by a South Carolina prisoner November 2013 permalink
We recently had a blow to morale here in my dorm. A refusal to accept cold food went wrong as only a quarter of us refused. Since we were locked down, and only eat twice a day on weekends, most just took it. That left a few saying they would never participate again. However, you would be a good morale boost (Under Lock & Key) because it shows that the struggle is being fought everywhere. Maybe it will help them focus on the real issues. All I can do is keep trying.
During their August 2013 Board Meeting, the Texa$ Board of Criminal (in)Justice approved a revision to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Correspondence Rules. The rules came into effect with no warning on October 1, 2013.
This new revision restricts indigent prisoners to 5 one-ounce domestic letters per month. It also removed all references to the first 60 days a prisoner is indigent — essentially allowing the TDCJ to collect "indigent debt" indefinitely. The previous policy allowed 5 letters per week and only allowed TDCJ to recoup amounts expended during the first 60 days a prisoner is indigent. This revised policy clearly violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, especially in light of Guajardo v Estelle, 432 F.Supp 1373 (1977 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16242).
We must proactively resist this policy. Attached is an example grievance that can be filed by TDCJ prisoners. I encourage you to edit, expand, personalize, or revise it. Proactively seek out other prisoners who have the courage to resist this revision. Encourage family/friends/freeworld comrades to contact the officials below and demand that this new policy be repealed:
Senator John Whitmire, PO Box 12068, Capitol Station, Austin, TX 78711 512-463-0115
Governor Rick Perry, PO Box 12428, Austin, TX 78711-2428 512-463-2000
Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, PO Box 13084, Austin, TX 78711-3084 512-475-3250 Fax: 512-305-9398
Attorney General Greg Abbott, PO Box 12548, Austin, TX 78711-2548 512-463-2100
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, PO Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711-2068 512-463-0001
Speaker of the House Joe Straus, PO Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910 512-463-1000
Another new policy that came out of the August Board Meeting which needs our proactive resistance prohibits prisoners from receiving stationary through the mail, starting 1 March 2014. You will only be allowed to purchase stationary through the commissary. TDCJ is attempting to create a monopoly. Once this happens, they will be able to charge whatever prices they wish for their stationary. Start organizing resistance to this policy NOW!
Here at San Quentin's death row we recently won a small victory. The recent mass dis-allowing of all writing supplies sent via first-class mail to San Quentin's death row AC/SHU prisoners has been halted. But be advised, there is nothing in evidence to support the idea these terrorists in pig clothing have dropped their last propaganda bomb, or that their about face was motivated by guilty conscience dredged up by visits from three holiday spirits.
Consider some underlying facts: November 2013 San Francisco Bay View national Black newspaper reports significant influx of "stamp donations" from a drive discreetly organized by San Quentin death row prisoners. Mass disallowing of stamps coincided with the drive. As the drive progressed, the pigs' terrorist activities increased. Disallowing began in spurts around May 2013, capricious post-interpretations of the property matrix ensued, and by mid-September the pen's hierarchy went hog wild.
Appeal #CSQ-J-13-03205 was submitted October 27, explaining exactly how operational procedure 608 article 7 was being illegally circumvented. This appeal was rejected by appeals coordinator puppet M.L. Davis on November 1. Davis offered to process the appeal if appellant directed a CDCR 22 to the mailroom. Davis also demanded appellant remove copies of Article 7 and OP0212 which are in fact the official rules/directives regarding "items enclosed in incoming first-class mail."
At the same time the appeal was being drafted, various articles describing the terrorist attacks on everybody's right to freedom of expression were en route to local small presses, national news outlets, and global social networks by way of prisoner mail. Some articles included instructions on how everyone here, and outside ground zero, could inundate the pen's hierarchy with a barrage of "appeals relating to mail and correspondences" (15 CCR 3137).
This evidence suggests a combination of individual administrative appeals, and the imminent threat of having their pig-tailed asses exposed to the public, is what forced the pen's hierarchy to rethink their positions. This is also an example of standard pig-headed tactics designed to make resistance to their control unit torture tactics seem futile. Their undermining goal is to crush, kill, and destroy our will to organize against them in peaceful protest. Their motive was fear that the struggle is gaining momentum. In fact, their pig-headed terrorist tactics are evidence that it is! Yes, we are gaining momentum, making a world of difference into a world of solidarity which is not indifferent to the rights of anyone in it.
