We are placed back here in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) for being part of a security threat group (STG), a supposedly "confirmed" gang member. I was placed in Ad-Seg in 2002 for corresponding with other prisoners in another unit who were already confirmed. I got out of prison in 2004, and have just recently come back this past year, and once again I find myself placed in Ad-Seg even though I am not part of a gang. I have tried to write to the gang officers and even wrote a history report about my association in the past. I was told I would go to a G.R.A.D. program that's designed for ex-gang-members. I have yet to hear anything.
During this time in Ad-Seg, we are supposed to receive an hour of exercise (recreation) per day. Well I have been here on this unit going on 6 months and have been to recreation only twice. I have written a Step 1 grievance only to be told that they would get to us when staff permitted. They claim to be under-staffed. But general population gets their daily recreation, and they have enough staff to allow them to shake our cells down every other day during showers. There are other units that are really under-staffed, yet their Ad-Seg blocks receive their hour of recreation. It's sad because some of us need the exercise for medical reasons, and all of us need it for mental issues. Constantly in the cell all day every day is really a mind battle and a severe health issue.
MIM(Prisons) responds: In Under Lock & Key 41 we published many accounts of gang validation being used as a tool of social control. The STG designation is held over the heads of prisoners who are often among the most politically active, and then used as an excuse to isolate them from others. It is irrelevant to the prison administration whether or not these "confirmed" people actually affiliate with a criminal organization. And in some places, working with MIM(Prisons) is considered criteria for classifying people as a security threat. We publish accounts like this one to demonstrate the ongoing conditions of torture in these isolation programs, and the arbitrary use of the STG label. But in reality we do not trust the criminal injustice system to decide who is a threat to security; the biggest security threats are running the Amerikan government and its military and prison systems.
On Christmas morning upon entering lockdown for 8 a.m. count, Sergeant Samuel approached a cell near mine and radioed the officer station to open the cell door. When the cell door slid open, Sgt. Samuel who is always playing and joking with the two prisoners in that cell, was then putting on his latex gloves so he and an officer in training could search the cell.
One of the prisoners walked out of the cell and refused to cuff up for the search in a playful manner. Refusing to cuff up in the presence of the trainee officer made Sgt. Samuel look bad and playful, so he whipped out his chemical agent saying, "get on the floor or I'll spray you." The prisoner walked away with Sgt. Samuel following; they ended up downstairs and backup arrived. The backup was Sgt. Harris and Corrections Officer Sanders. The prisoner agreed to cuff up as long as they would not gas him. Sgt. Harris agreed and the prisoner laid on the floor face down with his hands behind his back.
Once the cuffs were on the trainee officer and C/O Sanders went into action. The trainee tried to cross the prisoner's legs across each other while pressing them into his back. At the same time C/O Sanders started pressing his right knee into the prone man's neck area. The prisoners locked behind their cell doors started screaming while Sgts. Samuel and Harris looked on. Then they picked the man up from the floor and took him into the sally port.
Outside of the dormitory, as soon they got the prisoner out on the sidewalk, C/O Sanders punched him in the back of the head and he fell to the ground. I saw the whole thing from my back window and started screaming "they're jumping on that man out there!" loud as hell so everyone including the pro-imperialist goons (pigs) could hear me. Corrections Officer Daluco was on his radio commanding all pigs to get the prisoners off their back windows; no witnesses allowed. But they quickly picked the beaten man up from off the floor as Captain Coleman showed up, while the pig Sanders explained that he had to drop the prisoner because "he was talking too much shit." Just like that, Sgt. Harris and Cpt. Coleman walked the beaten prisoner off for pre-confinement where he now sits pending fake "Battery on an Officer" charges even though he was in cuffs and he was battered by C/O Sanders who violated Florida Statute 944.35 (3)(a)(1). C/Os Sanders and Daluco walked off together talking like it was just another day on the plantation, being members of the slave patrol conscripted with all the impunity in the world.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This article was sent to us by both the persyn who was beaten up and another comrade who witnessed the event, exposing an example of brutality in prison that is all too common. And by writing about this brutality, both authors set a good example for others, that there are many ways to take up the battle against the criminal injustice system. We call on our readers to document abuse by prison employees as it happens, and help us to establish patterns that can be used to expose the system and educate people on the streets.
We also need to make the connections between this brutality by prison staff and the criminal injustice system in general. The problem is not a few bad guards, or even the free reign and positions of power they are given in their jobs. It is the entirety of the system that dehumanizes prisoners and places them in a system that has nothing to do with rehabilitation. By classifying so many people, disproportionately from oppressed nations, as fundamentally criminal and forcing them outside of the social and economic system, the criminal injustice system plays a key role in social control of the lumpen class. Keeping prisoners in a constant state of fear of violence and loss of privileges further helps to reduce resistance and silence the voices of those who might otherwise speak out.
It is an act of courage to write about the brutality that is happening, and even greater courage to organize others to study the system and seek greater understanding of its connections to Amerikan imperialism. This study and education helps build comrades who can work together to fight the imperialist system itself.
