Arguably the hardest aspect of organizing (especially revolutionary organizing) is building consciousness. Not specifically of the subject matter (i.e., anti-capitalist/imperialist, socialism, equality, prisoner struggle) but of their role in the larger picture and its influence on their lives. Such consciousness leads to meaningful action. Due to this, it is the most rewarding of political objectives. It is also the most difficult to cultivate.
In pursuit of building consciousness, revolutionaries face many obstacles. A predominant, recurring obstacle is expanding peoples' perspective beyond their individual material concerns. A person's material interests constitute primary motivation for activism against and contributing to capitalism. In the Third World we see stringent struggles against capitalism. The opposite is equally true within capitalist societies. Material interests/motivations are inextricably welded to an individual's perspective of, and instinct for, self-preservation. This leads to a spectacular (depending on your ideological bent) narrowing down of alternatives, options and ultimately choices. A non-conducive situation for First World revolutionary organizing.
Our natural inclination is to allow self-preservation to impulse our actions once fear or a threat exceeds acceptable levels. People react as basic as scared animals in danger. Due to social evolution, our responses are more complex and advanced, more involved, what one can call a "social" self-preservation instinct. Similar to the brain shutting down because of excessive stress or trauma, emerging consciousness among First Worlders regresses when one's standard of living is threatened. Breaking First World attachment to physical/material comforts (possessions, commodities, thing-centrism) is first imperative to any revolutionary organizing, in particular; and wider political consciousness, in general.
A great amount of time, energy and attention must be given to shattering these real constraints. Class suicide among First World activists is the end result of such efforts. Through a patient, methodical process of expansive efforts (educational of real costs of capitalism/imperialism), diligence in those efforts and demonstrating the feasibility of alternative means (non-capitalistic), an organizer can make a meaningful contribution to supplanting capitalism.
People are selfish and revolutionary anti-imperialists should remind themselves that their target is the personal element, first and foremost. Even the perfect rally/demonstration, regardless of how correct its politics, will have a difficult time penetrating the calloused minds of those long accustomed to, and blinded by, capitalism. Especially when it concerns prisoners and penal systems/institutions. Most First Worlders simply deem it a necessary evil to preserve society.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Those First Worlders this author refers to are right that the prison system and institutions are a necessary evil to preserve the society as it is. That's the main difference between our prison work and that of many prison abolitionists — we know that we can't get rid of prisons in their current form unless we also get rid of capitalism.
This article brings up real challenges in our work. In ULK, we hope to host an ongoing conversation about ways we can be most effective in accomplishing the tasks this author calls out as most imperative: building consciousness, changing value systems, showing alternatives, etc. Send in your experiences and successes so we can continue learning from each other!
by a North Carolina prisoner February 2019 permalink
I have been fighting for better conditions in my current prison since I got here in June 2017. Tell the prison masses they have to write en masse to their unit managers, warden and director of prisons in their state. It's free!! There is no excuse.
The easiest thing to do, which I did, is to write up your declarations and remonstrations using carbon copy paper. Make 2-3 copies for each block/pod in every unit. Pass them out to comrades in those blocks, so they can encourage/force/persuade the masses to take 15 minutes to recopy and post it out. Done.
The first time I initiated these shots the warden called me to his office for a meeting with him, the unit manager, and assistant warden. He stopped the early counts, the 9 p.m. count, and turning off of phones. This sh!t works. On the second salvo he initiated recreation seven days a week. We are still pounding.
MIM(Prisons) responds: More reasonable hours for count, more contact with the outside world, and more recreation are all related to our anti-imperialist struggle, even though they may seem like petty reforms. Better sleep makes us mentally sharper, for writing, self-control, and creativity. Interaction with the outside world can give us motivation and positive social contact. And exercise (especially outdoors) helps with our physical as well as mental health.
We'd love to analyze a little deeper the benefits of running a campaign like the one described, because it's not just good for changing conditions. The people who are copying the letters and seeing results are at a special place in their recruiting. They might not be ready to initiate a campaign like this, and they might not even identify as part of "the struggle." But they have some interest in this work and are putting in some (albeit relatively small) effort.