Enclosed with this "announcement of small victory" from the secret torture unit at San Quentin is five 46 cent stamps which were withheld since May 2013. That by itself is not much but if everyone of the global readership would match that contribution in stamps or cash to extend the reach of this publication which amplifies our voices, it would add significant momentum to the struggle.
Many have seen the stunning October 28 video of police in New Mexico assaulting a New Afrikan family after pulling them over on the side of the road. To most of Amerika this type of footage is shocking for any number of reasons. Whether it be because the teenage son was tazered by police for trying to protect his mother from pig oppression, or because police shot at the kid-filled van. Most Amerikans deem this type of behavior unacceptable and they demand answers. Likewise, some within Amerika agree that this behavior is not what those who "protect & serve" should be doing, but they'll come up with excuses for the police such as, they only have a split second to react, and in the heat of the moment hesitation can cost you your life. And then there are the more convoluted excuses such as, the police did what they did because of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), or any other such stress-related condition associated with being a cop. And to the white settler-state, and even to some from the oppressed internal nations, these idealized excuses perfectly suffice. But the truth of the matter is that this type of behavior on the part of the pigs is acceptable exactly because that is how the police keep the oppressed in check. These types of abuses are not isolated incidents, but institutionalized practices that are part and parcel to maintaining white power in the United $tates.
To the [email protected] nation this type of police brutality is nothing new, isolated or particular to New Afrikans. Rather it is part of reality for the oppressed of the [email protected] nation and any other internal semi-colony. For those of us growing up in the 80s and 90s in the ghettos and barrios of Amerika this was certainly a daily possibility, especially whenever we dared to venture out the hood and into or near the settler communities.
Integration into the consumer economy via labor aristocracy wages has brought privilege for the oppressed within U.$. borders via the stolen super-profits and cheap abundant goods from the periphery. But the reality of imperial dominance cannot be negated by class relations as they continue to be modified by national interests and the principal contradiction: imperialism vs. the oppressed nations. Leave it to the apologists for national oppression in Amerika, the post-modernist theorists and other petty-bourgeois intellectuals who would have us think that we've reached some type of "post-racialism" and that therefore it's ok to paint oneself in black-face for example, or dress up as your favorite Latino stereotype for Halloween because "race" relations in the United $tates have never been better. And the hystory of segregation is better forgotten. Yes "race" relations in the United $tates have changed profoundly, but let's not get it twisted, segregation was ended and civil rights were won exactly because of the strong national liberation movements and the threat of armed struggle that underlined the Black, [email protected], Boriqua and First Nation power movements of the 1960s and 70s. What humyn dignity we have today is not owed to concessions and benevolence on the part of the oppressor nation and their power structure. Rather they are rights won by revolutionaries and masses before us; as there are no "rights," only power struggles.
Pigs almost always walk away with a slap on the wrist for abuses of power and attempted murder incidents such as the one in New Mexico, so let's not start believing that just because that shooting was caught on video it's gonna mean a conviction equaling the ones doled out to the Black and Brown in North America on a daily basis. If we want justice, we better go get justice and not expect it's gonna be given to us.
Much has been said recently about the overtly racist remarks made by one of the contestants on the "Big Brother" reality show. Viewers were shocked at the nerve of some of the show's participants, not only in the fact that they would say such things, but in the contestants' blatantly unapologetic attitude afterwards. After all, this is the 21st century, and according to some, we have moved beyond those inconsistencies in Amerika's past which had previously kept her from fulfilling the promise of its ethos. Most Amerikans (white people in particular) like to believe that although things like slavery and segregation are all a part of our nasty past we should all just forget and move on from this shameful hystory. Surely the United $tates has made great strides when it comes to "race relations," and Amerikans of all colors have never experienced a more collective prosperity than they do today, never mind the previously unthinkable: a Black man in the White House.
So why then does racism continue to exist? More importantly, how do we eradicate it? To properly answer these questions we must take it back to where it all began, and for this we'll have to revisit some ugly truths.
