The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Got a keyboard? Help type articles, letters and study group discussions from prisoners. help out
[United Front] [Special Needs Yard] [California]
expand

Put Aside Your Quarrels, Support the Spirit of the AEH

I just received your 50th issue of Under Lock & Key, and I can tell you that I haven't seen an issue like yours. An issue that isn't afraid to speak its mind about the real issues in our Chicano and Black communities.

There was a section from a prisoner in California talking about a book called Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán where he brought up a good point about prisoners on the SNY yards. I have been on this side for about a year and I came over here on my own, not for security reasons, but simply because the "leaders" of the struggle I believed in weren't leaders. They were selfish and one mistake and they would turn on you. We are not only oppressed by the system, sadly we are also oppressed by our own Raza.

Now to the Agreement to End Hostilities. In my point of view it contradicts every aspect that they preach. Now everybody who died, who caught a life sentence for the struggle they believed in was all for nothing. Take a second and think about that. There are people who are in prison serving a life sentence for killing an individual who opposed his views and beliefs. Now they expect him to be the best of friends with these same people? How does that make sense?

Now you guys reading this might say "He is only saying that because he's SNY." Well, for 4 years I was active and I have seen both sides of the fence. Not everybody over here is a snitch. There is more unity here than there is on the mainline. You see raza from North and South united where it doesn't matter what part of the state you're from.

If you want to end oppression it needs to start in the streets and not in prison. It needs to start by teaching our youngsters about our culture. Educating them so they can move beyond the ghettos. If you can prevent one from getting into a gang that's one less individual in prison. I think that is the only way to unite and fight against the oppression that exists in this country.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Saying that the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) is hypocritcal based on the past goes against the United Front for Peace Principle (UFPP) of Growth. We must allow for growth and evolution of individuals and organizations if we want to see unity among the oppressed, because the old way didn't work. There are major contradictions between LOs still, and between different housing units in California. But we see these as contradictions among the people. Which is why we stand behind the AEH, and think those old wounds can heal. It's been four years, and there's still a long way to go. But people are putting in the work, and in some locations we've seen real progress.

We understand the lack of trust that some have for those calling for the AEH in California. But we say to those people, the ones who truly want to end oppression as this comrade does, isn't the AEH a step towards what you want? Even if you don't trust certain individuals, the more we do to promote the spirit of the AEH, as well as the principles of the UFPP, the closer we get to replacing the old order with a new order based on unity of the oppressed.

chain
[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 51]
expand

Got to be Strong

That's the way they wanna be,
That's the way they wanna be,
That's the way they wanna be,

They do things that society can't see.
Lock mass numbers away from being free.
Destroy lives, "but they're not the enemy".

Imperialism trying to keep us down.
Governments oppression and greed makes us frown.
TV says we're fine, messages from a clown.

They strike out in fear when they see us becoming strong.
Holding us down cruelly and say WE are in the wrong.
We're modern day gladiators thrown into the throng.

We're judged evil for becoming the monsters they created.
No matter how unjust, we're the ones who are always hated.
Wanting a reaction, don't fall into the trap they've baited.

That's the way they wanna be,
That's the way they wanna be,
Thats the way they wanna be,

Revolutionary minds will be our saviors.
Far too many wrongs done to us by our oppressors.
It has been building up like a bomb, too much pressure.

Government's looting money hand over fist.
Looking at their offenses, its one hell of a list.
Not to worry, it isn't their loved ones who's missed.
But WE'RE the bad guys who's mass incarcerated.
Acting like they don't understand why we're frustrated.
They just warehouse us, we're not rehabilitated.

Unless we're united they'll lock us all from sight.
They're in the wrong, time to stand up for what's right.
We got to be strong, stay together and fight.

chain
[Control Units] [Campaigns] [East Arkansas Regional Unit] [Arkansas] [ULK Issue 51]
expand

People Dying, Urgency to Shut Down Control Units

While watching a movie last weekend, suddenly a stretcher and a lot of officers walked by into the entrance of the max control unit. Bizarrely an hour later a lot of officers came out of the max control unit. They held all doors open leading to the infirmary down the hallway. Then suddenly in a hurry came four officers and a nurse pushing the stretcher with a white prisoner on it. I recognized the prisoner, who was deceased. His pale skin was now very swarthy from head to toe, darker than most fair skin New Afrikans. Later I found out that he was paroling out the next day.

Ever since last year I've observed this type of pattern within East Arkansas Regional Unit's max control units. And it continues this year. This means we need to push the campaign to shut down control units harder, by asking all friends and family members to help spread the 2 hour documentary on long term isolation cells and our struggle to abolish them. Ask them to put links to the website on their blogs, facebook, instagram, twitter or whatever social media networks they use and ask others to check out the movie

Let's push the hell out of this campaign the remainder of this year!

chain
[Campaigns] [Abuse] [Download and Print] [United Struggle from Within]
expand

Downloadable Grievance Petition, Mississippi

MS grievance petition
Click here to download a PDF
of the Mississippi grievance petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with the grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.

Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.

Commissioner of Corrections
MDOC Central Office
633 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39202-3097

Corrections Investigation Division
633 N. State st
Jackson, MS 39202

USDOJ Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20530

And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!

MIM(Prisons), USW
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140

*PDF updated June 2016

chain
[Abuse] [Nevada] [ULK Issue 51]
expand

Nevada Should Stand Against Negligence and Violence

Pris Protest

You never hear about Nevada and there's a reason why. Cover-ups, medical negligence, racial/social bias along with violence against inmates by COs, and let's not forget one of the worst parole and release systems in the nation. With lopsided, unfair sentence structures even according to statute, and unnecessary parole denials and completely unilateral discretion left to the parole board, which is screaming for reform. This is a culture and a consciousness up here but it will be their undoing.

