns about mass incarceration that Rosen mentions in this article are ones we share. One that we’ve been discussing lately is how for-profit communication services are replacing in-persyn visits and mail under the guise of reducing drugs. Yet the drugs magically keep getting into prisons, and now prisoners communications are being digitized for easier monitoring and censorship, while valuable resources and family connections are being cut off. We’ve also helped expose the issue of a second-class system for migrants, the vast majority who haven’t even committed any anti-people crimes, being stuck in poorly run, privately-owned prisons on behalf of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE).
We just don’t agree with Rosen’s economics and where it leads us strategically.
We agree with Rosen that there is a whole slush economy around incarceration, that’s the nature of the United $tates mall economy in general. And in the case of imprisonment, the result is buying people off to support it. There’s too much money, corruption and greed in this system. But this is nothing particular to incarceration, and incarceration is just a tiny drop in the bucket that is this problem. Do we want to make this tiny corner of the imperialist economy a little less gross? Or do we want to end mass incarceration? liberate oppressed nations from imperialism? end exploitation of the proletariat? We are aware that a majority of our incarcerated readers might lean more towards the first option. And while we appreciate our prison reform allies who stand with us in many campaigns, this newsletter is not a forum to promote reformism.
Rosen writes “[t]he most important way that mass incarceration fails prisoners is by all but guaranteeing that they’ll come back.” This is one of the true crimes of the system. Socialist countries like China showed the world how prisons could be used to integrate former oppressors into a new people-focused society. Yet, “corrections” in the u.$. has always taken a much different form, one of punishment. And this is why we prioritize our Re-Lease on Life Program for those released from prison to help comrades continue to reform themselves and integrate back into society as servants of the people, and avoid going back in. Our humble program is a precursor to a system that will serve to rehabilitate the real criminals on this continent in a socialist future.
This country not only institutionalizes disparities between the oppressed nations and Amerikans in the united $tates, it is a tool of genocide in how it affects the productive and reproductive years of a vast segment of oppressed nation men. These problems beg the solution of liberation and independence.
Rosen closes eir article with a number of examples of progress in reforming the ills ey discusses. We agree these are progressive things, and yet they do not address the problem. Which is why you won’t see these campaigns in the pages of ULK. See recent discussions between USW comrades on how to organize prisoners in a way that keeps our eyes on the prize. Sometimes our campaigns will overlap with the reformers. Even then, we must promote the proletarian line and not succumb to coalition politics.
Sanyika Shakur, formerly known as ‘Monster’ Kody Scott, author of three books and numerous articles, legendary street gang figure, self-transformed New Afrikan revolutionary and communist, passed over to meet the ancestors, Black August 2021. Sanyika was only 57 years of age.
Sanyika is most known for his auto-biography, Monster, which also was produced as a film. What most don’t know is that even at the time of writing that book, Sanyika had begun what would become a life-long struggle to evolve not only his thinking but to have his social practice match his level of theoretical prowess.
Sanyika’s story is a testimonial to what a lot of us, lumpen, go through. He battled drug addiction, he struggled to navigate between his evolving socio-political awareness and the loyalties embedded within him during decades of hard-core gang-bangin’. In the end he stands as both an inspirational, as well as a cautionary example, for those of us lumpen who seek self-evolution, and revolutionary transformation. He is an inspiration, showing how far We can bring ourselves with Our sheer will power. When the brother entered prison in 1985, he was functionally illiterate. A handful of years later he would author the first three books. This in itself is quite a feat.
However, Sanyika’s greatest feat was his determination to unify, and organize gang members, and former gang members into revolutionary formations. These formations he founded or took part in included, C.C.O. (Consolidated Crip Organization), C.R.I.P.(s) (Clandestine Revolutionary Internationalist Party (of Soldiers)), August Third Communist Organization, and the New Afrikan People’s Liberation Army.
Sanyika obviously wished to be remembered, not as a gang bangin’ Crip, but as a New Afrikan revolutionary nationalist and communist who sought to unify his people, New Afrikan lumpen, and he was thankful for the ‘overstanding’ (as he would say) he was able to grasp due to the knowledge and wisdom passed down by his/ Our ancestors. For his chosen name, Sanyika, means ‘Unifier of the people’, while Shakur means ‘most thankful’ in Ki-Swahili and Arabic respectfully.