Origins of Racism: Connections to Capitalism
People forget that Amerika is a nation of settlers founded on genocide, slavery and annexation. This oppressive nation-building formula includes the more subtle forms of national oppression and the many different ways they are institutionalized and manifested in our society. One particularly malevolent form of national oppression, which most of us are all too familiar with, is of course racism and the more pernicious racial ideology from which it stems. But racism isn't simply some oppressive philosophical dogma utterly disconnected from the real world. Rather, racism and racial ideologies are direct products of national oppression, which is engendered by society based on property relations and the division of labor produced therein, which in turn has influenced how humyn beings have come to interact with each other in the struggle between the global "haves" and "have nots." In short, racism has not been around forever. As a matter of fact, the very concept of "race" didn't even exist prior to the 16th century. Racism and racial ideologies have only been around so long as capitalism itself has been around. The concept of "race" developed alongside the rise of modern society and not as usually believed as a remnant of the irrational and dark Middle Ages. What's more, the concept of "race" has been directly linked back to the primitive accumulation phase of capitalism, which is itself grounded in the first rape and plunder of Africa and the Americas. This primitive accumulation phase is clearly explained by radical eco-feminist and author Maria Mies when she stated that:
"Before the capitalist mode of production could establish and maintain itself as a process of extended reproduction of capital - driven by the motor of surplus value production - enough capital had to be accumulated to start this process. The capital was largely accumulated in the colonies between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most of the capital was not accumulated by merchant capitalists but largely by way of brigandage, piracy, forced and slave labor."(1) And furthermore, "One could say that the first phase of the primitive accumulation was that of merchant and commercial capital ruthlessly plundering and exploiting the colonies' human and natural wealth..."(1)
What should be kept in mind here is that as feudalism disintegrated and capitalism came on the scene the common people, the peasants and the soldiers, needed to be reassured that what they were doing to the people of the colonies was not only in the beneficiary population's interest but the interest of the colonized as well. The European masses also needed to be taught that the colonized were less than humyn so as to discourage any feelings of solidarity amongst the oppressed. Hence, the racial ideology was borne, which wasn't just about the innate ignorance and stupidity of the colonized, but of their innate treacherousness and savagery as well.
Examples of Racism in National Oppression, Yesterday and Today
Racism as a building block for the rise of the modern western world was as indispensable for that society as it is to the continuing subjugation of nations and the integrity of the First World today. Testimony to this is the way that the people of Islam have been demonized as "dark" and "backward" by the "civilized" west who sees itself as "exceptional." Thus the role that racism has played in gaining public support for the current wars of conquest is undeniable. One need only examine how Muslims, who were Amerikan citizens, were vilified and attacked by settler violence following the retaliatory attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon under the guise of "Amerikan Patriotism." The conscious connection of these actions to the collective white history of colonialism in Africa is manifested in the term "sand nigger." What this "Amerikan Patriotism" really translates into is a special brand of oppressor nation chauvinism, and a vehicle for white power in the 21st century. It is particularly popular and appealing to [email protected] and New Afrikans who think they can fully integrate into Amerika by becoming agents of imperialism and uniting with the oppressor against the people of the Third World.
Therefore the revolutionary character of militant Islam, seen when it is waging war for the independence of Muslims from U.$. imperialism, should be supported by the oppressed nation lumpen as it is objectively an anti-imperialist struggle despite the reactionary views of those leading the struggles, whether it's Al Qaeda or Bashar al-Assad and their associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism. The struggle of the West and their "democratic" running dogs in the region strengthen the victory of imperialism. Real communists know that there are only two sides to a battle, therefore it is our duty to unite all who can be united in the camp of the oppressed and build a United Front against the imperialists and their racist backers! In his day, Stalin had to combat those promoting a "third way" between the socialist camp and the imperialists, pointing out that those who broke away from the Soviet Union inherently joined the imperialist system, becoming victims of it. The lack of a socialist camp today does not change the bankruptcy of the third-way idealists. Revisionists today point to the forces waging war in the Middle East and call them the "Two Outmodeds" and are peddling a third way out for the oppressed. However, this third way out is itself reactionary and anti-revolutionary, and if upheld will in fact reinforce the very same imperialist structure it pretends to be against, by weakening national unity of the oppressed. This is one lesson we take from the theory and practice of United Front in the Chinese war of liberation against Japan.
Racism as Pseudo-Science and Glossing Over of the National Question
Purveyors of racial ideology fancy themselves as being backed by science, and indeed there is a "science" to racism, it's called eugenics and it stresses the genetic makeup of people as determinant of their "natural" abilities and inclinations. Eugenics was developed as justification for the oppression and enslavement of non-white people and outlaws alike. It was, however, thoroughly criticized and debunked by the wider scientific community for, among other things, not being an objective and quantifiable method of analysis of the humyn species. While most people today have hardly heard of eugenics it was certainly popular back when England had stretched the tentacles of the British empire (forerunner to U.$. imperialism) all over the Third World, while here in Amerika the slave owning south was likewise using it for the continuing oppression and enslavement of the New Afrikan nation.
The lack of scientific relationship to biology since there is only the human race.
The creation of categories of inferior and superior based on arbitrary characteristics and definitions.
