From the barrio to the pen all need to listen, the recent no verdict of a killer should be on the minds of us all. Open season has long announced its call and we see clearly what the lives of one of us really mean to this system. The protests, the anger, the sadness, direct it, engage in construction, use this unity to work to really analyze our situation.
Mike Brown's blood, Trayvon Martin, Andy Lopez and hundreds more call from the grave. The killing fields have expanded, if we don't die at gun point by police who protect white workers and sellouts alike, then they lock us away. It's a war on the oppressed nations yet we kill ourselves everyday.
This police murder shouldn't go away in the minds of us all, we have done what's asked, we've voted, gone to courts, protested, petitioned, and we've still got the same cycle, the same verdicts and the same answers. It's our turn to give them a response, but short-lived reactions do nothing. Ferguson is burning, and rightfully so, but you're only burning those you know. The ideology should be burned. Remember this is so much more than a case of Black and white, it's a case of cops killing people, cops who are supposed to enforce the laws, protect and serve, yet have from the start used their power to promote a system of oppression and white supremacy.
It's the 21st century and kops are now the judge and jury, that no longer use cuffs but bullets, and then scream how they were "just doing their service." If we want this hell to change silent vigils and non-violence will just put a bandaid on a knife wound. We are not ready to fight an enemy as large as the police. But we can unite and bring back people's power to promote peace.
My heart goes to those who fight and protest. Let's remember these feelings we have when injustice strikes and maybe we can lose the blue and red hate and instead band together and smash the state. In revolution, and science, education and love, peace, from solitary in solidarity.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is right on about channeling our feelings of anger and frustration into something productive. For too many years people have used the failed systems of the imperialists: voting, petitions, and the law. And yet these systems never achieve more than tiny changes to an overwhelmingly unjust system. We can still use legal battles strategically when we have a chance of winning something useful, but this must always be in the context of building a broader movement of unity among the oppressed to take on the system of imperialism. It's not just a few rogue cops who are the problem, it's not just a few bad laws, and it's not just a few corrupt politicians. It is the entire system that is based on profit for a few at the expense of the vast majority of the world's people. This is nothing new, and it will continue until we stop it.
In California we have 55% of any incoming money taken away, then another 45% taken out under the cloak of obligatory fees. So if your family sends $20 you get $8, minus another 45% and you are left with $5 and some change. This is ridiculous and should be challenged just like the amount of money a prisoner is paid an hour: 10-30 cents. Really if we were on the street we'd get minimum wage. A business owner would be in court if found out to be paying their employees 30 cents an hour.
The citizens have been led to believe prisoners don't need money because the state pays for everything. To these people I say eat our meals for 4 days and tell me if you don't want more to eat. Here's an example: if your lips chap and skin drys and you go to the doctor for an ointment they tell you that you have to buy that at canteen. Well if you don't have any money to go to canteen you're shit out of luck. If you're lactose intolerant there's no diet for that. They say just don't eat what you can't eat. Well you do that and you're shorting yourself of mandatory calories you're supposed to receive each day. Same with allergies to fish, peanut butter, etc. The state doesn't provide deodorant and lotion and hair grease or shampoo. So what's one to do?
The restitution is supposed to be for the victim. Do they get a check every time the prison deducts money from money sent in? Hell no! People wake up, we need to fight this money hungry place called prison which is making a killing off our sweat and prisoner's family sweat.
MIM(Prisons) responds: As we've written before, prisons across the country are paying prisoners pennies (or nothing at all). This is not just a way to keep prisoners totally dependent on their captors while locked up, but also makes it harder for released prisoners to get on their feet. No one leaves prison with money in their pockets. And we know that finding a job and housing as an ex-con is far from easy. But the prison system is counting on this as the revolving doors of incarceration help keep the prisons full and the criminal injustice system employees earning good wages.
We don't agree that the prison is "making a killing" off the labor of prisoners and the family money. In reality prisons are a money-losing operation subsidized by the state. The only people benefiting financially are the employees with fat paychecks and the few private enterprises that get to hire prisoners to do work that other Amerikans don't want or won't do so cheaply. Prisons themselves don't make a profit, but lots of individuals and other corporations are benefiting greatly from this huge subsidized humyn warehousing for social control.