At this stage, the best thing we can do for them is help set up "easy wins." They probably aren't dedicated enough to remain committed after a big setback. So asking them to put in a ton of effort for no reward is just not realistically going to inspire them to stay engaged. Whenever we can devise campaigns or activities that give this positive feedback to the people participating, with minimal effort, we should jump on those projects. These folks might not have learned the relationship between working hard and reward, so we can help teach that association. "Without directly experiencing the connection between effort and reward, animals, whether they're rats or people, default to laziness."(1)
Also keep in mind that all is not lost on the folks who are not participating, and are watching the campaign from the sidelines. Like we wrote in our response to "Sack the Sack Lunches," this type of campaign can help spark people's interest, just by witnessing and experiencing the results. Let's not condemn these folks for not participating, and instead let's try harder to inspire them with our successes, and then help them with easy wins when they are ready to participate.
In some states like Texas, where even indigent mail is restricted to 5 letters per month, it's not free to write to these administrators to change conditions. There are plenty of excuses (or reasons) why people can't engage in this type of campaign. Still, whenever possible, we agree that we should be pushing campaigns like these. It just means we have to get more creative in developing them.
I feel inspired by the fact that you decided to use my Liberation Theology article in ULK 65. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to our movement. I will continue to submit articles to you in the future.
The feedback you gave on the article was great. Under the MIM(Prisons) responds section, you agreed with me that Liberation Theology can be a useful revolutionary tool, and that it's good to "try to approach people where they are at." However, you also said that "we should be careful not to mislead them into thinking that we endorse their mysticism. The very belief in a higher power discourages people from believing that they can control the development of their own and all of humanity's future." You also warned against neglecting materialism.
I 100% agree. While I did mention that I was an atheist in the article, I failed to mention that materialism truly is the best world view if you're going for revolution. After all, materialism deals with reality in so far as we humyns are capable of comprehending it. And proper theory leads to proper action which leads to better theory.
But I just like how you do feedback in general. You encourage the people to submit their views and if you ever disagree with or wish to qualify a comrade's ideas, you publicize eir views and then explain why you disagree underneath it. Mao would have it no other way. This is why ey encouraged the people and the intellectuals to think for themselves, because ey knew that because eir method is sound, ey would be able to refute errors on logical grounds without having to lie or undermine the people's freedom, which is what the U.$. power-elite does.
Also, I read the book Grit that you sent me. I learned some valuable lessons from it. The main thing I've been able to utilize was the simple chart Duckworth advocates for organizing goals. I've made it a habit to review my own goal chart. My highest goal says "undermine and liberate," which means undermine the imperialists and liberate the oppressed. My low level goals are different throughout the week. Writing this letter to you, comrades, was one of these goals. Every little goal adds up to the top one.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Comrade, you were not the only one glad we printed your piece. Multiple USW comrades wrote us mentioning your article as being useful. We appreciate this comrade's feedback on our feedback, and we're always looking for more info from our subscribers on how we can do our job better. It's a topic we are always reviewing and trying to improve, like any good organizer should! We especially appreciate hearing feedback from people who have contributed to our programs and campaigns.
We all need to be able to learn from constructive criticism, and this ongoing discussion is an example of the criticism/self-criticism process in action. Only by learning from our mistakes (and those of others) will the revolutionaries and the movement continue to grow and move forward. People, and organizations, that dogmatically insist they are always right will quickly stagnate and offer no real hope for the oppressed. And as you can see in the pages of ULK this is a two-way street. It's not just about MIM(Prisons) telling writers where we think they are wrong. It's also about us learning from readers of and writers for ULK. The self-criticism printed in this issue regarding our George Jackson article in ULK 65 is a small example of this.
In the interest of transparency, we want to underline that MIM(Prisons) is the editor of this newspaper. So we choose what letters we respond to, and we often cut parts out of those. We aim to give a platform to the articles that contribute to the ongoing conversations in ULK, and that contribute to anti-imperialist organizing in general. So ULK is not a reflection of what everyone is writing to us about, but it is a reflection of the anti-imperialist organizing going on behind bars.