The creation and perpetuation of a system of oppression of the "inferior" group in all aspects.
The re-enforcement of a relative differential in treatment - and it's ideological justification between those considered inferior and those considered superior.
The use of race as a principal means for social control.
Rendering irrelevant the experience and viewpoint of the subordinated population except and insofar as interpreted by dominant populations. This specifically has been applied to African descendants, Indigenous peoples, Asians, and Latinos, those usually referred to as "people of color."(2)
Author Bill Fletcher, to whom the above is attributed, explains: "Race is, then, not a state of mind, but a socio-political reality. Even though there is no scientific basis for race, it occupies a real space and the institutions of the racial-capitalist society reinforce this reality every day."(2)
We'd also add that the false concept of "race" is a social construct originally based on power struggles between humyns in the pre-capitalist era of slavery, and it has done much to gloss over the fact that the oppressed internal nations of [email protected] and New Afrikans are separate nations from the Amerikan nation (white settler-state), with separate hystories distinctly their own. Therefore we speak of nations and nationalities where most people speak of "race," in order to refer to a group of people who share a common language, culture, territory and economy. The concept of nations is thus more accountable to hystory and is firmly grounded in material reality. (See "Marxism and the National Question" by J.V. Stalin.)
Methods for Resolving the Principal Contradiction
Despite the fact that the concept of race has been repeatedly disproven, proponents of racial ideology and the national oppression it engenders (and vice versa) hold steady to their un-scientific beliefs. And to a certain extent this is fine. They have their beliefs and prejudices, but we have science! We know where they stand and we know that the oppressed people of the world will not sit idly by but will take up armed struggle against the imperialists to impose the will of the people on today's oppressor nations. What isn't fine however are the so-called allies of the oppressed nations within the Amerikan "Left" who mistakenly call themselves communist yet go about espousing the concept of "race." Whether they are speaking about the common cause of all the "races" that are equally oppressed by capitalism-imperialism, or whether they are agitating around the "race issue" here in Amerika, they're of no great help. They are immediately caught in the irrevocable trap of idealism, and that is no attitude for a communist to have. First, these idealists objectively hurt the revolutionary movement within U.$. borders by elevating the problem of "race" to that of principal contradiction when in fact there is no problem of race. There is a problem of imperialism and national oppression. Secondly, they deny that the principal contradiction is imperialism vs. the oppressed nations by emphatically denying that there are any other nations in the United $tates besides Amerika. Some have opportunistically come to acknowledge New Afrika, while denying other nations' existence, not because they are dialectical materialists, but because they're focused on pulling numbers to their side. Lastly, by denying the concept of nations and national liberation and instead focusing on multi-racial unity they deny the theories and practice of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, as well as the revolutionary movements they spearheaded and the many national liberation movements that followed in their traditions.
Racism in the United $tates or any other place in the world will not be wiped from the earth solely by educating it out of existence, but by getting rid of the many material conditions and relations from which it springs. Racism is a product of national oppression, hence we must focus on uniting the oppressed nations for their own liberation from this jailhouse of nations that is the United $tates. Only then will we seriously be able to talk about combatting racism as a backward idea from another period of history.
The Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO), has been actively involved in the ideological struggle with regard to the national identity (nationality) of descendant people of Afrikan slaves since our founding. We take this opportunity to once again contribute to this critical debate.
Our struggle in this country has always had two major political tendencies - one for independence and the other for integration. The nationality debate has been part and partial of this struggle.
When people refer to their nationality, they are informing you of what nation they belong to. Some of the characteristics that define a nation are: a common historical experience, common language, culture, territory (land) and economic life. Our Afrikan ancestors landed on these shores as Ashanti, Ibo, Fula, Moors, etc. We didn't have a collective identity, language, culture, tradition, etc. But thru our collective oppression and our collective resistance to that oppression, we developed a collective language, culture, and so on in the southern part of what is now known as the U$A. We had developed into a "new" Afrikan people. A people who are separate and distinct from all other people on planet Earth. Thus, we claim the national identity of New Afrikan and claim as our national territory the states Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Our national territory has been named the Republic of New Afrika.
BORO upholds the usage of New Afrikan as opposed to "Black" and "African-American." "Black" implies the fictitious categorization of the term "race." African-American implies that we have fully integrated into this country as full citizens.
We do not identify ourselves as "Amerikan" because "America" is the Euro-Amerikan (so-called white) nation. That is why we spell Amerika with a "K" instead of a "C," to signify that "America" is an illegitimate nation of European settlers. We use the "K" instead of a "C" in spelling "Afrika," to distinguish ourselves from the neo-colonial and petty-bourgeois elements within our own nation.
