Each year the big wigs running Texas prisons decide on what to take from the prisoners next. This year it involves indigent mail and stationary sent in from the outside. Prisoners who have no money on their trust fund account are able to receive supplies (paper, pen, envelopes) and send out letters through the indigent mail. Before this March prisoners could send out five letters a week, now it's just five letters a month. Going from twenty to just five letters a month shows how indifferent and uncaring towards our family members and friends the prison administration really is. What's worse is that we're charged for indigent mail services. Whenever we get money on our account, the cost for every letter mailed and each supply is deducted.
Prior to this March our friends and family could have stationary from an outside store sent to us. This was eliminated, and now our only option is purchasing stationary from commissary, and paying their prices. Like any oppressor, TDCJ enjoys coming up with new ideas and ways to make life more difficult for their captors. There's strength in numbers. The more of us who write grievances, send letters to state politicians, and get the word out to our family and friends, the better chance we have of telling our oppressors that we're not going to take this lying down.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is right on about the strength in numbers. We have a number of prisoners across the state working on this campaign to end the restrictions on correspondence in Texas, and we've come up with a few key steps for prisoners and supporters to take.
Some jailhouse lawyers have created guides to fighting this injustice as well as a broader grievance guide for Texas, and we are seeing an influx of prisoners requesting these resources. We look forward to the results of this growing activism in this state with the largest prison population and one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.
Texas prisons are notoriously rough and primitive. Some inmates work in TCI (Texas Correctional Industries) sweatshops making products like t-shirts, shorts and detergent. We work for free and then the state sells us these products at a high cost through the prison commissary. Nonviolent prisoners earn good time and work time which is often not honored. We're caged in hot boxes with no air conditioning, and prisoners die each summer as a result. In addition to the new limits on correspondence, last September marriage by proxy was eliminated. Inmates can no longer marry their loved ones on the outside, meaning they can't get contact visits with them, or their own children. The list goes on and on.
The term divide and conquer still holds true today. TDCJ is glad the majority of us are fighting amongst ourselves, and are more consumed with television, radio and gossiping, than unity and change. Texas prisoners, do you like working for free? Do you like being a model inmate who's changed, but gets their parole denied year after year? Do you enjoy living in a negative repressive environment? If you don't, then let's drop the racial and gang nonsense. Let's quit worshipping the TV, our radios and commissary. Let's bring Texas prisons out of the dark ages and into the twenty-first century. Make sacrifices for the great good of all prisoners and our families. Oppressors only have control over their captors as long as the oppressed allow them to.
On 27 March 2014, a Federal judge in the United States District Court issued an order requiring prison staff to record any use of force, should force be required on a prisoner.
Some other prisoners and I filed a lawsuit because the pigs at Central Prison in Raleigh used blind spots in the current video system to hide from surveillance so they could beat prisoners. We also informed the courts of the "lack of policy for proper method of investigation in any use-of-force incidents."
As a result, Judge Terrance Boyle appointed an expert (former corrections administrator Eldon Vail) to review the prison's surveillance system. Based on several problems he found, he made five recommendations.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) prisons adopted four of the recommendations but said using a hand-held video camera is not feasible and placed "undue burden upon Central Prison." However, on Thursday, 27 March 2014 Judge Boyle ordered the fifth recommendation be adopted. His order stated "...defendants are placed on notice that if there is not voluntary compliance and implementation of the recommendation, a preliminary injunction will ensue."
The pigs deny any abuse, saying they used minimal amounts of force required to deal with prisoners characterized as the "worst of the worst" among the prison system's population.
Still the state agreed last year to install more security cameras to cover previously unmonitored areas. But Vail's report said the new cameras still don't monitor all the blind spots where prisoners say the abuse occurs. Vail also reported finding lenses so out-of-focus and smudged with grime that it was difficult to make out what the camera was recording.
The recommendations made by Vail that must be followed are:
Adjust each camera that demonstrates a pattern of "freezing" to improve motion detection sensitivity.
Establish a written preventive maintenance schedule for lens cleaning, camera refocusing and replacement of faulty cameras.