Oscar Velasquez, a prisoner in Lovelock Correctional Center, committed suicide a few months ago and it's under investigation, a very slow, quiet investigation. Negligence played a huge part in this situation by COs and medical staff. Oscar gave the COs a suicide note on a medical kite. But protocol was broken because Oscar never made it to suicide watch in the medical unit. The next day Oscar was found dead and cold. Which meant COs weren't doing their rounds in a timely manner. Word is the suicide kite never made it to administration. This is being looked at by some other independent group, but it's been very hush-hush. A lot of the population believes the COs were fired but they weren't. They're on leave and being supported by their reps and lawyers.

A personal friend of mine and a lot of other brothas, Johnny Jordan or J.J., died in the uncaring arms of the Nevada medical system. While in High Desert Prison on an appeal trip, he also had a serious medical condition and was not given proper medical treatment. Which I'm sure was not very complicated, but just simply ignored. And it stems from the whole "oh well, fuck 'em" attitude most staff here have for prisoners.

Two of the most recent serious attack/gross incompetence incidents happened at High Desert, which is really under the microscope for piling up bodies for years and sweeping it under the rug.

About two years ago a CTO, aka a "Cadet Trainee Officer" gunned a prisoner down and killed him while handcuffed. He has since been sentenced on two counts of manslaughter; not murder of course, that's for us. What happened was during showers in the hole two prisoners started to scuffle while handcuffed. Instead of pulling them away from each other, the CTO was ordered to shoot and he just unloaded on them, killing one with fatal wounds to his head and chest area.

At the same prison, a prisoner was stabbed while being escorted by COs, if you can believe that! This was more recent, but also little publicity was spread about this. There was more press involved in the shooting death.

Along with these incidents, blatant and unpunished racism and bias in this state is so open it's ridiculous. I'm talking about assemblymen and women, COs, Sgts and representatives alike, it's everywhere.

Keep an eye on Nevada, these mothafuckas fly so far under the radar you rarely hear about things like this. They rarely make the local news and almost never make national headlines no matter how gross or serious it is. The censorship in this state is designed to keep Nevada's public in constant fear and prejudice of convicts. Bulletins are always going up on TV about this or that wanted person, this murderer or that sex offender. "Call secret watch and turn this person in," they'll say. But you rarely ever hear or see in Nevada: this human being was murdered by a cop, by a CO, by this sadistic cowardly butcher who's been anticipating the chance to take a human life!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade reports on something we hear more and more these days: prisoners dying from negligence and abuse at the hands of prison employees. And of course these murders are covered up rather than punished. This is one of the reasons why an independent press like Under Lock & Key is so important. We need a way to spread this news and organize people to fight back. The mainstream media and politicians are all in service of the capitalist system that set up this criminal injustice system so, as this comrade points out, our appeals to them are going to be purposefully ignored. Send us your reports about abuse and neglect. Even if they don't make it into the print version of ULK we will publish them on our website.

chain
[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 52]
expand

Nourish the Seedz, Restore the Flowers

At this time, in this place, I genuinely know why
(the caged bird sings)/
other than being falsely imprisoned,
ey's being called - N.I.G.G.E.R. of all things.
As I give perfect praise to the "most high",
I can only wonder how many more bullets have to fly?
How many more of my precious B.L.A.C.K. & Chican@ political prisoners must die
Before those of us who still dare to be free
can remove the blood-filled tearz from our eyes?
We've all been shackled by the same chainz,
victimized by the same pain/
So, in whose name doez death really blossom?
I can vividly recall being radically profiled as a juvenile,
because as a child,
"I refused to pledge my allegiance to a flag"
that forced many of my B.L.A.C.K. Panthers into exile.
This beautiful Black revolutionary love of mine is God'z design,
bottom line.
I speak from the perspective
of a soulja with an objective,
cause being black in this white manz world
justice is often selective.
On behalf of the collective,
I stand on the frontlines.
My message to the black man is to fight the power,
nourish the seedz, and restore the flowers.
This form of revolutionary love
will never be televized,
nor will it be glamorized/
because the very essence of this love affair
depicts us finally being unified!!
Let'z reflect back to the bird and the cage
back to the dehuminization that we endured
while naked on the auction blocks & stage
or picture the 25-50 million Africans that died
during the passage
that never made it to the grave!
Because it is only through those degrees of pain,
horror and torture,
can one truly understand the life of a slave.
On the strength of those whose lives were gave
that divine sacrifice in turn,
allowed countless other B.L.A.C.K.S. & others' lives to be saved!!
chain
[United Front] [Spanish] [ULK Issue 53]
expand

Peleando al Verdadero Enemigo el 9 de Septiembre, Demostración de Solidaridad

El 9 de Septiembre del 2016 fue el quinta día de demostración de Paz y Solidaridad anual en prisiones a lo largo de los Estados Unidos. Esta es una oportunidad para que reclusos conmemoren el aniversario de la insurrección en Attica y atraer atención a los abusos de presos por todo el país por medio de ayunos y paro de trabajo de 24 horas. La demostración anual fue iniciada en el 2012 por una organización en el Frente Unido para la Paz en las Prisiones (UFPP), y se ha tomado como un evento anual de la UFPP, con gente participando en prisiones por todo el país.

