Back in November 2022, MIM Distributors sent a copy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) PD-22 codes to a prisoner at Smith Unit. The PD-22 codes are the “General Rules of Conduct and Disciplinary Action Guidelines for Employees.” The prisoner was notified that this was “70 pages misuse of state property.” That’s funny because MIM Distributors paid for the printing and mailing of this material the TDCJ claims to be their property.
Since the 5th revision of the BP-03.91 was released on 25 June 2021, we have featured in ULK a series of articles on the newly revised policy including promoting phone zaps, protests, and lawsuits. The focus for many was the limitation on non-nude photos, and this was the subject of multiple lawsuits. MIM(Prisons) and TX TEAM ONE recognized the broader implications of these changes and supported this campaign. But now that most seem to be getting their sexy photos okay are people going to stand up for the right to access public documents?
While many prisoners write to us asking for legal help, we aren’t lawyers and we don’t offer legal help. We need your legal help. We need comrades in the TDCJ to get to the bottom of these issues, file lawsuits and lead campaigns. This is a very winnable battle that serves the interests of all prisoners in Texas. What we do do is support prisoners organizing against imperialism. If TX prisoners are ready to fight this we’re ready to push this campaign forward to stop the censorship of public documents and advance the campaign to get grievances addressed in Texas.
Can equal justice really be counted upon, or will it be another Black shot dead on the front lawn?
Police suffocating Blacks with their knees Is the new hanging, All this yelling, marching and burning things down But ain’t nothing changing. The list of Black youth being killed by police grew longer, but the memory of George Floyd in Minneapolis grew stronger.
We need to start recognizing, humanizing, and see the unrequited injustice, never forget the Declaration of Independence ain’t no fate and irony in this, we need to fight for Dred Scott And the dead forgot for emancipation, we should know a universal equality will never get passed in this nation.
A cry from the heart, can’t echo through the cracks, until the litany end what it do to Blacks.
Let’s put an end to the painfully gradual process, If we can shrink the blue foot print, we can make an actual progress.
We know reform isn’t enough We need heart and power in their voices, because only aftermath tears of justice will see rejoices.
On 15 April 2023, a clash between two military forces broke out in the capital city of Khartoum in Sudan.(1) Two military generals, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head each of the sides involved. Out of the two military factions, the more “regular” armed troops of Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) are led by Burhan, with the militia oriented Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by Dagalo.(2)
The Political-Economic Prelude to the 2023 Conflict
On 30 June 1989, Omar al-Bashir came to power in Sudan in a coup d’etat. For three decades Bashir ruled Sudan under a military dictatorship where Dagalo gained prominence as a General of the Sudanese Armed Forces. Under Bashir, the Rapid Support Forces grew out of the Janjaweed militias mostly compromising of the southern Sudanese peasantry. In the early 2000s, the RSF helped the SAF crush the rebellion in the western region of Darfur.(3)
Under the military dictatorship of Bashir, Dagalo received gold mines for his actions in the RSF. Burhan also had close ties politically with Bashir.(4) However, with the turbulent political climate that the military dictatorship of Bashir created among the civilian population, the SAF and the RSF have ousted Bashir and the military dictatorship alongside civilian protests. This Sudanese revolution, birthed a short-lived civilian government that went by the name of the Transitional Sovereignty Council (TSC) led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok with elections to have originally taken place in 2023. Despite Hamdok’s appeals to the people’s movement at the time, he has also had backing from the U.$. imperialists aimed to make sure the new governing force in Sudan remained friendly to the United $tates. Previously, al-Bashir had defied the Clinton regime in the U.$. by harboring Al-Qaeda’s Osama Bin-Laden during the military dictator’s reign.
In October 2021, al-Burhan along with Dagalo led a coup d’etat against Hamdok which ended the two year long civilian rule born out of the people-power revolution.
Most of the current fighting is being done in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. On the second day of the conflict, the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors have reported that 56 people were killed and nearly 600 were injured. The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement on 16 April 2023:
“There are also reports of shortages of specialized medical personnel, including anesthesiologists. Water and power cuts are affecting the functionality of health facilities, and shortages of fuel for hospital generators are also being reported.”(5)
The Russian imperialists have taken a stake in this conflict with the Wagner Group’s support for Dagalo’s RSF giving the militia surface-to-air missiles and military training to the RSF.(6) On the eve of Russia’s war with Ukraine, the Sudanese military’s lapdogs of Russian imperialism granted Russia access to Sudan’s gold in exchange for military and political support.(7)
The Chinese and the U.$. imperialists (alongside many other countries such as Egypt) have taken a more reserved stance on this conflict with more focus towards evacuating their countries’ personnel. Hundreds of Amerikan and other western imperialist countries have taken part in evacuation plans.(8)
On 27 April 2023, the civilian death toll has surpassed 500 with more than 5,000 injured and still counting according to The New York Times.(9) The bourgeoisie portray Africa as a chaos-torn continent with myriads of countries filled with constant violence, but we must remember that political-economic forces and class struggle drive the violence. The beef between Dagalo and al-Burhan is between a disagreement in assimilating Dagalo’s RSF to al-Burhan’s Sudanese military proper. While bourgeois rhetoric portrays this as humanity’s woes of famine, plague, and war that are embedded within our nature, the more scientific way to look at this picture is that the comprador-bourgeoisie (both Dagalo and al-Burhan) always struggle among themselves to be the principal lapdog for foreign imperialist forces (in this case primarily Russian). This is typical of neo-colonialism where multiple imperialist forces oftentimes have stake in a single semi-feudal neo-colony. Mao understood this for his country during semi-feudal China when the Japanese invaded, the western powers won’t let go of China without a fight. This led to the birth of a strategy by the people of having two imperialist forces fight amongst each other while the people maintain independence. While the current fighting is between anti-people forces, the workers and peasants of Sudan and Africa overall have the historical duty of ending these wars of the imperialists and compradors with revolutionary war of the proletariat.
Notes 1. The New York Times, “Chaos in Sudan: Who Is Battling for Power, and Why It Hasn’t Stopped” April 27, 2023.
3. Elian Peltier and Abdi Latif Dahir, “Who are the Rapid Support Forces, the paramilitaries fighting Sudan’s Army?” New York Times April 17, 2023
5. CNN, “Fighting between Sudan military rivals enters a second day, with dozens dead” April 17, 2023.
6. Ibid. (The Wagner Group is a Russian paramilitary organization that first appeared in Ukraine as part of Russia’s seizure of territory there.)
7. CNN, “Russia is plundering gold in Sudan to boost Putin’s war effort in Ukraine” July 29, 2022
8. Jennifer Hansler, “US has evacuated American diplomatic personnel from Sudan” CNN April 24, 2023
“As you may know, Juneteenth has now been made a federal holiday in amerika. On this day many will sing the praises of Our oppressors or otherwise negate the reality of the lumpen (economically alienated class), that according to amerika’s 13th amendment We are STILL SLAVES. While We do not wish to nullify the intensity of the exploitation and oppression that New Afrikan people held in chattel slavery faced, We must pinpoint to the general public, those upcoming generations of youngsters looking to follow Our footsteps, that to be held in captivity by the state or feds is not only to be frowned upon but is part and parcel with the intentions of this amerikan government, and its capitalist-imperialist rulers. We say NO CELEBRATING JUNETEENTH until the relation of people holding others in captivity is fully abolished!!”
The Juneteenth Freedom Initiative put forth demands and calls for action including:
End Solitary Confinement! End Restrictive Housing Units(RHU)!
End Mass Incarceration!
Transform the prisons to cadre schools! Transform ourselves into NEW PEOPLE!
The history of utilizing Juneteenth to fight the torturous long-term isolation cells in U.$. prisons didn’t start last year with the campaign to shut down the RHU. At the 2011 Juneteenth celebration in Berkeley, CA, MIM(Prisons) did an extensive outreach campaign in support of the first round of historic hunger strikes to protest the SHU in California. These we see as proper ways of honoring the spirit of Juneteenth, which is a holiday that was kept alive for over a century by the New Afrikan nation before the United $tates took it as its own.