Install additional cameras to view the sally ports of each cell block in Unit 1.
Modify the video surveillance retention policy and procedure to clarify the responsibility to provide notice to the video retention officer to preserve a video by the unit supervisor from the investigator's responsibility to request a copy of the video for the investigation.
Change the use of force policy, SOP 4.100, to require that a handheld video camera operator respond to the scene of spontaneous use-of-force incidents and that a camera remain on until the event is over and [prisoner] has been safely placed in a cell.
This fifth recommendation means that during an anticipated use-of-force (any use-of-force) a hand-held camera will be used until a prisoner is no longer in contact with the pigs.
We are now getting ready for a pretrial conference. But we are one step closer to getting justice. We have at least made the prison safer. Now the pigs will not have anywhere to hide.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This update to the ongoing legal battle in North Carolina is good news for this carefully planned and hard fought legal battle. We know that often we cannot win when fighting abuse by employees of the criminal injustice system in their own courts. But sometimes the courts have to pretend objectivity and, when presented with facts that show the NCDPS is violating their own laws and policies, we can win some improvements to conditions. While the courts won't be where we make revolutionary change, for now we can use them as one tool to struggle against abuse. We must always accompany these court battles with publicity and education about the case, using them to expose both the brutality we are fighting and the injustice when the courts rule against us.
Comrades here at Special Management Unit (SMU - long-term isolation) are doing what they can to protest and fight against the illegal housing that they are being subjected to. Prisoners here are going on hunger strikes and are suffering due to the lack of outside support. Further, the DOC has taken actions to keep outside inquiries from being made public and the news media is refusing to expose the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Georgia's SMU unit.
Prisoners are being transferred to SMU for refusing to participate in the so-called tier step down programs they've started in Georgia. The DOC is trying to force lumpen groups to be housed two men in a 24-hour lockdown cell, thus placing prisoners in physical jeopardy, in order to start a war. Just another attempt to enact the Willie Lynch mentality amongst these prisoners. Before, the prisoners enacted peace and brotherhood policies amongst and between the lumpen groups, and there was no tier step down program. So this program is to create strife amongst the brotherhood by building enough stress and confusion to destroy peace that prisoners worked hard to establish.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have received a lot of reports about the hunger strike in Georgia, and the struggles against SMU classification. The unity and awareness being built in Georgia prisons is definitely frightening the prison administrators. This is an important lesson for organizers: when we build for peace among the lumpen organizations our enemies will take this as a call to war. The United Front for Peace in Prisons is bringing together organizations and individuals in this important battle. Get involved today in building peace in your prison.
While capitalism advances technology and produces consumables at high rates, most people lack decent health care April 1 - The deadline for enrollment in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed last night, and there are now 4.4 million people in the United $tates newly enrolled in Medicaid health insurance plans sponsored by the federal government, and another 8 million people newly enrolled in government-regulated private insurance plans.(1) Those who do not enroll in any insurance and are not covered by a plan through their family, work or school will face fines. For people with incomes less than 400% of the federal "poverty line," the plans are subsidized by the government, and those with less than 138% of this cut off will receive free health care via Medicaid. In the end, for at least the lumpen class the penalty will actually cost them more than having health insurance would cost.
This new healthcare system in the United $tates, often called "Obamacare," is far from socialist, but it does serve as a good reminder of the failures of capitalism to care for some of the basic needs of imperialist country citizens. The United $tates has had government-run healthcare for military service people and their families since the 1800s, and for the relatively poor, disabled and elderly since the 1960s with the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. But these programs serve a minority of Amerikans, leaving the rest to seek health care through insurance provided by their work or through privately purchased plans or by paying directly for services. This means that people out of work or in jobs that don't provide insurance coverage are often left without any health insurance. The ACA attempts to address this problem by providing a government-run program to help insure citizens without coverage.
