As a prisoner I see this slogan almost every day while being housed in prison. It's the slogan stamped onto the inner sole of every pair of PIA shoes. Shoes made ultra-cheap due to the quality control that doesn't even exist. This is yet another way the state is saving a buck on our comfort. When I first came to join the PIA, prison issue were brown hard bottom boot, which they gave every convict coming out of reception. Those boots not only provided PIA workers with a job but also others prisoners with one as shoe shiners.
You might be thinking wow, what a low position. But if so, that's only because you weren't here. The shoe shine, if he mastered the art, got plenty of business and made however much he was willing to commit on working for. His customers were not only convicts, they also were Correction Officers usually of high rank and they paid well. Now PIA, by cutting cost and operating with the use of low grade, no quality materials, have wiped out several in-prison work assignments and legal hustles or trade exchange. Those boots were made out of leather and so there were leather hobby shops where prisoners were taught how to make belts, wallets, medallions, use special machines and recycle the unusable scraps from the boot line. Creating income, gifts for family, and educating prisoners on how to use their resources.
Now we have low-quality, low-top generic canvas shoes that they expect to fall apart within 90 days when you can get a new pair creating only more pollution and waste. No one benefits from these PIA show factories except those who work there, and I'd be willing to bet someone is lining their pocket with tax-payer money through building these contracts with under-the-table industries who supply such low grade materials. Another bad effect is due to the fact positions at these factories are low in volume. It establishes a classism among convicts, with PIA and private contractors being the highest source of income legally in the joint. Their workers became the ruling class as far as prisoners economics are concerned, with them averaging $100 a month compared to the top culinary assignment at $37 monthly, deducting 55% if they owe restitution before they even receive it.
Ask yourselves what is 45% of 9 cents an hour or 45% of 23 cents an hour? Then there's the poor non-employed convict who is the on the bottom when it comes to privileges by grand design of whom when it's time to unite and stand against any form of oppression are usually always down, with nothing to lose. On the other hand the slave class is divided amongst prisoners, the majority of this class talk about doing something to make a change in conditions, pay, treatment, but when it's time to peacefully demonstrate by striking at work they simply won't go that far. A smaller number out of the slave class will, knowing this is the only process towards change that works. The majority of the slave class are youngsters who enjoy the movement their job provides and don't want to rock the boat. Now the PIA working prisoners by no means will write in solidarity with the convicts in any class including their very own but will both encourage a strike for equal pay and treatment in the hopes of moving up, and others will report it directly to their masters the Correctional Authorities in the hopes of building a stronger rapport and gaining favor.
MIM(Prisons) responds:This comrade gives us a glimpse at some of the contradictions facing prison organizers at the PIA prisons in California. While there are some parallels between the prison system and slavery, we have critiqued the use of the term "slavery" to refer to prisoners. This comrade's description talks about how the prisoners are pawns in a system that is becoming ecologically wasteful, and likely benefitting bureacrats. The wages, while minimal, also play a role for the state in helping control and divide the population via petty economic interests. Battles for higher wages in U.$. prisons can be progressive in putting pressure on the economic viability of oppression. But generally, prison unions that represent the interests of all prisoners must focus on more pressing and common problems.
I'm presently in the hole (Administrative Segregation) for fighting for my rights. My rights were violated when a CO pig cut my pay from $0.18 an hour to $0.13 an hour unjustly with no explanation. So I appealed this issue via the 602 inmate appeal and I also put a citizen's complaint 832.5 on this pig. Before I went to the 602 hearing, another pig, Anguianos' partner, Martinez, tried to bribe me with my pay to sign off on the 602. I refused and documented these encounters and put in a 602 on Martinez for reprisal/retribution just to have this documented in case something happened and sure enough after I refused to sign off on this the Sgt. pig threw his pen on the table and asked me why I would not sign off. He said, "you got what you want, your pay is back at $0.18." I told him my rights were violated and I want it to be known I want my voice heard!
After this, about a month later I was being harassed by two pigs due to this issue, DeFranco and Vasquez. Long story short, they threw me on the fence to put me down. Nice and calm I let them put me down without incident, which made them more mad! The next thing I knew the pig DeFranco put me in cuffs. I asked calmly why I was being put in cuffs. He smiled in my face and told me I would find out.
They put me in a cage and shipped me down. Come to find out the dirty pig planted a weapon on me resulting with me being put in the hole pending DA referal and a SHU term. I put an 832.5 on both these pigs as well for retaliation and I'm pushing for criminal charges to be brought up on said pigs. I'm going to file a lawsuit on all three pigs once I'm done going through the pigs' appeal process, which we all know the outocme of that! I make sure to make a paper trail to back up anything I do so I have proof.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We commend this comrade's tenacity for fighting for justice. We do remind everyone that filing paperwork is just one tactic, as the comrade says, we all know the outcome of that. Without organizing prisoners as a group, even individual legal victories do not lead to building any real change.