Esta demostración esta alineada con los principios de la UFPP de formar unidad entre prisioneros que tengan el interés común de pelear la opresión del sistema criminal injusto. Presos están tomando las 24 horas de manifestación para empeñarse en educación y construcción de solidaridad; cesando toda hostilidad entre prisionero contra prisionero. Este es un pequeño pero significativo paso en formar un Frente Unido entre organizaciones de prisioneros e individuos cometidos al movimiento anti-imperialista. Es una oportunidad para juntarse, publicar el UFPP y estimar nuestro progreso. Para estar de pie en un frente unido, no necesitamos estar de acuerdo en cada tema político, pero tenemos que unirnos alrededor de principios centrales para componernos y estar de pie como uno. La construcción de unidad comienza mucho antes del 9 de Septiembre para esos que están engranando a otros para participar en la protesta. Es un largo y lento proceso de educación y organización para construir el movimiento anti-imperialista.

Recientemente hemos aprendido de otro llamado de acción para el 9 de Septiembre, un "Llamado de Acción Contra esclavitud en America."(1) La gente que hizo este llamado escribió: "En el 9 de Septiembre del 2016 comenzamos una acción para el cierre de prisiones en todo el país. No solo demandaremos el fin de esclavitud prisionera, la acabaremos nosotros mismos cesando de ser esclavos." Este llamado nacional de paro de trabajo en las prisiones coincide con la demostración en solidaridad de la UFPP y tomamos esta oportunidad para comentar en las similares y diferencias.

Antes queremos decir que siempre estamos contentos al ver gente tomar organización y tratar de comenzar unidad detrás de las rejas. Hay muy buenos puntos traídos en este llamado a la acción, particularmente en el reconocimiento de las crecientes protestas en las prisiones por todo el país y la importancia de esta resistencia. Con nuestro enfoque en construir un Frente Unido entre presos, esperamos trabajar con esta gente para ampliar nuestro movimiento. No estamos seguros si los organizadores están enterados del trabajo que la UFPP ha estado haciendo por cinco años en las protestas del 9 de Septiembre, a si decidieron intencionalmente iniciar una acción aparte por los desacuerdos con la UFPP. Nuestros intentos de contactar a los organizadores siguen sin ser contestados.

Tácticamente, ambos estamos promoviendo una huelga de trabajo en este día. Mientras una huelga de un solo día es más simbólica que cualquier cosa, vemos poder en la habilidad de presos para "el cierre" de facilidades sin hacer el trabajo para mantenerlas operando por un periodo potencialmente largo. Sin embargo, los organizadores detrás de este recién llamado están tomando la huelga de trabajo al nivel de una cuestión de linea, a lo cual le tenemos fuertes desacuerdos. Se enfocan en una huelga de trabajo porque están enfocados en eliminar lo que ellos ven como "esclavitud" en las prisiones de los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, para las Marxistas, esclavitud es un sistema económico específico que envuelve a gente como propiedad para explotar de sus labores. Esclavos tienen valor de canje, igual como otros objetos que son vendidos y comprados. Este valor de canje de gente es la base de un sistema horrible que consiste en la captura y compra de humanos. Gente confunde el labor de prisiones con esclavitud porque hay unas significantes igualdades: el labor en las prisiones envuelve que trabajadores reciban un pago muy poco o nada, y como esclavos, prisioneros tienen dado vivienda, comida y otras necesidades básicas mientras están en cautividad. Pero podemos ver claramente que no hay un cambio valorar en presos por que los estados tienen que pagarle a otros estados para que reciban a sus prisioneros. Esto es lo opuesto de esclavitud donde gente paga por la compra de esclavos.

Más aun, para poder llamar el labor de prisioneros esclavitud, debe de haber explotación. Podemos ver que esta explotación (prisiones teniendo ganancias del labor de los presos) solo existe para una pequeña porción de los presos en EE.UU.(2) Estados como Texas y Louisiana tienen industrias significativamente productivas que recuerdan a los días de esclavitud. Para la mayoría esta no es la realidad. Prisiones requieren grandes infusiones de fondos federales y estatales para poder operar. Si estuvieran haciendo ganancias de los labores de presos, este desagüe de los fondos públicos no serian requeridos. En su lugar el labor de presos esta solamente compensado en una pequeña porción del costo de operación.

Unas personas nos dicen que esto solo es semántica, alegando la definición de un significado antes de hablar del verdadero problema que las prisiones están torturando a seres humanos mientras permiten a los verdaderos criminales dirigir el gobierno y corporaciones capitalistas. Pero esta reciente llamada de protesta contra la esclavitud prisionera, desvalora porqué éstas definiciones son tan importantes. Los organizadores de esta protesta del 9 de Septiembre contra esclavitud escribieron lo siguiente: "Cuando eliminemos la esclavitud, perderán mucho de sus incentivos para encarcelar a nuestros hijos, pararán de construir trampas para volver a jalar a los que han liberado. Cuando removamos el motivo económico y la grasa de nuestra labor forzado del sistema prisionero de los E.U, la estructura entera de cortes y policías, de control y casería de esclavos deberá de cambiar para acomodarnos como humanos, en vez de como esclavos." Esta declaración no es cierta, e ignora la verdadera economía de las prisiones cuales reciben sobre $60 billones de dólares al año en fondos estatales y federales para cubrir el costo de operación. ¿Porque funcionaría al gobierno un negocio donde pierde dinero? Ciertamente no para una ganancia económica!