In his 2022 book on the history of Texas, historian Gerald Horne points out some holes in the story of Juneteenth being paraded by the bourgeois Liberals of the Biden regime. He points out how the Emancipation Proclamation did not really extend to the territory of Texas that remained beyond the jurisdiction of the Lincoln government. Texas was an independent state of Euro-settlers claiming territory from Mexico in 1836. Texas remained its own country until 1845 when it joined the United $tates. By 1865, Texans were strongly considering rejoining Mexico, which was temporarily under the rule of the French puppet Maximillian in order to maintain the system of slavery. While this did not happen, slavery continued in many parts of Texas for many years after the historic date known as Juneteenth. According to one source, “two-thirds of the freedmen in the section of country which I travelled over have never received one cent of wages since they were declared free…” Horne cites another source saying “the freedmen are in a worse condition than they ever were as slaves.”(Horne, p.457) Texans were determined to hold on to their slaves until the U.$. government came in to compensate them for their “property.”
Some fifty years after so-called emancipation, the war continued to wage between the newly coalesced white oppressor nation and the oppressed nations in the region of Texas.
“However, given the dialectic of repression generating resistance – and vice versa – it was also during this same period that Jack Johnson, the heavyweight champion from Galveston, was forced into exile in order to elude spurious charges and wound up in Mexico City during the revolutionary decade. There he sought to establish a beachhead against Jim Crow. It was also then that the monumental “Plan of San Diego” was crafted, which was said to involve retaking the land seized improperly by the U.S. during the war of aggression of the 1840s and establishing in its stead independent Black and Indigenous polities."(Horne, p.565)
In 2017, USW comrades launched a campaign to commemorate the Plan de San Diego each August, as the military operations carried out in southern Texas by units of 25 to 100 men against the Euro-settlers reached their high point in August and September of 1915. If you want to commemorate this revolutionary history this August, write in and ask for copies of the Plan de San Diego flier to use for outreach and get more ideas for how to honor that history.
NOTES: Gerald Horne, 2022, The Counter-Revolution of 1836: Texas Slavery & Jim Crow and the Roots of U.S. Fascism, International Publishers, New York.
In most issues on of Under Lock & Key we try to address response letters to the previous issue. These articles serve as a forum for ongoing conversations within our movement. One of the topics that came up in different forms this time is the question of who are our friends and who are our enemies, who can we form a united front with? This is a question of utmost importance. In Under Lock & Key 55 we focused on the question of allying with reactionaries (like white nationalists) and outcast groups (like sex offenders), so i encourage comrades to read that issue for more on these topics.
One of the questions we tackle in our intro study program is how to assess whether a group of people are friends or enemies. I’m gonna lead here with the controversial claim that i can see a much stronger argument for why gang members are enemies of the revolution than sex offenders. We have regular letters coming in about how prison gangs are agents of the pigs, flooding the masses with deadly drugs to keep them in a stupor, and then violently attacking our comrades who stand up for themselves and don’t succumb to the plague of drugs. Of course that’s not all lumpen organizations and conditions differ in different places. But i’ve never heard of sex offenders doing that.
In my response to Slaughter below i draw parallels between peoples’ attitudes towards sex offenders and drug dealers. The fact is that both have been used as political pawns to dehumanize groups of people and get votes through fear-mongering. The use of fear-mongering around pedophilia has surged in recent years, with reactionaries linking it to fear-mongering against trans-gender people. While it’s somewhat acceptable to hate trans people, it’s more acceptable to hate pedophiles, so people like U.$. House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA, are waging a campaign of pegging the Democrats as pedophiles for supporting gender-affirming care for trans youth. This campaign began in recent years with “Save the Children” marches funded by reactionary think tanks. While the marches were largely populated by QAnon reactionaries, some of our comrades have been taken in by the campaign. So there is some truth to what Slaughter says below about hating pedophiles being a unifying thing beyond politics. But this does not mean it is “not political.” It just means that fear can be used to motivate all kinds of people, and it demonstrates how subjectivism can not be our guide if we hope to achieve our goals of a world without oppression, which Slaughter shares with us.
Slaughter writes: This is a response to the article in ULK 80, “Gender, nation & class divisions – Discussion of ULK 79” by a California prisoner with response by Wiawimawo. I cannot refrain from commenting on this situation within the prison, that is, the common nature of prisoners in general and their attitudes towards sex offenders, and the possibility of organizing any productive work with them in the form of a united effort.
I’ve had to let the implications of what this comrade was saying resonate for a little bit because it sounds to me as if he is attempting to justify the sex offense of a prisoner unfortunately stuck with that tag on them and pass it off as if its the same thing for everyone else comes to prison for and/or has involved themselves with. The author seems to say that crimes of sexual nature aren’t serious offenses in the broader masses of the population. He says that its not a crime to have sex, which I completely agree with. But here’s the thing, when it comes to prisoners who are convicted of say, murder like myself, and prisoners who are convicted of sex crimes. To a certain degree sex crimes are dismissed as simply frivolous…
Many prisoners, like myself, have children (a daughter) who is young, no older than 10-15 years old. And if our child were victimized by a person who is a full grown man, then the outrage that the parents will have towards the perpetrator will be malicious and even murderous in nature. … It’s one of the few unforgivable crimes that most people in and out of prison simply cannot overlook. Killing, as a result of the dynamics of oppression, along with robberies blackmarket sales of weapons and drugs, assaults using weapons, and other violent crimes are seen as something of a necessity. People do not have sex with underage boys and girls because they are oppressed. They cannot say they are pedophiles as a result of the dynamics of oppression. Pedophilia is a mental illness that any rational society, primarily a utopian, would not tolerate and want to be eliminated. There can be no comparison, in my opinion, between New Afrikans unifying with neo-Nazis and prisoners convicted of typical felonies unifying with prisoners who prey on children for sex. To compare is the thesis ad absurdum.
Now I ought to be clear and let everyone know that, having been locked up for over a decade now, and having come in the system at 18 years old, and as a re-educated Rightist, I at one time held an extreme bias towards sex offenders. During my re-education, however, I eventually rid myself of all bias from the nature of certain peoples’ crimes (sex offenders) to other races that are clearly not my own. To be sure, the world I envision is one in which national boundaries no longer exist, a world without passports or visas or immigration quotas. True globalization in the human sense, in which we recognize that the world is one and that human beings everywhere have the same rights. A world in which the riches of the planet would be distributed in an equitable fashion. The goal for me, aligned with all my comrades who have nothing to lose but our chains, is communism.
At the end of the day, however, there is not a way for me to regard a pedophile in the same sense as I regard myself. It is a moral standpoint that is separate from all politics and I think I can speak for all of us when it comes to that point in itself. It is extraordinarily difficult to stand comfortably next to a pedophile, even if our political aims are synchronized.
These very well are potential allies, my comrades; though we also must look at the end results and distinguish if we will accept pedophilia in our commune, society, world. In my opinion, it sets a dangerous precedent to repress the nature of a person if it means attaining a significant end because once the end is reached the repressed nature of a specific person will once again appear on the scene and be in need of dealing with. One thing I’ve taken note of in great revolutionary movements is the tendency to repress a certain aspect of a group to meet future ends, and then once they are met, the fight continues among the party because the characteristic a certain group appear in conflict with the overall standing of the ends which were attained. WE overthrow the oppressors and then regress into civil war. Please correct me if I have understood incorrectly. In this way there are consequences for the deliberate unity of elements that would make for complications before the judgement seat of reason.
…As much as I hate to believe it, I don’t think there will be an opportunity for unification with pedophiles and forcible rapists. Why? Because, again, these are actions that are universally condemned. Actions that inspire murderous revenge and untold malice. When it comes down to it, I simply speak, as someone who was molested by the dad of someone I befriended as a youngster.
Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: Slaughter, you are not alone. As mentioned in the original article, doing this work we are well aware of the high frequency of child abuse and child sexual abuse victims those in U.$. prisons. There is research demonstrating how such traumatic experiences as youth can have all kinds of affects on a persyn’s health later in life, including engaging in various behaviors that can lead to being targeted by the injustice system.(1)
Your position on this topic is clearly informed by your experiences, and your position is understandable. Yet the issue we take with your essay on this topic is you offer no solutions. Do you subscribe to the purification solution mentioned in the original article? Lock them all up for life? or worse?
Consider the parallel story: Someone i knew succumbed to drug addiction, and i watched them deteriorate. I was young and it was the most horrible thing i had seen or could imagine. I took up a strong hatred for drug dealers, even began hanging out with others who did so as well. I knew of people who used extreme violence to attempt to purify their neighborhoods of drug dealers. I still find our approach understandable, but recognize its futility. I also came to recognize how the ideas of those i was hanging around fed into the oppression of the state. Thankfully, i came to realize these things soon thereafter. Now i work with former drug dealers and provide them support on a weekly basis.
One comrade wrote us last week to decry a different article in ULK 80, the one on Tookie. Ey saw Tookie as someone who just changed eir tune when they had no other choice left. This is a real phenomenon. We get all kinds of people writing us, many of them desperate for any kind of assistance. At the same time, we think it is an error to say that just because someone never served the people before going into prison that they cannot be for the people after. Such a position we call metaphysics, as it sees things as unchanging, it sees people as having an essence that is eternal.
Now, your argument is that Tookie did what ey had to do given eir conditions of oppression, and a pedophile did not have to do what they did. Okay, i see the distinction you are trying to make, but wouldn’t our comrade above say the same thing about Tookie. I grew up in South Central, and i didn’t become a gang-banger, I became a revolutionary. So there.
“The sex offender registration doesn’t show them. The government is a rapist, a criminal at large,”
The poem is an analogy, but it’s also literal. Not only are most child abusers never caught and convicted, those who are among the people in charge are almost never convicted. As is true with most crimes, the most egregious perpetrators get off scott-free because they are the ones making and enforcing the rules. This is where we are sympathetic to the argument made by the California prisoner that targeting S.O.s in prison is just an emotional outlet for other prisoners to have a scapegoat to feel better than. What is a plan to end the sexual abuse of children that doesn’t let most abusers get off scott-free and keep doing what they’re doing?
The Chinese revolution reformed brutal landlords to join society as productive members. People who robbed, starved, tortured, killed and certainly raped people. Now not all can be reformed. But this was the default approach to all people after the Communists seized state power, to give everyone an opportunity to reform and get on board. Some of the former oppressors just went along to save themselves and became problems later on as you allude to. Yet, the Chinese prisons were very good at getting people to undergo thorough self-criticisms. They did not just let people apologize and get off the hook. See Prisoners of Liberation by Allyn and Adele Rickett. This is what we mean by offering solutions.
It’s worth considering how peoples’ views would be different in such a society that was adequately addressing peoples’ needs and questions of justice. I’d argue that we will see far fewer people resorting to vigilantiism in order to feel justice is served in such a system, and that the popular views that all sex offenders should die, or all drug dealers should die, would whither away as the presence of drugs and sexual abuse also whither away
You spend some time on the California prisoner’s claims in ULK 80 about all sex being outlawed. This is another point of unity we have with you and we did not defend these claims. Even in our belief that all sex is rape, we apply proletarian morality to justice. And in many cases after the seizure of power by the communists in China, proletarian morality meant the death penalty for former landlords and oppressors of the people. But the death penalty alone does nothing to end economic exploitation or child sexual abuse.
As we said in the original article, we see all people in the imperialist countries as reforming criminals. The worst criminals are not in prison, they are running the prison, the military, the country. But as a group, those in prison have also committed some significant crimes, despite some being completely innocent. If we require everyone to be righteous communists from birth, as the critic of the Tookie article seems to imply, then we will never succeed.
It’s striking that you don’t see a parallel between nazis and pedophiles. We argue in the original article that there are less antagonistic contradictions with pedophiles. How do you argue to the contrary? Nazis generally believe that the current system of national oppression, imperialism, should be more extreme and more oppressive towards the majority of the world! Including the genocide of whole peoples! What crime could be worse than this? That said, as we also discussed, some nazis in prison reform to take up anti-imperialism. But we do not say that nazis as a group are allies because some individuals reformed and denounced their anti-people fascist ways.
When you talk about the unbridgeable divide you refer to the outrage of the parent of a molested child, and an inability to stand comfortably next to a pedophile, these are subjective reactions. Understandable, absolutely, but subjective. In the first lesson of our intro study course we have comrades analyze a topic that is very emotional for them and sort out the subjective stories and the hard facts. This is a useful exercise to help us understand the world and transform it.
“Those who wrote in support of Gunnas are in the wrong. They miss the whole point, it’s not about sympathy for the enemy, it’s about oppression. Communism is the goal, get that: communism – not the trading of one oppression for another. Page 2, point #1: read that shit, live that shit, teach that shit – equality against the oppressor is one thing, a legit thing, becoming the oppressor? What?! Communism doesn’t have room for those who wish to become oppressors themselves, you feel like that, then you’re the enemy too. Page 2, point #1, understand that shit: frustration at being oppressed is natural, it’s needed, this is war; but don’t you dare assume that once the power is taken from the oppressor you can fill the role – never that – then you’re the enemy.”
We aim to end all oppression, and do not aspire to oppress others. However, it’s not that oppression is never used by communists, as that is exactly what the dictatorship of the proletariat is – it is a state, a tool used by one class to oppress another. We do think the comrade above is correct in terms of combating “murderous revenge and untold malice” by the communist camp. The Chinese communists did not kill every last landlord as they came to power. They acted objectively, applying proletarian morality, which is informed by the subjective feelings of the masses but in a way that works towards a practical shared goal of transforming material conditions.
There is no apolitical morality as you argue. We must deal with child sexual abuse politically as we do with all crimes against the people. We must figure out how to transform our society to eliminate these crimes, or else they will keep happening. The fascist strategy of purification gets us nowhere.
You say pedophilia is not a result of the dynamics of oppression. I’d challenge that. There are many cases of people abusing children seemingly as a direct result of the abuse they suffered as children. In addition, the sexualization of power and of young people in our culture certainly has an affect on humyn behavior in our society. Attacking this culture and supporting victims are two ways to combat the problem of child abuse. Bourgeois science suggest there are disorders in the brain that cause pedophilia, but like any psychological diagnosis under patriarchal capitalism we are holding out for evidence that these “disorders” still exist in a world where people don’t have power over others.
Your assessment of divisions after a revolution is very astute. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the furthest advance of socialism we’ve seen to date, was based on the idea that a new bourgeoisie arises with in the party. So this is not just about old enemies rising again from the ranks, but the internal contradictions of the system creating new enemies as well. This reiterates that it is idealists to believe we can build an ideologically pure party before waging revolution. Dialectics is the concept that their are always contradictions within a thing, and things are always changing.
Revolutions are won by uniting disparate forces on a common goal. One tool we use to address this issue is the united front. The united front allows separate parties with separate interests to act towards a common goal. It also includes mass organizations, with less developed political lines. The communist party is the proletarian pole, providing proletarian leadership in the united front.
People in the communist party must carry themselves as communists. Even here, we must not be too idealistic, no one is perfect and we are all products of our conditions. But anti-people crimes certainly would not be tolerated within the party. The united front allows for the party to lead and unite with other forces and organization that may not always work in the interests of the people. The united front allows for the party to be critical of our allies when necessary to show the masses there is a better way.
