There was an entry in ULK 53 I am compelled to address under the heading "Deadly Heat Victory in Louisiana." It was erroneously reported the 5th Circuit ruling in Bell v. LeBlanc, 792 F. 3d 584, mandated the temperature be maintained "at or below 88 degrees in Angola's death row buildings.
Not so. The 5th Circuit held the U.S. District Court Middle District of Louisiana ruling encompassing all of Louisiana's death row overly broad, and therefore an abuse of the District Court's discreation, violation of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The 5th Circuit pared down the District Court's ruling to affect only the three named plaintiffs: Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code, and James Magee. The only reason the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court's ruling as pertaining to these three plaintiffs is because all three are afflicted with pre-existing medical conditions that are susceptible to heat-induced complications.
"Based on its findings of fact, we affirm the district court's conclusion that housing these prisoners in very hot cells without sufficient access to heat-relief measures, while knowing that each suffers from conditions that render him extremely vulnerable to serious heat-related injury, violates the Eighth Amendment. ... The district court also erred because it awarded relief facility-wide, instead of limiting such relief to Ball, Code, and Magee. ... Because the district court's injunction provides an unnecessary type of relief and applies beyond these three Plaintiffs, it violates the PLRA. Accordingly, the district court abused its discretion. ... We emphasize, however, that the finding of substantial risk regarding a heat-related injury is tied to the individual health conditions of these inmates." Ball v. LeBlanc, 792 F.3d 584, 596-600, FNG
The 5th Circuit opined Ball, Code, and Magee could be housed in cells closer to the death row guards' station, which is air conditioned, thereby cooler than the remainder of death row cells. Or, at most, a single death row tier could be air conditioned as a heat-relief measure for prisoners similarly situated to Ball, Code, and Magee. But as for requiring the Louisiana Department of Corrections to maintain temperatures below 88 degrees at Angola's death row altogether, the 5th Circuit judged that was not necessary to comport with the Federal Constitution.
Moral being, if it sounds too good to be true.. perhaps MIM(Prisons) should submit to me these litigous tidbits for vetting and verification.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Thank you to this comrade for setting the record straight, and helping to keep our subscribers from venturing down a wrong path in seeking their own relief from extreme heat, espeically as summer is fast approaching. We rely on our subscribers to share their knowledge with us, whether it be their legal expertise, organizing experience, or theoretical understanding. Everyone should be making an effort to increase our collective abilities, which our oppressors try so hard to eliminate.
There are some good examples of united fronts between oppressed and reactionary groups in the history of the United $tates. Some of which ended up serving the interests of the oppressed and some which ultimately hurt the oppressed. We find a few of these examples described well in the book 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance available from PM Press.(1)
First the case of the fight between the British and the emerging United $tates of Amerika.
"In 1812, using the pretext of Native raids along its norther frontier from British territories, U.S. forces attempted to invade British North America. Here again, Britain's colonial policies proved effective; an alliance of Native nations (who had their own interests in full implementation of the 1763 Proclamation [which prohibited settlement west of the Appalachian mountains following the French and Indian War]) and European settlers succeeded in repulsing the U.S. expansion."(p. 29)
As we have seen since 1812, the victory of the United $tates in the Revolutionary War did not serve the interests of the First Nations. So the First Nations definitely chose the right side in this battle, even though the British surely had no real interest in supporting the rights of the First Nations beyond what was necessary to gain their support. This is an example of identifying the principal enemy and building alliances against that enemy, even if those alliances are with groups that would be enemies in other circumstances. This united front is similar to the alliance between the Kuomindang and the Chinese Communists in the war against Japanese imperialism. Ultimately the Kuomindang betrayed the Communist Party, but at the time Japan was the principal enemy and fighting together in a the united front was the right choice to achieve the ultimate goal of establishing a socialist state.
Another example is found in the U.$. Civil War, which was used by Afrikan slaves to fight for their freedom. It was not a case of whites going to war to help end slavery, but Afrikans were in a position to force this issue to the forefront.
"The beginning of the U.S. Civil War in 1861 posed various problems for the northern Union ruling class. Not only was the war for the preservation of an expanding continental empire, but it also opened up a second front: that of a liberation struggle by enslaved Afrikan peoples. With a population of four million, the rising of these Afrikans in the South proved crucial in the defeat of the Confederacy. By the tens of thousands Afrikan slaves escaped from the slavers and enlisted in the Union forces. This massive withdrawal of slave-labour hit the Southern economy hard, and the Northern forces were bolstered by the thousands."(2)
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Afrikans in the South correctly identified a shift in their principal enemy. It was no longer time to ally with Union forces. With the ending of the war these slaves were about to lose their bargaining position as fighters in the Union army.
"Towards the end of the War in 1865, those Afrikans who did not escape began a large-scale strike following the defeat of the confederacy. They claimed the lands that they had laboured on, and began arming themselves – not only against the Southern planters but also against the Union army. Widespread concerns about this 'dangerous position' of Afrikans in the South led to 'Black Reconstruction'; Afrikans were promised democracy, human rights, self-government and popular ownership of the land. In reality, it was a strategy for returning Euro-American dominance...."(p. 40)
This shift resulted in a better deal for former slaves than they would have got by just passively sticking with their unity with the North. Different conditions will require reevaluation of who is our principal enemy and what are appropriate united front strategies at the time.
Recently we learned that one of our readers and a long-time activist, Zero, had a letter published on the Anarchist Black Cross Portland (ABC PDX) website and in the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) newsletter responding to an article in Under Lock & Key No. 50 (May/June 2016) about the September 9 work stoppage. Zero invited us to respond publicly and so we have done our best here to distill this debate down to what we see as the most important points.
With IWOC, ABC, and Zero, we have a common enemy in the criminal injustice system and imperialism more broadly. We are writing this response with the goal of building unity, not division, between organizations and individuals that are working hard to fight this unjust system.
