Yesterday, National Public Radio (NPR) aired an interview with a former prisoner in Iran to discuss the recent release of 5 Amerikan citizens from an Iranian prison. The focus was on the horrible effects of solitary confinement and how to adapt to being back in society.
In our 2008 survey of long-term solitary confinement in the United $tates, we found that there were over 90,000 people suffering in those conditions. It is strange for the NPR story to not have mentioned this problem at home as well, or how the oppressed people in this country fair after years in torture cells. The NPR report spoke of “death chambers” in the Iranian prison, yet the United $tates has electric and now injection chairs with viewing areas and what they call “death row” in prisons across this country (though only about a dozen states are actively murdering prisoners in recent years).
The United $tates has long had the highest imprisonment rate across the world. They even boasted a higher imprisonment rate of Black people than the internationally condemned apartheid regime in South Africa.
The one-sided depiction of prisons and solitary confinement in Iran on NPR revealed a strong bias in their reporting. Yet what was most shocking to learn was that these people coming out of Iranian prisons were being offered what sounded like a fully immersive program through the U.$. military for dealing with the mental anguish of being in long-term solitary confinement.
Really? Yet every year we have comrades who are released from the same conditions in this country with nothing but a parole officer watching over them, often sabotaging their efforts to maintain a job and build a new life. Tens of thousands of people every year are released from long-term solitary in the United $tates, either into general population prisons or to the streets, with no concern for their mental well-being from the state. Who the U.$. imperialists offer mental health services to is a political decision, and it is our politics that guide us to offer help to those the imperialists will not.
As of last week, the California Mandela Act (AB 280) passed a supermajority in the state house and senate, heading next to the desk of Governor Newsom. Newsom vetoed the Mandela Act just one year ago. An aspiring presidential candidate, Newsom is likely to reject the calls from the state legislator to stop this torture again. This is over a decade after the historic California hunger strikes that called for an end to long-term solitary confinement, leading to the 2015 Ashker vs. CDCR settlement where those sacrifices led only to individuals being released from the SHU, leaving the institution in place.
For comrades currently suffering in torture cells in U.$. prisons, you can write to us for back issues of Under Lock & Key on solitary and materials from the American Friends Service Committee on dealing with isolation. For comrades who are getting out, who have spent long periods in solitary, our Re-Lease on Life Program attempts to offer mentoring, guidance and political engagement to ease the transition back into society. Meanwhile, we encourage everyone to get involved in the struggle to abolish long-term solitary confinement in this country completely.
Because over 100,000 people face torture in solitary in the United $tates every year with no imperialist Army programs for rehabilitation offered afterwards, we must develop independent institutions of the oppressed to address this material need among the oppressed masses in this country.
On 26 July 2023, Niger’s Presidential Guard arrested President Bazoum and declared the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP). On 27 July the military joined the coup in support of the new government. The coup has been denounced by the U.$., France, European Union, ECOWAS, and others. ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, is an organization of the comprador-bourgeoisie of 15 West-African states including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and southern border of Niger. ECOWAS has threatened to invade Niger and restore the former government. Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and others have voiced support for the coup. Burkina Faso has declared that they would view an invasion of Niger as an act of war on themselves. What is to explain this web of contradictions and interests?
Since Niger’s independence in 1960 there have been a total of 4 coups. This has been viewed by bourgeois media as the inability of Niger to create a stable democracy on their own, without the “aid” of the imperialist masters. This line coming from France is especially hypocritical as the one party system in Niger during 1960-1974 was in large part France’s doing, with the banning of parties such as the Mouvement Socialiste Africain-Sawaba (MSA). In reality, the independence Niger gained in 1960 is wildly exaggerated. Niger’s status as a french colony since 1922 has led many to believe that their liberation from this status represents a complete independence, as is enjoyed by the likes of France and Amerika. On the contrary, France and Amerika combined have over 2,500 troops stationed within Niger’s borders with billions invested in the construction and maintenance of military and drone bases. This is because Niger contains vast uranium reserves which are vital particularly in France’s energy supply. “Areva” was, before 2016, a state-owned french company operating in nuclear energy. Through a series of acquisitions, Areva became a major player in Niger’s uranium industry.
“AREVA’s two subsidiaries in Niger, Somaïr and Cominak, benefit from a number of tax advantages: exemptions from duties, VAT and even fuel taxes, which they use in massive amounts. A ‘provision for the reconstruction of mines’ also lets them set aside 20% of their profits which are therefore excluded from corporate taxes. In 2010, the two subsidiaries extracted a total of 114,346 metric tonnes of uranium in Niger, representing an export value of 2.3 trillion CFA francs (over 3.5 billion euros). From that sum, Niger was only paid 300 billion CFA francs (approximately 459 million euros), or 13% of the exported value.” (1)
On top of this, Niger uses the West African CFA franc which allows france significant control over the economy. This exploitation has produced revolutionary views among the people that the new government is seeking to pander to. The CNSP government gave an order for the french diplomats to leave the country and has echoed the anti-french sentiment in popular protests. We uphold the revolutionary anti-french sentiment of the people of Niger while also recognizing that this is a common tactic and method of the bourgeoisie in order to adopt and assimilate national liberation movements.
The purely economic exploitation of Niger is the form which imperialism takes that distinguishes it from colonialism. Because the market says that this trade is fair, and the market is ingrained in people’s minds as eternal, people assume that this is just the way it is and Niger will need to find some way to operate more successfully in the market. In reality, the terms of this trade benefit France at the expense of Niger; but Niger has no political-economic power to assert its own interests. The imperialist exploitation of their land and resources combined with the devastating health effects of uranium mining has produced a strong anti-imperialist movement which Amerika and France are attempting to deal with. Niger is a majority peasant country, which means that its anti-imperialist movement is of the new democratic type involving the national bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, peasantry, and proletariat, with the peasantry as the major reserve. The event of 26 July, as a coup led by pre-established powers, was a movement with the national bourgeoisie at the spearhead. If Niger is going to see liberation, the national bourgeoisie must be replaced by the proletariat at the vanguard.
The 4th Republic of France (1944-1958) retained its colonial rule over Niger. The contradictions of this rule collapsed the 4th Republic and forced colonialism into advanced imperialism. Rather than direct political rule, the 5th French Republic had to cede independence to its colonies and retain only economic control. The so-called independence of Niger is a facade. The instability in Niger and the consequently frequent shifting of power from one faction to another is the unfolding of the contradiction among the national bourgeoisie and the comprador bourgeoisie (and oftentimes factions within the two class forces as well). It will only reach its next qualitative stage through revolution: not power struggles of one section of the comprador regime by another. This is only possible through a dictatorship led by the proletariat of Niger in a new democratic united front alongside the peasantry, the progressive national-bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeoisie, and lumpen-proletarians who have decided to join the revolution.