Nationalism is about ideology and politics, not "color" or "race." BORO upholds the Huey P. Newton line that "there are two kinds of nationalism: revolutionary nationalism and reactionary nationalism. Revolutionary nationalism is first dependent upon a people's revolution with the end result being the people in power. Therefore, to be a revolutionary nationalist you would by necessity have to be a socialist. If you are a reactionary nationalist you are not a socialist and your goal is the oppression of the people."
BORO recognizes that what you say and what you do is a reflection of who you are. So when we see political elements using the terms "Black" and "African-American," we see you as part of the reactionary-bourgeois elements within our nation. We see you as a wanna-be American who is misleading those of our people who have less political awareness and consciousness.
New Afrikan is a clear distinction from all other political trends within our nation, and must be upheld by all those who are a part of the struggle for land, independence and socialist development. Terminology is critical to identity. New Afrikan and the political ideology behind this term is revolutionary nationalist. Black and African-American is about integration and assimilation.
"Some people talk about a 'nation' but really don't wanna be one (independent), as evidenced by their efforts to crawl back on the plantation. How can we tell? You can identify those trying to crawl onto the plantation by the way they identify themselves. i.e. Blacks, Afro-Amerikans, Afrikan-Amerikans, ethnic group, minority nationality, national minority, under class - anything and everything except New Afrikans, an oppressed nation. Amerikkka is the plantation, and continuing to identify yourself within the Amerikkkan context is evidence of the colonial (slave) mentality. Ain't no two ways about it."(1)
New Afrikan is our national identity. New Afrika is our national territory which is currently held in colonial bondage by the United $nakes of Amerikkka. Ours is a struggle to free our land, independence and socialism.
Tacloban, the Philippines, an island devastated by a recent typhoon, shows the contrasts between wealth and poverty, and underscores the reality that "natural" disasters are not natural at all. People in First World countries have the infrastructure, resources and response systems in place to save lives that are lost in the Third World when the same disasters hit.
Overall the Philippines is a poor country; in 2012 there were 15 provinces with over 40% of the population below the poverty threshold.(1) While not in one of these 15 provinces, the government reports 32% of people in Leyte (Tacloban's province) are below the poverty line.(2) These people, living below the poverty line, had an income of less than $179/month for a family of five. A third of Tacloban's houses have wooden exterior walls and one in seven have grass roofs.(3) In these conditions, it is no surprise that a typhoon could wreak such havoc in Tacloban.
Bodies of the dead are rotting in the streets as aid fails to reach those devastated by the storm. There is no clean water and little food. Yet the Philippines is a country frequently hit by severe storms, with about 20 typhoons a year, and this storm was identified well in advance. Both these conditions should engender preparedness on the part of the government. However, in the Philippines disaster preparation and relief are delegated to local governors without a strong central leadership. Some services are more effectively delivered on a large scale. This is one area where we can show obviously that communism has a better solution than the individualism of capitalism. Where central control will lead to more efficient solutions, a communist-led government would not hesitate to take that control. But capitalism is not focused on serving the people, it is focused on maximizing profits and power for the few. And these profits result in deaths from malnutrition, military aggression, lack of health care, and "natural" disasters. As long as the imperialists retain their power and wealth, they don't mind tens of millions of preventable deaths a year.
In an interesting historical connection, Imelda Marcos, wife of the former president of the Philippines, is from Tacloban. The family of Imelda Marcos dominated local politics for years; she herself held a congressional seat in the 1990s. Imelda's husband, Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled in the Philippines from 1965-1986 with the support of the U.$. government, embezzled billions of dollars in public funds while in power. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) waged revolutionary armed struggle against the Marcos regime, growing in strength during the Marcos dictatorship. In the end, when Marcos's demise was inevitable, the United $tates stepped in to have a role in the change of government, turning on Marcos and backing Corazon Aquino. Her family legacy lives on today as her son Benigno Aquino holds the President's office. Unfortunately, the popular movement that forced Marcos out did not go further than installing another imperialist puppet. While the communist movement was strong, it was not yet strong enough to lead the people to force the U.$. imperialists out, leaving them to play a dominating role in the country's politics and economics to this day.(4)
This is the backdrop for the reported six warships the Amerikans sent to the Philippines last week, with more than 80 fighter jets and 5,000 navy soldiers.(5) Today the United $tates is taking advantage of the disaster in the Philippines to increase military presence, while playing the hero. As reported in a CPP press release:
"The US government is militarizing disaster response in the Philippines, in much the same way that the US militarized disaster response in Haiti in the 2010 earthquake," said the CPP. The high-handed presence of US armed troops in Haiti has been widely renounced. The US government has since maintained its presence in Haiti...