Psychological diagnoses made in bourgeois society seek not only to isolate and treat mental illness on an individual basis, but also says the illness neither affects, nor is affected by, others.
Taking isolation in prisons into account (where research shows that being locked up in itself can cause mental illness) one begins to see the so-called facts in bourgeois reasoning behind individual diagnoses as fallacious. Individual diagnosis benefits the bourgeoisie by separating the individual from h environment, forcing the illness to be considered through the biological lens where it is said to be internally developed. This method negates a persyn's social and cultural influences, economic plight, outside forces acting upon h social milieu, as well as individual interpretation of all the above.
Inside isolation pods in U.$. prisons we are subject to sensory deprivation, restricted movement, lighted cells 24 hours a day, the constant clanging of metal doors, bullying by guards, unhealthy food, as well as sporadic screaming and banging by those even more deeply affected by imperialism's woes. This constant barrage of negative stimuli over a period of time is agitating, if nothing else. Agitation leads to the need for an outlet for the release of pent up tension. That tension leads to anger and resentment. This anger can have far-reaching, long-term effects. This awareness is underlined by my own persynal experience of having a quick temper, blurred reasoning after being agitated, and less thought-out reaction to anger with little to no thought of consequences.
The bourgeois system is backwards because it is idealistic (diagnosing as biological and as not affected by environment) and metaphysical (mental illness affecting only the individual and unchanging). Both these are world outlooks that imply things are what they are and will always be what they are. These outlooks are supported by the bourgeoisie because they compel apathy (indifference to the rule of the bourgeois because there seems to be little we can do to change things) and acceptance of the "order of things" by the masses who come to accept the conditions as inherent and the dominance of bourgeois leadership as unchanging. Basically the bourgeois classes push this line of reasoning because it allows them to hold on to power.
While the bourgeois classes perpetuate imperialism and deny responsibility for world conditions (including the systematic incarceration of oppressed nations) they also label all who refuse to subscribe to their world view as sick, radical, deviant, disillusioned and, of course, mentally ill.
In Under Lock & Key 15 after asking the question "who is mentally ill?" MIM(Prisons) quotes MCB52 that those who are diagnosed with mental health problems are mostly "pissed off people rationally resisting the hegemonic culture one way or another."
The method of diagnosis will change once the people begin defining and deciding our own conditions. Fed up with the conditions we find ourselves and the world in, fed up with being agitated, let's begin to agitate back. And let's build independent institutions that operate outside the diagnosistic structure of the bourgeoisie, where the people decide who is mentally ill based on their contributions to the further development of the people's interest, not because we refuse to take part in a system that oppresses us and others.
Revolution starts in the gulags. All power to the people.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade on the problem of individual diagnosis for mental illness in bourgeois society. This standard especially benefits Amerikkka because it justifies drugging up oppressed nationals full of psychotropics in the name of psychology, while leaving the structure of prisons and solitary confinement intact. We have heard reports from many comrades in prison that the so-called therapists want to prescribe them strong psychotropic drugs (or even force them to take these drugs), which they refuse because it will have a negative impact on their ability to engage in politics. Yet these comrades' requests for a resful night's sleep, or adequate nutrition, are ignored. Individual diagnosis permits individual (mis)treatment.
The most progressive of psychologists in the bourgeois countries do see a connection between the individual and society. But the vast majority of those are reformists who do not see the link of the individual's mental illness to the capitalist economic system itself. These academics can be our allies, such as those in the struggle to abolish long-term solitary confinement. But their reformist leaning is inherently limiting.
There is use for mental health practitioners and counselors to work with revolutionaries in our present social context in order to help us resolve the mental illnesses we pick up just from living in an imperialist society. The goal of this mental health work should be to make us better revolutionaries, and not just so we can feel more comfortable going along with the status quo.
Of the few mental health practitioners that do see the bigger connections between capitalism and mental illness, most present-day radical counselors are found in the anarchist movements. A challenge with anarchism is it often seeks persynal "liberation" from capitalism today without a long-term plan of how to achieve liberation on a worldwide scale and for the most oppressed peoples in the world. We are not opposed to anti-imperialists of all stripes achieving a higher level of mental health. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that mental illness can be a persynal motivating factor for many people into revolutionary politics ("i am depressed because this world is so fucked up and makes no sense"), and a resolution of persynal mental illness combined with the frustration many feel by the dead-end strategy of First World anarchism is a perfect formula to push people to age out of political struggle for good.
Professional psychological standards in the United $tates push for "objectivity" of the therapist, which is actually just institutionalized Liberalism. In Communist China, mental health workers were educated in political economy and would use Mao Zedong Thought to help people understand how their depression, suicidal tendencies, or even schizophrenia fit into an international and material context. Rather than being limited to defining somone's "personality" or persynal chemical defect, mental health was seen on a mass scale as a product of society. Anecdotal evidence from our prisoner comrades and outside recruits has shown that mental health challenges can often be resolved on an individual level by taking up revolutionary politics and studying to understand all the nonsense of capitalism.