Yo, un miembro honorable de la Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (Todopoderosa Nación Reyes y Reinas Latinos - ALKQN) mando mi imperecedero amor, fuerza y sacrificio. El 14 de Diciembre la unidad 2 de la Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility (CCRFC) explotó en una guerra entre la nación Folk y People. La mayoría de nosotros estábamos dormidos. Siendo quien soy y mi obligación a mi gente, yo hice lo que tuve que hacer. El fin resultó con 2 de nosotros mandados al centro de emergencia. Recibí 8 puntadas y 4 grapas en 2 partes de mi cabeza.
Unos cuantos días antes de este incidente unos cuantos estábamos discutiendo materia que les estaba leyendo de ULK 41. Muchos de nosotros hemos estado presos juntos en tres de las prisiones más violentas de Mississippi (Missippi State Prison Unidad 32, East Mississippi Correctional Facility, y Wilkinson County Correctional Facility). Todos en estado de "security threat group" ("grupo de amenaza a la seguridad" - STG) y alto riesgo. Fue la American Civil Liberies Union (Unión Americana de Derechos Humanos - ACLU), activistas de prisiones, la sabiduría, conocimiento y ánimo de MIM(Prisiones) quienes ayudaron a cerrar la unidad 32 y conseguir que me trasladan a una prisión de mínima seguridad como CCRFC. También tomó el buen comportamiento de mi parte.
Después de la pelea cuando me estaban trasladando del hospital a la prisión, el teniente y el jefe me preguntaron en cual unidad me sentiría más seguro. Les dije que quería regresar a dónde ya estaba. Me llamaron loco y no me querían meter en donde estaba anteriormente. Me preguntaron que por qué yo quería regresar, les dije que es allí dónde yo vivo, nosotros nos sabemos cuidar. Este es un asunto entre los Folks y los Peoples no los puercos.
Lo que me vino a la mente fue un articulo de la primera corona de la Black Order Revolutionary Organization (Organización Revolucionaria de la Orden Negra - BORO) titulada "¡No Saquen, Organícense!" en ULK 41. Eso es lo que hicimos: solucionamos solucionar nuestros problemas e hicimos lo necesario para mantener a los puercos fuera de nuestros asuntos. Ellos se interesan más en quién tiene que y quién hace qué. El día después de la pelea, las escuadras de canallas nos registraron nuestras viviendas buscando contrabando. Claro que el guardián salió en las noticias y dijo que fue un motín que empezó con un individuo abusador que mandaron a correr de la zona. Todos sabíamos que la American Corretional Association (Asociación Americana de Correcciones - ACA) justo paso por aquí y no quería lucir mal por eso fue que mintió.
Estoy de acuerdo con el punto que hizo BORO: cambio no pasara de un día a otro. Tomara tiempo y vamos a cometer errores. Si podemos seguir juntándonos con el entendimiento que estamos en la misma lucha, vamos a poder resolver nuestros asuntos pacíficamente si es posible.
Ya ha pasado más de una semana desde la pelea y estoy honorado en decir que todos vivimos en paz y unidad. Nadie habla de ese día en luz negativa. Nuestras charlas se tratan de cómo podemos trabajar juntos para vencer cualquier obstáculo en nuestra lucha de mantenernos libre de opresión. Nos paramos en solidaridad y unidad. Rezo que todos en otras prisiones en todo el mundo puedan armar una frente unido y que todos tengan paz tras las rejas. Amor de Rey ayer, hoy mañana y siempre.
MIM(Prisiones) agrega: Este es un impresionante ejemplo de lo que United Front for Peace in Prisons (Frente Unida Para Paz en las Prisiones - UFPP) escribió en su declaración fundadora, "Nosotros ya estamos 'unídos' — en nuestro sufrimiento y nuestro represión diaria." Este cambio rápido de hostilidad por unidad refleja el conocimiento entre los presos de CCRFC.
No cabe duda que la presencia de organizaciones amontonadas (LOs) contribuyeron a las condiciones para hacer posible tomar este paso adelante para que la unidad fuera una realidad. Este ejemplo es porque nosotros defendemos los aspectos progresivos que se encuentran en la mayoría de las organizaciones amontonadas (LOs). Camaradas adentro de las LOs que quieren desarrollar el Frente Unido para Paz en las Prisiones deberían trabajar con nosotros para desarrollar los aspectos progresivos de sus organizaciones a protocolos prácticos para armar el frente unido.
La decisión de no enjuiciar al cerdo en Ferguson, Missouri por el asesinato de Mike Brown ha desencadenado a la gente, y con mucha razón. Este es un disco rayado de este sistema de injusticia y su intención real. Cuando desperté y perdí las noticias esa primer mañana y vi la reacción de las cortes de no presentarle cargos al policía asesino, yo estuve contento de que la gente estaba expresando su descontento contra este sistema. Digo este sistema porque es realmente este el que apoya la capacidad del Estado de seguir masacrando brutalmente a la gente.
Entonces vi a ese mismo policía asesino en una entrevista y él sin rodeos dijo que él no sentía remordimientos. Él estaba satisfecho de dispararle a un hombre joven en la cara y la cabeza quien estaba simplemente resistiendose a ser asesinado, oponiendose a su asesino. Él era la cara de America y él ofreció un retrato real acerca de todo lo que America es. El barrio en el que Mike Brown fue asesinado era como los barrios de donde son los prisioneros, este es de donde es la mayoría de la gente pobre en los Estados Unidos. Esto es lo que experimentamos cuando interactuamos con el Estado.