Anarchism vs. Communism
Fundamentally we have a disagreement over anarchism vs. communism, but we believe that both camps are fighting for the same thing at root: an end to oppression of groups of people by other groups of people. We just think that communists have a more scientific plan for how to get there than anarchists, based on our study of how these same efforts have been attempted, succeeded, and failed in the past. The oppressed people of the world deserve the best and fastest route to liberation. Communists hope to discover what that route is through not only our study but also our practice.
This disagreement over the importance of science to revolutionary struggle is highlighted in a lot of what Zero wrote. Ey accuses MIM(Prisons) of being intellectuals whose "theory is based in theory." Zero also claims to have no interest in political line in the development of the September 9 work stoppage: "I don't care what your line is, nor does anyone else I work closely with on this project. Beyond small friendly jabs at each other, nothing I've seen or read, or heard from anyone in this campaign suggests anyone cares much about line."
Yet it's a discredit to the hunger strike organizers to say that they don't care much about line. It is precisely political line and theoretical analysis that drives the concept that "prisoner labor is slavery and this mass work stoppage is a good plan to shut down prisons." Without unity on this analysis, the organizers might have decided (as an example) the best approach is for everyone to fast because the Amerikkkan farms depend on prisons to buy agricultural goods and so this boycott would shut down the farms and hence force prison reform. IWOC and ABC aren't suggesting this, and that's probably because of their correct theoretical understanding of agriculture in this country. In forming their alliance on this campaign, Zero, IWOC, and ABC at least agree on this political line, even if they don't talk about it. After all, they are all anarchists (or anarchist-led), so they have much unity on line already.
Zero finds "contradictory statements" in our original article that help demonstrate where we depart from the anarchists because our strategy differs from theirs. Zero wrote:
"In paragraph #5 you say: 'we do see power in the ability of prisoners to shut down facilities by not doing the work to keep them running for a potentially longer period'. But then in paragraph #10 you say 'the organizers of the anti-slavery protest are misleading people into believing that shutting down prison work will shut down prisons'.
If masses of prisoners stopped working, forever, some facilities may close. This would likely be because of where they're located geographically, the layout and security level of the facility, and how easy or difficult it is to staff the prisons to accommodate for the loss of labor. But would that close all prisons in the United $tates? We doubt it. Does that mean we think prisoners should all just keep working? No! Short of overthrowing capitlist Amerikkka's power altogether, we will still have prisons in this country based on national oppression. But making that oppression more difficult is always a good thing.
Our point is that Amerikkka is willing to spend a lot of time, money and resources on imprisoning a staggering number of people, all at a financial loss. So we do not see evidence that if prisoners stop working and it suddenly becomes more expensive to imprison people that that will shut down the prison system. It most certainly is a form of resistance that heightens the contradictions between the oppressed and the oppressor, and even within the oppressor camp. Such an act would have certainly have great influence on the ever-changing realities within the U.$. criminal injustice system, as would any sustained, mass prisoner mobilization.
Zero criticizes MIM(Prisons), "You spell united front with capital 'U' and 'F' which is what MIM calls one of its programs, short for UFPP, and as [UFPP] makes specific ideological demands for any entity it is willing to work with, I'm led to believe that what you truly mean by 'work with' is to 'co-opt'." We do capitalize the name of the organization United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP), which has a specific program (the 5 Principles of the UFPP: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism, and Independence). Organizations that agree with those principles but disagree on many other things have joined this United Front and there is no attempt to co-opt those groups. We do not capitalize "united front" when not talking about this specific organization (if we have in print it was a mistake, not a political point). This is not a problem of elitisim, it is simply grammar. We welcome the development of a united front against prisons, and even better a united front against imperialism, outside of the UFPP and not bound by its 5 principles. But we do believe that united fronts need to have clear points of unity so that there isn't a question of organizations being forced to change their political line or give up their independence to participate. In other words, we are actively trying to organize in a way to prevent the co-opting of organizations that Zero accuses us of attempting.
Zero goes on to say that MIM(Prisons) "... refuse[s] to even mention the names of these other revolutionary organizations so that your readers can reach out and seek information on their own. Another display of elitist hegemonization of line." Yet this comment is in the context of criticizing an article that specifically named the IWOC and included a link directly to their publication, so we're confused about where we failed to mention the other organizers' names. On this point, however, we did fail to convert the web address to a print address in our print version of ULK, which of course makes it harder for prisoners to reach out directly to IWOC, and we are correcting that mistake in our footnote to this article. We actually print many articles debating theory and practice, including some that explicitely disagree with us. To be clear though, the purpose of ULK is to educate and inform people on what we see as the most correct political line and practice and so we always offer our response to those points of disagreement and allow our readers (and history) to decide who is correct.
On this same point, we also highlight the correct practice of our predecessors in the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) who distributed a pamphlet "What's Your Line?" with the names, addresses and political positions of a wide spectrum of political organizations. We haven't put the time or money into compiling a similar up-to-date list because our resources are sadly limited, but we still support this practice. Perhaps an innocent oversight, but neither the ABC nor the IWOC bothered to link to our website or print contact information for MIM(Prisons) alongside Zero's long and scathing critique of our organization.
Nihilism or Subjectivism
In eir argument against political theory Zero writes: "I'm an anarchist. More, a nihilist. ... In the words of Bakunin, the true revolutionist is concerned with the science of destruction. Let the other sciences be the work of future generations. ... And as Bakunin said, sometimes we just have to throw theory into the fire, for it only stalls life." It's great to have faith that humynity can work out the problems of the future, but the problems of today also require scientific analysis. The oppressed don't have the luxury of banging their heads against the wall for years failing to make progress. If historical revolutions have failed in the same way repeatedly, we need to learn from those mistakes. And if revolutions have succeeded with certain practices, we should learn from those. This is what theory is all about: learning from history and applying those lessons to our practice today. Then looking at our own practice, drawing conclusions, and adapting our approach.