El motivo económico de la esclavitud no es la fuerza guía detrás de las prisiones. Y aunque no lo llamemos esclavitud, economía no es la razón de las prisiones. Aunque es cierto que bastante gente gana muy buenos salarios, y muchas compañías hacen montones de dinero por servir al sistema prisionero, esto solo es la redistribución de ganancias tomadas de la explotación de trabajadores del Tercer Mundo. Es por eso que tiene que venir de lo que el gobierno asigna hacia las prisiones. Y que los $60 mil millones de dólares pueden ser vertidos hacia cualquier otro proyecto que suministra empleos para la aristocracia laboral Amerikana igual de fácil y todos esos guardias y otros que trabajan en las prisiones estarán felices al igual. Prisiones son una conveniente ruta para redistribuir super ganancias imperialistas a la aristocracia laboral dentro las fronteras de los EE.UU., pero no son definitivamente la única opción si la economía fuera la única consideración.

Es critico que activistas y revolucionarios entiendan que Amerika ha construido un enorme sistema criminal injusto como instrumento para el control social. Las prisiones son usadas para encerrar naciones oprimidas y activistas. La historia de prisiones en este país claramente demuestra esto. Miramos una grande crecida de encarcelamientos comenzando desde 1974 después que los movimientos revolucionarios de esos tiempos fueron puestos en la mira por el gobierno. Hasta ese tiempo había una relativamente baja y estable razón de encarcelamiento en éste país. Después la velocidad de encarcelamiento de las Primeras Naciones, Nuevo Afrikan@s, Chican@s subió a un número enormemente desproporcionado relacionado con los blancos, comenzando en los 1970s. Estos eventos históricos y hechos económicos ponen en claro que prisiones Amerikkkanas son usadas para el control social, no para ganancias.

Los organizadores de la protesta anti-esclavitud están desviando a la gente a creer que al cerrar trabajos en las prisiones cerrarán los prisiones. Causará dificultades, y es una táctica muy válida para ejercer poder como un grupo. Pero el labor de presos mismo no es la contradicción principal en prisión. Garantizamos que si fuéramos a alcanzar una unidad para hacer una huelga extendida de trabajo en las prisiones sobre los Estados Unidos, que Amerika descifrara como mantener a los oprimidos encarcelados.

Nosotros llamamos esto una falla a reconocer la contradicción principal. En este caso estamos hablando de la cosa que mejor empujara hacia adelante la lucha de prisioneros contra la opresión. Peleando contra algo que no existe (la esclavitud) ciertamente no es la mejor manera hacia adelante. Aunque no lo llamemos esclavitud, peleando contra el labor de presos como si esto pondrá un fin a las prisiones, también es incorrecto, y nos llevará a un callejón sin salida. Vemos la necesidad de unidad entre grupos de prisioneros e individuos como algo crítico para construir un movimiento anti-imperialista sólido. Nosotros creemos que esto consigna la verdadera contradicción principal que el movimiento de prisiones enfrenta, entre intereses colectivos de los lumpen encarcelados y las tendencias individualistas actualmente dominantes entre esa clase. Esto es porque nos organizamos el 9 de Septiembre, para construir un día de paz y solidaridad. Envuelva en este día! Escribanos para conseguir el paquete organizador del 9 de septiembre y empezar a establecerse en tu prisión.

Notas: 1. Lean la llamada a protestar contra la esclavitud aquí:https://iwoc.noblogs.org/post/2016/04/01/announcement-of-nationally-coordinated-prisoner-workstoppage-for-sept-9-2016/ 2. MIM(Prisons), Abril 2009, MIM(Prisons) on U.$. Prison Economy, Under Lock & Key Issue 8.
chain
[Organizing] [Gender] [ULK Issue 52]
expand

Call for Unity with LGBTQ Prisoners

Queen D.I.V.A here, I want to speak on why LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/transexual, Queer) comrades are treated like shit. This is my second bid and I've seen a lot of love towards my community but to be totally honest I've seen more dislike and hate towards my community.

Comrades will rather be respectful to a kkkorektions officer than a homosexual, why? Comrades will rather say good morning with a smile on their faces to a kkkorektions officer, why? Don't you guys know these pigs are the ones throwing your mail away and then telling you that you didn't get any, that they will beat your ass and say you assaulted them and give you a new bid, and that they will deny your visit after your family just drove 7 hours to see you?

What have LGBTQ comrades done to you? Nothing. We were born different, that's it! What if your own flesh and blood son came to you one day and confessed that he's gay? Would you disown him? Would you treat him like you treat imprisoned gays, or would you put your ego, pride and fear to the side and embrace him?

We are all in this struggle together, let us say "screw what people think." A "unit" is something that works together. We're behind these walls and fences together so why can't we stand together? Stop disrespecting us and you'll see we're not your enemies.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade eloquently pushes the United Front for Peace in Prisons principle of Unity around the question of sexual orientation and gender identity, elements of the strand of oppression of gender. We need to look beyond petty differences, and beyond socialized prejudices around gender. Our movement cannot afford to be divided along these lines. Instead we need to judge people by their actions and their political line. Those who side with the pigs, who feed them information, and who help them by provoking fights and doing their bidding: those people are our enemies. People who stand up against the criminal injustice system are our friends. And those who don't stand up but refuse to work with the pigs are our friends in need of a little educating and leadership so that they too will join the struggle.

chain
[Organizing]
expand

Build a Revolutionary Mind and Body

Brothas and Sistas, as freedom fighters we must stay ready every day to act, for we might be called to duty to support and protect our brothas and sistas in our struggle. In the revolutionary units it's mandatory we get our military on. Getting our military on is exercising because we are units with a People's Army.