No hay excusa para lo que esta ocurriendole a la gente pobre en las calles. Esta es una descarga interminable de desesperación desencadenada entre la gente oprimida. Y sí, todavía habemos muchos prisioneros quienes somos inconscientes a lo que esta sucediendo, aunque esto este ocurriendo en sus calles. Esto es como gente que tiene vendas en los ojos y no ve que está pasando alrededor de ellos, no una o dos veces sino diariamente a través de los Estados Unidos. Los prisioneros necesitan ponerse las pilas y darse cuenta que lo que ocurre afuera en las calles esta relacionado con ellos porque estas son sus gentes quienes están siendo masacradas brutalmente, este es un lado de la guerra que necesita ser volteada. La sublevación en Ferguson es una respuesta a esto y esta es una buena respuesta pero la gente necesita responder en muchas diferentes maneras para manifestar que estos policías asesinos tienen que parar de estar asesinando a la gente.
MIM(Prisons) agrega: nos unimos a la llamada de este camarada para más sublevaciones como en Ferguson. La gente tiene el derecho a estar indignada con el sistema de opresión nacional dentro de los Estados Unidos. y tenemos que llamarle a este sistema claramente por lo que es; no solo hay una multitud genérica de gente pobre en este país, los pobres son desproporcionadamente concentrados en las naciones oprimidas. Estos grupos, Nuevos Africanos, [email protected], Primeras Naciones, junto con minorías nacionales como Mexicanos, viven en un país donde sus barrios son ocupados por la fuerza de la policía imperialista y donde ellos pueden encarar la muerte por el solo crimen de andar por la calle.
Relacionando los puntos para prisioneros incluye reconocer que este es el mismo sistema de injusticia criminal que mete en la cárcel a naciones oprimidas, el que esta matando a la gente en las calles. Los policías, las cortes, y todas las prisiones son parte de este mismo control social sistemático. Y así, protestando los abusos contra prisioneros detrás de las rejas son parte de la gran lucha contra el imperialismo en las calles. Tenemos que hacer estas uniones y mantener en mente los más amplios objetivos mientras peleamos contra la opresión diaria detrás de las rejas.
After the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo, the French satiric weekly magazine, there has been a lot of focus on the Muslim population in France. Islam is a religion and not a nationality, but because Muslims in France come predominantly from North Africa and the Middle East, anti-Muslim sentiments feed into xenophobia and attacks on national minorities. There are a lot of parallels between the situation for Muslims in France and the oppressed nations (such as New Afrikan, [email protected] and First Nations) within U.$. borders. And recently these contradictions have been exposed in French prisons as well.
French law prohibits asking people their religion and so no official statistics are collected on the size of the Muslim population. Based on a variety of studies it is estimated that about 10% (5 million) of the the people living in France are Muslim. The 3 million foreign-born Muslims in France mostly come from the former North African French colonies of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.(1) Muslims in France face significant economic hardship and generally do not enjoy the spoils of imperialist plunder and exploitation shared with French citizens. Unemployment among youth (15-29 years old) in France in 2002 was at 15% for French citizens and 46% for migrants from North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Turkey. Even for immigrants with a college degree the rate of unemployment was twice that of natives with a college degree.(2) Similar disparities are seen in educational achievement by Muslims compared with non-Muslims. And a large portion of the recent immigrant population and their descendants are found in housing projects concentrated in and around France's large cities.
As we find in Amerikan prisons, the French imprisoned population is disproportionately from the oppressed nations. Although Muslims make up less than 10% of France's population, they constitute about half of France's 68,000 prisoners. (Overall France has a much smaller prison population than in the United States, with less than 1 per 1,000 residents locked up compared with the Amerikan imprisonment rate of 7 per 1,000.)
One of the Kouachi brothers involved in the Charlie Hebdo attack previously spent 20 months in prison just outside of Paris. Media reports are claiming that he was locked up for petty crimes and turned to radical Islam based on his education and exposure behind bars, and that it was there he met another Muslim convert in prison who helped with the Paris attacks. Detailed background on this man suggests he became involved with Islamic leaders on the streets, but did radicalize in prison. It's hard to say how much of this prison radicalization story is a ruse to justify targeting Muslim leaders behind bars.(3)
The Kouachi brothers, French citizens of Algerian parents, grew up in housing projects in Paris. They were poor and surrounded by others like themselves: national minorities in a country that is moving increasingly towards xenophobia. These national minorities find themselves isolated and disproportionately represented in the First World lumpen class.
A survey conducted in 2014 in France found that 66% of the French believe there are too many foreigners in France. 75% of the factory workers, who are part of that labor aristocracy which enjoys elevated non-exploitation wages and benefits, oppose France embracing globalization. The mass base for fascism is the labor aristocracy in imperialist countries,(4) and these same people are the base for the growth in support for the far-right National Front party which 34% of French people polled see as a credible political alternative.(5)
Kouachi's history in prison is being used to underscore France's concern about the radicalization of prisoners. Prisoners enter the system and learn about Islam from fellow captives. To address this "problem" French authorities are now experimenting with segregating those considered "Muslim radicals" from general population. This sounds a lot like long-term isolation or control units which are used in Amerikan prisons, torturing politically active prisoners. While details are sparse about the experimental units, prisoners subjected to these conditions are protesting the treatment. We can expect that this isolation will be used to target anyone who speaks out against the French government or other imperialist powers.