Editorial power is one reason why we advocate for single-nation organizations to lead their own nations, including having their own ideological platforms such as newspapers. Newspaper editors inherently filter what they think is most important to include and discuss, and our judgement on what is important to all nations could be wrong.
[The following was written about the same time as we were writing Intersecting Strands of Oppression for ULK 65. This author echoes our own discussion of the Brett Kavanaugh hearing while heavily citing MIM Theory 2/3, as we did in our piece. This question of how gender and nation interact, and how revolutionaries should approach these topics in order to push things in the right direction continue to be of utmost importance. - MIM(Prisons)]
On 27 September 2018, in the United States Senate's Judiciary Committee, the nation heard riveting testimony of an attempted sexual assault, and the denial of that assault. A Crime that had occurred 37-years ago with no corroborating witnesses.
In a he-say, she-say trial, who gets the benefit of the doubt? The accused, or the accuser? In this era of #MeToo, is it guilty until you can prove yourself innocent, or innocent until proven guilty? Could due process be sacrificed at the altar of gender politics and why does it matter?
In reviewing my in-cell library on feminist theory, these matters and debates are not new, and the answers to these questions have long been addressed. The first question that has to be asked, "Who speaks for the feminist?" "Who has her girlfriend's back?" The demarcation in the feminist lines can best be exemplified by the research compiled by one feminist researcher, Ealasaid Munro:
"The emergence of 'privilege-checking,' however, reflects the reality that mainstream feminism remains dominated by straight white middle-classes. Parvan Amara interviewed self-identified working class feminists for a piece published on the internet magazine The F Word and noted that many of the women she spoke to found themselves excluded from mainstream feminism both on the internet and 'in real life.' Amara notes that many women tend to encounter feminism at university. Women who do not go on to further education face a barrier when attempting to engage with those academic debates that drive feminism."(1)
So if academia is where the debates that are driving feminist theory are occurring, what does that academic debate look like if she is not white?
"Ignoring the difference of race between women and the implications of those differences presents the most serious threat to the mobilization of women's joint power. Refusing to recognize difference makes it impossible to see the different problems and pitfalls facing us as women. Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down on the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying."(2)
Another theorist surmised, "Black women's own views on rape can't help being shaped by the actions of their white sisters. That is to say, that Black people cannot use a white supremacist justice system without perpetuating white supremacy."(3)
These other theorists have long been critical of weaponizing process. This was recently on display in California. There, a recall movement was taking place to remove a judge for imposing a light sentence on a Stanford University student for sexual assault. The most vocal opponents to the recall were Black women. The most visible, former California Supreme Court justice, Janice M. Brown.(4) She argued, that punishing a judge for exercising discretion will only harm defendants of color. Statistics bear this out. Per 100,000 of the Black and Brown population in 2010, 6,000 were imprisoned; while per 100,000 of the white population in 2010, 640 were imprisoned.(5) Black and Brown persons of color are in front of Criminal Court judges far more than whites.
Another theorist called this type of feminism Carceral Feminism, and rails against the federal passage of the 1999 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). "Many of the feminists who had lobbied for the passage of VAWA remained silent about countless other women whose 911 calls resulted in more violence. Often white, well-heeled feminists, their legislative accomplishment did little to stem violence against less affluent, more marginalized women."(6) And a further theorist noted, "If women do not share 'common oppression,' what then can serve as a basis for our coming together?"(7)
These other feminist theorist, the marginalized, had observed that the debate was about rational-feminism versus emotional-feminism. This feminist theorist argues that rational-feminism must prevail over emotional feminism.
"The sisterhood line as currently practiced (but not in the 1960s and early 1970s) is white, bourgeois, sexist propaganda. Women just turn around from seeking approval from men that they never got; to demanding unconditional approval from women. They put each other on a pedestal and imagine each other to be flawless goddesses."(8)
This same theorist argues, the root of emotional feminism is nothing more than a chauvinist plot to keep women marginalized and caught up in their emotions, rather than applying her faculties of reasoning.