We must train our body for endurance, stamina and strength. Run long distance and sprints around a track. Do pushups, pull ups, sit ups, squats, lunges and cardio like burpies, windmills, jumping jacks, etc. When getting our military on work out at least 30 min to 1 hour every day. Then during the day do little 5 to 15 minute workouts to keep heart rate up. Sometimes I do a routine every time a commercial comes on TV if I'm watching a program or when I'm ready I will do a routine after I read a page. This is how I stay war ready.

We must not only watch what we feed our mind we must watch what we feed our body and the food portion size we put in our body. We encourage people not to eat pork. People can eat beef, lamb, fish and chicken. We recommend eating fruit and vegetables. Cut back or limit pasta, white bread, white rice, candy and cake intake. Eat plenty of nuts like peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews.

The revolutionary must build revolutionary minds by studying history and resistance movements, study our environment as in how people act, their different characters, study or pay attention to world events and we study our ancestors' and leaders' legacies, which are instructions we use to benefit us in this day and time. We build off of them. We study our experiences on what works and don't work for certain situations, times and places. This way we know how to continue to move forward and not get stagnated. We focus on actions, building programs and kampaigning to spread the revolutionary kulture. Actions speak louder than words so let our actions speak for us whenever we see oppression being done to us by our common enemy.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good follow up to Under Lock & Key 49, which focused on survival and stamina. This writer has some good suggestions for building a strong body and mind. Using activities like television and reading to provide timed exercise breaks, and maintaining a healthy diet are very good suggestions. Of course we know that many comrades in prison have little control over their diet, but when possible it is always good to eat the healthiest foods available.

We are not in agreement with the position that people should not eat pork but should eat other meats. There is no scientific evidence that pork is less healthy than beef and lamb, for instance. Perhaps this suggestion is related to a religious belief, but as materialists we focus on material benefit of foods rather than spiritual doctrines.

All revolutionary comrades should build their own routine of exercise and diet to help maintain the strongest possible mind and body behind bars. This is part of our responsibility to survive and stay active during this protracted battle against imperialism.

chain
[Black Panther Party] [ULK Issue 50]
expand

Applying Lessons from the Black Panthers to our Current Struggle

securecommunications

As we reflect on the legacy of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), we are reminded that the struggle for national liberation continues. Fifty years ago, the Panthers emerged from similar conditions of national oppression to what we face today. Armed with Maoism and the gun, Panther leaders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale set out to organize their Oakland community against police brutality and other social inequalities. And what they accomplished distinguished the BPP as the greatest revolutionary organization in the hystory of the New Afrikan/Black liberation struggle.

During its height, the BPP established itself as the vanguard of the revolutionary movement in the United $tates. Revisionists try to paint the Panthers as simple nationalists who only wanted to improve their community. But hystory proves otherwise, because the Panthers’ revolutionary work went beyond the Serve the People programs they implemented. The BPP was a Maoist party which criticized the bankrupt ideas of cultural nationalism and Black capitalist reforms. They attacked revisionism in the Soviet Union, while offering troops to support the Vietnamese in their struggle to push out the Amerikan invaders, and upholding the progress of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. It understood that the relationship between the Euro-Amerikan settler nation and the many oppressed nations internal to the United $tates was (as it still is today) defined by semi-colonialism, and that national liberation was the only path forward. To this end, the Panthers formed strategic alliances and coalitions that broadened their mass base of support and unity. Eventually they succeeded in forming Panther chapters in virtually every major city, precipitating a revolutionary movement of North American oppressed nations vying for national liberation.

Despite this progress the BPP made serious mistakes, mistakes that arguably set the movement for national liberation back tremendously. Even though the Panther leadership adhered to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), they failed to assess the changing landscape of social and political conditions, which inevitably led them to take up focoist positions. This error in analysis resulted in security issues as repression from the U.$. reactionary forces intensified. With J. Edgar Hoover's plan to destabilize and neutralize the revolutionary movement underway, the Panther leadership continued to promote a "cult of persynality" around Newton instead of democratic centralism. Consequently, these mistakes placed such intense pressure on the party that it was unable to overcome the tide of repression.

Ultimately, the point of this article is to honor the revolutionary legacy of the BPP by demonstrating how the Panther practice is relevant to our current struggle. For our national liberation struggles to gain traction we must learn from the successes and failures of the most advanced revolutionary organization in U.$. hystory.

Fuck the Police!

"The Party was born in a particular time and place. It came into being with a call for self-defense against the police who patrolled our communities and brutalized us with impunity."(1) — Huey P. Newton

There is no greater tragedy for the oppressed nation community than the unjust murder of one of its own at the hands of the pigs. The impact is two-fold. On one hand, police brutality demonstrates to members of the oppressed nation community that there are two sets of rules governing society, one for the oppressor and one for the oppressed. On the other hand, it removes all doubt from the minds of oppressed nationals that their lives are virtually worthless in the eyes of the white power structure.

This point was just as much a sobering reality during the Panther era as it is for us today. In The Black Panthers Speak, Phillip S. Foner cites a 1969 report that captured a snapshot of the police relations with the Oakland community. It read in part:

"...for the black citizens, the policeman has long since ceased to be — if indeed he ever was — a neutral symbol of law and order...in the ghetto disorders of the past few years, blacks have often been exposed to indiscriminate police assaults and, not infrequently, to gratuitous brutality...Many ghetto blacks see the police as an occupying army..."(2)

Under these circumstances, the BPP was formed and began to transform the Oakland community in a revolutionary manner.(3) Newton and Seale understood that the terrorist actions by the pigs undermined the oppressed nation community’s ability to improve its conditions. So they organized armed patrols to observe and discourage improper police behavior. These unprecedented actions by the Panthers gave them credibility within the community, particularly as community members experienced the positive effects brought about by the patrols. Therefore, when the Panthers engaged in mass activities, such as the Free Breakfast for Children program, they did so with the full support of the community.