At the same time France does not appear to be slowing down the imprisonment of Muslims. For instance, in mid-January a 31-year-old Tunisian man was sentenced to 10 months behind bars after a verbal conflict with police in which he said that an officer shot in the recent attacks "deserved it."(6)
The French government is facing the contradictions of a criminal injustice system that we see in all imperialist countries. Using prisons for social control means locking up oppressed groups, those who are most likely to disagree with and disrupt the capitalist system. But targeting oppressed groups for imprisonment creates an opportunity for prisoners to quickly become educated and radicalized against the system that put them behind bars. This is the system itself creating the conditions of its own demise.
While prisoners alone will not bring down imperialism, the lumpen in First World countries are potential allies of the international proletariat. And national polarization and xenophobia will feed the development and political consciousness of this lumpen class.
Justice? What justice? There is no such thing as justice. Visit the jails and here's what you'll see. "Just us" occupying these modern day concentration camps.
Justice? What justice? Inside the courtroom you think you'll find justice? Absolutely not. You'll find just-ice. What do we associate ice with? Cold. Inside the the courtroom empathy is nonexistent, sympathy nonexistent, feelings nonexistent, emotions nonexistent for the jury, the judge & the district attorney.
I can't find no justice in the courtroom. I'm innocent but they don't believe me. They want me to pay fines court costs and restitution for something I didn't do. So I reach into my pockets pull out the lint and tell them my pockets contain "just this."
Where was justice for Malcolm X, Tupac Shakur, Christopher (Biggie Smalls) Wallace, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, the many Black Panthers and Black Liberation Army members who were hunted & viciously murdered with malice by the police & FBI just for association with those organizations? Hmm what happened to the members of the most vicious organization "Ku Klux Klan"? Nothing!
Psychiatric prisons, gulags and dungeons are the worst of the worst when compared to the standard human warehouses. These foul dinosaurs are established under the guise of compassionate medical intervention (yes, they actually expect you to believe such garbage). Mental health treatment in psychiatric prisons can be and is torture.
Currently in California, the prisoners are rounded up daily, drugged and forced through the cattle stockades of court cells and into the courts where they are dragged before those of black robe who arbitrarily and capriciously commit them to a virtual (if not actual) life in prisons now designated for those thought to be mentally ill from the viewpoint of imperialism's labor aristocracy. However, one need not be actually suffering from mental illness at all. I was not, and am not, yet this fact had no effect. I myself and many others have been railroaded into psychiatric imprisonment with doctor approved authorization to be at all times heavily sedated. In my case it was only for the use of body building steroids with no prior mental health history requiring medical intervention of any kind.
And, while being held within these psychiatric prisons and jails I have been, and many others are, tortured and abused, starved and injured, sometimes on a daily basis. I have observed young guys whose faces are now a mass of scarring due to them being drugged to the point of unconsciousness and where massive enforcer brutes are purposefully let into their cells to beat those who are drugged, and the victims of such beatings are left to suffer within their cells with no medical attention at all.
These designated prison and jails have cells with feces on the walls and floors. Desk-type tables caked with old dried foods and grime combined to form an un-cleanable cemented solid. And they are usually air conditioned in winter and heated in summer, especially where these cell occupants are given no mattress and sometimes for days no blankets as well. I currently have prison guards who pass my cell door, which is all steel, every fifteen minutes, 24 hours a day, and bang on it loudly with a steel baton like device. Try attaining a deep restorative pattern of sleep under those conditions. This is the current living environment of Amerikkka's psychiatric prisons and the pitiful inhabitants of its populations.
I am not under the illusion that these facts are not already known by our professionals of community, politics and prisons. Yet, according to a recent news publication, "[in the state of California] the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) funnels hundreds of millions of dollars to construct prisons and jails - and many have been pitched as 'mental health treatment facilities'."... "It should come as no surprise that the BSCC is mostly composed of cops: Jeffery Beard, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections, Sheriffs, probation officers, and chiefs of police."... "It is not shocking when that group of people thinks that the best way to invest in mental health treatment is to build shiny new jails."(1)
What is termed pathological and rooted in psychosis in Amerikka's systems of injustice and unjust forensic psychology are in fact political offenses in nature. Such people incriminated and imprisoned should not be civilly nor criminally committed at all. "Mental health treatment... [should be provided and] funded in the community"(1); preferably by a community of communists. "We need to stop pretending that prisons solve the violence in our communities, or we will never actually end that harm or end mass incarceration."(2)
Onward! in psychiatric prison abolition efforts, and even more so the world-wide abolition of the parasite imperialism.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer correctly identifies a problem with Amerikan prisons that is actually pervasive throughout imperialist society: the use of psychiatry to label people as mentally ill because they do not conform to capitalist behaviors and values. As we explained in the ULK article Mental Health: A Maoist Perspective:
"In imperialist prisons, the ambiguity of diagnosing people as mentally ill becomes very pronounced. Part of the problem is that imprisonment causes mental health problems, so people who may not have had symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis often develop them. Yet it is not in the oppressor's interests to recognize this problem, so staff feel that they must draw a line between the truly ill and the "fakers." Rather than seeing the prisons as causing mental illness, they see people acting out for attention in contrast to those who were born with "real" mental illness. Such silly exercises allow them to keep some prisoners sedated while pushing others to suicide."