Citing Webster's dictionary and dictionary.com, without acknowledging the class interests that those resources represent, and saying "that's good enough for me" is simply subjectivism. Denying the importance of theory to our practice is to make us slaves (pun intended) to our emotions and subjectivism, which are very thoroughly conditioned by our residence in an imperialist country. We cannot expect to overcome subjectivism 100%, but through applying dialectical and historical materialsm we hope to make the fewest errors in our revolutionary work as possible.
Zero gives a good example of theoretical analysis in eir criticism: "In closing, let me clarify that dialectical soundness can often depend on interpretation. You all use orthodox marxist definitions of 'slavery' even though we live in a post-modern, post-fordist time and place. The dynamics of our current reality are different. And so we must also re-assess our definitions. Besides, though personally I use marxist formulas I'm ultimately a nihilist, un-beholden to an particular ideological parameters. In other words. My definition of 'slavery' is reflected by our material conditions, not political agenda."
Zero is correctly stating here that we must adapt our theory to current conditions. What held true in Marx's day may not be true today. We can't just get stuck in what Marx wrote and ignore changes in conditions. We agree with that. But we ask Zero, what is it but theory that allows us to discuss who is or isn't a slave? If this discussion isn't based in theory, then it's just subjectivism.
For instance, here is an example where MIM(Prisons)'s analysis has adapted to changing conditions since Marx's day. We see that while the vast majority of workers of all countries were exploited in the past, and made up the proletariat class that Marx wrote about so thoroughly, today imperialism has advanced to the point where workers in imperialist countries are mostly petty-bourgeois. This is a point where we tend to disagree with groups who organize people in the First World around their economic interests (as opposed to national interests).
Finally, demonstrating the difficulty in remaining anti-theory while discussing political theory, Zero critiqued our point that work strikes will not in-and-of-themselves bring down the Amerikan criminal injustice system: "I’d ask on what dialectical evidence you base your theory that america would 'figure out' how to keep us locked up." This is a good example of the importance of theory. If we're wrong, then we should focus our efforts into organizing work stoppages. And Zero is right, it is dialectical materialist analysis that will help us figure that out here. The article that Zero responded to actually went into a lot of depth on this very point, explaining that prisons are primarily tools to control society, not make profit, which aid in the oppressive force of the bourgeoisie by keeping lumpen and anyone deemed dangerous to their power locked away. We know that prisons are not reliant on the money made from prisoner labor, because there is public information showing that prisons are money-losing operations.
Political debate is not the same as political opposition
To clarify our position, in the original article about the September 9 protests we talked about the similarities and differencess between the five-year history of the United Front for Peace in Prisons September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity, and this newer call for prisoner activism on September 9: "First we want to say that we are always happy to see people taking up organizing and trying to build unity behind bars. There are some very good points taken in this call to action... we would hope to work with these folks to broaden our movement." We followed this up with multiple articles reporting on the work stoppage and praising the widespread protests.
But Zero seems to think that by publically criticizing an incorrect point of political theory from the organizers we are opposing the protests. Ey wrote
"What we have here is a huge social base, across prison walls, that is extremely pissed off. And we have an opportunity to harness that anger and point it at our enemy on September 9th, thats all the analysis I need. and I say that if you oppose this in any way, you’re nothing but a house slave ready to defend your master. your complicit and should be among the first to be taken to task."
If we won't just blindly agree and follow eir leadership, apparently we are written off as complicit with the enemy. Isn't this the squelching of political debate that anarchists so vehemently oppose? To be clear, we support the September 9th protests, both those organized by members of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, and those promoted by the IWOC. Our criticism is directed toward statements that participating in these protests will shut down the prisons because prisons are dependent on prison slave labor. If we did not make this clear in our articles about September 9, we will take this criticism to help us approach the struggle with a clearer focus on unity.
Finally, Zero wrote that we should have known about this work strike sooner. It looks like there was some censorship of our mail from em so letters from Zero about this didn't get to us. We did reach out to IWOC and others about working together on September 9 organizing once we learned about the work strike (which we did hear about from a number of ULK subscribers). We never got a response from the organizers. We hope that going forward we can collaborate in the fight against the criminal injustice system to build a stronger movement. This doesn't mean we will give up our communist position, nor does it mean that Zero, ABC, or IWW need to give up their anarchism, and in fact we would argue that continuing this debate publicly is good for everyone. In practice we hope to collaborate on the September 9 protest in 2017.
Greetings to everyone at MIM. I am a prisoner held captive here at High Desert State Prison, in Susanville, California.
I'm writing to inform the people of this new and improved form of repression tactic hidden behind the name of public safety and security. An investigative report came out in December 2015 by the Inspector General about the abuse and cover-ups by officers at this prison for 2 decades. Since then, the powers that be have started to install the video recording cameras in the prison, which is not a bad idea, most prisons have cameras on the yard. However, these new high tech cameras now have audio/voice recording which is new for C.D.C.R.
They have also installed them just about any and everywhere, in the chowhall, gym, dayroom, yard, medical, law library, chapel, laundry, school/education, even in N.A. (Narcotic Anonymous) and A.A. (Alcoholic Anonymous), which begs the question, who're they really keeping an eye on and watching? Now don't get me wrong I'm all for holding these pigs/officers accountable for their actions. But now they're watching and listening to our conversations in the chapel during our religious services where prisoners talk freely and enjoy open discussions on religion, race, politics, without the eyes and ears of the custody staff. N.A. And A.A. is suppose to be Anonymous where prisoners can get help and talk openly and privately with each other and the sponsor about our addiction and recovery. Now the anonymous is out the picture when custody can see and listen when they chose to.