Naturally, the BPP met resistance from the local and state reactionary forces. Challenging the Gestapo tactics of the pigs and building institutions that served the needs of the oppressed was seen as too much of a threat by and to the white power structure. But the revolutionary movement had already picked up steam, and, given the momentous energy and support from the anti-war movement, it was not about to be derailed. It was upon this platform that the BPP spoke to the oppressed nations across the United $tates and saw its message resonate and take root within the consciousness of all oppressed peoples.

Today, we face the same challenge. Whether it’s the pig murder of Denzil Dowell that mobilized the Panthers into action fifty years ago, or the more recent pig murder of Jamar Clark this past November, there has been no significant change in the conditions of national oppression that U.$. internal semi-colonies are subjected to.

Police brutality continues to keep the oppressed nations from addressing a system of national oppression and semi-colonialism. But there is an even more sinister dynamic involved today. Mass incarceration, and the "War on Drugs” and "War on Crime” rhetoric and policies that fuel it, further divides the oppressed nation community against itself. With the lumpen section of these oppressed nation communities criminalized and incarcerated so too is the revolutionary potential for national liberation neutralized and restrained. Here, the Panther practice provides a blueprint for our current struggle in respect to revolutionary organizing.

Recently, we have seen the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement come into being in response to the unbridled pig terrorism that occurs across U.$. oppressed nation communities. So the basis for revolutionary organizing against the current system exists. Nonetheless, BLM is a reformist organization that advocates for integration and not liberation. What we need are Maoist revolutionary organizations — organizations that seek to build the political consciousness of oppressed nationals through mass activities and proletarian leadership similar to the Panther practice.

Maoism, not Focoism

Maoism demands that in determining correct revolutionary practice we must first proceed from an analysis of contradictions. This means that we must identify the contradiction that is principal to our situation, and then assess its internal aspects as well as its external relationships. In contrast, focoism "places great emphasis on armed struggle and the immediacy this brings to class warfare!"(4) Where Maoism takes account of the national question in its entirety and pushes the struggle for national liberation forward according to the prevailing conditions, focoism seeks to bring about favorable conditions for national liberation (or revolution) through the actions of a small band of armed individuals. To date Maoism has informed many successful people’s wars; focoism, on the other hand, has mostly made the prospect for revolution much less likely.

In this regard, Newton, in developing the Panther practice, saw the international situation of the time as favorable to revolutionary organizing within the United $tates. Given the hystoric Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China representing the furthest advancement toward communism to this day, the national liberation wars of Afrika and Asia dealing blows to imperialism, and the Vietnam War stoking the fire of discontent and rebellion among sections of the white oppressor nation, Newton was correct in organizing and politicizing U.$. oppressed nation communities for liberation.

Bloom and Martin explain in their book, Black Against Empire, that these conditions, in particular the anti-war movement, assisted the Panthers' organizing efforts greatly.(5) This coalition between the Panthers and the Peace movement was so dynamic that U.$. veterans returning from Vietnam joined the BPP and other revolutionary organizations. The link between Vietnamese liberation and New Afrikan liberation (and other U.$. oppressed nation liberation struggles) became a central point in building political consciousness.

Nonetheless, Newton took eir analysis too far. It is clear that ey believed the armed struggles abroad were inextricably tied to the U.$. national liberation struggles. Newton maintained, "As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalates the repression of Black people throughout the ghettos of America."(6) From this standpoint, Newton assumed that the police brutality in U.$. oppressed communities created a military situation, to which a military response from the U.$. revolutionary movement was appropriate.

Newton’s error was mistaking the weakness of imperialism abroad as indicative of a weak U.$. imperialist state. Instead of assessing the changing landscape of social and political conditions, created by a period of concessions by U.$. imperialists, the Panthers continued to organize as if the stage of struggle was an armed one.(7) Even when Newton recognized the dramatic changes and began to adapt, a split occurred within the Party, as a faction held that revolution was imminent.(8)

With respect to our current struggle, we are in the stage of building public opinion and independent institutions of the oppressed. In this work we must establish a united front of all those who can be united against imperialism.

Therefore, when we see the Ferguson or Baltimore protests against pig terrorism descend into scenes of mayhem and senseless violence we must criticize these methods of resistance. Many of the individuals who engage in these spontaneous uprisings mistakenly believe that this will bring about some change or vindicate the wrongs done to them and their community. The only thing these focoist actions change, however, is the focus from pig terrorism to people terrorizing their own community. This basically undermines our ability to organize and build public opinion in this stage of struggle.

Part of this problem lies in the fact that there is no revolutionary organization at this time representing these oppressed nation communities. There is no BPP or Young Lords Party going into these communities and doing agitation and organizing work. As a result, a lack of political consciousness prevails among these communities, underscoring the need for a revolutionary organization.

A Maoist party would guide the U.$. oppressed nations with a concrete revolutionary practice and strategy. This revolutionary organization would use MLM study and analysis to determine the correct actions and methods to take in order to liberate those oppressed nations and avoid the pitfalls of focoism.