Ultimately the purpose of prisons is social control, and the purpose of mental health facilities is the same. They are another tool of this social control which targets oppressed nations within U.$. borders. We must expose these facilities and fight against the torture that this comrade describes.
This issue will be marking four years of organizing under the banner of the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). It was over the winter of 2010-2011 that we firmed up the documents that defined the UFPP, and the United Front was announced on a mass scale in ULK 19. The discussions involved a number of very active comrades at the time, representing a variety of lumpen organizations across the country. The impetus for the project came from countless calls over the years from behind bars for the need for unity and the many who have dedicated their lives to building unity in prisons and in oppressed communities.
When we first announced the UFPP we got a flurry of responses and statements from other organizations wanting to join, most of which we knew little to nothing about. We pushed further engagement with these groups as we sought to develop outlines and protocols for the peace process that have been tested in practice. And we attempted to pull in those more skilled with the written word to develop a writing project focused on the lumpen class.
In 2012, the UFPP took a big step into the realm of coordinated action when one group initiated the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity and called on all UFPP signatories to participate. Even with short notice, the response was strong and was promoted via independent media on the outside by activists working with MIM(Prisons). After 2 years of networking, it was a good sign that things were moving forward.
In 2014 we saw another surge in groups signing on to the United Front's 5 principles. We cannot say whether this reflects more peace organizing on the ground, a greater reach of Under Lock & Key, or more active promotion of the UFPP by us. But regardless, we want to tap into these organizations to further consolidate this movement, which must be both particular to the local conditions and generalized to continent-wide efforts to unite the struggles of the oppressed nations, and oppressed people in general.
In the coming months, we will begin to refocus on the ongoing project to develop theoretical material looking at the conditions and history of the lumpen class in this country. Along with that we hope to put out more agitational materials challenging the lumpen ideologies that are counter to the interests of the oppressed. We have discussed putting together a zine containing some United Front documents, but we would like to have more practical examples of comrades' work before we do so. We already have the Attica study pack put together to organize for the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity and MIM Theory 14 that addresses the Maoist theory of united front. We want to work with UF signatories to utilize these materials to push the third principle of the United Front — Growth.
In early December 2014, we received a letter from a comrade who had recently run into a number of revolutionaries who had been held in Pelican Bay SHU since it opened in 1988. He wrote,
I am writing to say thank you for all of your work and all that you do for us convicts, political activists, freedom fighters and all parties of the struggle. The last hunger strike achieved a lot. Many of the political prisoners housed in Pelican Bay have been released, due to the step down program. Some have been released to step 5 — mainline. Others step 3 and 4 at Corcoran I, or Tehachapi SHUs. But they are close to getting out there. I had the pleasure of talking with [a handful of these comrades] on the bus from Pelican Bay. All of the individuals mentioned had been in Pelican Bay since it opened in 1988, and had arrived from Tehachapi.
We spoke candidly about many things and all parties expressed a deep desire to push and maintain the Agreement to End Hostilities. Even the youngsters smiled and saluted the end to the senseless racial violence of old. For we can overcome obstacles and achieve our definite chief aims by understanding the true cause of our racial divides, which were always perpetuated by the administration to bring about our demise.
Our 20 representatives are doing a great job to maintain order and a common goal. By 2017 or 2018 the entire leadership from all sides should be out. Once that happens I would love to see all political and revolutionary parties establish a round table, power house, to jointly and successfully build the most powerful revolutionary structure the United States have ever known.
We are pleased that some of the leaders in Pelican Bay will be gaining relief from decades of solitary confinement soon. But we need to be clear that the Step Down Program being employed will not have an overall positive effect. In the article "(Un)Due Process of Validation and Step Down Programs" from ULK 41, cipactli explained how the Step Down Program to get out of isolation actually legitimizes the validation process, and why they will not be participating in it. And there is still no plan by the state of California to shut down the torture cells altogether, as new prisoners continue to fill the empty spots. Even this comrade notified us of plans for another strike in Corcoran where the state has not upheld its end to the agreement made after the 2012 strikes. Getting some people out of the torture cells may create opportunities, but alone it doesn't change the conditions overall. We must push a campaign of total abolition of the SHU.
All that said, the Agreement to End Hostilities continues strong, and we were glad to receive word of some of these comrades regaining humane conditions on the mainline where their important work can have more impact. Without the end to hostilities between prisoners, there is little hope of ever ending torture in California prisons. Recently, comrades from the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism (NARN) Collective Think Tank (NCTT) in Corcoran SHU put out a good article reinforcing the strategic importance of the Agreement to End Hostilities as well.(1) Below are some excerpts.