We're not going to take on the critics who say that health care quality would go down if run by the Amerikan government. These same people would abolish free universal education, privatize water distribution, and eliminate the fire department. This is a debate between different factions of the bourgeoisie, and not worth the time of communists, except to point out that we have fundamentally different values. We have no need to defend the ability of a capitalist government to run these programs well because we don't support capitalist governments. And we know that the profit motive does not make for greater "efficiency", as capitalists like to claim. We see this clearly in the United $tates where food is dumped rather than distributed to people going hungry, and the tremendous waste of money on advertising rather than meeting basic needs.
Communists think about health care the same way we think about education, food, clean water and other basic necessities. These are things we seek to provide to all people indiscriminately. We prioritize basic humyn needs over luxury items like boats, fancy cars, big houses, TVs, etc. Capitalism, on the other hand, functions on the concept that profitable luxury items are a priority over basic humyn needs. While in a matter of years capitalism has gotten hand-held computers into the hands of anyone with a little disposable income, the decades-long struggle against easily preventable diseases in the Third World continues. Millions of children under five years old die each year in southern Asia and Africa south of the Sahara as a result. We believe that the Affordable Care Act should offer these people free health care services as well. While the ACA has proven once again that small reforms in capitalism can be achieved when they serve the interests of imperialist country citizens, capitalism will never allow reforms to improve the lot of the rest of the world. In fact, even within U.$. borders non-citizens are not eligible for insurance under the ACA. Those most in need, working the hardest and most dangerous jobs for the least money, are still denied basic health care.
While it's easy for Amerikans to ignore what goes on outside of their borders, it should be an embarrassment for Amerikan imperialism that the individualism of its citizens is so strong that until now they had refused health care to even their own relatively well-off citizens. Even now, many across the country continue to fight and resist this new law. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, Amerikans who wanted to buy health insurance on their own were often rejected by the health plans for "pre-existing conditions." This means the health plans were picking only the healthiest individuals for insurance, leaving those with even minor history of health problems with no recourse because most insurance plans in the United $tates are privately run for a profit. Now most insurance in this country is still run for profit, but the federal and state governments provide minimum standards of care that must be provided with every policy, and sell these approved insurance plans on a marketplace, in hopes that the market competition inherent in capitalism will increase quality and transparency while reducing cost.
Abolishing the profit motive behind health care will be a priority for communists when we take control of a government. We want to make preventive care and treatment available to all people. The new ACA law in the United $tates does not eliminate private insurance or remove the profit from health care, and it's a fundamentally timid step towards universal coverage for Amerikans. But it does enable people to get health insurance regardless of income or health status. For Amerikan citizens this is progress. And for most it is part of the ongoing bribery of these citizens by the imperialists, ensuring their allegiance to the imperialist system. However, a large number of the uninsured in the United $tates come from the oppressed nation lumpen class, and the ACA is a positive step for the survival and healthy living of this group which has a relatively high material interest in revolution.(3) Overall we see the ACA as a progressive step towards universal health care for everyone in the world, if only because it demonstrates the concept of health care as a basic right.
We will continue to fight for health care for the world's exploited and oppressed, who are mostly found in the Third World, where even basic medical services are difficult to obtain. 801,000 children under age 5 die from diarrhea each year, most of which are caused by lack of access to clean water and sanitation. More than 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. 86% of deaths among children under age 5 are preventable and due to communicable, treatable disease, birth issues and lack of nutrition. These abysmal numbers would cost very little to rectify. Truly universal health care is a priority for communists, and the statistics above are just a few reasons why the overthrow of capitalism is literally a life or death issue for the majority of the world's people.
In approximately 1.5 years, between 2 February 2012 and 1 December 2013, there were 50 reported cases of censorship of material sent by MIM Distributors in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). The censored material included copies of MIM Theory and Under Lock & Key, along with informational zines and personal letters.
Out of those 50 reported cases a staggering 78% (39) of them were censored with no reason being given as to why they had been censored. This is typical of the IDOC.
If they do not like a given topic they will ban it without giving any reason why. This is a continuing violation of prisoners' constitutional rights. The only way to combat this injustice is by filing grievances and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil suits.
Resist! Rebel! Defy!