"What the disaster victims need urgently are food, water and medical attention, not US warships bringing in emergency rations to justifty their armed presence in Philippine sovereign waters," pointed out the CPP. "If the US government were really interested in providing assistance to countries who have suffered from calamities, then it should increase its funds to civilian agencies that deal in disaster response and emergency relief, not in fattening its international military forces and taking advantage of the people's miseries to justify their presence," added the CPP.(5)
Much of the press is quiet about the ongoing war in the Philippines between the U.$. puppet regime and the CPP-led New People's Army (NPA), as well as other liberation forces in different regions of the islands. But it has been brought up in the Filipino press to spread propaganda about NPA soldiers attacking government relief efforts. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) have denounced these lies pointing out that the location of the attack was not in an area where relief efforts were needed. The CPP reiterated that "NPA units in areas ravaged by the recent super typhoon Yolanda are currently engaged in relief and rehabilitation efforts assisting local Party branches and revolutionary mass organizations in mobilizing emergency supply for disaster victims." Shortly thereafter a ceasefire was declared on behalf of the NPA in order to focus on relief efforts.
The liberation struggle has long been connected to the protection of the natural resources of the islands that the imperialist countries continue to extract for great profits off the backs of the Filipino proletariat.
The storm has also received a lot of attention at a climate change summit in Poland where Filipino officials have begun a hunger strike to attempt to force "meaningful" change in relation to energy consumption. Climate change has been predicted to cause more extreme weather conditions, and this recent massive typhoon is just another possible indicator that that is happening. Yet, as international summits continue, little change is made in the over-consumption of the imperialist nations driving this disaster.
As many in the Filipino countryside have already recognized, the only solution to environmental destruction and disasters is an end to capitalism. With a rational system that puts the needs of the people over the goal of profits, we can build infrastructure suited to the environmental conditions, set up emergency response systems that provide fast and effective support, and plan consumption in a way that does not undercut the very natural systems that we live in and depend on.
MIM(Prisons) took up the debate over the use of the term "New Afrikan" at our January congress this year. We have historically used the term "Black" interchangeably with "New Afrikan," but had received a proposal from a comrade to use the term "New Afrikan" to the exclusion of "Black," only using "Black" like we would "Hispanic," when context requires.
MIM took up this question of the terms "Black" and "New African" back in 2001 in MIM Theory 14 when it published a letter from a RAIL comrade (RC) proposing use of "New African." In that letter, the RC proposed that "Use of the term New African is waging ideological struggle to establish a national identity." S/he goes on to explain that "New African implies the identity of a national territory - the Republic of New Africa" while the term "Black" "cannot and will not be distinguished from integrationist, assimilationist, and other petty bourgeois reactionary agendas." MIM responded to this pointing out that the term "African-American" has emerged to distinguish the petty bourgeois integrationists. MIM's main complaint with the term "New African" was cultural nationalism:
"What makes including the word 'African' in the term relevant? Culture. That is, it is not the land in Africa that makes Blacks in North America a nation, nor the economy, language, and so on. It is the cultural history that survived the genocidal purges of the Middle Passage and slavery that links Blacks to a historical African culture. This is completely true, and this connection is obviously important. However, for the definition of the nation it plays into cultural nationalism to give this aspect too prominent a role. In fact, as MIM has argued, this term has been used most often by people with cultural nationalist tendencies. All the arguments for stressing the African link are cultural, and therefore the tendency of this term is toward cultural nationalism, which is a serious danger from the petty bourgeoisie and comprador bourgeoisie as well."(2)
MIM(Prisons) has researched the use of the term "New Afrikan" and concluded that while there may be cultural nationalism associated historically with some who use the term, overall today it is being used by the most progressive elements of the revolutionary nationalist movement within the United $tates. While we have some reservations about the ties to Africa promoted by some, we have concluded that "New Afrikan" is a better term to represent the Black nation than "Black," which has strong racial connotations and is generally not associated with a nation. "New Afrikan" is a term specific to the historical context of African-descended people in North America and so better represents our line on this oppressed nation within U.$. borders.
Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO), New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP), New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), New Afrikan Collective Think Tank (NCTT) and the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM) all use the term "New Afrikan." Except for NAIM, these are all prison-based organizations. NAIM was the progenitor of the term "New Afrikan."