"The root of this is the patriarchal socialization of women to restrict themselves to the sphere of feelings, while letting men develop the rational faculties necessary to wield power. Women are taught to read romantic novels, major in English, or maybe psychology, if the women seem like they are getting too many scientific ideas."(9)
Is the rallying cry, "I BELIEVE HER", the death nails to due process? Is process going to be sacrificed at the alter of gender politics? Is the new standard for America's fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons "GUILTY, UNTIL YOU CAN PROVE YOURSELF INNOCENT"?
One theorist's 1992 writings used the 1986 rape convictions of white women by the race of their rapist. 68% of their rapists were white; 22% of their rapists were Black; 5% were Other; and 2% of their rapists were Mixed. The theorist begs feminists to take a serious look at the 22% of white women raped in 1986 who were raped by Black men.
The theorist goes on to state a general proposition that all feminists can generally agree upon, "Three-quarters of all rapes are by acquaintances, and the figures on rape should reflect that women are raped by the type of people they date."
In 1986, 12% of the men available to white women were Black. However, no where near 12% of the sex white women were having were with Black men. Thus the 22% of white women's rapist being Black is disproportionately high. Furthermore, the population of white women was more than six-times the population of Black men. For every [1% of] white women who had a sexual acquaintance with a Black man, it takes [6% of] Black men to be those acquaintances. Out of those acquaintances charged with rape, the 22% figure means a very high proportion of Black men generally are convicted of rape of white women compared to white men.
The theorist takes note, up to this point, the figures have been examined from the perspective of the rape victim. But taken from the Black man's perspective, white women are a large group of the American population, while Black men are a relatively small one. For Black men, 63.3% of their rape accusers were white women. If Black men had 63.3% of their sexual interactions with white women, then the accusations might be fair, but this was far from the case.
The theorist surmised we could get an idea of how skewed the accusations were looking at "interracial dating." The theorist could not give a figure for what percentage of the dates people went on were interracial. Instead, the theorist surmised we could guess that it was similar to the figures for the percentage of people in interracial marriages. Black men married to white women accounted for 0.3% of total marriages in the United States as of 1989. In 1989, less than 4% of Black married men were married to white women, so we estimate that less than 4% of Black men's dating were with white women. Hence, less than 4% of accusations faced by Black men should come from white women. Instead, the figure was 63.3%.(10)
The history of that story is the other side of sexual politics here in America. An America where the LAPD and Oakland-PD have had 100s of convictions overturned, due to incredibly, credible, false testimony of police officers. A land where 15% of the Black population in Tulia, Texas, were incarcerated by the incredibly, credible, testimony of a single racist officer.(11) According to the San Quentin News, 139 prisoners nationwide were exonerated in 2017.(12)
Credible demeanor in testimony has never been foolproof. The National Academy of Sciences, along with the FBI, have noted eyewitness testimony is the most unreliable testimony.(13) While this would obviously be in reference to witnesses testifying against strangers, but the juries which wrongly convinced these defendants were doing so from witnesses who were credible and convincing in their testimony. In 2013, 153 of the 268 exonerations by the Innocence Project were for rape.(14) 72% of all DNA exonerations are people of color. Of the 72%, 61% are African Americans.(15)
Theorists can clearly see, "I BELIEVE HER," with its lock-in-step demands of sisterhood, is classic emotional-feminist theory. What is the emotional-feminist rationale to do away with "INNOCENT, UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY"? Nor could emotional-theorists surmise they are not doing away with this unitedly, American, idea. [...] "I BELIEVE HER" is a presumption-of-guilt, rather than the presumption-of-innocence that the rational feminist are standing for, and for years have been arguing against the emotional-feminist assault on process. While emotional-feminism, with its well-heeled, racial, social, and economic status is having the loudest voice, their marginalized sisters, whose rational-feminist approach, is the only voice of hope for fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons; a hope the other side doesn't win the debate.
Last year statements appeared in another newsletter from a USW leader who spoke in the voice of a subcommittee of the United Struggle from Within Countrywide Council (USW CC). These statements were not first run by, nor approved by the Countrywide Council.