China and Russia have made statements regarding the situation that have led some to believe they are allies of Niger, or at least not explicitly opposed to the coup. “Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia called for all sides in Niger to show restraint, and for the fastest possible return to legal order.”(2) Aljazeera reported on a supposed Wagner Group statement that was explicit in support for Niger: “What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonizers.”(3) “The Chinese government intends to provide good offices, play a mediating role so that a political resolution to the crisis in Niger could be found with full respect to countries in the region,” the ambassador said at a meeting with Niger’s rebel-appointed prime minister, Ali Lamine Zeine. (4)
Can Niger throw off Amerika and France by allying with China and Russia? Certainly the hystory of the struggle of the oppressed shows that the tactical utility of the contradictions between the oppressors is indispensable to the revolutionary struggle. But without scientific leadership these complex contradictions cannot be managed and alliance with one or another imperialist will result in a change of oppressor and not the overthrow of all oppression. We believe in the strength of the people of Niger, and the CNSP government may succeed in cutting french monopoly in the interests of the nation. This will heighten the contradiction, leading to the preconditions for war and contributing to the world conditions for another Great Imperialist World War as Niger struggles for allies. Imperialism, rotting alive for more than 100 years, is in a dubious position to survive such an event.
by a North Carolina prisoner September 2023 permalink
The No. 80, Winter 2023 edition of Under Lock & Key hosted an article titled “Sacrifice Behind Bars”, wherein a comrade expressed very heavy sentiments that I intend to magnify and address from a revolutionary perspective. The details of his mention were strikingly consistent with the circumstances and characters of the North Carolina prison system enabling an apparent conclusion that our obstacles as lumpen are, indeed, collective. To that extent I consider it necessary to re-evaluate our responsibilities as revolutionaries from within; as they are comparable to our revolutionary history as Marxist-Leninist-Maoists.
The central theme of the comrade’s message can be boiled down to one question he posed: “what are you willing to sacrifice?” The comrade illustrated his legacy of sacrifice to which he is honored and should know he’s not alone in that identical regard. However, for the new-coming comrade who may not understand his conviction yet and is attracted to his energy and posture; for the seasoned comrade who may be becoming burned out; for the growing comrade who may be struggling with understanding this political line; and for the critic, we must unify on the collective understanding of why sacrifice is necessary and how to measure the particular type of sacrifice to be offered for our revolutionary objective.
The author of that article asks the question of sacrifice to comrades on the streets and comrades within alike. Demonstrating his willingness to actualize guerrilla tactics amidst similarly situated individuals who have been compromised in exchange for goods supplied by the opposition makes it apparent that a revolutionary united front is diminished in that environment, to say the least. Essential to being compromised is the viewing that an individual – or a class – is not only without, but is desperate, moralless and to whatever degree, gullible. With respect to comrade’s mention of such individuals, we should not haste into judgment nor spring into belligerence without careful and scientific observation of our own perspective. It is not sound to conclude that it is an immaculate practice of social science for the opposition to infiltrate a mind that has never operated outside of its conditioning by that opposition. “Boy they got you good” etc. is not technically true if that person is underdeveloped morally, politically, and intellectually. Even if that person is from where you are from and have been through similar experiences. If you are a conscious revolutionary – conscious in the sense that you are aware of and intuit the frame of thinking employed by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong – then you are unique: especially coming from capitalist-imperialist Amerikkka. That’s nothing to pride yourself on in arrogance nor egoism, its to empower your desire to fulfill your responsibilities to those unconscious. Therefore, to be ‘revolutionary’ in its most rudimentary expression is to redirect the impulses to be inhuman as you usher in humanism.
If one is morally sound, intellectually competent, and has a desire for general welfare of others, then from those perspectives that one is enriched, if he/she/they have not sequestered the abstract and subtle impetus of the capitalist-imperialist nature of his/her/their cultural (and political-economic) domicile then even with the above virtues, in those contexts, what will be is a repeat of what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels called in The Communist Manifesto ‘reactionary socialism’; the remnants of feudal socialism. This is to the extent and in the regard of issuing counternarratives in sole order to arouse sympathy in those who aren’t as ‘enriched’ as you to behave in a way that secures your sense of comfort. The motivations are not comparable in that example and the circumstances are as night and day by juxtapose. However, by principle and mentality its enough to say that one could be more creative from a revolutionary vantage point.
Sacrifice of any sort is rooted in the intention for a net-positive future occurrence. Therefore, the theoretical objectification of that sacrificial act bears no weight on the immediate circumstances one experiences. To add on to the comrade’s thoughts, what you are willing to sacrifice depends on your measure of awareness of what is to come of it. The knowledge of the accuracy of what is to come is based on your ability to identify with the material circumstances – emphasis on the conditions that define them – of that situation as it relates to your theory, essentially, of the world. From a revolutionary perspective ‘the world’ includes others, so when we speak of practice, i.e., sacrifice, it is necessarily unbalanced without theory.
If the masses, even in the prison setting, are viewed to be slumbering it is not for the revolutionary to wake them with a cacophony of political rhetoric, especially if their slumber is characterized by the fanaticals of capitalist production. So, we do place a high emphasis on practice. It is that practice must be guided by theory. Lenin stated:
“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” (V.I. Lenin, What is to be done?)
In his Selected Works Mao Zedong stated:
“Theoretical knowledge is acquired through practice and must then return to practice.” (Mao, On Practice: The Relation Between Knowledge and Practice, 1937)
Mao did not differ with Lenin in this regard, he magnified the principle of Lenin’s point. In real time this means to structure revolutionary practice in a manner that conveys the core principles at work in an action bound language that is interpretable to and for the observer all while being disciplined enough not to exaggerate your behavior as to make the demonstration unrealistic. The standard by which one can scale his/her/their proposed action is in one’s ability to become one with the reality of the situation; being cautious of personal biases and having rational & isolated conclusions about each component of the embodying manifest circumstance. The sum of this process is the base from which to determine what means of action to deploy. To that extent, we in prison have to be realistic without compromising our theory (i.e. political line), some of us have immense anger issues and if that is true for the proposed actor in a revolutionary demonstration then if the action to be had does require a use of force we must consider if that one is sufficient or not for the action. Use of force does not always mean complete annihilation or insurrection. Whatever is decided upon, the objective is to be clear and decisive. The actualizer must be disciplined enough to actualize the task without going too far and thereby jeopardizing the precision of the demonstration. Lenin and Mao actually had a revolution, so this frame of thinking is sound, its relevance here and now depends on our willingness to truly get with the program, i.e., Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
The answer to the comrade’s question to the world of sacrifice, should be proportional to the details of your circumstance and the individuals and lives it would effect; from a revolutionary perspective. Only a matter of intelligence compels the conclusion that revolution is sustained by an environment prepared for it. The blaze does not come before strenuous economic, political, financial, social, cultural, and theoretical preparation. Let us take the time we DO have and align ourselves with the correct theoretical knowledge.
North Carolina IS in the building. We have recently birthed a movement – S.W.A.P. (Serving With A Purpose) – which I am proud and honored to be a founding member of. S.W.A.P. is a N.C. prisoner-led organizational base empowered by the literary guidance of MLM and in unity with the United Front for Peace in Prisons; a United Struggle from Within initiative. Our halls of learning are open for all sisters, brothers, and non-binary comrades to partake in our programs and we are dedicated to organizing with comrades abroad on the basis of theory and practice – being MLM distinguished. We currently do provide a bi-monthly newsletter called Voice of the Lumpen, by which comrades may submit articles to be published, we host a penpal mentorship program with at risk youth both in facilities and those on the streets, we provide a jailhouse lawyer legal program called “Blue Skies Legal Initative” where comrades can learn how to utilize legal provisions in a manner that furthers our political line, and are developing more programs as time progresses. For contact info write to ULK for directives. Organize, strategize, execute! Death to capitalist imperialism.