I'm responding to the articles by comrade Soso of MIM(Prisons) and the brother in Pensylvania in Under Lock & Key 41. This Security Threat Group (STG) label imposed on religious groups is a clear violation of established Constitutional law (i.e. freedom to speak and embrace religion as one chooses). Yet the First Amendment is being infringed upon daily under the guise that its members are gang bangers or gang-affiliated.
We gotta wake up because it's not about "security," "threats" or "groups." These imperialistic individuals are experimenting with tactics they can employ in an easy, yet draconian, way to violate the Constitution. Since when has embracing a religious organization become akin to joining a security threat group!? Do these asinine imbeciles know the purpose of religion is not only to serve their god, but to further organize themselves for righteousness!? It's networking with others. So where's the breach of security? Where's the threat? Where's the behavior of an unorganized belligerent group? We don't need binoculars to see what's going on. The picture is clear comrades. These imperialists are infringing upon a Constitutional right under the euphemism of "gang activity."
Look at the brother in Florida who wrote in ULK 41 "Fighting STG Label for Notes on Political History." Due to possessing notes on political history which the brother had taken on material he's been reading in his pursuit of learning and expanding his brain outside the box, he was inappropriately labeled STG.
Is the picture becoming clear?
Since when did the Constitution determine what political affiliations one can embrace and/or learn? Never! Or determine if one can possess notes on political history? Never! Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense knew the constitution and not only taught it to the poor, but also employed it in launching their move to arm themselves and the people with weapons (Second Amendment) while policing the police to prevent police brutality on the poor in oppressed communities.
Always remember, comrades, to succeed in any war, it's our duty to not only know who we're fighting, but we're obligated to have an aim. The only way we can ever become victorious in war is to know what we're fighting for, as our fight cannot be in vain.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises some important points about our battle against unjust gang validations that apply to all our work fighting oppression. We need to understand the bigger picture of who we are fighting and why the system of oppression exists if we hope to do anything more than make small changes. It is the system of imperialism that puts a few people with power and wealth in charge, and this system requires various structures to keep it in place. Globally this is why the imperialists are constantly engaging in wars and military actions. And in the United $tates this is the reason we have such a vast criminal injustice system: to control the oppressed nations and any who speak out against imperialism.
Gang validations are just one part of this broad system of oppression. Prisons actually help the oppressed to gain consciousness and organize to the extent that being locked up puts people in a position to clearly see the system as their enemy, and in general population prisoners can work together, educate one another, and organize. Validation justifies isolation which makes it much harder for activist prisoners to spread information and organize others. By criminalizing lumpen organizing, they try to legitimize their repression, even to the prisoners themselves.
We must study history and our current conditions while we fight these battles against validation and long-term isolation. Through study we will see that the gang validations are directly connected to the repression of the power movements of the 1960s, the red scare attacking communists, and the countless invasions and inteference in other countries, involving horrible massacres and torture. Today the oppressors have it harder because they cannot put you in isolation just because you're Black or Brown. So the system had to evolve and now we have gang validation being used to justify extra punishment and torture across the United $tates.
In response to the article in Under Lock & Key 41, "Summing Up September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity", I'd like to propose that this solidarity should be recognized 9-13 September annually, not just 9 September. The Attica uprising was initiated on 9 September 1971 and was quelled on 13 September 1971.
Those who aren't knowledgable of what caused the Attica uprising from 9-13 September 1971 should start learning. Our self-discipline to learn is the first step to standing outside these imperialistic boxes. Their box is abnormal and inhuman to the poor of all nationalities. Those in control units/SHU can contribute by conducting study classes on their gates (i.e. bars). Learn why the Attica uprising occurred and what made the courageous comrades make the sacrifices they've made without hesitation.