We must put politics in command. With politics in command we can sort out true comrades, allies and enemies. With politics in command we can win over potential allies and sometimes even win over individual enemies. People who have committed crimes against the people and do not recognize them as crimes are people who have not gone through the necessary self-criticism to be called true comrades. We are all products of this world (and victims of it) and we are all self-determining beings. That is the duality of humyn reality. It is up to us whether we struggle with the parts of ourselves that reflect the oppressive system we are in and transform them into something to better serve the people.
NOTES: 1. Nadine Burke Harris, 2018, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity.
Since 2021, the city of Atlanta in conjunction with its police force and local developers and contractors, has been trying to bulldoze a significant part of the remaining forest in the city and construct an urban warfare training center for police officers. The forest, which formerly contained a slave labor camp and then a state farm ran on prisoner labor, has been the site of occupations, sabotage of construction equipment, protests and raids by the police. Recently, the cops murdered an activist staying in the encampment defending the forest, while revolts in downtown Atlanta and confrontations with police at the site of the forest have resulted in arrests and terrorism charges for dozens of activists. The movement has racked up several victories already, including delaying the construction of the training center by several months and driving several contractors off the project entirely. But the struggle continues. At press time, the forest faces clear-cutting for the initial stages of construction.
Atlanta is a rapidly and brutally gentrifying city, with a nominally Black elected leadership but a housing and economic policy that has displaced thousands of lower income New Afrikan residents. Cops have been used to harass New Afrikan tenants out of public housing to facilitate redevelopment, rent has spiked well above the already bloated national average, and the arrival of movie production companies (facilitated by tax breaks and other favors) has been a major motor of gentrification across the city.(1) The elected leadership of the city is in a bind – they have to deliver economic growth and good jobs, and get re-elected by appearing to stand against police brutality and white supremacy, but are constrained by their own commitment to capitalism and inability to confront the real power structure of the city, which, as we will see soon, is mostly unelected.
Like most Amerikan cities, Atlanta saw a weeks-long uprising against the police following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. In Atlanta, also like other Amerikan cities, local cases of police brutality added extra impetus to the protesters and their demands. The murder of Rayshard Brooks in June of 2020 led to a revolt that burned down the Wendys he’d been killed at(2), the resignation of hundreds of police officers and even the trashing of the offices of the state police. Local lumpen organizations saw a temporary truce and occupied the Wendys site with arms against rumors of white militas seeking to march near the site of Rayshard Brooks’ death. In the wake of these and similar events police and correctional forces nationwide are facing difficulties filling their ranks and reeling from their abject failure to contain the disturbances of 2020, when over sixty thousand (3) National Guard troops had to be called out to back them up. The need for Cop City is itself a sign of weakness, paranoia and poor morale of the police force.
The Campaign in the City Council
In 2021, after the rebellion, the Atlanta City Council met in secret to arrange two land deals in the South Forest, the largest expanse of forest remaining in the Metro Atlanta area. One was to give a movie studio CEO, Ryan Milsap, a swathe of public land to bulldoze and build a large movie production studio on. A second was to give another large chunk of land to the Atlanta Police Foundation, a private nonprofit that gathers money from some of the largest businesses in the region and funds policing initiatives. The APF was to construct a mock city out of concrete, similar to U.S. Military urban warfare training sites, to prepare police to prevent another 2020 from happening. (4)
The Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) is interesting all on its own. It’s entirely private, with unclear finances and no accountability to the public. It’s staffed by former national security officers, real estate investors and retired police; and it has enacted several large-scale programs around the city by itself such as building a center for a massive surveillance network across the entire city which allows footage from thousands of cameras the foundation has installed to be reviewed at one location. The APF has also built up a house renovation program that buys cheap real estate in New Afrikan neighborhoods, remodels it and gives it to police recruits to live in. All of this is done with money donated by corporations ranging from Coca Cola (who did drop out of the Foundation after pressure from activists) to Norfolk Southern. To repeat: large capitalist firms are directly funding, with no public oversight, the extension of massive surveillance networks, police colonization of New Afrikan ghettos, and the construction of a training center intended to make cops more proficient at urban warfare.
The APF is best understood not as a slush fund or a shady organization behind the scenes, but as a de facto shadow government that actually runs the city on behalf of a mostly white bourgeoisie.(5)
Activists uncovered the land deals and organized protests and a campaign to persuade the city council to not approve the projects. After months of rallies, lobbying and canvassing, the Atlanta City Council voted in late 2021 to allow the project to proceed. This outcome, which many of the activists involved in the campaign predicted, marked the first defeat for Stop Cop City. The coalition that managed this campaign, DARC (Defund Atlanta Police Department, Refund Communities) dissolved among accusations that the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) had tried to take over the campaign and use it (and its failure which they banked on) as a recruiting tool. The DSA’s plan was to allow the campaign to fail instead of criticizing it openly, with the hope that its failure would radicalize people into their organization. Commenting on this, a local communist wrote “the notion that working class Atlantans, people who live their entire lives in the trenches of the city’s class war, require a civics lesson to be radicalized is self-evidently chauvinistic.” (6)
The Campaign in the Weelaunee Forest
Parallel to the campaign against the city council and continuing after it had been defeated, a growing and mostly anonymous group of people calling themselves “forest defenders” were ramping up their activity. Some engaged in tree-sits in the forest, others established gardens or engaged in mutual aid projects and free concerts, and others routinely sabotaged construction and surveying equipment preparing the forest for the project.(7)
At one point members of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe from Oklahoma, who lived in the South Forest before being expelled during the 1820’s, returned to the forest, conducted a stomp dance ceremony and shared the forest’s pre-colonial name: Weelaunee.
Several times, crews hired by Ryan Milsap to start demolishing the forest ahead of official permitting were driven out after direct confrontation by forest defenders. Outside the forest, protests against contractors, politicians and business-people involved in the project routinely escalated to vandalism and provoked repression from the police. In one case, a protest in East Atlanta Village was attacked by cops as it was ending, but the heavy-handed tactics of the police resulted in all 17 arrests being dismissed and thousands in restitution paid to those targeted. One of the general contractors of the project, Reeves + Young, dropped out after another direct protest at their officers and after several of their vehicles were sabotaged in the forest. It should be noted that not all interactions between construction workers and the forest defenders were hostile – when crews from the local power company showed up to do maintenance on a line in the forest, they worked around a garden that forest defenders had planted instead of destroying it.
Throughout late 2021 and 2022 this back and forth continued, with coordinated Weeks of Action bringing hundreds of people into the forest and a fluctuating smaller body of activists building and defending the forest in the interim.
Raids and the Murder of Tortuguita
Different police agencies routinely entered the forest and raided it repeatedly. Last May, following a Week of Action, cops came into the forest and smashed up a lot of protest infrastructure that was on the ground. Activists retreated to the trees, continued confronting work crews and burning equipment that was left unguarded at night. A statement issued after one of these incidents read “if you build it we will burn it.” In December of last year another raid resulted in the destruction of more shelters and 6 people were arrested and charged with ‘domestic terrorism.’
On 18 January 2023, a final raid into the forest by officers from the Georgia State Highway Patrol and numerous other police agencies attacked the forest with guns drawn. During the raid a forest defender sitting under a tarp refused orders to get up and leave, and the cops shot em several times at close range, claiming self defense. Eir name was Manuel Paez Teran (nicknamed Tortuguita or Tort), an indigenous anarchist from Venezuela, and ey’d been living in the forest for almost a year helping to coordinate its supply and defense. The cop story, that Tort had fired first from under the tarp and wounded an officer, began to unravel quickly. On body camera footage released weeks later an officer can be heard saying ‘you fucked your own officer up?’ after the shots, implying that the officer who was wounded was shot by his own people. Tort’s autopsy showed bullet wounds through the palms of eir hands, a story more consistent with an encounter killing than a firefight.(8)
The movement is mostly evicted from the forest for now, and initial tree clearing has begun. The murder of Tortuguita, however, has dramatically raised the temperature of the struggle. The City council has already started walking back some of their plans for Cop City, and support for the movement and criticism of Mayor Dickens for being involved in it, has swelled. It’s also important to remember that without the resistance the whole forest would be gone and Cop City would be half-built already.