They intentionally pit the New Afrikan prisoner against the Mexican prisoner, the prisoner from the North against the prisoner from the South, the European prisoner against the New Afrikan prisoner, the young prisoner against the old prisoner, the Kiwe against the Damu, the folks against the people, the European have-nots from one group against the European have-nots from another — and for decades WE ALLOWED them to do this to us.
They used our antagonisms, antagonisms born of this system they created, as a basis to erect torture units — Security Housing Units (SHUs) — and a system of mass incarceration which continues to devastate the working class and the poor. They broadcast our conflicts and contradictions to an uninformed public to secure ever larger portions of the social product (taxes), further enriching themselves, their industry and their labor aristocracy — as we were further dehumanized and despised.
Just like the slaves of the chattel era, many of us helped them out by embracing this fiction, these manufactured categorizations, and fought each other with delusional gusto, as they built a monolith of money and political power in pools of our blood... until the Agreement to End Hostilities was announced; and just like that — hundreds of years of capitalist institutional exploitation was immediately put in jeopardy.
"Only social practice can be the criterion of truth ... Marxist philosophy holds that the most important problem does not lie in understanding laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world." — Mao Zedong
Correct ideas come only from social practice. In two short years since the Agreement to End Hostilities was enacted by a relatively small population of prisoners, it has manifested itself into a social force which has accomplished the liberation from SHU of some of the most severely tortured prisoners in the history of modern imprisonment.
The Agreement to End Hostilities offers our communities the opportunity to confront and overcome our own internal contradictions while forging new areas of social cooperation from which closer and more harmonious relationships may emerge.
"This new humanity cannot do otherwise than define a new humanism both for itself and for others. It is prefigured in the objectives and methods of the conflict. A struggle which mobilizes all classes of the people and which expresses their aims and their impatience, which is not afraid to count almost exclusively on the people's support, will of necessity triumph." — Frantz Fanon
When social cooperation is strengthened, state power and oppression is always weakened. Our capacity to manufacture and mobilize underclass political power — not to validate the bourgeois political process but to expose its contradictions, truly democratize its mechanisms and reclaim our human right to influence society — will determine if we are collectively capable of conquering our rights. Abolition of the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment means the abolition of prisoner disenfranchisement, instantly transforming the prisoner class into a constituency.
The main thesis of this article by the NCTT comrades is that the Agreement to End Hostilities can be a basis for ending the legal enslavement of prisoners. We have some differences in strategic focus, as we see focusing on the enforcement of the First and Eighth Amendments as more important to building a struggle for a just society than repealing portions of the Thirteenth.(2) Speaking to this point, the article even points out that, "it is not the inhumanity of systematic torture in indefinite SHU confinement which is deemed criminal; it is our protesting against the inhumane practice which is criminalized."
We agree with the overall analysis of the NCTT, which addresses the many ways that the lumpen, migrants, and oppressed nations in general do not have full citizenship rights in the United $tates. As a result they do not have full vested interest in the maintenance of this government and economic system. And from there we conclude the importance of the Agreement to End Hostilities in prisons, and extending that to the lumpen on the streets, as building a motive force for social change.
That is what the Agreement to End Hostilities and the United Front for Peace in Prisons are and always have been about: transforming society. Less fighting amongst prisoners is not our end goal; it is a step towards reaching our goals. These goals that have been kept from the oppressed and concealed through manipulations by the oppressor nation in this country. And that is why independence is one of the five principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. The criminal injustice system exists to prevent us from working together to end the hegemony of the oppressor.
Over four years ago I wrote an article looking at the sudden decline in the U.$. housing market.(1) Many Amerikan nationalists were looking at the household wealth numbers at that time and lamenting the steep drop off from 2008 to 2010. I pointed out that 2007 was an all-time high for wealth owned by Amerikan households, and compared their vast wealth to the poverty of the majority of the world's people from various angles. Well, in late 2014 a new report on global wealth was released by Credit Suisse, and guess what? Overall household wealth in the United $tates is back to an all-time high. In fact, it hit an all-time high in 2012 and has continued to increase. Turns out the financial crisis wasn't a crisis for Amerikans after all.
Despite the rhetoric of the social fascists, conditions in the United $tates have remained quite luxurious following the 2008 economic crisis. How is this possible? For one there is a nice cushion of wealth to fall back on in hard times. According to the report by Credit Suisse, about a third of the world's household wealth belongs to Amerikans.(2) So if everyone's wealth was reduced proportionately during crisis, Amerikans would fair better than almost everyone else in the world. But that's only scratching the surface, as it turns out wealth did not go down proportionately.