Medical is suppose to be between the prisoner and doctor to talk and review medical issues and problems without custody knowing your business. Visiting always had cameras but if the state choses to take out the old and put in the new, then they will be able to listen to our intimate conversations with our family, friends, wives, children etc. All in the name of what public safety and security or is this just a new and improved way for C.D.C.R. to watch & now listen to everything a prisoner does? You decide.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We're glad to have this point brought up for consideration as most of what we've printed on this topic has been in favor of increased surveillance. A prime example was the campaign in North Carolina, centered around a lawsuit filed against staff for assaulting prisoners, focused on getting better camera coverage in state prisons to monitor staff. We supported this comrade in promoting eir efforts, recognizing the vulnerable situation that prisoners are in at the hands of the oppressor. Yet, for those of us outside prison, the call for more surveillance cameras gives one pause. It has come up in relation to police on the streets, but we dismissed that as not addressing the problem. The same could be said inside prisons.
The privacy struggle is one that is very relevant to us. At the same time it is mostly dominated by oppressor interests on both sides. In other words, it's hard to campaign for civil liberties in a general way that is anti-imperialist. There are engineering solutions to privacy that can be used as tools, tactically, by revolutionaries.
There have been reports on the chilling effect of surveillance in the United $tates, showing that people are less willing to visit certain websites after the Edward Snowden leaks exposing NSA spying operations. While we disagree with the Liberals who call for a freedom of speech that allows people to promote profits over humyn needs, we also propose a program for a dictatorship of the proletariat that expands freedom of speech in many ways compared to current conditions in this country. We would ban the Orwellian "smart TVs" and other technology that is recording and collecting data on people in their homes. We would guarantee not only net neutrality, but internet access to all. Below are some planks from the MIM platform on subjects related to the First Amendment:
Restrictions on public postering will be eliminated except on residential buildings.
Large and convenient bulletin boards will be placed on every block. Boards covered over will be evidence for the need to build more.
There will be convenient places to leave literature along with such bulletin boards.
There will be no arrests in any non-residential building or premise for quiet distribution of literature. The only exception will be for high government officials meeting and who face threat of assassination—the Central Committee and government officials above a certain rank.
Arrests for vocal discussion will be limited to places where there is a need for meetings and orderly work. Cafeterias, outdoor sidewalks and most indoor hallways will be legally required to allow vocal discussion.
Meeting halls of public buildings will be made available for meetings to the public. If necessary more will be constructed.
Government bureaucrats interfering with the "free speech" of the public will be transferred to jobs where they have no such possibility.
Those advocating opposition to the dictatorship of the proletariat as defined at the top of the document will go to prison or re-education camp and thereby not enjoy all full public citizenship rights.
Sale of pornography will be forbidden. Distribution of nude photographs paid for by the photographer or persyn who signed a consent form to be displayed in photographs will always be legal, but government authorities may require a registration for financial bookkeeping purposes. Those publicly distributing nude photos of children 12 and under will be sent to re-education camp, whether money spent was their own or not.
Any non-party literature or other device for public opinion building will be paid for by individual members of the public with money from salary and no outside capitalist money or stolen sources of wealth will be used to promote any opinion of the non-party public.
MIM will not order the government to censor the INTERNET except on questions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and party rule.
USENET groups such as talk.rape, alt.activism.death-penalty, alt.politics.greens etc. will be permitted, partly for stimulation of the minds in imperialist countries, partly to bring to the surface bourgeois thoughts in need of professional proletarian refutation and partly because there will continue to be problems in all these areas under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The need for stimulation is especially great in the depoliticized imperialist countries. Many middle-class peoples will come under the dictatorship of the proletariat without ever knowing that the world's majority of people suffered threats to their survival on a daily basis. (1)
MIM Platform: Against prison censorship
Prison officials claim they have security reasons to act as censors. But censorship prevents prisoners from access to legal help, education, and political organization. Political and legal mail and literature are not a direct threat to the security of prisons.
MIM Platform: Peaceable assembly for prisoners
The following plank to be enforced by UN Commission on Human Rights, International Court of Justice and like bodies: The right of prisoners to peaceably assemble
Prisoners can assemble for religious purposes, but if they assemble for other purposes the prison officials call it gangbanging. Some prisoner religious gatherings have even been called gang meetings.
In analyzing the system of social control in the United $tates, it is imperative that we follow the correct line. The position of many today is to argue that the injustice system is based on a "Prison-Industrial Complex", which we at MIM(Prisons) reject. A new report, "Following the Money of Mass Incarceration" by Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy, provides additional evidence to backup our position.
Prisons are generally a complex web of concentration camps for oppressed semi-colonies, rather than an economically profitable industry. Indeed, there are some profits to be made (and capitalists/imperialists are good at finding their niches), but overall, the purpose of the injustice system today is population control.
As Wagner and Rabuy point out in their article: "In this first-of-its-kind report, we find that the system of mass incarceration costs the government and families of justice-involved people at least $182 billion every year."(1) This $182 billion includes the $374 million in profits received by the private prison industry. The profits to these numerically few stakeholders hardly represent a systematic profit-generating enterprise. In fact, in the graph summing up their research, the authors had to make an exception to the cut off for significant portions of the U.$. prison budget in order to even include private prisons on it!
Private prison corporations have very little to gain in the prison business, which is why the vast majority (up to 95%) are still public prisons.(2) The Amerikkkan government fronts the bill for the $182 billion. The few economic beneficiaries of the prison industry are commissary vendors, bail bond companies, and specialized telephone companies. As Wagner and Rabuy demonstrate, these are the multi-billion dollar industries.
And they, of course, benefit, whether the prisons are private or not!
"This industry is dominated by two large publicly traded companies — CoreCivic (which until recently was called Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)) and The GEO Group — as well as one small private company, Management & Training Corp (MTC). We relied on the public annual reports of the two large companies, and estimated MTC’s figures using records from a decade-old public record request."(1)
Why would the imperialist system be willing to spend almost $200 billion a year at the loss of widespread economic labor and consumers? For, as is shown: "Many people confined in jails don’t work, and four state prison systems don’t pay at all."(1)
As Wagner points out in an article from 7 October 2015:
"Now, of course, the influence of private prisons will vary from state to state and they have in fact lobbied to keep mass incarceration going; but far more influential are political benefits that elected officials of both political parties harvested over the decades by being tough on crime as well as the billions of dollars earned by government-run prisons' employees and private contractors and vendors.