For Rayshard Brooks, for Tortuguita, and for victims of poverty and police violence in Atlanta whose names we know and those we don’t, we say Stop Cop City.
On 7 March 2023, China’s new foreign minister Qin Gang, in his first public appearance, delivered denouncements and warnings that “conflict and confrontation” with the United $tates is inevitable if the U.$. imperialists do not change their course.(1) Before becoming China’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang was an ambassador to the United $tates known for eir non-confrontational and diplomatic approaches to eir job.(2) This new public statement marks a clear shift in tone from the diplomatic and cautious reputation that Qin has built as eir time as ambassador. On the National People’s Congress in Beijing, Qin has said the following:
“If the United States does not hit the brakes, but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation.”(3)
Alongside these comments, Qin has condemned the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” of the United $tates which ey claims is sparking discourse and a new cold war in Asia and seeks the containment of China as a country.
One day after, on 8 March 2023, U.$. ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel made a response to Qin’s claims that China should not be surprised at all that Washington and its allies are deepening military ties in reaction to China’s aggression:
“You look at India, you look at the Philippines, you look at Australia, you look at the United States, Canada or Japan. They [China] have had in just the last three months a military or some type of confrontation with every country. And then they’re shocked that countries are taking their own steps for deterrence to protect themselves. What did they think they were going to do?”(4)
Emanuel responded to Qin’s claims that the Amerikans’ Indo-Pacific strategy is not in fact containment of China but a “deterrence” of China’s aggression in the previous months. In the past three months, Chinese ships harassed the Filipino navy;(5) conducted military drills near Taiwan and fired missiles (those missiles landed on Japan’s territorial waters);(6) and have had border skirmishes in the Himalayas with India.(7)
The Indo-Pacific Strategy of the U.$. imperialists
The Indo-Pacific strategy of the United $tates was a particular target of Foreign Minister Qin’s condemnations. The Indo-Pacific strategy is a political-economic program launched by the Biden administration which has highlighted the economic importance of the region of Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific. In the program, the U.$. imperialists also highlight the “aggressive forces” of the Indo-Pacific region – namely China and the DPRK – which the program claims furthers destabilization.(8)
“The United States is an Indo-Pacific power. The region, stretching from our Pacific coastline to the Indian Ocean, is home to more than half of the world’s people, nearly two-thirds of the world’s economy, and seven of the world’s largest militaries. More members of the U.S. military are based in the region than in any other outside the United States. It supports more than three million American jobs and is the source of nearly $900 billion in foreign direct investment in the United States. In the years ahead, as the region drives as much as two-thirds of global economic growth, its influence will only grow—as will its importance to the United States.” - The Indo-Pacific’s Promise (The Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States, February 2022). (9)
This pamphlet of the U.$. imperialists lays a clear plan for the shape of things to come. The question is whether the U.$. imperialism can defeat rising new star Chinese social-imperialism who is also looking to pierce their fangs into the region.
Qin Gang has made the claim that this strategy of the United $tates is the Southeast Asian version of the NATO; asserting China’s position parallel to that of the USSR and the countries of India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia as the NATO alliance which plays the part of Western Europe.
We see these particular trends among today’s big imperialist powers as incredibly worrying due to the similarities to the political-economic contradictions among the imperialist forces of the early twentieth century, which resulted in the first World War.
One difference/advantage that Amerikkka always will have over China or Russia is battle hardened experience. The Amerikkkan empire have been at war (against other imperialist powers during the two world wars and against colonies fighting for self-determination alike) for nearly all of the 20th century. While China and Russia have had some military conflicts with other nations during their post-socialist capitalist restoration era (namely in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe respectively) these little post-capitalist restoration wars are nowhere near the level of experience the United $tates have had against Nazi Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Cracking down on Chechnyan “terrorist” cells in Eastern Europe by the Russian Armed Forces, or beating up revolting farmers/ethnic minorities on the countryside by the so-called “People’s Liberation Army” is a cakewalk compared to the genocidal wars Amerika waged throughout the 20th century.
Saber Rattlings in Taiwan
After Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-Wen met with U.$. house of representative speaker Kevin McCarthy, the so-called “People’s Liberation Army” of China began conducting military drills in Taiwan waters.
Taiwan’s modern history began with the losers of the civil war in China. The Kuomintang (the nationalist party - KMT) of China fled from the people’s wrath and the Communist Party of China (CPC), which had overthrown the KMT’s bourgeois dictatorship, replacing it with a proletarian one. The KMT fugitives have massacred the indigenous people of Taiwan, and began the nation building project sponsored by U.$. imperialism. For many years Taiwan actually held the legitimate position recognized by the international community as “real” China. With the restoration of capitalism in China, the KMT of Taiwan actually seeks to cozy up to the social-imperialist CCP and takes a “moderate” stance on Taiwan independence affirming that Taiwan is still Chinese while the Taiwanese nationalists of the pan-green alliance and the Democratic Progressive Party take a more harder stance on Taiwanese national identity.
After president Tsai Ing-Wen’s meeting with the U.$. imperialists in Los Angeles, China began a 3 day long military exercises on the doorsteps of Taiwan. With precision air strikes designed to intimidate the Taiwanese government, and a naval blockade, the so-called PLA have certainly flexed their muscles on the front. (10)
The official statement from the Chinese military reads as follows:
“The theater’s troops are ready to fight at all times and can fight at any time to resolutely smash any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ and foreign interference attempts.” (11)
On 10 April 2022, Taiwan detected 91 flights by Chinese bombers as well as multiple fighter jets. (12)
Capitalism-Imperialism Makes Inter-Imperialist Conflicts Inevitable
The Indo-Pacific strategy recognizes the economic importance that the region of Southeast Asia and the Pacific holds not only for the United $tates but also for the imperial core overall. China also recognizes this. Under capitalism, where labor in itself is a commodity, the cheap labor and the immense surplus value that the world imperialist system plunders from Southeast Asia is invaluable to China as a new rising imperialist power.
Qin Gang proclaimed warnings that the actions of the U.$. imperialists will cause a new cold war. We at MIM(Prisons) say that the social-imperialist forces of China and the United $tates are creating the precedence for a new world war as the nature of capitalism-imperialism makes it inevitable for the great imperialist powers to eventually battle over and reorganize their respective neo-colonial turfs/territories.(13)
If fascism arrives in the United $tates, then the communists and the revolutionaries will have their duties and work to do just like always. If inter-imperialist conflict breaks out and a new world war enters in our world, then we will have our duties and work to do to as well. The nihilism of impending crisis is common here in the belly of the beast. But Marxists recognize these developments as the inevitable playing out of the inherent contradictions of the capitalist system. Periods of great conflict are when qualitative transformations happen, and this is a good thing. It is our role to understand these changes so that we can move things in the interests of the world’s majority.
NOTES: 1. Nectar Gan, 8 March 2023, China’s new foreign minister warns of conflict with US, defends Russia ties, CNN. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Brad Lendon, Marc Stewart, 8 March 2023, Exclusive: China’s ‘attacks’ unite region against Beijing, US ambassador to Japan says, CNN. 5. Brad Lendon, 13 February 2023 2022, Philippine Coast Guard says Chinese ship aimed laser at one of its vessels, CNN. 6. Brad Lendon, 4 August 2022, China fires missiles near Taiwan in live-fire drills as PLA encircles island, CNN. 7. Ibid. 8. The White House Washington, 24 September 2021, Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States. 9. Ibid. 10. Ben Blanchard Yimou Lee, 10 April 2023, China ends Taiwan drills after practicing blockades, precision strikes, Reuters. 11. Ibid. 12. Huizhong Wu, 10 April 2023, China military ‘ready to fight’ after drills near Taiwan, ABC. 13. Wiawimawo, February 2018, China’s Role in Increasing Inter-Imperialist Rivalries, Under Lock & Key No. 60.