The previous year, the USW CC, established policies for official correspondence with other organizations. We published an article in ULK 58 describing these efforts and giving guidance to all USW members. USW is a mass organization, meaning that people with differing beliefs can be members and might write or state things as USW members that contradict. In the cited article we instructed USW members to pass on communications with other organizations to the USW CC once you are unable to handle the discussion on your own. Meanwhile the USW CC established official policy that any statements from the CC would come through official MIM(Prisons) communication channels:
The statements in question, printed in Turning the Tide, did not go through this process. We cannot expect other publications to know and enforce this. Rather it is the USW leader who broke protocol, and wrote a self-criticism to that effect. But this does go to show that comrades should not take as gospel anything in print that claims to be from USW or even the USW CC. If it appears in Under Lock & Key, then you can be assured that it went through the proper channels of approval.
This incident triggered us to address the question of how to verify communications from MIM(Prisons) and the USW CC in general. Unfortunately the only sure fire way to verify an isolated communication is cryptographically. This makes it hard to verify things in print, coming through the mail, etc.
Every regular reader of our website who has a computer should copy and save our public gpg key from our contact page. Even if you don't know what to do with this key, you could figure it out in the future when needed. The sooner you save the key, perhaps the more sure you can be that the key is legitimately from the original MIM(Prisons). If someone seized control of our website, and slowly started changing the political line on that site, and you waited to copy the key then it might have already have been changed.
While GPG is our primary public way of verifying statements, another tool our comrades have been promoting is a chat tool called Tox, which is available for all common operating systems, including smart phones like android. If you are someone who works with us already and have a device that you can install Tox on, we can exchange Tox IDs to establish encrypted and verifiable communications moving forward. Tox is a chat tool (like texting), and can be easier to set up than email with GPG.
Email without GPG signing, or letters through the mail are easy to fake as one-off communications. So repeated communications back-and-forth should be used to confirm any questionable messages. Our website and Under Lock & Key should be considered more reliable, and harder to fake by our enemies.
Most of our communications with most of our readers are at the level of line and strategy. Therefore, our allies and supporters can and must use a political lens to verify communications. You should study our work and our line so that you can tell when something unusual pops up. And then you should communicate with us about it in the most verifiable and secure line of communication that you have at your disposal. Overall, as a movement, politics in command is the best way for us to defend against falsified, or unofficial communications leading us astray.
by a Pennsylvania prisoner February 2019 permalink
Following a fifteen-day lockdown of all Pennsylvania state prisons, new policies were erected for receiving mail. Publications were halted, and hundreds of book packages from free prison book programs were returned to sender. This occurred because several staff members at various Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) prisons claimed to become deathly ill after handling prisoner mail.
DOC officials assumed it was synthetic marijuana, or K-2, being sent in through the mail. However Dr. Lewis Nelson, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and other prominent medical staff called the DOC on their lies and excuses about the lockdown and new policies and procedures dealing with prisoner mail. Dr. Nelson blew the whistle, so to speak, when he pointed out that one must ingest or inhale synthetic marijuana to have any type of effect on individuals.(1) One cannot be affected by merely touching it, or paper soaked in K-2. Furthermore, he stated that synthetic marijuana simply does not have the type of effects that the individuals were having.
So, one might ask, what the real agenda the DOC had in the change in procedure. The DOC has wanted to control what prisoners read and what type of mail they received for quite some time. It goes to show just how much prisons seek to control others. Needless to say, the DOC is currently under investigation due to its frivolous claims. Mail must be sent to a company in Florida, where it is scanned. It is then forwarded to each respective prisoner at whatever prison he/she is confined. Pennsylvania prisoners receive copies of photos, letters and greeting cards, and the originals are eventually destroyed. Even our legal mail is opened in the presence of each prisoner, handled in a biohazard container, then photocopied. The copies are given to the prisoner, and the originals placed in an "evidence" bag, and eventually destroyed, or so the DOC claims.
We are permitted to receive books, magazines and other publications now, as of very recently. They still must be sent to a secure processing center, where they are searched and then forwarded to each respective prisoner.