"The beneficiaries of public prison largess love it when private prisons get all of the attention. The more the public stays focused on the owners of private prisons, the less the public is questioning what would happen if the government nationalized the private prisons and ran every facility itself: Either way, we’d still have the largest prison system in the world."(3)
The capitalists don't economically gain from the supposed “Prison-Industrial Complex”, but the politicians gain from the white Amerikkkan obsession with “crime”. Taking this fact into account, we find the truth hiding behind Wagner and Rabuy's cryptic phrase: “To be sure, there are ideological as well as economic reasons for mass incarceration and over-criminalization.”(1)
We've already looked at the economic reasons – power groups like the bail bond companies and commissary vendors are obviously looking to make a profit. So what are the ideological reasons?
When we look at prison populations (whether private or public), we can see where mass incarceration gets its impetus. The vast majority of prisoners are New Afrikans, Chican@s, and peoples of the First Nations (even though euro-Amerikkkans are the majority of the general population). The prison is not a revenue racket, but an instrument of social control. The motivating factor is domination, not exploitation.
If we're following the money though, then we need look at how spending breaks down. Wagner and Rabuy present the division of costs as: the judicial and legal costs, policing expenditures, civil asset forfeiture, bail fees, commissary expenditures, telephone call charges, “public correction agencies” (like public employees and health care), construction costs, interest payments, and food and utility costs.
The authors outline their methodology for arriving at their statistics and admit that “[t]here are many items for which there are no national statistics available and no straightforward way to develop a national figure from the limited state and local data.”(1) Despite these obvious weaknesses in obtaining concrete reliable data, the overwhelming analysis stands.
Wagner and Rabuy discuss the private prison industry at the end of the article. Here, they write:
"To illustrate both the scale of the private prison industry and the critical fact that this industry works under contract for government agencies — rather than arresting, prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating people on its own — we displayed these companies as a subset of the public corrections system."(1)
As was argued in "MIM(Prisons) on U.S. Prison Economy", “[i]f prison labor was a gold mine for private profiteers, then we would see corporations of all sorts leading the drive for more prisons."(2)
In light of this, the injustice system in the United $tate and the prisons (both private and public) are used by the government to oppress national minorities. And the government is rewarded with enthusiasm and renewed vigor by white Amerikkkans, who goose-step into formation with ecstasy when racist politicians like Donald Trump go on about being "tough on crime".
MIM Thought stresses the focus on imperialism both inside and outside the United $nakes. The network of prisons is no exception — imperialism here functions as a method of control by Amerikkkans of oppressed nations. As the statistics presented by Wagner and Rabuy clearly demonstrate, there is no "Prison-Industrial-Complex", there is a systematic attempt to destroy individuals, communities, and nations.(4)
I read with interest the article on the lack of a constitutional right to a grievance procedure ( Prisoners Unite Against Suppression of VA DOC Grievance Procedure) in ULK 54. This happens to be an issue I researched a few months ago. Unfortunately I'm Federal, not state, so I can't file a §1983 anyway, which is a shame because I'd just love to take this one to the Supreme Court.
This legal argument should work. However, the only place I can see it working is at the Supreme Court itself. I offer it in the hopes that someone else can run with it.
The article is quite correct. There are many 4th circuit opinions throwing out prisoners' §1983 actions for denial of or retaliation against filing grievances, most of which go back to Adams v. Rice 40F.3d.72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994). This opinion, however, was before the 1995 Prison Litigation Reform Act, 1997(e). The argument is that, as 1997(e) came later than Adams v. Rice, and congress could not have intended to make a constitutional right (the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances under Amendment 1) contingent upon conduct that is not constitutionally protected, that therefore Adams v. Rice and all subsequent case law should be declared null and void.
Digging a bit deeper, I found that Adams bases its opinion on Flick v. Alba, 932 F.2d 728, 729 (8th Cir 1991) claiming there is "no constitutional right to participate in grievance proceedings."
The problem with this is that Flick v Alba states, "When the claim underlying the administrative grievance involves a constitutional right, the prisoner's right to petition the government for redress is the right of access to the courts, which is not compromised by the prison's refusal to entertain his grievance." After 1997(e), of course, that last clause is false, 1997(e) specifically and deliberately makes a prison's refusal to entertain grievances compromise the right of access to the courts. That's what 1997(e) is for!
If there be any justice, this is a slam-dunk argument. Of course, there isn't any justice. But occasionally a judge, wanting to gain status by overturning a long-held precedent might do the right thing, if only accidentally. It might also have some value as a rallying point for activism.
One might also argue a violation of equal protection under the fourteenth amendment, but I'm not sure how much that would add. A couple of paragraphs couldn't hurt, though.
"Is there ever a time when we should unite with reactionary oppressor nation lumpen orgs in a United Front for Peace in Prisons?" Absolutely! You want to win, don't you? For anyone to refuse to work with a potentially valuable ally against this Juggernaut Force that both groups are up against, due to a few minor differences in excess views and opinions just sounds like folly. Wars are won by alliances, not the practice of alienation.
History is full of these kinds of examples. The German Nazis were undisputed white nationalist, white supremacy, white racist and everything else white group that there has ever been. The Japanese were anything but Aryan or white, yet despite that obvious fact, the two groups were able to put those differences aside long enough in order to wage war against the rest of the world.
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend." now that's sound logic! If you decide not to join forces with what you refer to as "white nationals," either because they are "white" or maybe even a little to proud of it, then wouldn't that sort of put you in the same boat as them, guilty of the same things. Are you perhaps then a little bit racist too?