I am, Baba Shagonita Onile El. #LongLiveAngelaDavis
In the last month we have seen the state of Georgia bring RICO Act charges against Rudy Giuliani and others who worked with Donald Trump to steal the 2020 U.$. presidential election, as well activists who were doing things as simple as handing out fliers opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta.
The Federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted in 1970 as a tool to charge people with crimes when they were having other people do their dirty work for them. Each crime charged under RICO can add years to ones prison sentence. The Georgia RICO Act of 1980 covers more crimes than the federal version. The Georgia Act makes Racketeering a felony in the state.(1) Historically, we have had multiple readers who were victims of RICO Act charges brought during the Giuliani years in New York City, and more recently in the Atlanta area, for their leadership roles in lumpen organizations, the more typical target of RICO.
Rudy Giuliani earned fame as a federal prosecutor for getting Mafia bosses in New York City convicted on RICO Act charges. He then used his reputation to become a “tough-on-crime” mayor of New York City known for “cleaning up” the city. It was during Giuliani’s time as Mayor of NYC that the infamous case was brought against King Blood (aka Luis Felipe) under the RICO Act. King Blood was charged for murders committed while ey was already in prison and received the inhumane and unprecedented sentence of life in solitary confinement. All of King Blood’s First Amendment rights to communication were denied, allowing only communication with eir lawyer and immediate family. This was not typically something a judge could sentence, but was justified via the racketeering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(d).(2) Decades later, King Blood still sits in a torture cage in ADX Florence, isolated from the world. While the RICO charges against Giuliani may provide some cathartic humor, the 79-year-old will not be facing anything like King Blood is doing.
Weeks following the Georgia RICO Act charges against Trump, Giuliani, et al., another set of RICO Act charges (and domestic terrorism charges) were made against 61 activists involved in opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta. This is a continuation of the state’s warfare against Stop Cop City, including the ludicrous money laundering charges brought against bail support fundraisers we reported on in the last issue of ULK.(3) In the recent RICO indictment, the date of the murder of George Floyd (25 May 2020) is stated a the beginning of the investigations around the so-called “racketeering.” In other words, the state was trumping up these charges against activists before there was a Stop Cop City movement. This is not about stopping any criminal conspiracy, it is about repressing any opposition to the use of lethal police force against New Afrika and oppressed people in general. It is a defense of the state’s right to wage violent war against New Afrika.
In a recent article, a comrade laid out the political nature of the law, debunking the myth that laws were developed as a way to impose morality or address inherent problems in society.(4) Rather law stemmed from the need to manage the division of humyns into classes. With Trump/Giuliani, we see the RICO Act law being used by the bourgeoisie to discipline other bourgeoisie who are threatening the image of bourgeois democracy. And in the case of the 61 activists they are using the same law to discipline youth and oppressed nations who are opposing more violent forms of state discipline.
When we go up against the courts, the police, or even the politicians, we must be prepared for war. The cops murdering us in could blood is war. The courts and prisons putting us in torture cells for years is war. City governments in Atlanta and San Pablo, California funding cop cities where pigs can play war games is war. These more obvious forms of war, are part of political struggle. There are no rights, only power struggles. To engage in power struggles, requires giving the war two sides.
^*Notes: 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_RICO_(Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations)_Act 2. Prison Legal News, 15 March 1999, Judicial Sentence of Life in Solitary Upheld. 3. A comrade, July 2023, “Law and the Courts of Late”, Under Lock & Key No. 82. 4. A comrade of Anti-Imperialist Prisoner Support, July 2023 “Atlanta Criminalizes Protest Against Cop City”, Under Lock & Key No. 82.*^
A Memorandum issued by the PREA Auditors of America was recently posted in all dorms and other areas here at Dillwyn Correctional Center where incarcerated people frequent advising us of the following:
“The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) will be conducting an audit for Compliance with the United States Department of Justice’s National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) for Its Adult Detention Facility.”
The scheduled dates of the PREA Audit are from September 26th-28th, 2023.
The Memorandum further advises:
“Any person with relevant information pertaining to this compliance Audit may * confidentially * correspond with the Auditor via the following address:
Ron Kidwell P.O. Box 193 Palmyra, Virginia 22963
“CONFIDENTIALITY. All correspondence and disclosures during interviews with the designated auditor are CONFIDENTIAL and will not be disclosed unless required by law. There are exceptions when confidentiality must be legally broken. Exceptions include, but are not limited to the following:
If the person is an immediate danger to him/herself or others (e.g., suicide or homicide)
Allegations of suspected child abuse, neglect, or maltreatment
In legal proceedings where information has been subpoenaed by a court of appropriate jurisdiction.”
The Prison Rape Elimination Act or PREA was passed by the U.$. Congress and codified into federal law as Title 42 U.S.C.A. section 15601. It was passed in response to the high incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence incarcerated people were subjected to in prisons across the country.
Despite the language of PREA, it does not stop, prevent or reduce the rape and sexual violence of incarcerated people. As an example, the rape and sexual assaults against women at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California in the years before 2022 was so bad the prison was called the “rape club” by incarcerated women and prison staff alike. Even the Warden of the prison at the time, Ray J. Garcia, took part in raping and sexually exploiting women at the prison.
The real purpose of PREA was to create a set of national standards (also called PREA standards) by the U.$. Attorney General that state and federal prison systems can give the appearance of being in compliance with in order to gain accreditation and federal grant money from the U.$. Department of Justice.
PREA Audits as they are currently conducted do not work and will never work for the following reasons:
As the above quoted Memorandum reveals, prison officials are given advanced notice their prisons will be audited for PREA compliance. This advanced notice sets in motion a scheme whereby prison officials began the process of cleaning up and beautifying the prison before PREA auditors arrive, both literally and figuratively. I have witnessed time and time again how in the days leading up to the audit, incarcerated people are instructed to paint walls, plant flowers, and wax and buff the floors. Guards and prison staff begin acting nice and treating incarcerated people with a little bit more dignity and respect. A special meal is sometimes serviced to incarcerated people either on the day of the audit or on the day before. In some cases, a prison may go on an unexpected lockdown where incarcerated people are locked in their cells on the day of the audit. All of this is done to placate/pacify incarcerated people so they’ll be least likely to give the PREA auditors a “bad report” or, in the case of the unexpected lockdown, to prevent them from giving a report altogether.
In order for the PREA audit to be truly effective, they must be conducted without prison officials having prior notice of the date and time of the audit.
In addition to that, incarcerated people must be allowed to communicate freely with auditors in a confidential setting. This is often not possible because PREA auditors are accompanied by brass and are deliberately led on a prearranged course throughout the prison that keeps them out of contact with incarcerated people and out of the housing areas where incarcerated people live and sleep.
Incarcerated people must not be retaliated against for making complaints about having been raped and sexually assaulted by prison staff. I know of many fellow incarcerated people who have been harassed, threatened, moved to another housing unit, transferred to another prison, and written bogus infractions in retaliation for submitting PREA complaints. This sort of retaliation chills other incarcerated people’s desire to submit PREA complaints which allows their abusers to escape accountability.
Lastly, the only real solution to ending the rape and sexual violence of incarcerated people is to abolish the Prison Industrial Complex. If there are no prisons, then there can be no prison rape.