NAIM has written: "to call oneself New Afrikan, at this early stage, is to be, by and large, about what We in the NAIM are about: Land, Independence and Socialism." They lay claim to the term: "We are the ones who led the ideological struggle for the usage of New Afrikan as our national identity (nationality) over 'black' as a racial identity."(1)
One argument NAIM uses for the term New Afrikan is: "...colonized Afrikans, who evolved into New Afrikans here, were stolen to be used as a permanent proletariat. The New Afrikan nation was born as a working-class nation of permanent proletarians. The fact that We weren't paid does not preclude the fact that We were workers. What do they think so-called 'slavery' (colonialism) entails if not work?"(1)
On this last point, MIM(Prisons) disagrees that New Afrikans are a permanent proletariat. As MIM laid out and we continue to expand on, the vast majority of U.$. citizens are part of the labor aristocracy, not the proletariat. This does not necessarily negate the use of the term "New Afrikan," but we want to be clear where we differ with NAIM on the class makeup of the nation today.
The NABPP promotes Pan-Afrikanism, promoting the common interests of the various oppressed nations of Africa and extending it to the so-called African diaspora of New Afrikans in the United $tates and other imperialist countries. This is one of the pitfalls of the term New Afrikan: it can lead people to associate imperialist-country Blacks with the oppressed nations of Africa. While most Blacks were originally brought over as slaves and certainly were strongly connected to their home continent at first, we see a very distinct oppressed nation that has developed within U.$. borders in the hundreds of years since the slaves were first forced to North America.
We do not use the term "New Afrikan" to promote pan-Africanism among U.$.-resident peoples. New Afrikans have historical ties to Africa, but today New Afrikans have far more in common with, and are more strongly connected to, other nations within U.$. borders. New Afrikans are closer to Amerikans in economic interests and national identity than they are to Egyptians or Somalis, and will certainly lead any pan-African movement astray and likely sell out the African oppressed nations.
We have not seen a clear rationale for the distinction between "New African" and "New Afrikan," but some use the letter "k" in "Afrika" to distinguish themselves from the colonial spelling. According to a writer in MIM Theory 14, the term "New Afrikan" originated in 1968 when the First New Afrikan government conference was held by the PGRNA (Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika).(3) We have adopted this spelling, as it is used by the progressive elements of the nation, but welcome input on the relevance of this spelling distinction.
The battle against torture in California prisons is heading for a breaking point with unity running high among prisoners and resistance to change stiffening within the state. Since the third round of strikes ended in early September the promised state legislature hearing around the Security Housing Units (SHU) occurred and Pelican Bay SHU representatives met with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials. Yet the actions taken by the state in response to the protests have been the same old political repression that the SHU was created to enforce, not ending conditions of torture. One comrade from Corcoran reports:
I read in your latest publication that you guys hadn't had any news of the concessions Corcoran SHU made in order to bring our hunger strike to an end. For the most part, the demands made here are not even worth articulating, as they don't incorporate, in any way, the push towards shutting these human warehouses down completely.
The demands put forth here are simple creature comforts, which have not even been met by the administration, to pacify those who seem to have accepted these conditions of confinement.
Worse than the petty reforms, is the blatant political repression of strikers just as the world's attention is on them. The state knows that if it can get away with that now, then it has nothing to worry about. As another comrade from Corcoran SHU reports:
I stopped eating state food on 8 July 2013 and as a retaliatory measure I and a bunch of other prisoners were transferred from the Corcoran SHU to the Pelican Bay SHU. Only the thing is, when we got to Pelican Bay on 17 July 2013 we were placed in the ASU instead of the SHU, which made it so that we would have a lot less privileges and we couldn't even get a book to read. So we were just staring at the wall. On 5 August 2013 others and myself were moved to the SHU where we were again just staring at the wall. On 7 September 2013 we were again moved back to the ASU to sit there with nothing. On 24 September 2013 I was moved back to the SHU and I just received all my property last week.
So we were moved around and denied our property for 3 months or more. But that seems to be it right now and I can finally settle in. But I'm telling you that was a long 3 months. Other than that no new changes or anything else has happened around here. I did, however, receive a 115 rules violation report for the hunger strike, along with everyone else who participated, and in it it charges that I hunger striked as part of some gang stuff so it was gang activity. This is ironic since the hunger strike was about the CDCR misusing the validation process and what is considered gang activity. So now that 115 can and will be used as a source item of gang activity to keep me in the SHU longer.