Are there so many of you that you can afford to be so picky about the skin color, or differences in ideologies of those that we allow to align themselves with you in this fight? Black communist and white nationalist alike, neither can afford to turn away the aid of the other at a time like this — especially in prison.
White nationalists are seasoned and often times expert resistance fighters that come complete with a deep seated hatred of our most potent enemy, that any group in this fight would be lucky to have on their side, once the real fighting starts. The Federal Government fears them and has always feared them for those very reasons. These members of the White Resistance Movement would bring their own unique skill sets to the struggle, that you might otherwise be lacking in, such as military strategy, connections — in parts of the underground that you've never had access to before — military tactics and weapons knowledge, etc.
Now I'm only suggesting cooperation with certain white nationalists and/or separatist individuals here and there, that might want to help, not necessarily white nationalist "groups" per say. This is because these types of groups attract a lot of attention from all the current law enforcement agencies and especially the Federal Government and because of that, each group is already heavily infiltrated by under cover agents. So by uniting with such groups and organizations, you would just be inviting those same numerous agents into the folds of your own group.
There are lots of single disenfranchised ex-members of these groups though, who are solid soldiers and have a lot to offer their next group and I think that it would be a mistake to let them get away, if they are willing to help.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer raises some good points about uniting with all who oppose the same enemy. We agree, for the most part, but perhaps this writer goes too far with the pragmatism of allying for the sake of size and skills. We believe there needs to be some clear political unity in order to build a united front. We don't all have to agree that we want a communist system in the end, but we must have at least one concrete goal that we can unite around in practice. And we also need to agree that political independence is acceptable, as we will not give up our principles just for the sake of convincing someone who disagrees to work with us.
Lastly, we want to comment on the idea that it is racist to refuse to unite with white nationalists. It would be incorrect to turn away white allies just for the color of their skin, but it is not incorrect to identify groups of people's political and economic interests and to identify potential allies based on this. Further, if someone is promoting white nationalism, that is fundamentally opposed to the liberation of oppressed nations: white nationalism is, by definition, a belief in the superiority of the white nation which already has the power and wealth. This sort of nationalism is reactionary and opposing it has nothing to do with racism.
Regarding the question of united front alliances with white nationalist groups, there are pros and cons to working with other groups. I have been writing to MIM(Prisons) for a few years now and enjoy reading ULK. I am pretty much my own one-man army. I do not ask others to do things I will not do myself.
I am in a Federal Penitentiary in Tuscon, Arizona. This is a sex offender, gang drop out, Protective Custody yard. I am not here by choice. I am a registered sex offender for indecent exposure in a bar. Even though charges were dropped I was forced to register and now I am still fighting that case in the state. I am in Federal prison for charges that were unrelated to the state charge. This yard does not have politics that other yards have. We still have politics, but not to the extreme. The chow hall is racially segregated but a man can sit wherever he wants. The point I'm trying to get at is I could leave this yard and go back to an active yard most likely and get killed for being a registered sex offender even though the charges were dropped. That's politics. Now there is a lot of sex offenders and homosexuals, rats, and dropouts. Everyone is here for a reason. I have been on active yards and a lot of times, in fact most of the time, a person is putting his life on the line for someone who is just a piece of shit or a dope fiend. I no longer use dope and do not use dope in prison.
I grew up in the west from Montana to Arizona in the heart of the Aryan nation, an enforcer for the Aryan Brotherhood with the old saying if it ain't white it ain't right. I was a blind kid but a good soldier. At 41 years old I am now my own man. I have never left my brothers but I no longer fight that fight of hatred. There are pros and cons to working with other groups.
I have a question: are there no Maoists who are sex offenders or snitches? Do the Maoists choose to work with other groups or try to convert other groups to Maoism? It is one thing to work with a different group to achieve the same goal. I am an individual in a group and my goals as an individual are not always the same goals as the group. My goal is freedom from an oppressive corrupt government and it does not matter whether it is the USA or Russia, oppression is oppression, corruptness is corruptness and this should be stopped. We all belong to different groups even the groups that feel the need to oppress others.
The enemy of my enemy is my ally. United Front for Peace!
This is no longer about politics or what group a person belongs to. I am an independent Aryan Brother and I support the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons and the struggle of incarcerated people. (I do not like to use the word inmate or convict or any other word for prisoner that is used to take a person's personal power. These words make people feel powerless, hopeless, and this is not true.) We are people, humans. We have families, friends, just like everyone else.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is an interesting letter about united fronts because it comes from someone representing two of the groups that we are often told to never ally with, and ey raises questions from the other side. First on the question of sex offenders, this writer demonstrates why trusting the state's label of "sex offender" is as bad as trusting the state's label of "criminal." We must decide for ourselves which individuals are allies and which are enemies.
On the question of white nationalists and allies, this writer still runs with eir group but apparently has significant disagreements with them if ey also supports ULK and MIM(Prisons). This is an excellent example of uniting all who can be united against the criminal injustice system. We know that the Aryan brotherhood is fundamentally opposed to the liberation of oppressed nations. Just as the Communist Party of China knew that the Kuomindang was fundamentally opposed to communism. But in China before the revolution was successful, there was an opportunity to build an alliance against the Japanese imperialism, the principal contradiction at the time. And we have a similar opportunity to build an alliance against the criminal injustice system within prisons. While certainly a smaller scale than the united front in China, our common enemy in prisons offers the opportunity for alliances with groups that will, in other battles, be our enemy. And it's also possible we will win over some folks from these groups who, like this writer, believe that "oppression is oppression...and this should be stopped."
This comrade mentions Russia, perhaps as a random example. But talking about Russia and oppression is becoming a hot-button topic in the United $tates today. This anti-Russia fervor is, as always, tied up with Amerikan nationalism. It is being used to attack the current Trump regime in a way that threatens the world with inter-imperialist and even nuclear war. Russia was once part of the Soviet Union, which under Lenin and Stalin was socialist. But after Stalin died in 1952 the country moved quickly to take up state capitalism. And capitalism is a system that thrives on oppression and corruption. But the anti-Russia revival in the U.$. should not be mistaken for anti-imperialism, rather it is nationalist rallying around the biggest most dangerous imperialist power in the world — the United $nakes.