All Power to the People Who Don’t Fear Freedom!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We actually think we can do a lot to eliminate rape for all people before abolishing prisons. Prisons are a tool of class struggle. In the control of a communist government, prisons would be revolutionized to serve the people. There would be an end to the torturous practices so common in capitalist prisons of isolation, heat, lack of health care and physical and sexual assaults.
Unlike prisons, rape and sexual violence are forms of oppression that cannot serve the people. While the path to eliminating any of these things remains long and challenging. Previous revolutionary societies have made quick progress in the realm of reducing and almost eliminating many forms of gender oppression. So we call on those who want to put an end to rape and sexual violence to join us in the struggle to end imperialism and replace it with a system in the hands of the international proletariat.
Religion was part of the impetus that went into the creation of modern prisons in the United $tates of Amerika. With the opening of the Eastern State Penitentiary in 1829 in Philadelphia, the experiment of molding human behavior with confinement and a bible, the idea was isolation and self-reflection would lead to penitence and a corollary eradication of sin, or criminality. However, the seeding of religion within such a volatile atmosphere never took root as designed, but has nevertheless served a persisting role behind the walls, bars and fences of condemnation and incapacitation, with positive and negative consequences. This short article visits the phenomenon of Black religion as it occurs from a materialist perspective within the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), and its implications relative to Black life inside and outside the walls.
Social organization within the MDOC is controlled by Black men from the enclaves of cities hosting large segments of Black denizens. Power dynamics on the prison yards were determined by crews and cliques from these enclaves, with the inhabitants of Detroit overwhelmingly determining the direction and atmosphere of the prison yard; but the power of crews and cliques would start to diminish as a result of the Black power movements of the 1960s and 70s which had serious implications on how social (power) dynamics would be reformed and reshaped the inner prison structure within the MDOC.
The prison system witnessed an exodus of Blacks from Christianity into the bosom of Black Muslimhood (Islam) for many Black cons – often infused with a radicalism endemic of the times. As prisoners from the cross-section of Michigan cities with the largest Black neighborhoods adopted membership into religious organizations like the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA), Orthodox Islam, the Nation of Islam (NOI), and lastly the Melanic Palace (and Islamic Palace) of the Rising Sun (MPRS/MIPRS), the diversity of the crews/cliques coagulated into unions of these religious folds. The yard was now structured, for the most part, by these four religious blocs who set the rules of compliance and how prisoners related to the powers that be: prison guards and administrators.
These Black religions served multiple functions from individual protection and a greater collective security in the face of growing quantitative and qualitative changes characterized by violence; a sense of belonging; quasi-familyhood and a material support system, however loose; an avenue to educate oneself and engage in character edification for self-betterment; an alternative power base to offset, counter and resist the state agency of the MDOC and its forms of repression, oppression, and aggression typical of a white political body utilized to isolate, control and dominate potential Black rebels, societal dropouts, and the politicized elements capable of organizing and fomenting direct opposition to white racism and anti-Black hate and containment.
During the onset of the 1980s, the Melanic Islamic Palace of the Rising Sun caught fire with its inductee membership [soaring] to rival other Black religious groups. But what set the Melanic Islamic Palace apart was their willingness to inflict violence on prison guards and staff. This, too, would prove to have both positive and negative consequences. Positive in that energy was invested in degrees of political education and the building of a requisite consciousness steeped in Black nationalist rhetoric, which spilled over and was consumed primarily by the NOI, and to lesser degrees the MSTA and Orthodox Muslims. Negative in that the State, like any serious sociopolitical entity, started focusing attention on these groups which would later bloom into a tsunami of backlash and repression that would blast the political and radical elements out of MDOC religious groups, pushing them to take up a near exclusive God-centric and moralistic brand of religious practice.
The Melanics would eventually be repressed, banned from group service, and branded a security threat group which is tantamount to free society’s terrorist designation. The ripple effects of this move would fuel the aftershocks for decades to come to this very day. Political content and its verbiage are now nearly obsolete among the Black religious groups for fear of repression and possible banishment of group worship. Radical activism has not only largely died out, but can also be frowned upon by Black religious adherents. The yard structure and its rules based compliance has all but evaporated with exception of a few prisons. And with those older prisoners from the 1970s and 80s having returned to society, become frail seniors in prison or having died off, a leadership vacuum was opened to be filled by the incoming street gangs of the younger generation who would steer asunder the remaining residue of rule by structure. A by-product of this alteration in yard power has been that the Black religious groups have become old in age relative to its membership, have become socially and politically ineffective, and have reverted to existing as mere prison social groups who sometimes operate as prison yard gangs.
In the midst of the expiring decades in prison from the 1970s to the 2020s, the move towards Black Muslim-ism in prison has had some serious uninttended consequences, mainly, a lost and/or move away from Afrikanism (consciously and unconsciously). Plagued by anti-Afrikan bias as a result of post-slavery cultural, spiritual and mental colonialism (mentacide), with the exception of few, the Black Muslim groups argued instead for an Asiatic and/or Arab identity that didn’t require them to identify with the savage, barbarian, backward, uncivilized Africans who had no history and remained primitive, as their white masters had intentionally misinformed them during the breaking process of Afrikans to Niggas. And when/where a colonial based Blackness was expressed, unbeknownst to its propounders, it was delivered from a religious package that actually vitiated Blackness as it grew out of a Eurocentric conceptuality birthed during the Hellenistic epoch.
This contradictory pro-Black western (Eurocentric) religious conceptuality carries itself from behind the walls into open society as one of the nails in the coffin to serious liberation struggle advanced by Black people inside the imperialist center of North Amerika. Unfortunately, Black has proven to be ineffective as a sole basis for unity in this country as its nuanced nature cultures fragmentation, and Black western conceptualized religion only fuels the fractures of Blackness into an extreme polylithic substance that rejects a collective Black consciousness that’s bound for, or even focused on liberation.
But does there exist any light to dispel this dark period of irrelevant prison-religion utility? With the 2022 revision to the MDOC religious policy permitting the group service of the indigenous Afrikan Ifa spirituality, and the often radical Hebrew Israelite religion, one might argue the cusp of change is potentially present, and a new day may be dawning. However, I am not convinced. The perpetual distortion of indigenous Afrikan spirituality with western conceptuality spells doom to prospects of Black religion being utilized for liberation purposes. And like education, if a subject is not used for liberation, despite whatever radical nature it may acquires, and pro-Black or anti-white rhetoric it protest, its final product will prove to be a pro-Amerikan assimilationist one.
So the problem with Black religion in prison, speaking in the context of Blackness, no different than Black religious experience in the free world, is it’s devoid of power politics, is Eurocentric (laden with western [Hellenistic] concepts), and is reformist-integrationist-assimilationist (pro-Amerika). These three elements fight against the ability of the Black body to develop a monolithic character (collective consciousness), at least as it concerns Black unity as necessary for our capacity to adequately struggle for liberation or an activist model and mentality that is capable of loosening the screws and weakening the bricks of the prison complex structure.
Prison religion, or Black religion in general has made Karl Marx into a prophet where they serve to actualize his quote: “religion is the opium of the people.” And while I am certain over time many brothers within the MDOC will be exposed to Ifa and even grow to appreciate and practice it, no different than those brothers who have acquired knowledge about Kemeta, it will yet remain tethered to western monotheistic conceptuality through which brothers will be taught to practice it. In this way, it’ll be of little consequence as the receiving receptacles will fail to decolonize their minds of western conceptuality. Instead, the example of the Haitian revolutionaries must be followed by marrying our spirituality to struggle for power. Otherwise, Ifa will function as a mere symbol of Afrikanism, and brothers will be lying to themselves about being Afrikan-centered while actually promoting an inconsequential cultural nationalism that does absolutely nothing to foment a consciousness that could serve as models to alter prison conditions to their benefit. Ifa will be a mere badge of knowledge; a gold chain or Rolex shown off as a fetish, and will soon be denigrated to the margins of irrelevancy on par with the rest of black prison religions within the MDOC.