Comrades, to embrace solidarity, we are obligated to hold hands. Solidarity initiates within the individual. Solidarity cannot be reached globally when it's not achieved at least partially within self. This is a lifelong commitment. Although we may not be around to see the change — so what! We have a new generation that's looking up to us. They're the next generation of revolutionaries. We are to set the tone for them and this is done by revolutionizing our own thought pattern of selfishness. Selfishness and unity will never get along; they're lifelong adversaries.
So to win we want to join hands genuinely and let our adversary know we're unified in solidarity because we have learned what we're fighting for. We know what we're seeking, what sacrifices will be made, and the cause of our fight. We know why sacrifices have to be made.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is writing about the article we published in ULK summing up the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) annual September 9 commemoration of the Attica uprising. The organizers call on activists to take this day to promote the UFPP by building unity with fellow captives, and to demonstrate resistance to the criminal injustice system by fasting, refraining from work, ceasing all prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities, and engaging only in solidarity actions. This past year the demonstration involved fewer actions than in the past and we are asking all United Front activists to consider what we should do differently in 2015. This comrade's call for education is well timed as this is something we need to be spreading now, well before September, if we want to build a movement of supporters and activists. Write in for the UFPP organizaing pack.
In Missouri, our complaints are easily silenced; the caseworker simply throws the grievance form in the trash. A prisoner has no way to prove the form was ever even submitted. This tactic is especially prevalent in segregation units.
I wonder what state has the best grievance system. I certainly hope it isn't Missouri, because ours is too easily sabotaged. I do not have any experience with other states' procedures, but I did see a grievance form for Arizona's procedure belonging to a prisoner in Missouri on interstate compact. It looked better than Missouri's, mainly because the prisoner keeps a copy.
Will comparing states grievance procedures in a court case be effective in bringing about change? I am willing to entertain the possibility, but how will we know what state has the best procedure? The Prisoners' Legal Clinic will need to form a team of comrades from the various states to discuss the differences and their experiences.
MIM(Prisons) Legal Coordinator adds: We don't rely on the Amerikkkan court system for our ultimate liberation, but while we're stuck here in the belly of the beast we try to use the courts to our advantage in our revolutionary organizing. A long-term project of United Struggle from Within and the Prisoners' Legal Clinic (PLC) is the campaign to ensure our grievances are addressed. Our subscribers have been submitting petitions to prison administrators, prisoner advocacy groups, and the Federal government in several states, some for years. These petitions notify the prisoncrats of all the corrupt ways grievances are being mishandled and misused on the ground.
In some states, we've had success with our grievance petitions. Other states have come down with more creativity with their repression. In those states that don't respond to the petitions, a lawsuit will likely be necessary to push this struggle further.
This author discusses the tactic of comparing grievance procedures to see which states have more reliable remedies for administrative relief, and using this information in a lawsuit to push your own state to adopt these tactics.
It is vital to keep a copy of the grievance in any case and in any system. If the system does not allow the you to keep a receipt or copy of the grievance, then it is much more difficult to track a grievance and prove that it was submitted. This of course makes it much easier for the grievance to end up in the trash.
As we're looking forward to the development of the campaign to have our grievances addressed in several states, we can start discussing legal tactics to use in a lawsuit. Besides ensuring that a prisoner is able to keep proof that a grievance was submitted, what other procedural reforms would improve the grievance process?
Of course procedural safeguards won't always prevent the grievance from being "lost," or keep it from being used as an excuse to harrass the persyn filing the complaint. But the more protections we can build into the grievance processes, the better we can protect ourselves from abuses — abuses of the grievance process, and in prison generally.
Building a united front within prisons is not easy to do. It is a struggle that ebbs and flows. Sometimes one can be in a facility or yard where this work is easy and other times it may seem impossible. Like everything else in life that benefits the people, it is challenging to say the least. But the United Front for Peace in Prisons is a goal that is within our ability to obtain so we must make it happen.
As prisoners of the state we are all imprisoned by the same ruling class, so in that sense we are all on the same oppressed side in the U.S. dungeons. The class oppressors who construct these torture facilities are the real enemies. Amerikkka is what has had us, our parents, grandparents and ancestors colonized for so many years. It is the source of all our oppression. No prisoner should be in the dark when it comes to the true identity of oppressed people around the globe. In the world there are two sides, the enemies and us; everything else is trivial and must be ironed out.