This is a reminder that we are all being controlled. Unless we get together and do something about it. How long will we allow prison officials to violate our rights and take away freedoms that are promised to us in the U.$. constitution and its amendments? This is a call to arms, and the need to fight the system instead of tearing down one another. I refuse to allow the U.$. prison system to continue violating my rights, and what few freedoms are afforded to me. I will continue to struggle against the wretched machine that seeks to break me. This is a call for comrades to do the same.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We wrote about this Pennsylvania mail policy in ULK 65 and since that time, a new policy to send books and magazines to yet another separate address was implemented.(2) In response to outcry by prisoners and family, the PA DOC did back down on their policy that books could only be ordered through the PA DOC, from their approved vendors. That is no small victory.
We have instances of letters sent to the Florida processing center being returned to us just stamped "return to sender" after being opened and then taped shut. No reason is given. We think it's safe to assume it's the contents of the letter that inspires this censorship, because not all our mail is being returned, and it is being opened at the processing center. In at least one case, our Guide to Fighting Censorship was the item returned to us.
This is an important censorship battle and we join this comrade's call for everyone in Pennsylvania to take up the fight. This is an easy excuse to selectively censor revolutionary material, or selectively censor prisoners who are politically active. We anticipate an increase in denials of our mail. When you are notified of censorship, appeal it, and also let us know what was censored. If you haven't received mail from us in a while, check in and let us know. We always keep up subscriptions for 6 months after your last letter to us. Also follow this comrade's example and keep us informed about changes to the rules and updates on the fight against them. For our part, we will also be appealing when we have evidence of censorship and working with you to fight from the outside.
by a North Carolina prisoner February 2019 permalink
Myself and two other prisoners currently being held at Pender Correctional in North Carolina have founded a band of like-minded brothers that are fed up with the way the state and prison systems have found a way to excuse slavery. They are preying on people's downfalls, and use them for their own gain. In North Carolina there is a lot of overcrowding and the only way to get on good time is to work, which saves them money, not having to pay prisoners minimum wage. This work also makes income for the prison at their enterprise plants, where prisoners work for 40-55 hours a week for $10.50-$21.30 in pay (for the week). They have the workers making officers' uniforms, chemicals, working farms, making eye wear, and a laundry service that not only cleans prison clothes but also hospital and rest home clothes.
If you are one of the lucky ones that gets to go to a minimum camp and go out on work release to work an outside job, they charge you $150 a week for room and board. Hold on, that's double dipping. They get paid by the federal government to house us. Then they write us up for every petty thing they can, such as too many clothes, disrespect, profanity, etc. and take $10 from us each time. They also invented a way to charge us every time we receive money from our family.
We decided that we won't go for it anymore, but we are limited to what we can do while we're in here, for fear of retaliation. We're already suffering because we refuse to work. We are building steam every day by spreading the word. We need help from someone that knows the best ways to organize and lead. So can you please help us with advice and resource list and materials to pass out? Also we could really use law books to help further some various lawsuits we have filed and need to file. Please help in any way you can. We are a band of your fellow brothers seeking guidance. Thank you for your time!
MIM(Prisons) responds: These comrades organizing against the extortion of their labor are setting an example for others. Getting like-minded people together and coming up with a unified plan of action is an accomplishment in and of itself. We will send some materials, grievance petitions and other resources that may be useful. But we also call on other prisoners to respond with any advice you have for these organizers. What can we do to have the best chances of success? Are there problems these comrades should look out for? This is the dialectical process that revolutionaries use, summing up our practice to learn from successes and failures. And sharing that learning with others makes an even bigger impact. Turn your own organizing failures into successes by learning from them and helping others to avoid the same mistakes.
I've always been revolutionary-minded, but it's a struggle here in Bill Clements Unit. Here's one example that happened early last month. I work in the laundry. Well all of us are waiting for them to call for chow (lunch), but all of a sudden the C.O.s running chow forget to feed laundry! So the chow C.O.s tell the laundry C.O. that they are going to give us sack lunches. All of a sudden, this is the sad part, a bunch of my fellow coworkers are going back into the laundry. Well a few of us spoke up saying we've been working and are NOT going to accept a sack lunch. Eventually they opened the chow hall for us. Well I guess this is all for now. Again thank you for all you do.