In my final analysis, drawing from more than two decades inside the cage, I conclude Black religion in the MDOC has been regressive. And contrary to some external beliefs outside the walls, Black prison-religion is not progressing towards Afrikan-based religious affiliation. Black Islamism is still the preferred go-to as it has successfully positioned itself as the popular vehicle for black intellectualism, freedom and expression of Black pride. In the end, however, Black religion in the MDOC is failing Black convicts and has betrayed and continues to betray authentic Black activism and struggle.
It’s uncanny how books fall into your hands at times. Recently my circle has been discussing the subject of prisoners of war (POW’s) in the United $nakes and, what do you know, a comrade slides me this book on a POW who died imprisoned, the Chiricahua Apache Chief Geronimo.
Going into the book I treaded lightly as biography type books are quite biased. Many of the tomes written on leaders of the oppressed within the empire tend to be heavily biased slander that amounts to imperialist propaganda. This book was written as an “Interview” by Barret while Geronimo was a POW at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I went into the book bracing myself for a book that would attempt to tell Geronimo’s story while promoting Amerikkkan ideals if even unconsciously. I was not wrong.
The subtitle of the book itself is an error: “The True Story of America’s Most Ferocious Warrior.” Geronimo was a First Nations warrior. America is the name of the white nation who stole the land it now occupies. The subtitle thus describes Geronimo as a member of this white settler nation which is ridiculous, as he fought against Amerikkka.
The first part of the book focuses on general Apache life with an emphasis on the mythology of the Apache creation story of origin. Steeped in the metaphysical ideas of a “God” and how a talking dragon would visit early ancestors. Sadly many of the world’s societies have such creation myths that are passed down. It highlights the need for a materialist approach to all we do and gives a glimpse of how the world would think if we were without dialectical materialism.
Part two, “The Mexicans”, answered a lot of questions I had. Here it describes how at one point Geronimo and his tribe traveled into “old Mexico” – as he calls it – and while the warrior went to trade in the town they returned to a massacre where it was reported that Mexican troops had killed everyone including Geronimo’s aging mother, wife, and three children.
I had often heard of Geronimo’s anti-Mexican sentiment, now I know why. Contradictions among the people continue today where oppressed nations fight for crumbs and leave devastation on either side. It’s disappointing to hear, knowing Geronimo’s passion for fighting Amerika it would have been beneficial for the oppressed to join forces and fight Amerika as this was in 1858, ten years after the U.$. war on Mexico and the birth of the Chican@ nation. Surely there was much resistance sparking and embers of resistance still burning.
I can’t stop to wonder had a united front of oppressed nations come together and resisted the U.$. how it would have resulted, add Black folks in the mix and it would be even better.
The first half of the book seemed to exalt Geronimo’s raids and murder of Mexican people. The first half has almost no mention of his war on the white nation, on which much of his reputation is built on.
Part three titled “The White Men” depicts various attacks and treachery when U.$. troops would call “peace” only to meet up and murder the Apache forces. At one point the Apache Chief Manigus-Colorado was called by the U.$. military for peace talks and assassinated. Geronimo seemed to be the only one who did not trust the U.$. troops or “white men” and thus never attended peace talks during that time period and lived through the treachery.
Chapter 16 titled “In Prison And On The War Path” was chilling to read. Here Geronimo contemplates war on Amerikkka and death. This portion of the book struck me more than any other of the passages. I feel his words and taste them internally. To me it’s as raw as it gets for those of us who are prisoners of war.
"In the summer of 1883 a rumor was current that the officers were again planning to imprison our leaders. This rumor served to revive the memory of all our past wrongs, the massacre in the tent at Apache Pass the fate of Mangus-Colorado, and my own unjust imprisonment, which might easily have been death to me.
“We thought it more manly to die on the war path than to be killed in prison.”
So much to unpack here. The mention of the leaders being imprisoned brought back memories of Pelican Bay SHU. The SHU was where leaders of the imprisoned oppressed nations in Califas were kidnapped and “imprisoned”. Taking leaders is a common practice of the oppressor nation. For Geronimo it triggered the Apache when they heard that their leaders would be kidnapped again. That’s a very traumatizing experience. I feel it. For those who have never been captured, tortured or kidnapped I can only say that the closest example I can give of Geronimo’s words here is that of a child who was kidnapped by a stranger, taken from their family and returned as an adult and then one day this persyn was either snatched again or told that another person would be kidnapped. Imagine the trauma this persyn would feel: the memories of being taken. The trauma likely became unbearable to the point that resistance, even resulting in death, must have seemed welcoming.
It seemed that every few pages Geronimo or his tribe would sign another treaty with Amerikkka. A lack of political investigation resulted in decisions based on subjectivity. As materialists we know that the oppressor will not relinquish power willingly, hystory has taught us that. Had Geronimo been a dialectical materialist he would have come to that realization much sooner.
Reading how the U.$. Army General Miles told Geronimo he would build Geronimo a house and give him access to cattle and provisions if he would simply stay in his place on the reservation was really revealing. Geronimo was a prisoner of war and knew it. Today many Chican@s and other oppressed don’t even know that we too are prisoners of war, for the U.$. war on Aztlan continues. We too are in a reservation called the United Snakes.
A low intensity war continues on the Chican@ nation. The U.$. government has always maintained an offensive on the colonies since the invasion was first launched, the offensive simply changes names, vehicle, and nationality, but its vision and operation remains fully intact. On April 20th, 1886 U.$. troops stationed in Arizona and New Mexico were issued this order by the U.$. War Department:
“The Chief object of the troops will be to capture or destroy any band of hostile Apache Indians found in this section of country and to this end the most vigorous and persistent efforts will be required of all officers and soldiers until the object is accomplished.”
If one were to substitute the word “Chican@s” instead of “Apache Indians” this statement could have been written last night. Insert the dreaded “gang member” which the colonizers love to use to vilify oppressed nations youth survival groups and the statement may be even more authentic to today’s mission. The pigs are tasked with accomplishing this mission in their war on the poor. Political groups or parties claiming to work in the interest of the oppressed here in the Snakes who do not move in ways that acknowledge this program of protracted soft war on the oppressed while conducting their work in the field in the so called interest of the colonized reduce their efforts to crass concerns of proletarian morality.
Today the state is resuming its offensive to “capture or destroy” hostile indigenous people (Chican@s, not First Nations in this context) and as the statement says they are obligated to do so “until the object is accomplished.”Their vigorous and persistent" efforts today amount to the KKKourts, three strikes, “gang” enhancements, hyper-policing, and of course murder and assassination to none but a few.
It is not that Chican@ people are dimwitted and without comprehension to grasp we are being attacked and targeted. What muddies the water is to see Chican@ or Black pigs carry out this program of “capture or destroy” which works in the state’s interest to disguise the ONGOING onslaught on our people, that have stopped since 1848 and before, as one long chain of oppression the state may employ Chican@ Toms and Black Toms as actors, but it is a state operation, that is: a program of white supremacy to maintain white power.