In a comparison of wealth growth by regions since 2000, Credit Suisse show the data with current as well as constant exchange rates. This demonstrates the impact that exchange rates have on wealth by region. Exchange rates are connected to mechanisms of unequal exchange, where value is transferred in a hidden way in the process of international trade. Exchange rates are also manipulated intentionally by the finance capitalists and their institutions (such as the IMF). In both cases, this can result in great transfers of wealth to the countries that control the markets, which is most often led by the United $tates. What the two data show is that the depreciation of currency in the Third World against the U.$. dollar accounted for much of the decrease in wealth during 2008. In other words, currency exchange rates provided a cushion to the economic crisis centered in the United $tates by pushing much of that crisis to the Third World. Africa is the only region to have not recovered to its pre-2008 wealth levels, but it would have done so if not for currency depreciation. In other words, as bubbles popped in the U.$. financial markets, wealth was being slowly pumped back in from the Third World via changes in currency exchange rates and unequal exchange of goods.
This is why we call for international exchange rates based on a fixed basket of goods, to put an end to this form of wealth transfer under imperialism. This is also why the U.$. imperialists were worried about Saddam Hussein ceasing to use the U.$. dollar as the standard currency for oil sales in Iraq.
While a much smaller factor in all this, it is also worth noting that the internal semi-colonies took on more of the wealth loss (proportionally) than the white nation in the United $tates. From 2007 to 2013, the median New Afrikan and Raza household wealth both decreased by 42%, compared to white household wealth which was only down 26% over that period.(4)
How did we bounce back?
The Credit Suisse report notes that the strong growth in household wealth in the United $tates following the decline in 2008 did not accompany a similar increase in income rates. If Amerikan household wealth bounced back on its own then we'd expect to see people making more income from their increased work and productivity. But this was not the case. So did this wealth just fall from the sky? No, it turns out this Amerikan prosperity comes from the invisible transfer of wealth from the Third World to the First World that MIM's critics have been denying the existence of for decades.
Before the wealth-transfer-deniers stop reading in disgust, let me acknowledge a couple things. The increase in household wealth from 2013 to 2014 was mostly due to "market capitalization" as opposed to housing prices and exchange rates (three important factors affecting short-term shifts in wealth according to Credit Suisse). While a larger number of the U.$. population is active shareholders than most countries, this would still indicate that the increase largely favored the wealthier within the rich countries. Exchange rates affect everyone in a country, and rising housing prices help the home owners (over 64% of people in the United $tates) accumulate wealth without having to work. (Homeownership has dropped significantly since 2005 when it was almost 70%, disproportionately affecting oppressed nations who on average have much less wealth than white Amerikans.(5)) "Market capitalization" benefits those in finance capital (including most retirement investments that are quite common in the United $tates), and would lead us to infer that while wealth in the United $tates has exceeded pre-2008 levels, it is less equally distributed than it was then.
Another indication of this skew in wealth distribution is that the high ratio of wealth to income in the United $tates in recent years is approaching the level of the Great Depression. This, of course, is one of the inherent contradictions of capitalism that Marx described in great detail: wealth tends to accumulate in the hands of the few, but this creates problems for circulation of capital, which the whole system is dependent on. So Amerikans are not in the clear; rather we would expect actual serious economic hardship in the near future.
Looking internationally, Credit Suisse shows median household wealth to be about the same in 2014 as it was in 2008, with peaks in 2007 and 2010. Meanwhile the top 10% has increased its wealth since 2008 and the top 1% even moreso. So the distribution of wealth is getting more uneven. The only problem for the argument of our Amerikan nationalists is that the majority of Amerikans are in that top 10%.
Amerikans Are Rich
One of the basic rules of captitalism, taught to us by Karl Marx, is that capital tends to accumulate. As I discussed in "Building United Front, Surrounded by Enemies", others have also shown how wealth in general tends to accumulate even for wage earners. In other words, the richer you are the faster your wealth grows. So yes, the 1% in the United $tates is getting richer faster than the other 99%. But those 99% of Amerikans (on average) are still getting richer as the majority of the world does not. The current balance of wealth shows that the difference between nations is more meaningful than the difference within nations.
Let us indulge in some more numbers given to us from the Credit Suisse report, which looks at household wealth across the whole world. The net worth per adult has reached a new high of an average of 56,000 U.$. dollars (USD) worldwide. The median wealth per adult in the United $tates and Germany are just below this level at US 54,000 and USD 53,000. The median is, of course, a much better indicator of the typical than the average (which was USD 348,000 in the United $tates). While your typical Amerikan or German has the amount of wealth one would expect if distribution were equal globally, your typical African or South Asian has wealth that is around 2% of that. (USD 679 in Africa, and USD 1,006 in India)
The number of people in this lower group is highlighted by the estimate that having USD 3,650 of wealth puts one in the top 50% of wealth holders worldwide. Again, if we distributed the wealth equally today, that point would be USD 56,000. But there are so many people with wealth below USD 3,650 that that is the level for the typical persyn (or median) in the entire world.
For Europe and North America combined, the best estimate given for the imperialist countries, 64% of adults are in the top 10% by wealth. It should be noted that the richest 10% of adults own 87% of global wealth. In contrast, 70% of the world's people own less than 3% of the world's wealth, averaging less than USD 10,000 per adult.
In the past we've cited numbers based on income that give similar results, and actually put all employed Amerikans in the top 13% richest by income, with the vast majority being in the top 10%. Wealth will always be more concentrated than income, because people can have incomes without ever accumulating wealth. Incomes are generally necessary in capitalist society, while wealth is not. In contrast to people who have nothing to lose but their chains (because they own no wealth), the majority of white Amerikans have wealth that is much greater than their annual income, which is quite high to begin with.