Prisoners are not the only ones who struggle with understanding this elementary factor. Mao advised us of these two sides by saying:
"Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution. The basic reason why all previous revolutionary struggles in China achieved so little was their failure to unite with real friends in order to attack real enemies. A revolutionary party is the guide of the masses, and no revolution ever succeeds when the revolutionary party leads them astray. To ensure that we will definitely achieve success in our revolution and will not lead the masses astray, we must pay attention to uniting with our real friends in order to attack our real enemies. To distinguish real friends from real enemies, we must make a general analysis of the economic status of the various classes in Chinese society and of their respective attitudes towards the revolution."(1)
Mao described the conditions surrounding the Chinese revolution, yet like most lessons in Maoism, we can learn and apply them to our situation here in U.S. prisons. Our "revolution" at this time is transforming our environment and oppressive conditions, and bettering our way of life in these dungeons. But in order to do this we need to know our enemies from our friends. In our case, prisoners are our friends and the state is our enemy. The United Front for Peace in Prisons manifests our understanding of our friends and enemies in the material world.
How do we spread peace in prisons?
MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within created the United Front for Peace in Prisons as a basis for spreading peace. Although they provided the framework which later led to the peace accords that have spread within California prisons, they simply presented it to us prisoners with the understanding that it would depend on us to find a way to put this theory into practice. But peace cannot come from words alone. Growing peace in these hot houses will not arrive miraculously, it must be fertilized and fed, cultivated and harvested. That means revolutionary prisoners need to put in work for peace and get our hands dirty, stick them in the dirt and put our back into it.
Many times peace in prison is spread through people-to-people interactions. Creating relations with prisoners outside our nation and outside our circles or collectives helps spread peace. This builds bridges of communication with others. Of course peace should first be created amongst one's own circles, because it's hard to spread peace with other groups if you don't have peace amongst those closest to you.
Ensuring that peace takes root is largely dependent on educating the people. So many do not even know who their real enemy is and this is because political educators are in short supply within prisons. Passing someone a book is not the same as discussing what is in that book after the persyn has read it.
Peace means that people get used to the idea of us having the same captor and facing the same monster. People need to look at the big picture. When we look at the big picture and our young homies are taught to look at the big picture it alleviates many of the petty squabbles that are bound to arise in an intense prison environment.
Building peace really comes down to working together in ways which tackle our horrible conditions. As leaders, we can organize appeal events, spread information and publications on prison struggles, and help others who may need a helping hand whether it's a bar of soap, a stamped envelope or something to eat. Do what you can to help your fellow prisoner. Peace means thinking of other prisoners and extending humynity to one another.
What are the challenges of spreading peace?
We are deprived of peace by internal and external factors, and there are many things that get in our way. Sometimes those who are uneducated act or react in ways which are not conducive to propelling their own struggles forward. These behaviors often result from a colonial mentality which has been embedded in so many minds for so many generations.
So there is a combination of challenges which prevent peace. One main obstacle is of course that the state opposes peace, as a Georgia prisoner said in ULK 36:
"As of now, most of the leaders and the more influential participants are locked down in Ad-Seg and I don't find this a coincidence. The pigs hate the idea of us uniting in peace and not killing each other."(2)
This writer was describing a very real process of repression where those prisoners who are most influential and conscious and who have the ability and sway to enact peace are the very ones locked down in solitary confinement. This is a common tactic of the state. COINTELPRO used the same method, which we can study in books like FBI Files of Malcolm X, War Against the Panthers, and Agents of Repression, to name a few. Those who can electrify the movement or their people are targeted to be neutralized. Neutralizing something or someone means putting it out of commission, which can include death, prison or solitary.
The state creates these obstructions by watching the imprisoned captives, and when leaders arrive to a yard they kidnap them so that peace cannot be realized. They leave knuckleheads to create chaos because chaos between the captives means our captors can keep repressing us. Peace between the captives means the oppressor is in trouble.