At the end of this book it’s a shame to read about Geronimo converting to Christianity to which he describes associating with Christians will “improve my character”. A warrior reduced to surrendering to the oppressor. Metaphysical thought like Christianity has not “improved” the character of the oppressed, rather, it has worked to subdue and pacify even one of the “ferocious” warriors like Geronimo. There’s even a picture of Geronimo in his Sunday best with the caption “ready for church” at the end of this book.
This was an interesting book that teaches one of the injustices committed by Amerikkka against indigenous peoples; but there are also lessons of how a warrior can (through the brute heel of the oppressor) become broken and surrender, and in doing so lead much of ey’s people into the abyss of plantation-minded Amerikan apologia. I needed to read this book at a time of extreme repression in my own life to re-energize and I think you need to read it as well. To die on the war-path for liberation . . .
Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” is an overnight viral hit, accumulating millions of listens and ranking as the most streamed song on iTunes in Amerika and right now 28 million views on Youtube plus over a million likes. With that catchy southern twang, and a message speaking to workers directly, it is clearly resonating with a lot of people – but what does this mean?
Let’s look first at the lyrics to get a sense of what this song is all about. There’s two main parts of the song that i think really get to the root of what Anthony’s trying to convey. Ey points out:
“Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat And the obese milkin’ welfare Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground ‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down.”
So there’s two matters here: one is the issue of fat people milking welfare, and the other is the plight of the Amerikan workers. Welfare is no doubt a gift of imperialist parasitism paid with super-profits, and MIM pointed out a long time ago how Amerikan minds and bodies are rotting on imperialist parasitism, highlighting the contrast between affluent imperialist countries and the poor exploited countries.
MIM said basically that overcoming imperialism is the only way to reshape food production and consumption, to address the disparity in obesity rates with an equitable distribution of resources to effectively tackle the issue. But so long as imperialism remains, so does parasitism which always fattens up the unproductive of the empire and feeds on the hard working poor of the world. So now here’s the other issue, that question of the plight of the Amerikan workers. Factually, the U.$. government safeguards its labor aristocracy (most of whom are unproductive workers in the service industry) through a multifaceted approach, utilizing OSHA guidelines, mandating minimum wage laws, regulating maximum working hours, and ensuring collective bargaining rights. This is all ensured with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Department of Labor (DOL), and so on.
In terms of safety, the U.$ is among the safer of countries for workers as it pertains to workplace fatality – still far from perfect. Our most dangerous industry is agriculture, forestry, and fishing with a fatal injury rate at 20 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. Migrants from south of the U.$./Mexico border make up around 75% of U.$. farm workers so it is no surprise that the most dangerous industry affects Amerikans the least.
But back to the song. The refrain goes:
“These rich men north of Richmond Lord knows they all just wanna have total control Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do ’Cause your dollar ain’t shit and it’s taxed to no end ’Cause of rich men north of Richmond.”
These are your typical Amerikan’s grievances with the system: the government is too big, and the feds won’t keep their greedy hands off your money. Considering Biden’s new plan for 87,000 new IRS agents and his incessant drive to intervene in the affairs of crypto currency companies and his promotion of a new IRS rule to require anyone who earned over $600 on payment apps (like Paypal, Venmo, etc.) to file a 1099-K form to ensure taxation is being paid by lower classes – yeah, maybe this resentment is understandable. But really, Amerika is ranked 32nd out of 38 OECD countries in terms of the tax-to-GDP ratio.(1) Belgium (42.8%), Germany (39.9%), Denmark (38.9%), etc. pay higher taxes, and also receive better social programs. Even the tax rate in Hungary (35%) is higher than in the United $tates (16.4%), which is just above i$rael (15.5%). Since the top 25% of earners pay 89 percent of all income taxes, and since virtually all Amerikans make more than 90% of the rest of the world in income, is the dollar really worth shit, are Amerikans really taxed to no end, as Anthony claims? [editor note: Not to mention U.$. dollar values being propped up by interest rate hikes that are decimating the value of currencies in exploited countries that must pay debts in U$D.]
No, so what are Amerikans complaining about? Taxes in the U.$. contribute to funding programs such as education, healthcare, social security, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, food assistance, veterans’ services, infrastructure projects, environmental protection, and public transportation; Amerikans have access to clean water, electricity, smartphones, cars, internet connectivity, modern healthcare, education, reliable infrastructure, well-stocked supermarkets, and recreational facilities, which are often unavailable to many in the third world.
So again, what are Amerikans complaining about? Typical Amerikkkan tears over the incompetence of their imperialist leaders who are unable to share the super-profits from the neo-colonies effectively. This is why we rely on science, not frog-in-the-well subjectivism, to inform us about the world.
In recent years the labor aristocracy has been shook. The 2016 and 2020 elections show deep-going upset in different segments of the population, which is leading to strange ideological currents among the youth (including a return to religious dogma on the one end and a clinging to nihilism on the other). Some people have just given up on society, so a kind of Kaczynskian primitivism is also making a come-back.
We’re seeing some class problems blow up too, with unions taking more action across the board (with the rail workers, the baristas, and now the script writers and actors in recent months). The crypto-Trotskyite “left” is capitalizing on these grievances to pick up speed and organize, especially among students and younger workers who want a bigger piece of the Amerikan-bloodsuckin’ pie.
Inflation has driven up prices and this month it was revealed how Amerikans have racked up more than $1 trillion of credit card debt.(2) While high credit card debt in general is an indicator of high access to consumption, the recent increases seem to be linked to higher prices. The student debt crisis is also haunting the Amerikan consumption rate, because Amerikans own $1.77 trillion in federal and private student loan debt as of the second quarter of 2023. That’s serious, and students have gotten to the point of just saying “hell no, we ain’t paying that.”
The government, or at least some forces in it, are responsive to that, with the Biden regime talking about “student loan forgiveness.” But it hasn’t been successful. The first time, the Supreme Court ruled that the Secretary of Education did not have the power to waive student loans under the HEROES Act. So Biden is now trying the Higher Education Act of 1965 to justify it, and ey just recently was able to perform an IDR Account Adjustment for 800,000 borrowers. This still doesn’t make the youth all that happy, and a large percentage of the older generations opposed the attempt at debt forgiveness.
Aside from class issues, there’s still heat picking up with the abortion issue and the question of censorship, and other things regarding your typical sex and drug issues. There’s a clear polarization between the youth and the old when it comes to how they approach this and see the world, the former seemingly liberal and the latter seemingly conservative. Generational disputes are all too common a sight now, each generation blaming the other for all the problems we face in the world today.
There is clearly a LOT of frustration, a LOT of unease and anger too – but is that really enough for a revolution? We will have to see the historical forces that the youth (especially the oppressor nation youth movement in the 1960s) and how to discipline this force for non-adventurist and scientific forms of resistance than individualist hedonism.
The proletariat’s more than the working-class, it’s defined by a more precise relationship to the ownership of the means of production, consumption, and relations to other classes. It’s the class that is not only dispossessed (without private property), it’s the class with nothing to lose but its chains. Do Amerikans now got nothing to lose but their chains?