In including the memory of this comrade-brother in Our newsletter, Power Moves, We wish to call Our readers to dedicate self to self-transformation, and more specifically to transform the criminal mentality into a revolutionary mentality. In order to ‘Re-Build To Win’, We must first Re-Build Ourselves. By this We mean, We must rectify and re-orientate Ourselves with new and improved values, social circles, and social habits. Without these traits of evolution, there will be no revolution, if We think otherwise We’re merely kidding Ourselves.
REST IN POWER COUSIN
Sources: 1)Re-Build!: A New Afrikan Independence Movement Periodical, Special Commemorative Issue, Black August 2021.
[This is re-printed with the author’s permission, from the internal prison newsletter Power Moves, a publication of Black Independence Taking Root (BITR), an organization taking root in Texas Koncentration Kamps.]
For over a decade MIM(Prisons) has offered correspondence study courses to help those trying to transform themselves inside the belly of the beast. Yet, we struggle to keep these Serve the People Programs running and ask those on the outside to contact us to help out. This winter we will be releasing a Revolutionary 12 Step program that is focused on transforming yourself from the lumpen/criminal lifestyle, to the committed revolutionary. The first printing will go out to USW leaders across the country to help implement self-transformation programs in prisons and on the street.
by a North Carolina prisoner September 2021 permalink
On 15 September 2021 twenty four prisoners declared hunger strike at Foothills Correctional Institution in North Carolina. By 2PM the administration locked up 3 comrades. Me and another comrade stayed fasting.
The only give us phone once a week; no yard in a month; and less than 2 hours of recreation per day. Basically we’re in segregation for no reason. I reflect on these b.s. measures, then I asked myself why and how does this opre$$ion end?!
“Why are the battles endless?! Why the Us vs. them?! Why is the Earth CRYING ?!”
Previously I argued that taxpayers are not responsible for government capital policy because they are ignorant. My error was pointed out to me and now I see the truth – the January 6th rioters showed me that they are willing to fight for my oppression therefore their ignorance is irrelevant – they are indeed more responsible than I assumed, therefore I must ignore my compassion for their humanity as unnatural as that is for me. The object is more important than the subject.
When evaluating responsibility, it is tempting to be blinded by the subject. For instance, government officials are directly responsible for enforcing capital policy. However, collaborators often look like our neighbors, friends or even family. These collaborators will support & encourage oppression & tyranny out of ignorance or out of a callous heart. Ignorance cannot be excused if freedom is ever going to be won. When the object of freedom becomes important enough all barriers must fall, even if that means forcing ourselves to do what is not natural.
Rights are never granted, rights are won. Unfortunately, this includes basic human rights such as freedom. To win freedom from the tyranny & oppression that comes with a capitalist economy, the opposition must fall. This necessity does not come naturally, that is because the values instilled in our youth are instilled by capital policy (submission), these values are what allows capitalists to steal your freedom. We must relearn a greater value.
There exist those that will take more than one has to give, that is what capital is (inequality). There is only so much resource & for one to have more than one needs he/she has to deprive another of what they need. For one to be rich, one must be poor.
As I watch the January 6th investigation, one thing is clear. That is the effort was weak. I think that is because the rioters knew in their hearts that they were fighting for the exploitation of an oppressed class. Ironic that they choose to capture the Capitol Building in order to keep their capital wealth at the expense of the oppressed class.
For those of us that are fighting for freedom, We will not make a half-hearted effort because it is our very survival that we are fighting for. We are not fighting for material wealth because we have none. Because our oppression is total & complete then so is our fight for freedom.
We will not fight for one building, not even for one city, or one country. We are fighting for equality. We will not stop until all opposition is fallen. Our fight comes from the heart & that is why it is stronger than the January 6th fight for material wealth.
The difference is that I am sick & tired of being oppressed so that another can live lavishly. The difference is that unlike the January 6th rioters I am not here to have a big party with a bunch of friends at the Capitol Building – I am here to win my freedom and to fight for the freedom of all oppressed people and I will not stop and lay down, I will never stop!!