MIM(Prisons) adds: Many facilities in Illinois have enacted total bans on our mail. Get involved in the campaign to fight censorship in Illinois. We need legal help both behind bars from our jailhouse lawyers and from lawyers on the streets.
This computer animated story could have been a feature length ad for the popular children's toy, funded by Lego itself, but it's not hard to read a not-too-subtle communist message into this movie. From the main plot it appears that Marx's conclusions are logical to anyone thinking about organized work and struggle against those dominating the world for persynal gain. What is particularly refreshing about this movie is the strong theme that heroes are not people with special talent but rather the masses are all heroes when we unleash their creativity.
The movie starts off in Lego world with regular ordinary construction worker Emmet, as he follows the instruction booklet for life, produced by the Octan Corporation, which details how he should dress, what music to listen to, the expensive coffee to drink, what brainless TV to watch, and how to do his job working with lots of other people building things that are without purpose and will be torn down to be built again another day. These workers are uncreative, but very cooperative in their work.
When it comes time to fight back against President Business, the CEO of Octan Corp., who is trying to dominate the world, it is Emmet who realizes that the collective organization of the workers is indispensable to building the resistance against Octan. In fact, the Lego heros (batman, spaceman, superman, NBA players, etc.) find their heroic individualism an impediment in their attempts to fight back as an organized group.
These are themes of Marxism, which sees that the organized labor of the industrial proletariat will make up the leadership of the communist revolution because of their unique position exposed directly to the contradiction of collective labor being deployed for individual profit. But there is another layer to this Marxist theme because the workers are not actually proletarian in the Lego land. There is no profit in the construction work which appears to just be happening to keep everyone busy. The workers are paid a high salary, judging from Emmet's living conditions. In reality these workers are a labor aristocracy just like we have in the imperialist countries today, where workers are bought off with the superprofits from exploitation of unseen workers in the Third World. The complete lack of productivity of the Lego workers underscores the impossibility that they are the ones creating the profits. No longer a part of the proletariat in the real world, these workers will defend imperialism against revolutionary forces to maintain their elevated standard of living. So we wouldn't actually expect them to lead the revolution that is serving the interests of the global proletariat.
However, at some point a contradiction may arise that is such a threat to the labor aristocracy that they will be compelled to join the forces of revolution. This threat will likely be life threatening, like Lord Business's plot to kill everyone. But until that contradiction arises, we should expect the labor aristocracy to join in the chorus of the Lego theme song "Everything is Awesome," and continue their unproductive labor, enjoying their capitalist-created entertainment.
In the beginning of the movie Vitruvius, the white-haired god-like leader of the forces of good, prophesies that there will be an individual who will rise up to lead the resistance and foil the ultimate plot of Lord Business. These strong religious overtones are nicely dispelled later when Vitruvius confesses that he made up the prophesy because he thought it would help average people believe in themselves, and in fact he knows that the creativity of the masterbuilders (heroes) exists within everyone.
In the end Emmet is able to convince Lord Business that he doesn't have to be evil and so the communist theme is undermined by the pacifist view that we can convince those with money and power to give up exploiting and oppressing the people of the world. Communists know that this fairytale ending is far from the reality that will require violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie, and ongoing military force to keep them from reclaiming power until we can transform society and create a culture that does not nurture individualism and profit over people.
The New Afrikan Maoist Brotherhood (NAMB) is a collective committed to the study and propagation of New Afrikan Political Philosophy. We see the lack of political consciousness amongst the masses of New Afrikans, along with the multiple and diverse aims of our semi-colonized nation. Therefore we see it as our duty to take the much-called-for initiative so that the New Afrikan liberation and independence movement's aims and objectives do not die out in vain in this or the next generation. We, as students to communist thought, understand that the beginning of national liberation starts with mass political education. Hence, our current organizational structure is that of a study group, which we intend to develop and multiply inside and outside of prison. NAMB stands with the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). The principles of the UFPP are important for the following reasons (but not limited to):
The prison environment can become a violent place to dwell. But our enemies want just that. It is counter-revolutionary for the lumpen proletariat to waste our time, resources and energy fighting our comrades in the struggle. We must transform our thinking and in turn transform our environment. We must make prison a "school of revolution," where we invest into each other, by using such terms as "Each one Teach one" so that we create in ourselves and for ourselves, leaders of our communities.