The basic logic behind the United Front for Peace in Prisons is simple, but genius. The concept is self-explanatory. How else do circumstances get resolved without the five principles?
Individualism and evasion counters liberation. Regardless, whether we are into politics or not, believe that politics are into us. All aspects of life have an element of control that dictate our lives, and if we don't seek unity and ultimate internationalism, chaos will always follow. Sharing information about ourselves to each other in collective formats is the first step. Guarding ourselves is natural; it is something we do to protect ourselves from opposing forces. However, through self-discipline and some simple confidence and motivation, progress is possible.
Our biological nature is to be selfish. It is primal instinct to seek ultimate survival and power, and without a balance or some consciousness, humyns want to oppress each other. The ones who have blindfolds on have the idea that oppression = peace, and perhaps they have been programmed to think and view life in such a manner. However am I the only one, or does that logic sound irrational to you too?
In my opinion (and I could be wrong) I believe a better approach is to educate as many people as you can to obtain growth and progress. There will always be contradictions, of course (no matter what). But to give up is to give up on your people and yourself.
I like Mao's quote from "Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership":
"[T]ake the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge."
Educate to liberate!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have a lot of unity with this writer's call to action around the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). But we do disagree that there is a biologically inherent trait of selfishness in humyns. While there is certainly an instinct to survive in all living things, this does not mean there must be an instinct to take power and oppress other people. We can see that this is what many people do today, but the culture of capitalism teaches us that's how to get ahead, from the time we are born. So how can we separate out instinct from culture in this situation?
As Maoists we believe in the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat after the revolution, where the formerly oppressed majority take control of the government and run it in their own interests while dictating to the minority (who promoted exploitation) how society will be run. During this period of socialism we will need cultural revolutions to challenge the ingrained mentality of capitalism that has taught everyone to look out for themselves first and to get ahead at the expense of others. We know it will take many generations of cultural revolution and re-education of humynity but we do not think the reality of capitalist culture determines what humyns are capable of under communism.
I'm writing in regards to the article "Gang Validation: Justification for Torture and Social Control" that the Connecticut prisoner wrote in ULK 41. I was housed in the same control unit in Corrigan Correctional Institution when the incident happened. When the prisoner who got caught with the 5 pages of Security Risk Group (SRG) paperwork returned back to the block (phase 3) I read the ticket and all paperwork that was associated with it. The paperwork clearly stated he was found in possession of the materials and he takes all responsibility. This clearly shows the prisoner who was transferred to Walker Correctional Institution was a target. I, and many other prisoners, believe he was a target of the pigs because of his ability to organize. It was through this brother that I first found out about Under Lock & Key. I feel that because of ULK I am better informed on the struggles within from state to state.
Since that incident I have also received a Class A SRG ticket because the words "Neva Will I" are supposedly Blood identifiers. Now I have been set back and have to wait for the ticket to clear to be eligible to start the program. The prisoners here in the state of Connecticut can be validated SRG members for something as simple as the "B" representing the Boston Red Sox Logo, or simply writing the $ or cents sign. I'm guessing these pigs have to keep the beds filled up some way, right?
I have to try my hardest to stay under the radar because I am now being targeted due to an incident that happened which had nothing to do with me. Two prisoners engaged in a scuffle and the one who lost cooperated with the pigs giving up unreliable information. I was questioned by the Captain and Lieutenant of the block. I was told "Since you won't cooperate then I will do everything in my power to make sure you won't phase through the program!" by the Lieutenant while the Captain sat there and laughed. I simply responded, in control, "Regardless of how you feel, or what you do, time will continue to move forward whether I'm in the program or not!" Since that confrontation my cell has been subjected to searches 2-3 times a week and the pigs find nothing. I believe it is just a waste of time. There is no valid justification for torture and social control, but yet the pigs continue to use these units for such. We must all keep fighting regardless of how long it takes. A war has never been won in a single day! I want to say to all comrades in the struggle to stay headstrong (educated), positive and above all else remain militant! MAD*MEN (Minorities Against Depression/Oppression * Maximizing Education Nationally).
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer describes the most common way that Under Lock & Key and general revolutionary education is spread behind bars: from one activist prisoner taking the information to others. And the result, as reported in ULK 41, is often punishment and even SRG "validation" for the activist. It is good for us to know that our educational work is such a threat to the criminal injustice system that they go to great lengths to stop it: censorship, solitary confinement, physical abuse, and theft of property are some examples. The attacks on our comrades are actually a confirmation of the effectiveness and importance of this work. As this comrade points out, there is no justification for torture and social control, but these are common tools of the oppressor. We call on everyone who reads ULK to take at least the one small action of sharing your copy with someone else, exposing at least one other persyn to revolutionary education. And everyone reading this should get in touch and make sure to get your own subscription since you can't count on being in the same place to borrow a copy next time.