Ultimately, this lesson can be summed up in one sentence: "Maoism warns that taking up the gun too soon, without the proper support of the masses, will result in fighting losing battles.”(9)

On the Necessity of Security Culture

Furthermore, the Panthers’ incorrect analysis of conditions that led to focoist positions eventually compromised the security of the Party as well. Once the period of concessions began to sap support for the BPP’s militant posture, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover was able to ratchet up repression against the Panthers. This was seen most clearly when agent provocateurs were able to infiltrate and exploit the focoist tendencies held by some Panthers. Undercover FBI agents would literally join the BPP and begin to incite other members to engage in criminal activities or "make revolution." These repressive measures, their ever-increasing frequency and intensity, began to take a detrimental toll on the Panthers.

Make no mistake, since day one of the BPP’s organizing efforts it faced repression. Armed New Afrikan men and wimmin organizing their community toward revolutionary ends was intolerable for the white power structure. However, the anti-war movement created such a favorable climate for revolutionary organizing that the more reactionary forces attacked the BPP, the more support the Panthers received, the more its membership grew and its chapters spread throughout the country.

But when those favorable conditions shifted, the BPP’s strategy didn’t. The Panthers continued to operate above ground, maintaining the same militant posture that initially placed them in the crosshairs of Hoover’s COINTELPRO. Ironically, Newton was well versed in the role of the Leninist vanguard party. Ey explained that "All real revolutionary movements are driven underground."(10) Though, by the time Newton put this principle into action and attempted to adapt to the changing situation the Party as a whole was thoroughly divided and beaten down by wave after wave of relentless repression.

For us, the important point to draw from this lesson is the assessment of conditions for revolutionary organizing. Because we live in a point in time where we consume our daily social lives openly through various social media, it is easy to forget that the reactionaries are observing. We must therefore place a high priority on security culture as it pertains to our organizing efforts going forward. In addition, we must strongly emphasize the importance of avoiding death and prison. A robust security culture will protect our organizing efforts and dull the blows of repression that are certain to come.

Currently, we face a strong imperialist state that is more than capable of disrupting a potential revolutionary movement. This point is evidenced by the fact that Hoover’s repressive practices are "mirrored in the far-reaching high-tech surveillance of the US National Security Agency."(11) Maintaining a strong revolutionary organization thus requires us to maintain strong security practices informed by MLM theory and practice.

Party Discipline over Party Disciple

Hystory is a testament that some revolutionary organizations and movements have fallen victim to the "cult of persynality." This is more true in an imperialist society as bourgeois individualism nurtures a response in people to associate or reduce organizations and movements to the characteristics of one persyn. And the BPP was no exception in this regard.

Newton was very intelligent, charismatic, and embodied qualities of a true leader. In truth, ey was a symbol of black power and strength that had been missing from the New Afrikan nation for centuries. The militant image that Newton projected was undeniably magnetic and a source of inspiration for U.$. oppressed nations.

Yet, the BPP relied too heavily on Newton as an individual leader and not enough on the party as a whole. Eir ideological insights and theoretical contributions were unmatched within the party. And to a certain extent this was a weakness of the party. Newton was the primary source of oxygen to the party whereas other members of leadership didn’t meet the demands that the revolutionary movement required of the party.

Bloom and Martin hint at this cult of persynality around Newton, arguing "In late 1971... Hilliard recalls that Newton was surrounded by loyalists who applauded Newton’s every action, challenged nothing, and would do anything to win his approval."(12) For example, when Newton was imprisoned on the bogus pig murder charges, the BPP adapted its struggle and practice toward the "Free Huey” movement. Even Eldridge Cleaver, who was one of those members of leadership that reneged on eir revolutionary principles, criticized this move that ultimately confused mass work with party work. The oppressed masses began to associate the party and the Panthers with freeing Newton and not liberating themselves. The BPP had let its practice become dictated by Newton who was for the most part disconnected from the people and community because of eir imprisonment.

The Panthers should have developed a strong party discipline, one based on democratic centralism. Democratic centralism means that any decisions that the party makes is debated and discussed through a democratic process. Even if party members do not agree with the decisions, they must support them in public. This ensures that the party maintains unity in the face of reactionary forces. Those party members who are still in disagreement with the decision have the opportunity to utilize the democratic process of the party and make their case. Overall, this strengthens the theoretical basis of the party and does not allow one persyn to hijack it or undermine it.

The thrust of this lesson is not to discourage party members from developing leadership. The revolutionary movement will certainly need all the leaders, in whatever role or capacity, which the struggle for national liberation demands. But the point is the importance of party discipline. Because as we see with the Panther practice many of the major mistakes stemmed from not maintaining party discipline. Democratic centralism would have promoted the space and opportunity for members to challenge and question decisions by Newton. And as members engaged in this process they would have developed their theoretical practice, shouldering some of the load that Newton, even while imprisoned, had to bear.

This is not to say that the Panthers would not have made mistakes. But with the same party discipline that saw the Bolsheviks lead the successful Russian Revolution of 1917 or the Chinese Communist Party execute at a high level throughout the many stages of its liberation struggle, surely the Panthers could have avoided the divisions that were largely fomented by FBI interference. In addition, proper application of democratic centralism should have led to the distinction between party cadre and mass organizations to take on campaigns like "Free Huey" and doing the support work to run Panther programs. Such a distinction would have helped prevent the decline of the Oakland-based party into reformism as conditions changed.

What our current struggle does not need is a party disciple or some demagogue who is proclaimed our savior. What will liberate the U.$. oppressed nation is a Maoist revolutionary organization connected and related to the masses. Consolidating the mass line is a necessary part of applying democratic centralism within the Party.

Conclusion

We are at a critical point in the hystory of U.$. national liberation struggles. No longer can we continue to allow the police to murder us with impunity or for our communities to exist merely as pathways to imprisonment. Revolutionary nationalism is needed. And that begins with relating the thought and struggle of the most advanced revolutionary organization in U.$. hystory to our current struggle.