Let us look at it from the standpoint of material comfort. Homes built in the last 6 years are 74% larger than those built in the 1910s, an increase of a little over 1,000 square feet – the average new home in the United $tates now spreads over 2,430 square feet.(3) The Biden regime is claiming that the bourgeoisie added 236,000 jobs in March(4) and a solid 187,000 jobs in July(5), and that the unemployment rate has fallen to just 3.5%, matching the lowest level in half a century. They’re claiming also that wages are rising faster than inflation. These claims would indicate that the situation for Amerikans isn’t really all that bad.
In 2019, MIM(Prisons) explained in “Economic Update: Amerikkkans Prospering in 2019” that amerikans are prospering with a stable economy and low unemployment, increased average wages and leisure time, more homeownership and accumulated wealth, etc., all kinds of indications of economic prosperity. There were some issues in 2020-2021 because of the pandemic and surely an economic crisis of big proportions is bound to crop up, but right now the tides seem to have stemmed – at least temporarily.
There is really no sign of proletarianization on the horizon. Maybe it will happen soon, but Comrade Mao said “Marxists are not fortune-tellers.”(6) To speak of lumpenization is perhaps more accurate than predicting proletarianization, i think both are possibilities with the decline of Amerikan capitalism.
While the contradictions described in MIM(Prisons)’s article on the expected recession in 2023 have not been resolved, the crisis has still not hit here in the heart of empire. The self-destructive nature of capitalism-imperialism will lead to wars and other man-made tragedies where this parasitic economic privileges we have will eventually end. Some examples of “fortune-telling” by Mao would be what time, date, and year a recession starts or an imperialist-war breaks out. Maoists do not concern ourselves with this type of prophecy – it is actually the labor aristocrat and petty-bourgeoisie movements of fascism that loves conspiracies and finding prophecies (such as the fascist nonsense promoted in the Elders of the Protocols of Zion and the reactionary QAnon Movement that seems to love Anthony’s song).
In Amerika, the left of capital and the right of capital divide themselves on the issues of culture war but functionally have the same vested political interests in maintaining the status quo of capitalism-imperialism. Occasionally some of these people on the left wing of parasitism present themselves as radicals, anarchists, even sometimes Maoists, but the truth of it is that these are not communists.
The digital landscape’s been churning out a lot of these personalities in recent years. MIM(Prisons) has commented on some of these trends in Some Discussions on Bad Ideas (ULK 79), with attention to how
“communist groups are far outshadowed online by memes, twitch streamers, tik tok spheres, instagram pages, internet forums, and the likes when it comes to converting kids to communism than communist organization internet presence. This has given rise to the problem of communism becoming more akin to a sub-culture talked about on social media sites like twitter and reddit than a political movement. Different political stances from Maoism, Trotskyism, all the way to Stirnerite Anarchism cease to become guides to action, but a thing to put on your bio. Various people’s wars and nations at war become more akin to fandoms for TV shows to obsess and argue over rather than a movement to popularize and create awareness for. Political line ceases to become a belief and action that one takes, but a take one has so they can get on the algorithm. Line struggle turn into flame wars with no purpose of uniting with others, but exist only to express one’s individual self for the cathartic feeling of having the correct line.”
One of these recent digital trends has been known as “MAGA Communism,” with notable support from the likes of people named Haz Al-Din and Jackson Hinkle. This camp has positioned itself against the left and the right, opposing liberalism but also conservatism, taking bits from both sides. [MIM(Prisons) previously referred to Haz in the intro to our review of Pao-Yu Ching’s *From Victory to Defeat for eir meaningless definition of socialism, saying that every country in the last 100 years has been socialist.]
When it comes to songs like this one, it is seen as a message of class struggle by this camp. Haz claims “this song about class struggle by @aintgottadollar, a working class Virginian has gone viral overnight with millions of views from ordinary Americans. The masses are far ahead of the current right wing and leftist grifter ideologists who benefit from dividing the people!”(7)
Similar sentiment from a like-minded camp, calling itself “Patriotic Socialism,” is echoing much the same; you will find this view all over social media, especially the cesspool of Twitter where these ideological currents permeate. Opportunistically, they’re all invoking class struggle.
Well yes, the song is about class struggle but what kind of class struggle? Comrade Mao pointed out “this question of `for whom?’ is fundamental; it is a question of principle.”(8) i don’t see any real concern for the international proletariat in this song, i don’t see any mention of how this dying empire treats the rest of the world with diseases, bombs, sanctions, subversion, and other ways to bring death and destruction to fatten up the Amerikan ticks. So who does this song serve?
Comrade Mao said “all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines.” That’s why when analyzing literature and art, ey said, “the first problem is: literature and art for whom?”(9) This song is serving the interests of the labor aristocracy, albeit a disaffected branch of the labor aristocracy that has elements of both the right and left-wing of white nationalism.
Anthony eyself has said that “both sides serve the same master – and that master is not someone of any good to the people of this country.” This is conveniently being ignored by the MAGA right, who have taken Anthony as their savior and prophet. For example, here is what the right is saying:
“Rich Men North of Richmond is a key example of the populist-nationalist vs establishment paradigm. The anti-establishment message is gaining traction right now, and explains the dynamic we see in the GOP primary where career politicians are struggling against outsiders.” – Jack Posobiec (10)
“You might notice a theme there… [speaking of both Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” & Jason Aldean’s “Try that in a Small Town”] People are starved for music that speaks to them about today’s problems.” – Rogan O’Handley (11)
“Oliver Anthony is a star […] inside of the hearts of the people […] millions of us, with whom he has touched with his music, as somebody who is just desperately searching for a better world in a place that has been strip mined by our elites, and we are angry about it.” – Benny Johnson (12)
Ben Shapiro also praised the song, calling it “the cry of a lot of people in the United States” who feel “there are too many people who have their hand in their pocket, particularly elites in the federal government.”(13) So why ain’t the mainstream left vibing with it? Well a main reason is the song’s attack on the fat people (which they’re calling “fatphobic”) and Anthony’s denunciations of the “welfare state,” but i also think a contributing role is the general anti-southern chauvinism that is characteristic of the liberal-subjectivists in our country. Anthony is from the rural Appalachians, specifically North Carolina.
MIM(Prisons) notes that “there are various groups of people in the United States who share the physical misery of these rural masses – American Indians, Chicano farm laborers, Black tenant farmers in the South, the dispossessed whites of Appalachia. But most of these groups are scattered and weak, living on the fringes of capitalist society, away from its vital centers.”(14)
While the urban petty bourgeoisie’s reaction to Oliver Anthony is partly based in a disdain for southerners, the question is, how do we transform the thinking of those with gripes against the system? How do we get them to drop their vested material interests in parasitism, militarism, and conservatism? That requires more investigation, more practice. To speak of Anthony as this enlightening Buddha of the century is not scientific, his thinking is still backwards and merely reflects some tussles between the labor aristocracy and the imperialist bourgeoisie, but it is not great enough a leap to really consider this some kind of revitalization of Joe Hill or Woody Gutherie.
I think the most important thing to grasp in light of this song is that imperialism is basically in crisis and there’s a lot of discontent at home, and this is fueling contradictions of all kinds. Comrade Mao made it extremely clear that “there is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist.”(16) The question we need to deal with is how to tackle and wrangle with these contradictions.
The key to contradictions and their resolution is practice. Comrade Mao conceived of it in this way: Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. Stepping up practice is a big leap along the way of figuring out problems and having our thinking correspond to really-existing laws that govern society. As fascism and social-fascism step up to the plate and imperialism crashes into deeper peril, advancing our work as Maoists is key to ensuring our survival and our ability to meet the challenges that come ahead.