16 March 2023 – Here at Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI), we have implemented the below program. We turned in over 200 copies to the Governor of Maryland, state delegates and senators. We also sent copies to the Commissioner of Corrections and the Warden. We are still sending copies out on the compound to have brothers do their part.
We have been met with a few obstacles but we still are struggling against intel (they’re like Prison FBI, Gang Task Force, etc.), they started going in to cells searching for these papers. They even complemented the organization for our resistance (even though they’re trying to lock us up). After the people heard about intel and their continued and increased oppression some brothers got discouraged and actually returned some of the copies. It broke my heart to see such cowardice in men. But the sacrifices of those that came before us motivates me to keep pushing.
I want to thank MIM and all the comrades involved with MIM that helped me learn from the materialist method. This form of resistance I took was a page out of MIM’s book and I appreciate it. But what we need here at ECI for there to be change is outside support. So if you comrades are reading this or are listening. Please contact these numbers and write these addresses in order to bring about change more quickly.
Delegate Charles Otto 309 Lowe House Office Building 6 Bladen Street Annapolis, MD 21401
Governor Wesmoore 100 State Central Annapolis, MD 21401-1925
Senator Mary Beth Carozza 316 Jame Senate Office Building 11 Bladen Street Annapolis, MD 21401
Commissioner of Corrections 6776 Reistertown Road Baltimore, MD 21215
We the incarcerated citizens of ECI feel we are not being treated as we should and we want change. Incarcerated yes, but we are still human beings. The conditions we are forced to live in are inadequate to say the least. The opportunity for rehabilitation is insufficient and because this is the case recidivism seems inevitable. As such, a place built on the pretense of rehabilitation becomes a concentration camp. It becomes a place where people are waiting to die. Our recreation has been reduced, our visits have been reduced and our meals have gotten worse. Along with these there are many more things we want changed, but here below we highlight the ones we deem most important.
Request #1. Educational Opportunities
We request access to college education along with training in trades that will serve us when we return to society. We also ask that proper tutoring be provided to those that struggle in certain subjects. It must be understood that lack of education played a major role in our bad decision making that lead us to prison, so it only make sense that education play a role in our rehabilitation.
Request #2. Employment
We want jobs for all able-bodied incarcerated citizens. We also ask that we be paid minimum wage for these jobs. Please understand that many of us were the sole provider for our family, so to not grant us this request may result in our family turning to criminal activity to pay bills out of desperation.
Request #3. Programs
We want programs that address our individual needs. For we understand that every incarcerated citizen isn’t locked up for the same crime. Therefore we believe each individual should be programmed off his individual crime and sentence. This is the only way to properly rehabilitate us.
Request #4. Medical
We ask for faster response to our sick calls. Every time we are told to put a sick call in by the time we get called for it, the issue is worse off or it has spread. We are asking for a switch in medical protocol. By this we mean to proper test to be ran based off the patient’s feeling. The issue may need an X-ray or MRI. These things should not wait until the problem worsens in order to carry out these minor procedures. We demand that our health issues to be paid close attention to because the lack of attention may result in an unnecessary death of an incarcerated citizen.
Request #5. Psych/Therapy
We want proper psycho analysis to be done on each incarcerated citizen in order to understand his actual mental problems. For we understand that our actions are a result of our mental workings so if we act in a manner that is unfitting it is the result of our brain work. We do not wish to be doped up on psych meds that will only have us ‘Zombified’. We want actual treatment that will identify our problems so we can work on them. We understand that therapy is important to health and to deny us this tool is to deny us our right to be healthy.
Request #6. Sanitation
Our sanitation time is not enough to thoroughly clean the tiers the way that is needed. Our showers contain black mold and no matter the day our tier is not fully clean. This is not the workers fault it is because the shortage of time. What we want is an extended time period for sanitation workers, an increase in sanitation workers. And to do so by hiring workers from that tier. This we understand is a matter of health and not to address this matter is to disregard the health of the incarcerated citizens of ECI.
Request #7. Hygiene
We demand more than one wash day out of the week. We shower everyday but do not possess the amount of clothes we need to sustain good hygiene throughout the week without washing our clothes more than one time. We want C-shift laundry men to be hired to do the workers clothes so that they won’t be in the way of general population’s clothes. Also we want weekend wash days to be added. We are asking for soap and soap powder to be distributed weekly to those who need it. We understand that there is a such thing as welfare commissary that will provide these things but to meet the qualifications one must show proof of no income for months in order to receive these benefits when the effects of not showering or washing are immediate.
Request #8. Recreation
We request mixed recreation; top and bottom together. The separation limits our yard and gym access to only 3 times a week. Along with this limitation is an extended period of time where we have to sit in the cell dirty. By this I mean if we choose to participate in all 3 days of gym/yard there will be a day where we are either last or first and the top will have second rec. So that will mean that we will have to wait a minimum of 6 hours and 30 minutes before we shower depending on what yard we have. This in turn will limit our gym/yard to 2 days if we don’t want to sit in the cell dirty. Not to mention the negative health effects from sitting in the cell for that long without a shower. (Example: people breaking out into rashes).
Request #9. Visits
We demand that in person visits be once a week. This will increase our opportunities to see our families. The majority of us cannot get our families to make the trip without scheduling a day around it because of the 4 hour journey it takes to get to ECI. Increasing the visit to once a week will increase our family’s availability. We also ask that for those families that are 4 hours away be given an extended visit of 2 hours. Lastly we ask that the process to acquire visitation be less difficult for us and our families. Being able to see our loved ones is vital to our mental health and it plays a major role in the way we act.
Request #10. Food
We request that our menu be changed to food we deem desirable. We want food that free people would eat. Fresh food that’s nutritious. We are also asking for portions fit for grown men, because the time in which we eat and the quantity of food we eat leaves us hungry waiting for the next meal. So we request a change.
Request #11. Dietary Sanitation
The kitchen is infested with roaches and mice that leave urine and feces all over the place. And because of this we demand that pest control come once a week until we have a pest free kitchen. There should be no reason this kitchen pass inspection with this infestation. As such we demand change.
Request #12. Grievance
We request that our grievances be dealt with separate from the state prison administration. We believe that our grievances are being swept under the rug and disregarded at times. As a result of this we don’t trust the administration. So we ask that our grievances be handled by an outside non-profit civil rights organization.
Request #13. Maintenance
We request that the maintenance of our housing units be maintained. There are times our sink or toilet may leak, or it may not work at all in the cell. And with these incidents there are too many times we have requested for things like that to be fixed and it would take weeks. Understanding these small things can tum into large things through the accumulation of bacteria and mold etc. we request that four men in each housing unit get trained in the field of plumbing and maintenance in order to maintain livable conditions for the incarcerated citizens.
We the incarcerated citizens conclude this request list asking one more question, “would you want to be housed under these conditions?” We want change because we want to change. Help us change. Thank you for your consideration.
Life is about growth and change. A constant change is needed, or even the small pleasures that we enjoy begin to lose their excitement. Even though I don’t agree with a lot of changes, well the ones that aren’t progressive or geared to help us go forward, I still understand that their presence is needed. You see, revolution as a necessity only begins to make sense to those who have the keen insight into atrocities that make revolution a necessity. The problem we encounter is communicating this to the overwhelming majority, and those people are willing and even oftentimes unwilling participants in the progression of the things that make revolution truly a necessity.
The problem is also in how revolution is perceived. Most people equate civil disorder, small riotous acts such as killing police, kidnapping government officials etc. as the revolution itself and this is not the case. Revolution is all about complete change of society as a whole – a violent overthrow of a class dictatorship by another. In some ways, many small revolutions take place each day, but they are not what we need to move forward in good shape. Revolutionary change, to mean anything, must start with the individuals changing themselves. Without that sort of progressive conduct we cannot begin to show others the benefits of our ideals.