Another challenge that we face is concealed in the crypto-Toms. These are the Uncle Toms of all nationalities who secretly work for the state, either in alerting the state when the masses are attempting to struggle against repression or in sabotaging peace efforts by stirring shit up and sparking crimes between prisoners. These inter-oppressed wars help strengthen the state, while setting back prisoner struggles by forcing us to spend years attempting to repair this chaos.
We should learn to identify these crypto-Toms who work for the pigs rather than for their nation. It's not just those who kick off anti-peace bullshit, but also those who partake in Tom language by spreading the ideas of anti-peace who are obstructionists.
Peace in California has been pushed by those who have been doing time for decades. It was not just a spontaneous event; this had been talked about for years. Building a united front for peace against a common enemy is the most logical action between any oppressed peoples anywhere in the world.
How should we proceed?
Peace between prisoners should not just be something that we read about or something prison intellectuals write about. Peace should be something that we live in our everyday lives. Individualism threatens peace the most because individualism keeps us blind to those who threaten peace ("it doesn't affect me, so i don't care"). We can only change our conditions for the better by struggling together.
The first step is in having the ability to think outside of ourselves and to realize what is best for us, our people, and our future homies that will be filling up these cells. Peace does not mean we have the same beliefs, it just means that we have the understanding that people with different beliefs do have shared interests and that the oppression that I face is faced by all U.$. prisoners in various forms by the same captor whose face changes from prison to prison, but whose actions for the most part do not.
I was the vice president of an organization called the Long Term Offenders (LTO) which was making a lot of progress with the people and producing drastic change within the prison itself. Before my position with the LTO I was receiving material from numerous groups and corresponding with multiple movements, but as soon as I got into this position and the watchdogs saw how the prison as a whole embraced our platform and supported our cause, which was in the best interest of the prisoners, the watchdogs began to keep a close eye on us, specifically on me. I caught wind that the administration was inquiring about me and I'm sure they received more than a few tips that "he's radical" or "he's always talking about the Panthers," from their in-house snitches.
The watchdogs began to monitor my calls and mail and saw that I correspond with a lot of liberation movements which they've labeled as "terrorist" groups. Then they began confiscating our mail (things I've received for years) saying it's promoting radical ideas about overthrowing the government which is a "threat to security" and not allowed.
In August 2014, the Security Threat Group inspection committee summoned me to their office inquiring about the Black Panther Party and Maoist material MIM(Prisons) sent me. I explained to them that I'm a facilitator, therefore I have an obligation to be well versed on a multitude of subjects. Because they weren't satisfied with my response, they stripped me of my clothes and examined my tattoos. They falsely labeled me as a "Blood" because of a crown I have on top of the word "King." They knew they needed something to justify any further action they choose to take on me, and by me being labeled as a gang member, that's all they need.
On 3 September 2014, I was placed in the hole under investigation because they confiscated the article I wrote for you all in another Ohio prison. They assumed it was me because of the content, but there were no names written or printed to confirm their allegations. The day they chose to label me falsely, they drew their weapons and aimed to kill mentally and physically, but I will not die a slave, I will live long as a revolutionary.
The watchdogs from Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation Center came to pay me a visit in the hole, hoping to scare me into submission by throwing threats about how they'd send me to another state if I kept "teaching/reading that bullshit" and they also claimed I was on the FBI terrorist watchlist because of my affiliation with "anti-government" groups.
After 2.5 months in the hole they transferred me again, claiming I was a "threat to the order of operations." I've been here almost a month and have already started where I left off and have begun building the movement! There are a lot of street tribes here (Bloods and Crips) but few know they come from the Black Liberation Movements (BLM) or their original goals and purposes. I need to be able to reach these cats on that level so if possible could you send me materials on gang history and their connection to the BLM. When I was in the hole, the watchdogs confiscated all my reading material so I need you to help me recuperate from my losses.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is experiencing the repression that so many prison (and street) organizers face when they start to become effective in educating and organizing the people for revolutionary change. This was the focus of our last issue of Under Lock & Key. As this example demonstrates, the gang validation system is a tool of repression. It often has nothing to do with the gangs they claim are security threats or with preventing crime or violence. This is because they are not allowed to throw you in the hole just for being Black anymore. The liberal left demands that the tools of oppression must evolve for those in power to stay in power under imperialism.