U.$. Internal Semi-Colonies
Of course, there are a number of nations within the United $tates, and New Afrikan and Raza median wealth is far below their median income, which is already less than white Amerikans. Recent numbers from Pew Research Center give median household wealth of white Amerikans at $141,900 in 2013. New Afrikan households, meanwhile, come in at $11,000, with the gap between Raza househoulds has been more consistent, as Raza median household wealth was $13,700 for 2013. One factor for the widening gaps is that white households are much more likely to own stocks (and remember that market capitalization was high from 2013 to 2014). Another factor is that oppressed nation home ownership decreased 6.5%, compared to white ownership, which only fell 2% between 2010 and 2013.(4) Wealth per adult for New Afrikans and Raza in the United $tates was not readily available for a direct comparison to the international figures in the Credit Suisse report. But it is clear that the median wealth per adult would be well above the global median of USD 3,650. In other words, the typical New Afrikan or Raza in the United $tates has more wealth than over 50% of the world's population. And if you look at income, they're doing even better.
Imperialists Power and Wealth
China's increase in millionaires, massive growth in middle income populations, and resilience against currency depreciation depicted by Credit Suisse all point to its emergence as a center of finance capital. Yet, over 90% of the millionaires in the world today are in the traditional imperialist countries, with the United $tates leading the way with 41%. While Japan used to compete in this category, in 2014 the U$A stands far above the rest with more than 4 times the number of millionaires in Japan. Of those with wealth greater than USD 50 million, 49% are U.$. citizens, with China as the very distant second in this category. Later this report predicts China will overtake Japan as second wealthiest economy by 2019.
On balance, global wealth increases. Wealth is a product of labor, and so as more people are born and work, and a certain portion of the value they create is accumulated (as machines, buildings, infrastructure, etc) rather than consumed (as food, clothes, electronics, etc) the total wealth of the world grows. War and other disasters can destroy accumulated wealth. The Credit Suisse report goes back to 2000, and shows total wealth more than doubling since then. An increasing rate of wealth accumulation would be expected as the forces of production advance with a growing population. Potentially more people working and doing so more efficiently would create greater wealth. However, our analysis predicts that the expansion of production under capitalism has already peaked some time ago. Credit Suisse subtracts out the effect of population growth and still comes up with a 77% increase in wealth over that period. Why so much?
Marx described different economic systems as being defined by a contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production. When a new organization of labor is first introduced it would increase the forces of production (it brings new ways of doing things so that more work can be done with the same number of resources as before). Eventually, under any class system, the relations of production begin to drag down this progress. As class contradictions increase, so does the contradiction between relations of production and forces of production. So, while capitalism brought a great boom in production a hundred years ago, the limits of expansion are being met and contradictions, such as the ones that triggered the crisis of 2008, are limiting its progressive elements. What all the discussion around 2008 brought to light was the elaborate schemes that had evolved within finance capital markets in recent decades to create and circulate wealth. When they "create" wealth it is usually by expanding credit. So this is not real wealth creation, as when people transform their labor into wealth by constructing a building. As wealth in the form of credit expands faster than wealth in the form of real goods, you get problems where the credit can't be paid off. The "bubbles" that are blamed for such crisis are also behind the steep increase in overall wealth since 2000 shown in this report.
In summary, global wealth dropped a lot in 2007 and has bounced back bigger than ever a few years later. Marx predicted higher highs and lower lows in the economy as contradictions heightened. Therefore we expect volatility to increase as finance capital dominates the economy more and more, and for there to be bigger drops in wealth that impact the imperialist countries more because there is not enough cushion next time.
Amerikans get more stuff
In my previous article on U.$. wealth I made sure to discuss the consumption rates of Amerikans as well, to show that this isn't just academic number crunching and to combat those who argue that it's just a higher cost of living here that explains our higher incomes. Actually Amerikans get to consume a lot more stuff than other people, to the detriment of the health of our planet. One more recent example of this was the response to lower gasoline prices for Amerikans thanks to a market working in their favor. In November 2014, four out of the top five selling vehicles were gas guzzling trucks or SUVs. Demand for two of these gas guzzlers was up 9.6% in November, compared to an overall increase of 1.3% in car sales.(6) As the capitalists produce the most inefficient vehicles they can get away with to keep consumption rates up, Amerikans jump right on board as soon as they get a little relief at the gas pump. Who cares about global warming when you can afford to blast your air conditioner all day long anyway? While Amerikans enjoy lifestyles far beyond what most people can dream of, their bourgeois individualism reaks havoc on the balance of ecological systems that all life depends on. This is another major contradiction threatening the stability of the current socio-economic system.
The economic system is tied to social factors like war and the impacts of ecological destruction. All of these factors interact with each other, putting imperialism in an ever more precarious situation. It is the task of the proletariat and their allies to understand these dynamics and harness the social forces at play to address these contradictions by putting an end to the chaotic system of imperialism and building a new socialist world system in the interests of all.