While that comrade was sent to Pelican Bay, our comrade below is being "lost" in Enhanced Outpatient Program (EOP). Organizing in California has gotten so advanced that the CDCR is moving people out of Administrative Segregation to isolate them. But with a third of the people actively participating in protests, there is no way for them to brush this movement under the rug.
I am writing to say that it's been over 5 weeks since our peaceful protest was suspended. I am a petitioner in the Corcoran Administrative Segregation Unit 2011 strike and am a participant and a petitioner in this 8 July 2013 one. I have been moved around and retaliated against. I went from ASU-1 to Cor 3B02 on 24 July 2013. I was moved back to ASU-1 on 16 August 2013 and then on 19 August 2013 I was moved to where I am currently housed in isolation with no access to anything although I am not "EOP." I am being housed against my will and the correctional officers here tell me I don't belong here but that they can't do anything because it's above their pay level. No one seems to know anything about why I am being housed here but all come to the same conclusion: that someone above them has me housed here. I'd like to know if there is anyone out there that you may have heard of that find themselves in similar situations or am I the only one?
We haven't heard anything yet. But don't let their games get to you comrade.
Another indication of the strength of change in California comes from a story being circulated by representatives of the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective. Multiple versions have been circulating about a historic bus ride where these "worst of the worst" from "rival gangs" were left unshackled for an overnight bus ride. It was reported that not one of the O.G.'s slept a wink that night, but neither did any conflicts occur. At least some of these men self-admittedly would have killed each other on sight in years past.(1) This amazing event symbolizes the extent to which this has become about the imprisoned lumpen as a whole, and not about criminal interests.
The CDCR keeps telling the public that they are instituting reforms, while in reality they are torturing people for being "gang members" for reasons such as protesting torture. Outside supporters can up the pressure to end this system of repression by letting them know that we know what they're doing, that their words mean nothing, and that going on hunger strike is not a crime. There is a campaign to call the CDCR out on their hypocrisy by contacting:
M.D. Stainer, Director Division of Adult Institutions Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation P.O. Box 942883 Sacramento CA. 94283 (916) 445-7688 [email protected]
As we reiterated last issue, it is prisoners who determine the fate of the prison movement. And the only way prisoners can actually win is by building independent power. As long as this is a campaign for certain reforms, the state will go back to business as usual as soon as the outside attention fades. Torture cannot be reformed, and neither can an exploitative economic system that demands it. Of course prisoners can't end imperialism alone, but wherever we are we must focus on building cadre level organizations that can support independent institutions of the oppressed.
"The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the Constitution of the United States only requires a state to provide its inmates with access to a law library or access to persons trained in the law. Bounds v. Smith, 40 U.S. 817, 97, S. Ct. 1491, 52 L. Ed. 2d 72 (1977). The choice of which alternative to provide lies with the state, not with the inmate. Connecticut has chosen to rely on access to persons trained in the law in order to comply with the requirements of Bounds." - CT DOC form letter
One of the services that the Connecticut Department of Corrections offers to prisoners is the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services at Yale University. In a letter dated 17 November 2012 that organization responded to a comrade stating:
We received your letter requesting assistance. Unfortunately, this office no longer has the resources to provide information or representation to such requests.
This is similar to the situation in North Carolina where the state contracts with the completely useless North Carolina Prisoner Legal Service, Inc. But, as we know, in other states where law libraries are provided, the resources in those libraries are also grossly inadequate. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton's Prisoners Litigation Reform Act seriously hampered the ability of prisoners to get their grievances heard in U.$. courts. For those interested in this law we recommend Mumia Abu Jamal's book Jailhouse Lawyers.
Our response to all of this is two-pronged. The main lesson is that legal battles cannot win prisoner rights under imperialism. As Mumia exposes in his book, the belief that they can leads hard-working jailhouse lawyers to literally go crazy. To win, we must organize oppressed people to establish a joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations over the former oppressors. Under proletarian leadership, exploitation and oppression will become the biggest crimes, and prisons will become places for education and re-socialization rather than torture and isolation.
Our second prong is our Serve the People Prisoners' Legal Clinic. This is our short-term strategy. We know that legal information is difficult to obtain in the current system, and that providing access to this information in a useful way helps oppressed people in prison to survive this system. Just be careful that our legal work does not help prop up the very system that oppresses us, as Mumia warns. If you want to help prepare and share legal guides for anti-imperialist jailhouse lawyers write in and ask to work with the Prisoners' Legal Clinic.