Here at a torture unit known as the Corcoran Security Housing Unit (SHU), we New Afrikan freedom fighters and other entities are getting retaliated on by the fascist Institutional Gang Investigators (IGI). IGI and their cronies seem to think that attacking those who were hunger strikers and at the forefront of the prison movement is gonna distract us from our main objective in challenging this oppressive system. They are holding onto our mail for months at a time, giving out petty disciplinary cases after cell searches and calling miscellaneous items contraband, such as extra laundry, or wire we use to make our digital channels come in clearly and radios without static.
Due to the outside support we received for the collective solidarity we expressed on the inside, we've received but a few items we requested in our yearly packages and canteen purchase. The legislators gave the administration an earfull of how they mistreat us in the SHU, and how mental torture is much worse than physical torture and solitary confinement must be abolished.
The retaliation is a given, and just this past week I personally had some books sent back to the sender and was told they promoted racism and violence. Well, I filed a grievance against the sergeant they sent to my door because his actions were racist. The reading material was in fact about anarchism, and they have allowed the white/European inmates to have literature on this very same subject. I was also referred to as a racist because he saw pictures of a few Black Panthers on my wall, and asked why do I read racist books of the past. I just looked at the sergeant standing before me and shook my head. How can a New Afrikan be a racist considering all the things that have happened to my people in previous times, and are still happening around the country?
We are also being moved around the yard to the different buildings, and we hear it's only due to the warden wanting to place mentally ill inmates in the left side of the building and those who are not on medication to the right side of the building, but this is so they can revalidate those who the Departmental Review Board might be considering kicking back to the mainline, and to disturb think tanks we have been able to put together throughout the prison diaspora. We who have been buried alive in these concrete tombs (Pelican Bay, Corcoran, Tehachapi SHUs) will stand firm in our principled discipline and continue our revolutionary studies, because we have a world to win. We will not let our oppressor's strategies and tactics stop our movement or break our momentum. In true liberation and struggle I encourage all to show solidarity until all oppressed are free.
Dare to Struggle Dare to win....
MIM(Prisons) responds: While we agree with what this comrade wrote above, we want to expand on this topic. Racism is the ideology that arises from national oppression: a way of seeing certain groups of people as inferior based on their alleged biological differences, or "race." National oppression is the system that engenders racism, a system where one nation has power over other nations. New Afrikans are an oppressed nation within U.$. borders, and so this discrimination based on race by the guards is no surprise (and something our comrades see all the time behind bars). But a persyn from an oppressed nation could be racist (though not in the way that the prison guard claims). We see racism manifested as incorrect ideas about Mexicans by New Afrikans or New Afrikans by Mexicans, for instance. Or oppressed nation people thinking white people are oppressors because of some biological deficiencies.
Despite the utter lack of scientific evidence that race exists, Amerikan academics have succeeded in replacing discussions about national self-determination with ones of race and multiculturalism. This has led to the popularization of lines such as "Black people can't be racist." One video from the Ferguson uprisings has gotten a lot of promotion by white nationalists trying to show how ridiculous the protestors were because they accuse a reporter of being racist because he is white and claim that they can't be racist because they are Black. While we cannot win over the white nation as a whole, by being more scientific and more correct in the line we put out there we can better win over those at the margin who will be turned off by illogical statements. The revolutionary movement needs to work on educating people on incorrect ideas about racism and the material definition of national oppression. This will both help us recruit the support of others as well as be more successful in everything we do because of our own greater understanding of things as they are.
Enclosed is the grievance I submitted regarding ULK 39. As you may notice, the Chief of Corrections Operations A. David Robinson, upheld the decision of the Publication Review Committee to censor the publication. But if you read the third paragraph of Robinson's response you will notice he refers to the prison denying "the books." Obviously, Robinson failed to do his job.
His job is to review the publication to see if the censorship is justified. Since ULK 39 is a newsletter and not "books," he could not have reviewed them. Robinson is paid at least $50,000 annually (perhaps double that). Isn't that too much to pay a rubber stamp yes man?
People in combat zones get paid less than Robinson, yet he cannot be bothered to actually perform his duty. Instead he simply acts as a robot automatically approving the actions of his flunkies beneath him.
Also notice the date of the response is December 17, but I didn't receive it until January 20. I conjecture that the date is false - the man missed the 20-day deadline but back-dated it. He had only until 21 December to respond but he probably responded January 17.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is an example of just a few of the responses we get when attempting to fight censorship of MIM(Prisons) literature. There is never any legitimate reason behind the censorship, but it's easy for prison administrators to run our comrades around in circles with false claims and delays. These are very difficult to appeal because the appearance of a response to a grievance is sufficient for higher level rejections. Nonetheless, everyone who faces censorship should be appealing it, and we can provide a guide to fighting censorship for those who need some help. Please also report on the outcome of your appeals and let us know what support we can send to help with the fight. This is a critical part of the educational work we do behind bars.