The challenges ahead are gonna be difficult but we are taught not to fear hardships or sacrifices, not even death. Focusing on ideological unity, strengthening our organizational bond, digging deeper, and keeping at it, more answers will reveal themselves about the nature of what’s going on and what we need to do. More practice is what we need. That lofty criterion of practice is our compass to success and our life-blood.
With practice, we gain insight, we gain consciousness, we gain unity, and we gain struggle and pain too. It ain’t supposed to be easy. We are up against a big ass labor aristocracy serving a strong imperial empire and its representative drones in the White House. But they won’t win. That’s what strategic confidence is all about. This is all a paper tiger, and practice proves that empire ain’t all that.
So long as the proletariat of the Third World is revolutionizing, and the empire is dying, the situation is excellent in my eyes. Our day is coming, don’t let the grifters, tricksters and swindlers fool ‘ya.
27 January 2023: At about 5:30-6:00 PM the nation watched the horrific video of 5 policemen who beat a man literally to death weeks prior. The man, Tyre Nichols, was handcuffed and had no way to defend himself as 5 large officers beat the man far beyond what anyone could call humane. Dogs don’t get beat this bad.
I saw this in my dorm from USP Tucson, in the day room. Of the seven televisions in the dorm, four was on the CNN broadcast of the vicious beating. At least half the dorm of over 100 prisoners in here watched in horror and shock, witnessing the same thing the rest of the United $tates (and the world) was viewing. I have never seen such interest in a television event outside a sports event.
I sent an email to the Warden of the prison, challenging him if he approved such methods. This could be seen as an insult, but what we see on the streets of America is simply a reflection of what commonly happens in the prisons of the United $tates. For decades staff brutality has been common, and often overlooked in prisons, because many may believe that the victim probably deserved it, or the prison staff will lie and cover up the act.
I have to believe that what happened to Tyre Nichols that horrible night, which resulted in his death a couple of days later, could have happened in part here at USP Tucson… multiple times, and happens in many jails and prisons in our country.
I believe this likely happened to a prisoner here back in November of 2022, shortly after an incident in a nearby camp, where a prisoner managed to acquire a gun. He would have likely shot and killed an officer were it not for the fact that the bullets did not match the gun. We at USP Tucson went on a lockdown for 3 days, although we had absolutely nothing to do with that incident. That was a different facility, yet we were punished anyway, which led to a second incident:
A few days later, on November 18th, we went on a month long lockdown because we heard there was a “staff assault.” If this was the case then the usual protocol for prison staff is to beat that prisoner physically, then throw him in the SHU until the wounds heal… it is what they do.
How bad did they beat the prisoner here? Did they cuff him, and like cowards, beat that man with sticks, tase him, kick him and slam him on the walls? It’s pretty easy to beat a man if you outnumber him 5 to 1, and cuff his hands behind his back.
We have to compare what happens in prisons to what happens in the streets. We seem amazed that what happens to George Floyd, Rodney King or now Tyre Nichols, is so unusual. This is very common in the prisons, and you have to ask the staff here at USP Tucson if this is the method they approve of.
It must be, if it continues to happen.
Why would law enforcement treat humyn beings so horribly? And to be stupid enough to do it with a BODY CAM on? Did they not know that this would be viewable to anyone in time? Why would you beat a man to death, with the cameras on?
This is an idea that prisons fear greatly; they fear that if society knew what happens in prisons, coupled with how law enforcement is clearly losing the ethical training they have, there would be such a cry for justice that the country may not be able to contain it.
But consider: some don’t sympathize with prisoners being brutally beaten because in some way, they think that the sentence of prison comes with the brutality of abuse. Yet the Constitution clearly disagrees. No human being deserves to be treated like that, to be beaten by another officer. No officer working in the United $tates is given a green light by the government to beat prisoners. Yet, it happens, and many excuse it because maybe we believe that deep down, the prisoner must have deserved it.
So reflect back to Tyre Nichols, why would those cowardly officers beat a man to death? Could it be that maybe they felt that Tyre “deserved” to be beaten… but if so, why?
Here’s one idea, one I have seen from the prison point of view: In prisons, where there is a disturbance, they call it “hitting the deuces.” When this happens, for example from a fight, officers come running from everywhere. In seconds, you can see up to 50 officers on the scene.
But note, when this happens, these officers get into a different frame of mind. The adrenaline rush puts many of these officers in an almost rage. Once that rage sets in, that officer is looking for a reason to release it. They are almost HOPING for a physical altercation, so that they can release that rage that is created because the situation could be a violent riot where a life may be lost.
The problem here is that once an officer gets into that adrenaline they don’t know how to come down, and so they are looking for a release. This happens very often in prisons, and no doubt, it happens in society. The problem is that these officers are not taught to TALK down to de-escalation, rather they are looking to make demands and argue.
Prisons prove this happens all the time, and many prison officers are not trained to de-escalate a situation; they are left to act on their anger and rage, which results often in physical violence, most times on defenseless prisoners.
So, I asked the Warden, does he approve of the methods we saw in Memphis… based on how staff treats prisoners, I think we know the answer. Their advantage: they don’t wear body cams, so they can get away with murder, literally. All they have to do is blame it on the prisoner, lose the footage and lock everyone down for a few weeks, so they can clean up the mess.
It’s what they did here in November, when a prisoner, who had his medication taken from him for two weeks, “PUSHED” an officer. They called it “staff assault”, and punished him, then put everyone in USP Tucson on a 4 week lockdown, then forced us to use filthy showers that were never cleaned. Over those 4 weeks, each shower was used 80 times, and was never cleaned.
They also took our First Amendment, refusing to give us or sell us stamps, and refused envelopes or paper. We had no way to communicate with the outside. The Warden never issued a memo as to why we were on lockdown, so there is no official word.
And during the lockdown, the entire prison raped prisoners’ property, taking thousands of dollars of personal property like personal pictures, food, coffee, legal materials and books, and like the SS Nazis in Germany during WWII, threw them all away, or stole it to give to their families during Christmas.
This is what prisons do… so, I ask again, would they approve of what happened to Tyre Nichols? Probably.
The Warden, as of August 10th, never responded.
UPDATE: On 12 September 2023 the five pigs were indicted on federal civil rights charges in addition to the state charges of second-degree murder they are already being tried for. The four-count indictment charges each of them with deprivation of rights under the color of law through excessive force and failure to intervene, and through deliberate indifference; conspiracy to witness tampering, and obstruction of justice through witness tampering.
The blackest pupils you’ve ever seen Es mi hermano A man who wore his emotions on his sleeve Angu ndugu i’ve only touched his finger tips & even that violated the policy of no human contact But it’s mi hermano … i’ve never seen a grown man cry That’s how I remember those blackest eyes i literally sob at the feet of the giant his mattress rolled up at the front of the cage & me sitting cross-legged on the tier it’s how I spent my hour, every hour I was ever allowed to be out my cell. Had to beg the officer, almost like saying yesa massah At least that’s how I felt it to me But at that moment there’s no place in the world i’d rather be than with mi hermano His enemies think they got the last laugh & you should’ve seen how the badges danced … The captive told the captor that’s a captive that’s better off dead But it’s mi hermano & this is something i never will forgive!