I would like to address the question if there should be a United Front alliance with white nationalist groups?
I am all for aligning with other groups who face oppression and who share the same goals. When it comes to white nationalist groups first a few things must be clarified. First question is who and what is "white." White is scientifically not a racial group. Also do whites in prison and the world face the same systematic oppression as people of color? Lastly looking at history how has interactions between whites and people of color effected the non-white groups in a positive way?
The question on "who and what is white?" has an elusive answer especially right here in the United $tates. Since 1790, the United $tates has allowed only "free white persons" to become citizens; in the twentieth century as non-European immigrants applied for citizenship it became the responsibility of the courts to set limits upon whiteness. George Dow, a Syrian immigrant, was denied eligibility for citizenship on the basis that geography defined race; to be white was to be European. Dow eventually won on appeal, showing that Syrians were indeed Europeans based on geography and thus members of the white race. In 1922, a Japanese immigrant named Takao Ozawa argued that he should be considered a white person because his skin was literally white, asserting that many Japanese people were "whiter than the average Italian, Spaniard, or Portuguese." His case would go all the way to the Supreme Court, which rejected his claim to citizenship and the idea that race could be determined by skin tone: "To adopt the color test alone would result in a confused overlapping of races and a gradual merging of one into the other, without any practical line of separation," claimed one judge.
Using the science of the day, the court ruled that "the words 'white person' are synonymous with the words 'a person of the Caucasian race'." Since Ozawa was not a Caucasion, he could not be white. In only a short time later, in the case of an Indian immigrant named Bhagat Singh Thind, the Supreme Court betrayed its Ozawa ruling and declared that while all whites are Caucasian, not all Caucasians were white. Even scientists classified Thind as undeniably Caucasian, but the court insisted that "White" must mean something more. "It may be true that the blond Scandinavian and the brown Hindu have a common ancestor in the dim reaches of antiquity, but the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences between them today." To prove his purity, Thind invoked the Aryanist myth of ancient white conquerors setting up the caste system to preserve their race. "The high-class Hindu" he argued, "regards the aboriginal Indian mongoloid in the same manner as the American regards the negro." With all that Thind was denied citizenship. Within the category of "Caucasian," the court noted one could find a wide range of peoples including South Asians, Polynesians, and even the Hamites of Africa based upon their Caucasian cast of features, though in color they range from brown to black. For reasons not articulated the court decided Thind was not white, and therefore not granted privileges of the white empire.
That the Supreme Court could reject a white-skinned Japanese because he was not Caucasian and a brown-skinned Caucasian because he was not white reveals what white people have made race what it has always been: an unscientific and inconsistent means of enforcing social inequality that further rules the machines of global white supremacy. This machine is what gives birth to capitalism and imperialism and other oppressive factions. So basically whiteness is whatever white people say it is. So by white nationalist groups even identifying themselves as white places them in a privileged position in the global white supremacy machine. It is no secret why someone would want to identify as "white," especially in the United $tates where there is undeniably a caste system based on skin color. With whiteness comes privilege and a sense of entitlement. Yes, I know there are white comrades who are being oppressed also but it is not solely based on their skin color or ethnic group. They are basically collateral damage of the capitalistic and imperialistic system that comes from Global white supremacy. White people make up around 11% of the world's population yet at least 82% of the world's population is in some fashion being oppressed by the global white supremacy machine. Are white nationalist groups really ready to give up their whiteness to stand for true revolution even if that means in the process whiteness will no longer exist?
History shows that those of us who fight for revolution have aligned ourselves with white groups and white individuals who claim they seek change too. In the midst of this problems usually occurred. Most notably is with William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison, a white man, can be labeled as a true revolutionist of his time. As an abolitionist he spoke out against slavery and demanded full racial equality even before the Civil War. He also publicly burned the U.$. constitution, calling it an "agreement with hell." Garrison seemed like the white nationalist who wanted to join the fight but he still couldn't escape his sense of privilege and superiority. This moment came when Frederick Douglass, Garrison's protégé told Garrison that he wanted to start a newspaper. Garrison, fearful that Douglass would draw black readers away from his own paper and hurt that Douglass would even think of competing against him, discouraged the plan. Another white abolitionist in Garrison's camp, Maria Weston Chapman, even doubted Douglass could have the mental capacity for such a task. Douglass went ahead and started his newspaper which ended his friendship with Garrison. Garrison, though he wanted to help, could not see that the revolution was not about him but about the millions of people being oppressed. He still had to be a white guy about the whole situation. He took his sense of privilege and entitlement and wanted to discourage another in his attempt to add to the cause. So can white nationalist groups align themselves with the United Front without trying to make the fight solely about their ego? Can the United Front hold the fight when aligned with white nationalist groups without having fear of offending white people when truths are spoken against capitalism, imperialism and global white supremacy when it puts the collective of white people in a negative light?
Lastly how have groups who are predominately non-white benefited in the past when coming into contact with whites? Historically the relationship between non-whites and whites has been one of colonization, genocide, slavery, imperialism, and destruction. Though all non-white groups and cultures did not live in idyllic golden ages before the coming of white people, these elements weren't consistent, nor were they typical, until the advent of white culture domination. This has been the consistent relationship of white people with the world. So history shows the consistent nature of white people when coming in contact of non-white people has been one of predatory and exploitative relationships.
Now some will say I'm being racist by stating these facts but consider the fact that people of "hue" hence humans have been the most tolerant and accepting people you'll ever encounter (sometimes to our detriment) and this premise of exclusion came from white people themselves. It is only us who are confused about where they stand. Now yes there are those white individuals and groups who attempt to confront and resist these norms. Those who have attempted to do so in earnest have learned these lessons the hard way. White people who actively resist whiteness (and all of its norms) are out-casted, disowned, and reviled by other members of their own groups. This is what defines the community and collective identity and not the individuals who know that "treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity."