As of January 2015, my access to copies of MIM Theory magazine in Goose Creek Correctional Center has been curtailed. Several days ago I was given a notice from the prison's mailroom that a "booklet" had been sent (it was MIM Theory 2/3) from "a vendor who is not on the approved list." Though this vendor approval policy was instituted DOC-wide in Alaska about two or three years ago, at every other facility I've been in, including two pre-trial jails, magazines and periodicals such as MIM Theory were exempt and I received every issue previously sent. So, apparently, there is only a problem at Goose Creek. I sent a request to the mailroom to consider the copy of MIM Theory a zine, with a denial coming back. My next step was to send a request to the security sergeant. The response from this officer was different. Now, apparently, I'm being denied because the pages of the magazine are "discolored" and therefore the conclusion is that the copy is "second-hand" and "used." Even though any "discoloration" would likely be because the magazine is 20 years old and printed on newsprint, it is still denied because used books are not allowed.
As of about a week ago I wrote a cop-out back saying that the copy is not used nor second-hand, but rather a back-copy — an issue that was kept in stock and never put into circulation. I made the analogy that it is the same as if I had ordered from Time a back issue of their magazine. I also pointed out that the sender is the same entity as the original publisher/distributor and hence the copy is obviously not used. I'm still, as of the time of this letter, awaiting a reply back, but thus far it's not looking encouraging. I also did ask that MIM Distributors be placed on the Approved Vendors List.
I intend on pursuing the matter as far as is necessary. I have not exhausted all avenues yet. I'm curious to know if anyone else has had similar issues regarding the specific reason I'm thus far being given for the withholding of the issue, and what remedies were taken.
MIM(Prisons) adds: In our experience with this particular reason for censorship, it is a coin toss whether the administration will submit to logical reasoning on whether to allow the magazine in. We don't have a specific recommendation on how to handle a claim that a magazine is used when it simply isn't. Often times we need to send in another copy of the magazine that hopefully looks newer, or that arrives on a day when a more rational mailroom staff persyn is working.
Censorship battles are particularly important for the prison-based revolutionary struggle because of the educational focus of our work right now. Our only option presently is to work with prisoners through the mail, and the political literature that we send in is the main way we spread information about political theory, history and current events. When our mail is cut off we lose a critical tool in our anti-imperialist organizing work. This comrade's reporting of censorship battles, and h work fighting the censorship, is a good example for others. A lot of mail we send out is returned back to us, and frequently mail is rejected without any notification as to why. We need people to appeal all cases of censorship, and notify us each time censorship happens. We can support these appeals with our own letters of protest, but only when we know the censorship is happening. Many of you receive Unconfirmed Mail Form letters from us asking you to tell us what mail you received. We appreciate all the responses to these form letters, and it would be even better if everyone kept us up to date on all mail received so we don't have to send out these forms. Remember, every time you write you should tell us everything you've received since you last wrote.
The United States and Cuba recently agreed to restore diplomatic ties after a half-century of hostility, taking steps toward ending one of the world's last Cold War standoffs. President Obama's announcement, made in coordination with President Raúl Castro, stated that these long-estranged countries would restart cooperation on a range of travel and economic issues and reestablish the American embassy in Havana that closed in 1961 after the Cuban Revolution.
While the Cuban Revolution was a blow against U.$. imperialism, which had a choke-hold on the Cuban economy, after the 1959 revolution Cuba became dependent on the state capitalist Soviet Union. By 1959 a new bourgeoisie had arisen in the Soviet Union and it had turned away from its socialist orientation toward state capitalism. Instead of building socialism in Cuba, Castro and his government ended up building a satellite colony of the USSR.(1) Amerikan refusal to associate with Cuba was a reaction to the Cuban people successfully shutting down Amerikan dominance and a concession to the many wealthy Cuban immigrants who fled to the United $tates after the revolution, rather than a serious political stance. The Amerikan imperialists have not hesitated to associate with governments and countries that are strongly anti-Amerikan when the economic benefits of the relationship are compelling.
The recent policy changes forge significant economic ties between the two countries by allowing U.$. financial institutions to open accounts with Cuban counterparts, easing restrictions on the export of U.$. agricultural and telecommunication gear to Cuba, and permitting U.$. citizens to use credit and debit cards there. The biggest boost in the short-term from the changes will come from remittances, which will now allow relatives of Cubans to send back $2,000 a month to their homeland, up from $500 at the moment. Remittances are the island's leading source of income. In cash and in kind (appliances and clothes), they account for $5.1 billion a year in income, nearly double tourism at $2.6 billion.(2)
The immediate benefits for the country are obvious. The Cuban government reported that economic growth for 2014 was around 1.4%, and an estimated 40,000-50,000 Cubans emigrated in the past year. For economic reasons, Cuba is starved for cash, and its biggest trading partner, Venezuela, is facing an economic crisis due to the recent plunge in oil prices. Analysts say the possibility of losing Venezuelan aid likely played a role in reaching an agreement with the United $tates.