This article has highlighted a few mistakes of the BPP. But in no way does this discard the Panther practice overall. On the contrary, our path to national liberation has been illumined by the lessons drawn from the revolutionary legacy of the BPP. It is in this spirit that this article honors the Black Panther Party, and represents a theoretical step on that path to liberation.

Power to the people!
Notes:
  1. Huey P. Newton, 2009, Revolutionary Suicide, New York: Penguin Group, p. 355.
  2. Philip S. Foner, 2014, The Black Panthers Speak, Chicago: Haymarket Books, p. 40.
  3. Newton and Seale formed the Black Panther Party, its platform and program, during the spring of 1966. Seale became Chairman of the Party, and Newton chose the position of Minister of Defense. While Newton revealed in eir autobiography, Revolutionary Suicide, that ey was reluctant to lead formally, ey was in fact the ideological leader of the Party. The revolutionary movements occurring across the world at that time heavily influenced Newton and Seale in which Mao Zedong, Che Guevera and Frantz Fanon became prime sources for the Panther ideology. However, Malcolm X’s "by any means necessary” message of self-defense informed the vision of the Black Panther Party. Newton was convinced that the BPP was acting in the spirit of Malcolm X's legacy.
  4. See MIM (Prisons) Glossary
  5. Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr., 2013, Black Against Empire: The history and politics of the Black Panther Party, Berkeley:University of California Press, p. 347.
  6. Bloom (2013), p. xxix.
  7. Bloom (2013), p. 366. Bloom and Martin contend that this period of concessions consisted of increased access of petty bourgeois New Afrikans to social and political representation, and a scaling down of the Vietnam War to appease the anti-war movement. Consequently, much of the revolutionary fervor that once existed during the BPP’s height began to dissipate quickly. The support for the ultra-militant BPP ran out and a corresponding demand for more moderate positions filled the void. This put the Panthers in a compromising position as they had relied too heavily on support from these moderate groups. For example, the Panther practice led to arrests that required legal assistance from outside groups. And these groups who were once fervent supporters of the BPP's militant posture now wanted more moderation on the part of the BPP as concessions began to be distributed. In the end, the party was driven apart because some members believed revolution and national liberation was imminent while a Newton-led faction supported a change in strategy.
  8. Newton (2009), p. 355. Well after the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, Newton acknowledges that the Panthers were too militant and that he misjudged the changing social and political landscape of U.$. imperialist society at that time as it related to the revolutionary movement. He notes: "The emphasis of weapons was a necessary phase in our evolution... We saw this action as a bold step in making our program known and raising the consciousness of the people. But we soon discovered that weapons and uniforms set us apart from the community... We saw ourselves as the revolutionary 'vanguard' and did not fully understand then that only the people can create the revolution... The people misunderstood us and did not follow our lead in picking up the gun... Perhaps our military strategy was too much of 'a great leap forward.'" This was a cardinal error because the Party became disconnected from the masses and got too far ahead that they couldn’t keep up. The Panthers could have shifted from a more militant posture to one that was still critical and confrontational but based on actually politicizing the masses.
  9. MC42 & MC86 of MIM, "Black Panther Party Paved the Way," from the pamphlet Maoism and The Black Panther Party, April 1992.
  10. Foner (2014), p. 66.
  11. Foner (2014). p. xvi.
  12. Bloom (2013), p. 381—2
chain
Go to Page [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] [53] [54] [55] [56] [57] [58] [59] [60] [61] [62] [63] [64] [65] [66] [67] [68] [69] [70] [71] [72] [73] [74] [75] [76] [77] [78] [79] [80] [81] [82] [83] [84] [85] [86] [87] [88] [89] [90] [91] [92] [93] [94] [95] [96] [97] [98] [99] [100] [101] [102] [103] [104] [105] [106] [107] [108] 109 [110] [111] [112] [113] [114] [115] [116] [117] [118] [119] [120] [121] [122] [123] [124] [125] [126] [127] [128] [129] [130] [131] [132] [133] [134] [135] [136] [137] [138] [139] [140] [141] [142] [143] [144] [145] [146] [147] [148] [149] [150] [151] [152] [153] [154] [155] [156] [157] [158] [159] [160] [161] [162] [163] [164] [165] [166] [167] [168] [169] [170] [171] [172] [173] [174] [175] [176] [177] [178] [179] [180] [181] [182] [183] [184] [185] [186] [187] [188] [189] [190] [191] [192] [193] [194] [195] [196] [197] [198] [199] [200] [201] [202] [203] [204] [205] [206] [207] [208] [209] [210] [211] [212] [213] [214] [215] [216] [217] [218] [219] [220] [221] [222] [223] [224] [225] [226] [227] [228] [229] [230] [231] [232] [233] [234] [235] [236] [237] [238] [239] [240] [241] [242] [243] [244] [245] [246] [247] [248] [249] [250] [251] [252] [253] [254] [255] [256] [257] [258] [259] [260] [261] [262] [263] [264] [265] [266] [267] [268] [269] [270] [271] [272] [273] [274] [275] [276] [277] [278] [279] [280] [281] [282] [283] [284] [285] [286] [287] [288] [289] [290] [291] [292] [293] [294] [295] [296] [297] [298] [299] [300] [301] [302] [303] [304] [305] [306] [307] [308] [309] [310] [311] [312] [313] [314] [315] [316] [317] [318] [319] [320] [321] [322] [323] [324] [325]
Index of Articles