Reckless warring and fighting will not aid the lumpen organizations. That's why the first principle of peace is so important. Unity is the key! The enemy divides the lumpen into smaller and smaller illusionary sections, and we play into it. We internalize divisive thinking, not thinking about the ill-effects this capitalist thinking has. We must unite!
Unity will in turn produce Growth (the third principle) in ourselves and in our collective. And this growth and unity are weapons against the capitalist imperialists who seek to continue their exploitation of the people.
The New Afrikan Maoist Brotherhood supports and stands by these principles of the UFPP. From our Conservative Vice Lord and Mafia Insane Vice Lord upbringing we have come to know of our national liberation struggle, for the nation of New Afrika. And coming to this awareness, we have recognized our national allies in the First Nations, Latino/as and all those who are in the Third World that face the same oppressive enemy as us. We understand that national liberation of our semi-colonized nations will be counter weights in the international war against capitalist-imperialism, and so we support all nations and all fronts and parties to this battle. For this is in the spirit of internationalism.
The long legacy of socialism and communism teaches that in building revolution and nation-building, the people, led by a vanguard party, must develop independent institutions that will "serve the people" - both by providing for their needs and in a form of public teaching of "learning thru practice." Independence, the last principle of the UFPP, is one of the building blocks of national self-determination, without which an independent nation cannot stand!
These 5 principles can be drawn from by all lumpen organizations inside prison and also even incorporated into the communities where our organizations are based. It's "nation time" comrades! It's time for us to think and live outside of our individual selves and dedicate our lives, minds, spirits, energy and resolve to making the world a better place! And that can only happen if we all have a place to live free and openly express ourselves. But, freedom only comes to those willing to die for it.
Like in past years, I will begin to plan a few months ahead of time for the revolutionary festival of September 9. This day is a special one which marks the day when the United Front for Peace in Prisons was given its first concrete example in these dungeons. I attempt to have educational study materials available on this day, which usually includes poetry, short stories or articles, and of course some art if possible.
In the past I helped read articles and poetry on the tier which reflected on prisons and what it means to be prisoners. So many times people forget that what we experience is unbridled oppression and instead think that we somehow brought it upon ourselves. This backwards thinking only helps to solidify our own mental captivity! This day helps to refocus our attention of who we are as people and what is the path forward for the next year in our struggle for humyn rights in these dungeons.
I have heard different ways of observing this day, from having an open line on the tier where folks get a certain "air time" to share their ideas on what they feel will move the humyn rights struggle forward. Others talk about creating conscious rap to be performed on the tier. The main thing I hear is folks being ready to promote peace in prison. It is a time to help to heal the people outside of state influence.
MIM(Prisons) adds: September 9 will be the third annual United Front for Peace in Prisons solidarity demonstration. This demonstration coincides with the anniversary of the Attica uprising. On this day prisoners should create ways to work towards greater peace among the prison population. We will cease all prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities regardless of set, race, custody, gender, religion or other division. Some will fast, engage in solidarity organizing, and carry out educational work. Start planning now for your September 9 solidarity day.
Greetings to all revolutionary comrades who are kaptive in the gulags of these United Snakes of a Amurderer (U.$.). I write on behalf of E-NUF, an organization we formed to develop revolutionary consciousness in those held kaptive, and to compel direct action to agitate the enemy.
Here we issue our formal statement of unity with the principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. We recognize the importance of all the principles. It is through growth and unity that we can have peace amongst the kaptive lumpen irregardless of nation. And it is through the creation of independent institutions that we can develop internationalism.
We recognize our existence as being a part of the lumpen class. We believe when we unite as a conscious class the contradictions existing between the exploiter class (imperialism) and the oppressed (ourselves) become clear, exposing our true enemy. Through unity we can develop the best strategies to fight our way out of the grip of imperialism.
As kaptives we seek to ignite the spark first within our class. Revolutionary power to the kaptive lumpen.