We condemn gang validations and long-term isolation aggressively because they are two of the biggest weapons being used against the imprisoned lumpen. And both of these weapons are contradictory to the principles of this country's founding documents. The government want to fool the public into thinking prisoners are criminals and that is why they are being treated this way. But this repression is directly related to how the state handled the BLM of the 1960s and 70s, and to how they handle oppressed people fighting for basic rights all over the world. It is all about maintaining the imperialist system, where a minority prospers.
They get mad at my thoughts But how can they get mad at the way I think? When they've placed me in this environment to do just this To think about the choices To think about the decisions To think about the past To think about the mistakes To think about the consequences To think about life To think about death! My thoughts seem too radical They seem too harsh They seem insensitive But they don't seem fake Because they are real Because my reality is real I think about the joy I think about the happiness I think about the love I think about the pain I think about the coldness I think about the hurt Because I was left alone to think. Can't cry because it hurts too much Can't laugh because it ain't funny Can't talk because I don't trust nobody to listen So what do I do? The only thing I'm used to doing, think Think about the future Think about the plans Think about revenge Don't be mad because this is what you wanted You wanted me to think But it didn't turn out like you wanted Because you created a smart, calculating righteous monster And its all your fault Because you didn't think Of all the possibilities That came with thinking!
I am a prisoner activist within the Colorado Department of Corrections, which sees me as a difficult, dangerous individual, and isolates and represses me in a police-style unit. Within the United States there is a response to prisoner activism of repression by prison administrators. This repression may involve some type of physical clash between prison staff and/or their prisoner stooges, and a prisoner activist. I put this forth as a counter to your point explicitly discouraging prisoners from engaging in any violence, as this position is not based on the reality of prisoner activism in U.$. prisons.
Prisoner activism here typically takes the form of formal institutional advocacy. Yet white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism have never reformed themselves. And the struggle against these forms of oppression is a struggle for survival and self-defense. The prisoner activist struggle in the United States is a struggle against genocide.
MIM(Prisons) and its publications explicitly oppose the use of armed struggle at this time in the imperialist countries (including the united states). But this is not based on the reality of prisoner activism in this country, where there is an ongoing protracted intractable race and class conflict. I look to Under Lock & Key for guidance in my individual/personal prisoner activism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer sets a good example of working with us in unity around prison struggles while debating our disagreements on questions of strategy. In this case the disagreement comes down to a question of the stage of struggle. We believe that violence will be necessary to overthrow imperialism, because, as this comrade says, "white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism have never reformed themselves." We will need to dismantle imperialism forcefully; those in power won't just step down peacefully.
But we can also see through many historic examples that revolutionaries who took up armed struggle too soon were quickly repressed, killed and/or imprisoned, and many times the movements lost more ground than they gained. We call this premature armed struggle "focoism," because it generally fails to first gain the support of the masses and build a strong revolutionary party and base. However, it is also possible for communist parties to make strategic errors in taking up armed struggle too soon before conditions are ready.
In prison we aren't really talking about taking up a military battle, but the analogy to violent engagement before conditions are ready is applicable in a general way. We see that prisoners who are quick to engage with their fists/weapons, end up in isolation, beaten, or even killed. These engagements don't generally win anything except possibly the respect of peers with whom the person no longer has contact.
This doesn't mean we tell prisoners to lie down and take abuse. Every situation is different and we can't possibly judge what each individual is facing and how they need to respond to survive. We can say that many people write to MIM(Prisons) talking about how they used to resort to their fists first and now they use their pen and voice and are much more effective with this new approach to fighting repression. It takes patience and discipline to make this change, and it's not easy when faced with both pigs and their lackeys provoking and even attacking.
Rather than debate the appropriate response to each dangerous situation, the broader point is agreement on our strategic stage of struggle, and the reality that we can't win a military/violent battle right now. We just don't have the strength yet. And so we need all of our comrades to stay alive and out of solitary to engage in education and organizing.