MIM(Prisons) Texas Coordinator responds: Small incidents like this one might seem inconsequential to many people, like those guys who just went back to laundry when told they were gonna get sack lunches. These are small wins that make a huge impact on people's minds, though. Showing people little successes like this whenever we can helps plant seeds in their consciousness about resisting oppression and standing up for themselves. It was a completely fair argument to make, that the C.O.s made a mistake and should fix it. So rather than get hung up on how sad it is that so many people just were going accept the sack lunches, i think it was really great that so many people got to see what having a backbone looks like in real life. Inevitably, this is what inspires people to grow their own backbones and start standing up for themselves. Thanks for this awesome report.
In hopes of getting a back issue of ULK (preferably issue 53 - with Texas reform updates) I shared ULK 59 with a few others. Most had something to say about the drugs in prison. The best way I can summarize most of the conversations is that thinking is hard and people are reluctant to do it.
Most who I talked to fall into two groups: either they do drugs as a way to escape, which I think is a psychological and environmental problem I can't say much about; or they do them to feel like they are "beating the man." These are the ones that will smoke openly in the dayroom, even if it means the whole building will get locked down. Explaining to them that they aren't beating the man when he's getting paid an obscene amount of money to bring it in isn't effective. Not sure where to go from there.
MIM(Prisons) Texas Coordinator responds: Directly contradicting a belief that someone holds strong enough to put a whole facility on lockdown is unlikely to change their mind, like this comrade has experienced. Peer pressure is often one huge motivator for people, and I'm honestly surprised that the rest of the prisoner population isn't shutting down people smoking in the dayroom, for their own persynal interests of not being on lockdown. A group of people telling someone to stop a behavior is much more impactful than one individual.
On an individual level, there are conversational techniques that are more or less effective, depending on the persyn we're struggling with. In this case, there's one technique that stands out to me to try: asking questions. Instead of coming at the persyn's belief head-on, try to show em the contradictions and illogical thinking in eir plan by asking questions and getting a really deep understanding of eir thinking.
So rather than saying "your belief is wrong," we can ask em "how does that work?" and actually try to get em to explain eir reasoning. Building trust by validating what is true about eir perspective ("you're right, we can't just sit around and do nothing") helps open em up to share more. The main goals in this kind of conversation are 1) to underline we're on the same team (us against the pigs), and 2) to try to understand where ey's coming from, and 3) help em come to eir own conclusions about what is wrong about eir thinking, and what ey needs to think about more. This is just one technique to try, and i would love others to write in on what's worked for em in dealing with this kind of problem.
As Venezuela commemorates Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution of 20 years ago, bourgeois reactionary elements from within, with imperialism support, work to sabotage Venezuela's self-determination. Another case of u.s. imperialist aggression, and on a continent most dominated by it: South America.
While the self-declared president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, has been receiving support from the united tates, actual elected President, Nicolas Maduro, has been the target of u.s. imperialism for some time now. Are we truly to believe that Venezuela's recent issues are entirely the fault of the Maduro regime? It should not be overlooked that the problems in Venezuela, declared in the news as a humanitarian crisis, seem to have occurred around the same time economic/trade sanctions were imposed.
The United States and its South American followers, through the Organization of American States(OAS), an organization formed at the behest of the united states over 50 years ago in order to consolidate geo-political influence and quash revolutionary movements and too-far-left regimes that were spreading throughout Latin America at that time) have largely created Venezuela's most pressing issues with their refusals to do fair business in the form of trade and diplomatic cooperation which has left Venezuelans lacking many necessities.
The United States and OAS have been making it very difficult for the Maduro administration to help the people to properly live, let alone develop. So outside looking in, to the unaware, it may seem as if Maduro is "the bad guy" and this Guaidó character is "the good guy" and that u.s. support for him looks righteous, even humanely necessary, to oust this "corrupt socialist dictator" and "rescue the Venezuelan people." But understand that the Venezuelan situation is a product of u.s. imperialism. The same u.s. imperialism that caused the people of Cuba to suffer for over 50 years by the trade embargo and dictation that the OAS cronies turn their backs on Cuba as well or suffer the same fate. This all because Cuba fought to break the chains of neo-colonial dependency.