Another problem is that the revolution has been hijacked by non-progressive puppets who act under the guise of a revolutionary progressive apparatus. This is much like what deteriorated the power of our progressive leaders of the yesteryears. The new left of the 1960s mislead the Black Panther Party. They encouraged the Panthers to miscalculate revolutionary steps and also by convincing the Panthers that they alone were the vanguard party placed too heavy a burden on its members causing them to make mistakes and also going against the central tenant of communism – from each according to ability and to each according to its needs. Another issue was that their support was only monetary and as Malcolm advised us before
“money brings advice. Since it’s their money that will eventually carry our movement, it’s their advice we will be listening to. Eventually a Black group will end up having a white brain controlling it.”
So the Panthers became the puppet group of the new left, while those who truly waged the battle sat back and got a lot of beautiful brothers and sisters killed and in the end they withdrew their support. A similar thing is occurring now, only this time, since revolution has taken on a new character tone, message, and the leaders appear more dressed up and cute rather than the rugged edge that was characteristic of the yesteryears’ soldiers, the picture has become even more foggy and harder to slice through the deception of Oligarchs.
Another problem is that we don’t own the media outlets, newspaper firms, or even the schools that teach us the absurd and outrageous lies that pacify the brain and hinder revolution. Affirmative action helped us to send more and more blacks to college and to create HBCUs (historically black colleges/universities). But the more educated we become the more dangerous we become, and so even more efforts to conceal the truth have been created.
Basically what I’m leading up to is the fact that as revolutionaries – whether cultural, economic or spiritualist – there is so much work to do. If we let those whose political economic interests do not match ours at the bottom of the rung continue to tell us how best to revolt or change the world then we will continue to lose. What they are really doing is letting the powers that be know how we are coming that way all efforts to forestall our movement will happen before we get to make our moves. The people who have advised us before sometimes become our enemies as well. Why do you think Elijah Muhammad was so adamant about “his” ministers not saying anything about JFK? It was because those same people he called the devil is who financed his program. So he allowed Malcolm to say what he said with no warning (even though he advised all other ministers), that way Malcolm’s fall from grace was ensured.
Even this newspaper Under Lock & Key doesn’t escape scrutiny. There is no published material that is anti-government that escapes censorship. So how big is your commitment to change? Because a lot of what is published as it relates to issues pertaining to Blacks and “our place” in revolution, or how we are “supposed” to move forward seems like the same advice by the new left to the Panthers. Am I making an indictment? No, however, being as aware as I am and considering how aware you are supposed to be, I must wonder if your commitment is sincere. Especially since we are in the belly of the beast and could suffer the same fate as our fallen comrade George Jackson under the same pretextual designs by each state to prevent the disciplined practice of revolution.
As a show of your commitment, since I’m questioning it, I would like this to be printed, not to offend you but to ask brothers and sisters to question their own sincerity as well. If our commitment is not cemented by the events that we must actually change, then we are letting people co-opt our direction and that cannot happen unless they can prove with facts that their direction is more beneficial and helpful. But if that were the case wouldn’t we be a lot more further on that issue and all issues in general?
Galaxy Ruler Universal Sole Controller Allah
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade about the central role played by funding sources in the path (and splitting) of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP). And it is fair to say we have not offered a concrete solution to this. The Panthers raised funds from the masses by selling their newspaper and doing other fundraisers, as do we. The Panthers also got funds and resources from local businesses as they asserted political power in areas like Oakland. It was largely the legal repression of the state that pushed the Panthers to start branching out into their fundraising efforts among wealthy Amerikan celebrities and such.
In practice the BPP was the vanguard of its day, with other oppressed nation formations trying to follow suit and white student/youth groups offering support. The BPP correctly encouraged similar formations and leadership to develop for other nations in the United $tates. Yet there did develop a line that the Black revolution here on occupied Turtle Island is the vanguard of the revolution globally, a line some promote to this day. While the oppressed of the world understandably put great hope in this internal force for revolution in the belly of the beast, we understand today that revolution comes from the periphery and works its way to the core. A successful revolution from within the United $tates is conceivable, but not before many successful revolutions elsewhere bring the socialist camp to a point of strength in the world again. The BPP itself reached its peak in part due to international alliances that cooled as struggle against the United $tates cooled internationally.
We also agree with this comrade that it is healthy to question the sincerity of MIM(Prisons) and whoever you choose to work with. Not to the point of paralysis, that it prevents you from working with others. But the only way we will succeed in offering effective leadership is if we receive thoughtful critique from an educated populace. That is why we are always attempting to teach how to think along with what to think. The bigger problem we have today is that there is no revolutionary leadership recruiting mass followings. People aren’t being misdirected by the funding of revolutionary organizations, they’re being misdirected by the funding of non-profits and social media platforms. At its peak, the BPP had an operating budget over $9 million in 2023 dollars(1), but even that would be nothing for the imperialists to double. Not to mention the measly MIM(Prisons) budget. Therefore, the need to address the risk described by this comrade is real and important in the longer term.
Are we sincere? committed? Hell yeah! But intentions are only a starting point. The only real measure is effectiveness. And effectiveness is no easy measure either. In our underdeveloped conditions it’d be easy to say that nothing is effective, which is why we must study other times and places to learn what effectiveness looks like and how to achieve it. The BPP of 1968 was looking pretty effective, but they did ultimately fail. “How much of that was avoidable?” and “how could it have been avoided?” are the key questions for us to attempt to answer. These are questions this comrade’s letter brings to the fore.
In another letter this comrade says we must ensure people are not committed merely to advance their own careers. We agree, and we do have an answer to that, which is anonymity. We intentionally discourage the promotion of cults of persynality, we even try to prevent people from publicly taking credit for the things they’ve done as individuals. We are one body, that takes credit for what we do as a body, and we struggle to prevent splits and offshoots.
Notes: 1. Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, 2013, Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, University of California Press: Berkeley, p. 392. and https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/1970?amount=1200000 2. get our study pack “Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary Edition” for $6 stamps or cash or work trade for more analysis of the BPP
For many months we’ve been hearing some grumblings from our readers about sky-rocketing commissary prices. Last issue we put out a call for more reports on this price inflation. But this inflation is not unique to prisons, and in recent weeks we’ve seen its impacts on the imperialists with a number of banks in the United $tates and Switzerland failing.
The cycles of boom and bust, which lead to instability, are inherent to capitalism and how it works. While the imperialists have adapted in many ways to keep things going, they can never solve these problems or prevent these cycles.
“since the prices of commissary has gone up due to inflation I think that all prisoners with jobs should be given pay rate raises to help with the new higher costs of living in the prison population. It is much harder to keep up with the financial strain. …I know that out in society whenever the cost of living goes up due to inflation so does our income and of course I am referring to low-income people – people on Social Security Income (SSI) or Social Security(SS) or struggling on Welfare. Well in prisons we don’t make anywhere near what is made on SSI or SS or even Welfare for that matter.”
"At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis President Trump warned us against price gouging but that never stopped the jail system. The criminal injustice system put people in jail for stealing but then they turn around and steal from the same people they accuse of stealing. County jails are full of homeless people, drug addicts and indigent people who have limited means or no family or friend to help provide those means, yet the canteen prices for commissary are outrageous. These same products can be bought at the Dollar store.
"For example, items such as V05 shampoo, which you can purchase at the dollar store for $1.25, commissary price is $3.99. One ramen noodle can be purchased for $0.25 at the store, will cost you $1.19 in commissary. Also a 10 pack of SweetNLow costs $0.99. For generic denture glue it’s $7 in commissary compared to $1.25 at the Dollar store. The list goes on and on. Is that not price gouging?
“Prisoners are forced to accept it. They have no choice. They have to pay it or go without. Hygiene and medications they desperately need. My question to you – how do we change this and stop jails from stealing from prisoners?”