Business Opportunities Abound
Restoring trade ties will benefit the U.$. economy, allowing companies to join other countries which have operated for decades in Cuba and made their own capitalist inroads, such as Canada and European Union member-states. U.$. farmers, already helped by a partial lifting of the embargo for agricultural goods, will have new export opportunities. Despite heavy regulation and strict limitations, U.$. exports of agricultural goods to Cuba grew to $547 million in 2010 from $4 million in 2001.
Groups ranging from the American Farm Bureau Federation to the U.$. Chamber of Commerce strongly support a lifting of the embargo because they see Cuba as a significant export market. Opportunities abound elsewhere, such as in telecommunication, retail, tourism, and natural resources. "Cuba needs everything we make in the United States," said the global government affairs director for Caterpillar, Inc. The company hopes to soon install a dealership in Cuba. "We've been calling for a new policy toward Cuba for 15 years." U.$. hospitality companies also are eager to do business in Cuba when they can. "The minute it's available, we'll be down there," the CEO of Choice Hotels International, Inc. was reported as saying.(3)
All this is evidence of the capitalist system in Cuba. U.$. companies want access to this market that corporations based in other capitalist countries have been enjoying for years.
From Yanqui to Soviet Social-Imperialism: Neglect of Socialist Alternatives
With the 1959 revolution, Cuba sought to dismantle the economic hegemony the United $tates had over the country. Partial nationalization of certain sectors of the economy, followed by a complete confiscation of foreign-owned property, were met with stiff U.$. opposition, as many Amerikan citizens held large investments there. On 3 January 1961, U.$. President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba after Castro charged that the U.$. embassy in Havana was the center of counter-revolutionary activities in the country. In February 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed an embargo on most U.$. trade with Cuba. The Cuban economy at the time was in serious danger. Industrial plants, confiscated after the revolution and now in disrepair, lacked the raw materials to keep operating. Spare parts for factory equipment and motor vehicles made in the United $tates were no longer available. Crop yields were poor, and food rationing began in March 1962. Against this backdrop, Cuba signed a $700 million trade agreement with the Soviet Union, following up on a $100 million credit and agreement to deliver a large procurement of sugar two years earlier. By mid-July of that year, thousands of Soviet military and economic advisors were making their way to the island.
While an improvement over the neo-colonial status it held under the United $tates, the new alliance Cuba had forged with the Soviet Union was hardly symbiotic in nature. This strings-attached relationship also affected Castro's drive to diversify Cuba's economy through industrialization, which ultimately proved unsuccessful. Historically, Cuba's most valuable crop has been sugarcane. Under U.$. tutelage, more than half of the cultivated land was devoted to this crop for export to U.$. markets. Little changed after the revolution, and sugar accounted for almost two-thirds of all export revenues. This heavy dependence on a single crop continued to hinder Cuba's economy. Cuba needed sugar to carry out its trade agreements with the Soviet Union and its allies, and as a result, agricultural diversification and the ability to feed its own people suffered. Cuba's economy remained stagnant, and became heavily dependent on Soviet aid. With the eventual collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cuba was severely wounded economically.
Furthermore, the material aid given to Cuba was inferior in quality, and was not geared towards the needs and climatic conditions of the Caribbean country. Castro's early advocacy of violent revolution throughout Latin America put it at odds with and weakened Cuba's relations with the Soviet Union. The Soviets in turn would curtail economic aid whenever the Cuban government stepped too far out of line, as was the case when Cuba opposed its and the Soviet bloc countries' invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. After a round of economic arm-twisting, Castro took a more neutral stance.
Unlike the socialist veneer of Soviet-revisionist economic cooperation, communist China's line at the time in regard to socialist financial and material aid had its basis in mutual cooperation and advised that it should be tailored to the needs of both countries with an aim towards economic self-sufficiency. In no way should it be conditional and carry high interest, which perpetuates the cycle of indebtedness in the recipient country. Material aid should be of first-rate quality and not technologically outdated. It should also suit their material conditions. Soviet agricultural implements exported to Cuba, for instance, did much damage to sugarcane fields.
In his latest speech on the subject of normalization of relations, President Raúl Castro stated that Cuba "will not give up its socialist principles." Despite his assertion, we contend that he and Fidel had already done so by 1961. They embraced the fallacy that you cannot get production without incentive, instituting many Soviet-styled agrarian and industrial measures such as the implementation of work incentives and wage differentials to better boost production quotas. Looking to Mao Zedong's implementation of moral incentives to reward the workforce in China for overachievements in production could have been a viable alternative to this. The class struggle was also sidelined with their focus on economic output as a gauge of their country's success in building socialism, which constitutes a failure to do away with the theory of productive forces — a policy which has led many a socialist revolution to its revisionist perdition.