Helping to frame the narrative of Maduro being a "brutal dictator who refuses to treat the Venezuelan people humanely" is the reactionary propaganda machine: u.s. news media. Daily they broadcast images of shipments of supplies going into, and remaining at the border of, Colombia, where u.s. politicians and reporters give interviews in front of the supplies they call "aid" that "Maduro refuses to allow to enter into Venezuela." Maduro said that he will not accept this "aid" because it is "tainted;" he understands that this "aid" is not aid, it is imperialist bribery of the Venezuelan people.
Now footage of deadly clashes with police at the border, along with reports of Venezuelan police and soldiers defecting, are being shown on a loop, further destroying Maduro's legitimacy and portraying the united states as "the good guys just trying to help while Maduro continues to brutalize the people." If you ruin peoples lives and then offer some handouts, that doesn't make you a hero.
This type of economic imperialism being so effective is a consequence of the interdependency of economies (especially those of the undeveloped/developing nations battling with neo-colonialism) due to the globalization of capitalism and consolidation of a world market. Now an empire like the U.S. can destabilize an entire nation's internal economy, causing mass chaos, without invading and plundering it. Mere trade imbalances (unequal exchange) and economic sanctions can have the imperialist-desired effect of social upheaval, causing the targeted nation to look at the leadership as the cause, and welcome foreign intervention to come and save them from a situation created by imperialist aggression.
We can't know for certain what the reasons for this aggression are, but we can make informed speculation based off of historical analysis. Could it be that Maduro has instituted too many socialist-like policies, like nationalizing much of Venezuela's oil production? Or because Venezuela does too much business with Russia, China, and Cuba? Does the united states want to own oil firms there and is upset that Maduro won't allow that? Past u.s imperialist endeavors point to the latter as the primary motivation for its efforts toward regime change in Venezuela.
These efforts to destabilize and destroy a regime's credibility and ultimately to overthrow it is nothing new, especially in this hemisphere. Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Chile, just to name a few of the more known and overt examples of u.s. imperialism in the Americas. If these actions prove to be successful then a puppet government of the united states, via Juan Guaidó, will most certainly be the outcome. But if these current actions don't produce the desired effect of regime change, then, as per usual, a military invasion seems to be next.
It doesn't help Venezuela's cause that no one seems willing to come out against this aggression and show solidarity with the president elected by the people. It is these times when we most lament the fall of the Socialist Bloc and its global influence and support for oppressed peoples. Cuba, only 90 miles from the united states, was only able to withstand imperialist aggression and resist capitulation to demands because it had socialist solidarity coming from China and the Soviet Union. But who will support Venezuela??
It shouldn't come down to a military invasion (as it did in Iraq and Vietnam) to raise people's consciousness and get them to mobilize to demand an end to imperialist aggression. It should be called out and reacted against now. We must articulate to the people the real forces at play here, because they won't learn it from the news. Support has to be mustered to oppose these types of actions from the united states. The unconsciousness of people in the world, and the united states in particular, that allows these things to go unchecked, is support for imperialism itself. As Fidel Castro put it: "to cease solidarity with the revolutionary movement does not mean to deny a pretext but actually to show solidarity with yankee imperialism and its policy of domination and enslavement of the world."
Venezuela's cause may not be a revolutionary one, but it is a victim of imperialism from an empire incessantly working to consolidate its influence and turn every nation that it can benefit from into a neo-colony, which requires us to raise this truth as a common cause worthy of the most support. Defend Venezuela's self-determination!
Facts: Oil revenue is about 90% of Venezuela's revenue. The United States is the #1 buyer of Venezuelan oil at over 400,000 barrels, per day.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Our recent article on Venezuela very much agrees with this writer's analysis. While Venezuela was never a socialist country in the Marxist sense, Maduro implemented many reforms in the interests of the people, and is staunchly fighting neo-colonialism. This government represents the national bourgeoisie and continues to operate within the capitalist system. It is an ally of the oppressed in this fight against imperialism. The imperialists are the real murderers and destroyers of planet Earth that we must stand against. And we stand with the Venezuelan people and their elected government against the U.$. coup efforts.