Price gouging or extortion is common in U.$. prisons where the state allows private companies to come in and prey on prisoners and their families with legally enforce monopoly pricing systems.
A comrade in New York responded to our call with some of the price increases seen there since July 2022.
Most price increases in New York seemed to be in the 10 to 20% range. As a member of the Incarcerated Individual Liaison Committee, this comrade wrote the Deputy Superintendent about the troubles they were having with getting items on the commissary list. They responded in September 2022,
“The commissary contract allows the vendor to bid items and the price is allowed to rise (or fall) based on the real world. They are not required to lose money. Our stocking situation reflects the real world supply chain issues and inflation.”
The comrade told us,
“the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has raised the commissary buy limit from $75.00 to $90.00 to compensate for the inflation and changes to the package from home/vendor program that was implemented last year (2022).”
Unlike in the free world, not only do prisoners face limits on how much they can earn but also on how much they can spend.
Inflation is Real
Above, the NYSDOCS refers to the “real world” as being the cause of the rising prices in commissary. The fact of the matter is that inflation rates in the United $tates have been higher than we’ve seen in many decades for everyone. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in December 2021 had increased 7% year-over-year, and in December 2022 it was 6.5%. That means over two years the inflation rate is around 15% for all consumer goods. In this context, the price increases in New York commissaries look pretty typical for the economy overall. That does not mean that this is inevitable, it is only inevitable in the type of economy we live in.
And it is only if we are slaves to the capitalist market forces that we must accept these price increases on necessities for some of the poorest people in this country. Even capitalist countries use subsidies to alter the market.
Socialist China had no inflation
The Communist Party of China seized state power in 1949 after over two decades of people’s war waged against the imperialists and their Chinese lackies among the comprador bourgeoisie and landlord classes. Immediately following liberation there were speculators
“still trying to manipulate prices and stirring up waves in the economy… who ignored the repeated warnings of the People’s Government, gold and silver prices kept soaring, pushing up all other prices. So on 10 June 1949 the Stock Exchange – that centre of crime located in downtown Shanghai – was ordered to close down and 238 leading speculators were arrested and indicted. The 1,800 gold and silver coin peddlers were released on the spot after being enjoined to lead a more honest life. At one stroke, the headquarters of speculation vanished forever from Shanghai.”(1)
Unfortunately that last statement proved untrue, as the Shanghai Stock Exchange was re-established on 26 November 1990, following over a decade of capitalist restoration in China.(2) This is why China has it’s own economic woes today. But for a quarter century, China had no inflation.
During the socialist period of 1949-1976, the Communist Party never resorted to bank-note issue as a solution for fiscal problems, relying on raising production and practicing economy instead.(3) This remained true through the Korean War and periods of famine in the 1950s.(4) During the Covid-19 lockdown period the capitalist economy suffered greatly because it cannot adapt to decreases in production. The solution in the imperialist countries was for central banks to print a lot of money and give it to the capitalists as well as their labor aristocracy, to keep consumption up and prevent economic collapse. The solution to the bank collapses in recent weeks has been similar, providing more liquidity from the U.$. Federal Reserve on loan to banks that can’t cover their balance sheets.
The communist approach in China was the opposite. Rather than putting as much money out into the world as needed, and encouraging banks to loan more than they have, the Communist Party forced banks to hold most of their currency, forced agencies to keep most of their money in the banks and prohibited securities, bonds, precious metal trade and foreign currency. Remember, mortgage-backed securities were at the center of the last recession in 2008. Today we are seeing a similar crisis in high-risk loans for automobiles in the United $tates that happened for home loans in 2008.
Bond prices are at the heart of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and others. Socialist China didn’t issue bonds, because they didn’t take on federal debt.
Prior to liberation, in 1935-37, the Chinese currency was pegged to the USD. As a result, when inflation spiked in the United $tates, that inflation was amplified in China. In ULK 79 we discussed the current inflation crisis in Ghana. Because Ghana does not control its currency and does not keep out foreign currency and speculators, their currency (the Cedi) is manipulated by the imperialists. This is true across the Third World, where inflation will continue to be felt much more harshly than it is for us here in the belly of the beast.
The other problem in countries like Ghana is the foreign debt. Inflation is playing a big role here, as the USD becomes more expensive compared to local currencies, larger and larger portions of the money supplies in exploited countries are going to pay the same interest rates on loans from the imperialists. Debt forgiveness in these countries needs to occur to protect the lives of millions threatened with starvation today.
According to the World Food Program, “An expected 345.2 million people [are] projected to be food insecure in 2023 – more than double the number in 2020.”(5) The recent increase in famine is mainly in the poorest, exploited countries, and triggered by a combination of inflation, war and climate change.
We know there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. The problem is capitalism cannot be efficient enough to distribute it to places where super-exploitation occurs. And super-exploitation is necessary to maintain profit rates. Without positive profit rates, capitalism grinds to a halt.
When socialist China had actual shortages in essentials, they would ration them instead of increasing prices and making the problem worse. Then they would focus on increasing production of those essentials (rather than decreasing production like the capitalists do when there’s no profits to be had).(6) Contrast this with prisoners (and everyone else) in the United $tates who are now paying higher prices for food and other essentials because the commissary is operated on the capitalist market. The anarchy of production under capitalism means we constantly have too much or too little of various goods as individuals decide what to produce based on their own profit interests. And this is particularly noticeable when the economy starts to slow down or shows volatility as it has been lately.
Socialist China focused on production to manage and drive the economy, whereas imperialist United $tates focuses on money supply to do so. In socialist China the banks were merely a tool to manage and allocate resources to manage production for the people’s needs.
Why Banks are failing
As mentioned above, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) had a big problem due to the value of its federal bonds dropping in value. They had bought the bonds when interest rates were much lower, so as the Fed continues to increase interest rates these old bonds drop in value. They cannot cash in the bonds until their term is due and they can only sell them at a loss. Some big players began pulling their money out of the bank, perhaps related to this knowledge. Soon SVB could not cover the deposits they owed people. The U.$. government has stepped in to cover it, and now the FDIC is covering infinite deposits if your bank fails, instead of the previous limit of $250,000. This is another sign of the willingness of the imperialists to throw newly printed cash at the problem.
One interesting point here is that federal bonds are a “safe” investment. SVB didn’t fail because of garbage mortgage-backed securities as happened in 2008. So the financial system is failing firms that play it safe this time around. In addition, according to the FDIC, SVB was not in the worst situation.(7) In other words, other banks in the United $tates have worse balance sheets than SVB and will fail if there is a run on their money. “The total unrealised losses sitting on the books of all banks is currently $620bn, or 2.7% of US GDP.”(7)
The biggest failure this year, at the time of this writing, was the 165 year-old bank Credit Suisse. Meanwhile the market is jittery around many large imperialist banks with stock prices seeing big dips and credit default swaps (CDS) spiking in price. CDSs going up means other institutions are not confident these banks can pay off their debts and are charging more to insure bonds from these banks. The differing interests of these major financial institutions are beginning to show on the markets as they bet against each other.
Prisoners are on some of the most fixed budgets of any population in this country. In order to get their basic needs related to nutrition, hygiene and outside contact, prisons need to increase pay rates and limits on how much money prisoners can spend and receive from the outside. In some states these reforms have already occurred, and this is in the interests of the commissary companies, which the prison systems want to keep satisfied.
The solution to the bigger economic contradictions playing out now is obviously replacing capitalism with socialism. The report from socialist China cited above succinctly explains why this is the case. Capitalism doesn’t just put profit over the need of people and life on this planet, capitalism actually requires profit to function. When profits dry up, as we’re seeing some evidence of right now, capitalism can’t produce what people need. Of course, we’re also seeing various forms of state intervention to ensure that this does not happen by providing more money and creating profitable situations using the central banks. But these contradictions continue to exist, and different interests are acting in anarchic ways, so that state intervention cannot always work as it does in a socialist economy.