This is a critical reason why the Cultural Revolution in China represents the furthest advance towards communism in history: capitalist theories and practices will not just disappear under socialism and must be actively combatted. Otherwise a new bourgeoisie will arise from within former proletarian forces and attempt to take power against the interests of the masses. This happened in the Soviet Union, and their treatment of Cuba demonstrates clearly the state capitalists ignoring the needs of the Cuban people.
Since Raúl Castro took over from his brother Fidel in 2008, the Cuban government has undertaken a series of tentative economic reforms to move the country away from the state capitalist framework to a full-fledged capitalist system.
Keeping Solidarity with Cuba in Perspective
Having endured centuries of repeated imperialist encroachment, Cuba has managed to attain a degree of independence and sovereignty over its affairs. We support Cuba's right to self-determination, and applaud the Cuban government's notable success in providing educational and medical services to all segments of Cuban society. Cuba's anti-imperialist stance on a range of issues remains strong, and in a confrontation with imperialism, Cuba deserves our backing. Yet Cuba is not socialist, and the Cuban people know that their government at this point in its history is not a revolutionary government, but a pragmatic one. It is our hope that the people of Cuba will experience a blossoming of revolutionary consciousness and organize for their rights in the coming years as capitalist encroachment places their country in the cross-hairs of further economic exploitation.
"Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research. And when you see that you've got problems, all you have to do is examine the historic method used all over the world by others who have problems similar to yours. Once you see how they got theirs straight, then you can know how you can get yours straight." - Malcolm X, Message to the Grass Roots
The basis of any social movement is unity. Unification is most often formed around a common oppression and recognition of necessity by a sometimes common, sometimes diverse group of people in order to link up together to fight the oppressive powers that be. On this topic perhaps the best, yet least known example of a common, yet diverse group of people coming together to fight off the most oppressive and far reaching power the world has ever known, was the Asian-African Conference of 1955 held in Bandung, Indonesia. This gathering of Black and Yellow nations was the first time in hystory that representatives from 29 Asian and African countries would meet to discuss strategic methods for combating the effects of imperialism on their people. All of the countries in attendance were not only newly independent following the beginning of the disintegration of the old colonial order, but represented a quarter of Earth's land surface.(1)
The Bandung Conference was sponsored by the Prime Ministries of Indonesia, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India and the Philippines. The most notable and prestigious country to attend however was the then-socialist People's Republic of China. The convocation of these newly emerging forces was an important step towards the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement and it is from the legacy of both Bandung and the Non-Aligned Movement that the concept of the Third World would later be developed. Most notably barred and excluded from attending the conference were any and all Western imperialist powers, including the then-social-imperialist Soviet Union, as the newly emerging forces were looking to make a clean break from all variations of imperialism.
The Bandung Conference considered problems of common interest and concern to the countries of Asia and Africa, and discussed ways and means by which their people could attain fuller economic, cultural and political cooperation. And while to many today, particularly in the First World, the idea of the Third World liberating itself from the artificially-produced poverty of capitalism without the benefit of U.$. "aid" may seem like a pipe dream, those of us who know the mechanisms by which imperialism operates know that what is actually ridiculous is the notion that the United $tates and other imperialist powers would ever sit idly by as the oppressed and exploited organized for their own liberation to the point that they are no longer dependent on such First World aid. As a matter of hystorical perspective, Malcolm X would later explain the social context for the exclusion of the white man at Bandung:
"The number one thing that was not allowed to attend the Bandung Conference was the white man. He couldn't come. Once they excluded the white man, they found out that they could get together. Once they kept him out everybody else fell right in and fell in line. This is the thing that you and I have to understand. And these people who came together didn't have nuclear weapons, they didn't have jet planes, they didn't have all the heavy armaments the white man has. But they had unity."(2)
To be clear, it's not that the oppressed Asian and African countries were excluding the white man out of some sense of racism. Rather they were excluding the representatives of various white nations because the issues being discussed at Bandung were in direct contradiction to Western imperialism and the white nations they are in the service of. Never before had such unity between the oppressed nations played out either before or after the 500 years of colonialism which preceded the conference and which the Bandung 29 were trying to depart from. The United $tates responded to this political snub which they perceived as a threat to their political and military hegemony, as well as to their material interests, with various destructive acts. The most serious of these being the attempted assassination of Chinese Premiere Zhou Enlai and the mid-air explosion of the passenger plane "Kashmir Princess."(3)
Even with such acts of barbarity committed on the part of the imperialists against the oppressed for daring to carve out an existence on their own terms, the Bandung Conference was a success as the final communique of the conference can attest to: economic cooperation on the basis of mutual interest and respect for national sovereignty, technical assistance in the form of experts, trainees, pilot projects; the establishment of the Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development; the stabilization of commodity trade in the region and the stabilization of international prices and demands for primary commodities through bilateral and multi-lateral arrangements, just to mention some of the more groundbreaking methods by which the Bandung Conference sought to break the colonialist stranglehold on their nations.