So can white nationalist groups abandon their whiteness and sense of privilege? If so then yes United Front can align with them in some fashion. Based on historic events it should be controlled and constantly evaluated. Also whites need not to hold hands with us and smile but reach in their own communities and take the fight to their own who actively and by default participate in the global white supremacy machine which governs capitalism and imperialism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade that to identify as white is to identify as an oppressor nation, and we therefore say that Amerikans must commit nation (as well as class and gender) suicide in order to join the side of humynity.
The example given of Garrison and Douglass is a fine anecdote, but it is just an example of a couple of people. So we would caution our readers to think scientifically and not draw broad conclusions from isolated examples. As this writer says, this is just one example. And there are books out there, like Settlers: The Mythology of a White Proletariat by J. Sakai and False Nationalism, False Internationalism by Sera and Tani that really do historical analysis of the relationships between the oppressed nations in the United $tates and various groups of "revolutionary" or "progressive" whites.
Both of those books are looking at imperialism, or at least its emergence in the United $tates. Imperialism's identity is found in the conflict between the oppressor nations and the oppressed nations that resist them. While ideas of superiority based on phenotypical characteristics certainly did not originate with imperialism, it is with imperialism that nation becomes principal. Therefore, we do not agree with the author's premise that the "[machine of global white supremacy] is what gives birth to capitalism and imperialism and other oppressive factions." Marx and Lenin explained the evolution of imperialism on economic terms, while the culture and ideas that came with it were a reflection of those economic changes.
But we were originally posing a different question with this issue of Under Lock & Key. A united front does not require agreement on every position, or even for all parties to "stand for true revolution." In the context of the prison movement, white nationalists might be serious about the struggle against long-term isolation because their leaders are just as likely (or at least very likely) to face this torture. In this case, we'd suggest we should unite with these groups to work on that campaign. In this issue of ULK we have some examples in which such temporary alliances for common interests as prisoners have succeeded.
The question of how oppressor nation and oppressed nation revolutionaries should relate in this country is a whole other question brought up by this comrade. We will only address it briefly to bring up some general points for further analysis. The urge to unite with white people in the United $tates is a recurring theme due to the fact that the white nation has been a majority since the founding of this country, and it's hard to fight battles as the minority. As we know, those numbers are projected to change in the not-so-distant future. But even when euro-Amerikans become the minority, will most oppressed nation people be anti-imperialist? In current conditions they are not, though great potential remains. As we are currently in a non-revolutionary situation, we think it is a reasonable organizing strategy to avoid white people and white organizations altogether. There are plenty of oppressed nation people yet to be organized, and single-nation organizations have proven most effective in U.$. history at building revolutionary movements.
As conditions become more revolutionary, if forces in favor of revolution remain the minority in all nations in the United $tates, those who avoided whites before may be tempted to address this issue again. The Panthers organized with euro-Amerikans from a position of strength, so that they largely avoided those euro-Amerikans harming their movement, especially in the early years. Yet, Huey Newton found New Afrikans in a position of weakness due to their minority status that led to his proposal of the theory of intercommunalism. Fred Hampton's Rainbow Coalition and Huey Newton's Intercommunalism demonstrate a strong tendency in the Panther leadership to approach euro-Amerikans as potential allies in the anti-imperialist united front similar to how they approached other nations.
From Malcolm X to Stokely Carmichael to the Panthers, New Afrikan revolutionaries have pushed whites to organize their own. But how do they do that? Some white organizations tried to mimic the Panthers, but this was only viable in small pockets of lumpenized whites. Other groups have provided support structures to oppressed nations, where the focus is on organizing whites to serve other nations. But we need something in between, where white people can be leaders, applying and learning from the scientific method of building a revolutionary movement, but at the same time serving other nations in ways that are against the interest of their own. This could be done on the basis of accountability and self-criticism. It could also incorporate shared self-interest in opposing environmental destruction and war. But a truly revolutionary current among euro-Amerikans will likely not gain much traction until the oppressed nations have advanced the struggle to a stage that is more advanced than it is today.
The work of MIM through Under Lock & Key is invaluable to those of us searching for tools, methods and means for motivating the stagnate prison masses or even segments of the prison population. Because the work is informative and an avenue of outside support it is inspirational. Many of these individuals shares very little mutual interests that motivates their actions except for their greed. Thus, to be able to spread a common literature throughout the cells and blocks is a basic unifying instructive instrument. The same way as prisoners are brought together to socialize by pop-culture media, I've seen that Under Lock & Key has the same potential.
Talking to egotistical and materialistic people is less effective than giving them material to absorb themselves without being defensive and having the need to assert themselves. But what adds to the effectiveness of the material is if it is wide spread it becomes more of a persuasive cultural influence. Because in a disorganized and dysfunctional state like Indiana basic buddy-cliques are dominant, the most effective way to stir the population as a whole is to infuse these buddy-cliques with the seeds they can use to grow. The material can be used to inject enthusiasm, but that enthusiastic fervor will subside and when it does individuals' adolescent tendencies will re-emerge because the ideas were never owned by the individuals. However, by quiet distributing the material and leaving individuals to ponder the ideas alone, they'll begin to own the ideas and the adolescent displays of rebelliousness for public demonstration are never given the chance to receive the reward of public attention; things will be based on substance.
Here I simply note the power of media and the need to use it to create and influence cultural ideas within cell blocks and prisons. There is a single source where the vast numbers of prisoners receive their ideas about society and what punishment should be. That source is drawn from the well of those who punish them. If we can use Under Lock & Key and MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle From Within efforts to become a source of pop-culture throughout cell blocks and create a new culture in prison that replaces the disorganization and dysfunction we'll be on the way to influencing the larger society.