That is what Marx means by permanent revolution, we must never stop fighting because the very moment we relax is the moment the exploiters continue to exploit as they have always done. Sun Tzu said we can “never leave an enemy on the battlefield.” If we do they will come back again.
As communists we must know our enemy is the object and not the subject. Compassion can blur our vision of the object and it is in these moments I must remember that the capitalists never had any compassion for the oppressed.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This point is relevant as Amerikans remember the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and Afghans sigh in relief as the invader of their country pulls out. Professor Ward Churchill took a lot of heat for quoting Malcolm X on chickens coming home to roost after 9/11 and referring to Amerikans as “little Eichmanns.”(1) Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi in Germany who ran logistics for the system of concentration camps there. He was captured years after the war and in his trial claimed he was just following orders, just a cog in the machine, and should not be blamed for the deaths caused by that machine.
Since the end of the second imperialist war, the Amerikans have run the largest system of concentration camps in the world. While they lack the mass murder of the Nazi system, they are genocidal nonetheless against the oppressed nations that make up the majority of the prisoners. The day will come when Amerikans will be charged for their decades of crimes against humynity. Our success at building anti-imperialism and accountability in the United $tates today will ease the transition to a more just future on these lands.
The most recent killing of U.$. troops in Afghanistan on 26 August 2021 marks the deadliest day in over a decade for the imperialists in that country. It also makes two points quite clear. First, the once reviled Taliban has negotiated a deal with the United $tates in which they regain control of their country in exchange for cooperation against organizations like ISIS(K) who’ve claimed responsibility for the attack that took the lives of thirteen U.$. soldiers. ISIS(K) is just one of over twenty armed groups in Afghanistan that pose a threat to Taliban rule. However, the main incentive for the Taliban’s allegiance to U.$. imperialism seems to be the Afghan economy which the Taliban inherited once the “democratically elected” government of Afghanistan realized that U.$. imperialism would no longer prop them up.(1) Second, [email protected] continue to account for a substantial portion of Amerikan occupation forces in the Third World. Statistics in recent years have shown [email protected] continue to be a growing source of foot soldiers for the Amerikans.
The attack on U.$. troops came just three days before the fifty-first anniversary of the hystoric Chican@ Moratorium. Contrary to what various sell outs, integrationists and those who’ve simply been kept in ignorance have to say about the matter, the moratorium was not about civil rights or equality. Rather, the moratorium was an exercise in power by Raza who attempted to deprive the imperialists of [email protected] troops in their war of colonization and attrition in Vietnam.(2) Thus, it is both heartbreaking and sickening to see that so many years after the last real upsurge against U.$. imperialism in the semi-colonies, [email protected] continue to sacrifice and be sacrificed for the oppressor nation. If [email protected] are to live and die for a cause then it should be for Aztlán, the international proletariat and socialism. August 26 was yet another example of what happens when we fail to organize the oppressed – the imperialists organize them for us.
While four of the thirteen soldiers killed at the Afghanistan International Airport that day were [email protected] born and raised in occupied Aztlán, it should be noted that at least two other fatalities had Spanish surnames.(3) That said, it is still important to note that the attack was a blow against U.$. imperialism by anti-imperialists in the region, and for that we should be appreciative, not horrified. Our sympathies should be with the Afghan family who lost their lives in the U.$. retaliation drone strike and the rest of the victims of the ISIS(K) who were caught in the crossfire on August 26. [email protected] or not, those U.$. soldiers chose their own destiny when they decided it was okay to travel halfway around the world to further oppress an already oppressed population.
It is not far-fetched to envision a reality in which [email protected] youth strive to live and die for Aztlán liberated and free. The development of material conditions will be crucial in this regard, but it will be the struggle of revolutionaries and the masses of turned up youth that will be principal. We should not let the fact that Amerika’s longest war has come to an end deter us from the urgency of organizing the oppressed nations for liberation and against U.$. militarism. “Raza Si, Guerra No!” should be one of many political slogans that we champion in the bi-polar world that is life under imperialism, as Amerikkka’s designs on the African continent promise to become an even bloodier killing field in the years to come.
Notes: 1. The PBS News Hour, 27 August 2021. 2. A MIM(Prisons) study group, 2015, [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. (available to prisoners for $10) 3. KTLA 5 News, 27 August 2021.