The Bandung Conference was also convinced that
"among the most powerful means of promoting understanding among nations was the development of cultural cooperation. The Asian-African Conference took note of the fact that the existence of colonialism in many parts of Africa and Asia, in whatever form, not only prevented cultural cooperation but also suppressed the national cultures of the people. From the denial of basic rights in the sphere of education to a peoples basic right to study their own language."(4)
Out in the so-called free world we can see modern day examples in the closing of "ethnic studies" departments and the banning of [email protected] and other Latin American history books in racist Arizona; to the denial of prisoners' abilities to learn their people's true hystory for fear of "Security Threat Group" validation. What the imperialists and prison administrators really fear however is the unity of the oppressed based on common national identities and the creation of revolutionary nationalist organizations that would surely bring most prisoners together, as opposed to the divisive gang feuds that currently mark the reality of many prisons.
In the years following the Bandung Conference, the world saw the rise of national liberation movements all over the Third World, from guerrilla armies to People's Wars in the imperialist periphery, to the fledgling national liberation movements and armed struggles that under-lied the Civil Rights movements in the core capitalist countries, principally the United $tates. Political thinkers attributed these movements in part to the "Spirit of Bandung" and the example set there for the rest of the oppressed nations by the Bandung 29, in particular the People's Republic of China (PRC). The PRC led by example, showing the world what true independence and balanced self-reliant development could look like. For what many oppressed nations could only just begin to aspire to, the PRC was already doing and had to a large degree already accomplished.
"[The Spirit of Bandung] can be summarized in the following five principles: (1) respect for the fundamental rights of people as well as for the goals and principles of the United Nations Charter; (2) respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations; (3) equality of all nations and people both large and small; (4) non-intervention and non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries; (5) no recourse to acts or threats of aggression or to the use of force. These five principles were also referred to as the "five points" of peaceful co-existence."(5)
The Bandung Spirit Lives On!
Today prisoners from different nations and many different cliques and sets are taking part in the United Front for Peace in Prisons and are hence putting United Front theory into practice. Peace and unity between prison organizations mark not only the beginning stages of national liberation movements within the oppressed internal nations within the U.$. empire, but the embryonic stages of the peoples struggle in the United $tates for socialist revolution in alliance with Third World communist movements. Just as surely, the Bandung Conference marked the entrance on the hystorical scene of the people's liberation movements in Africa and Asia, and represented the first impetuous rising of countries still oppressed or scarcely liberated from imperialism. Thus, from this we take the Five Fundamental Principles for Peace in Prison also known as the "five points of unity":
Peace: By organizing to end needless conflict amongst prisoners we not only struggle against the pigs divide and conquer strategies, but we set a positive example for others and likewise help to begin the constructive reconstruction of our prison and lumpen organizations and nations.
Unity: As against a common oppression we fortify our peace-treaties by using this opportunity to work together in one form or another to both better our conditions and understanding of each other.
Growth: Without growth on an individual level or a group level our newfound unity will not survive. So comrades should take the time to build themselves up and each other so as to aid and push the movement further, as the movement in return will push us all further.
Internationalism: Mao Zedong said that in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism. Within our conditions this essentially means that in struggling for our own nations now we effectively aid the struggles of other oppressed nations by forcing the oppressors to contend with us. Hence on a strategic domestic and international level our tactics are to pit ten against one.
Independence: Then and now independence has always been the ultimate aim, both at Bandung and in the prison movement. By building our own institutions and programs of the oppressed independent of the U.$. prison administrators and their inmate lackeys we help solidify and consolidate the prison movement. Just as the sponsoring countries at Bandung cut out the white man and found that their unity and movement could only be strengthened as a result, so must we cut out all the prison administrations' officially sanctioned prisoner representatives because they cannot truly serve us, but have only served to better oppress and suppress us.
For all these things to work we need not only unified resistance to oppression, but the one crucial aspect that was missing at Bandung. We need vanguard leadership and mass struggle working together so that the prison movement will truly get somewhere and not merely stagnate and die after a few petty reforms are put in place. Hence we need correct leadership to guide that resistance. Correct leadership and struggle comes from a correct understanding of material reality and of the correct methods for influencing that reality; not sporadic and short-lived rebellions where the masses learn nothing but the taste of defeat with incompetent leadership that has no one's interest at heart except for their own, and who clearly lack the vision of carrying the struggle forward until true change and reform is won. This is the difference between victory and defeat, and it is the kernel of truth which we must all grasp if we want to change our reality.
Connected to this kernel of truth is the fact that the prison movement will be dialectically connected to the streets and to the national liberation movements of the internal semi-colonies. All that is left for us to do is to grasp these truths as part of the objective laws of development for our cause and vigorously build on them. As such there can be no successful prison movement without the help of the rest of the oppressed nation masses and various revolutionary organizations outside of prison walls, just as there cannot be any successful national liberation movements for the oppressed without the help and leadership of the revolutionary lumpen in the semi-colonies and behind prison walls playing a vital and pivotal role.