This is a response to the recent article on Prop. 57 organizing. While I understand how this could be a tool for comrades to organize with, at the same time there are plenty of programs here at Folsom that are doing the whole time reduction program. For example, there are a few of my homies that have gotten 1/4 of their time knocked off after GED/College degree. And they are not white, rich, or snitches as the headline suggests.
Now one thing that we can definitely push is for youth offenders to be able to fit the criteria of Prop. 57. Because that is definitely something us under SB260-261 do not fit into. Not to say that the carrot of reform is something we bit into with high hopes, but it can most definitely be something to put into motion.
I just feel the headline stating that only snitches and privileged are getting good time in New Folsom EOP/GP could be a turn off. It will move/push people in the wrong direction. We can use this, let's just not label solid comrades snitches on paper when organizing.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We thank this comrade for this criticism and correction. While we did print a couple responses from USW comrades in ULK 60 citing instances of good time used to favor certain prisoners, we should not paint with such a broad brush to imply that anyone getting good time is in that boat.
It does seem that access to info on Prop. 57 is also imbalanced. As we are still getting people asking for information, while others say the state is on top of it. Strategically, we seek to build Serve the People programs where we can provide for the needs of the masses better than the state. Prop. 57 is not a place we can do a better job than what the state is doing. Providing books that serve the interests of oppressed nations, for example, is. We agree with this comrade that we cannot hope for reformism to change things, but we can fight for winnable battles that help us move in the direction of revolutionary change.
Addendum: The politics of Prop. 57 also overlap with the focus of this issue of Under Lock & Key. The CDCR tried to exclude anyone convicted of a crime that required being registered as a sex offender from Prop. 57 benefits. But only certain crimes in the sex offender classification are also classified as violent felonies in the California Penal Code. In February, in a suit brought by the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, a judge ruled that the CDCR was overstretching the law, and that limits on Prop. 57 must be applied only to those convictions deemed "violent" in the California Code. (16 February 2018, Seth Augenstein, California's Prop 57 Sex Offender Release Regs Are Void, Court Rules)
This is my end-of-year report on our MIM Grievance Campaign. We did one on the "unlocks" here, and we're currently working on the issue of showers. Due to the California drought they claim that we are still in a drought and therefore can only shower on Tuesday and Thursday. Even then there is no hot water so we are showering in ICE cold water. This is in spite of the fact that we are in a medical facility and most of us are older prisoners.
The temp has dropped to 34 degrees in the morning and we have been in these conditions now for over a month. Enclosed please find the grievances.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Comrades at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility have been pursuing these issue through 602 appeals forms and subsequent appeals. After receiving a response of "partially granted" there was no actual change in conditions and they began utilizing the grievance petition for California. They have done a good job documenting the process, citing case law of Armstrong vs. Brown and the 8th and 14th Amendment.
Comrades in California and other states can write in to get a copy of a grievance petition to use as an organizing tool to bring people together around conditions that are not being addressed at your prison.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation depicts the struggles
(if they can be called that) of Clark Griswold. It is Clark's quest to
have the perfect Christmas for eir family: spouse Ellen and children
Audrey and Rusty. Most of the first act of the film is dedicated to
comedically exaggerated petty-bourgeois scenarios in this vein: getting
the right tree, putting up the Christmas lights, shopping for gifts, and
trying to keep the peace among family members (much extended family
arrives in the form of both sets of grandparents, Ellen's cigar-smoking
uncle Lewis and senile aunt Bethany, and Clark's redneck cousin Eddie,
accompanied by eir spouse, children and dog). Christmas books and movies
have long been vessels for anti-capitalist messages, even if they are
tainted by idealism and economism: from Ebenezer Scrooge being
frightened into giving concessions to the proletariat in A Christmas
Carol(1), to the anti-imperialist solidarity of Whoville in How
the Grinch Stole Christmas(2), to the anti-militarism parable of
A Christmas Story(3). And a superficial "reading" of Christmas
Vacation suggests that it may not only follow the same paradigm but
even exceed these works and act as an inspiration for communist
revolution (spoiler alert: the climax of the movie involves the forceful
kidnapping of a member of the bourgeoisie). However, a deeper analysis
reveals that, despite occasional flashes of progressiveness and a candid depiction of the labor aristocracy, the film
does not provide useful guidance for revolution.
Throughout the movie, some potshots are taken at the bourgeoisie, but
nothing too substantial. Clark's next-door yuppie neighbors are depicted
as pretentious snobs, while eir boss is gruff and impersonal. But these
attacks on the bourgeoisie are based on persynal mannerisms, not
economic grounds. Clark is clearly a privileged member of the labor
aristocracy. Ellen doesn't seem to work, and Clark makes enough to
afford a couple of cars and a nice house, which ey bedecks with an
over-the-top lighting display. Clark does not even seem to work hard to
enjoy these things. In the whole movie, ey is shown at work in only
three brief scenes. And in none of those scenes is ey actually engaged
in labor. In the first, ey is chatting at the watercooler. In the
second, ey drops off a gift and unsuccessfully attempts to ingratiate
emself with eir boss. In the third, ey is sitting in eir office, looking
over some plans for a persynal swimming pool. So Clark does not appear
to work that hard, but ey does mention several innovations ey has made
for eir company, which seems to be a manufacturer of chemical food
additives although no manufacturing is ever shown onscreen.
Could Clark's mental labor as a chemist still be exploited by the
bourgeoisie proper? The answer appears to be no: Clark is planning to
pay for eir swimming pool with eir end-of-year bonus. Said bonus
represents compensation for the value ey has produced in excess of eir
salary and thus precludes em from being truly proletarian. Indeed, eir
entire compensation is likely funded by the manufacture of chemicals ey
has designed, presumably by Third World workers. Thus, Clark occupies
the classic position of a labor aristocrat: someone who may be slightly
exploited by the bourgeoisie, but who ultimately receives compensation
in excess of the value of eir labor, as a beneficiary of imperialist
superexploitation of the Third World proletariat.
As the film progresses, the minor and mainly apolitical subplots fade to
the periphery (after some technical difficulties, Clark's light show
wows the family and is never mentioned again), and a political thread
assumes prominence. As it turns out, Clark is really counting on eir
Christmas bonus. In order to expedite the construction of eir pool,
Clark has put down a deposit and written a check that eir bank account
can't cover. Clark is confident that eir performance will earn em a
sizable bonus, but that confidence begins to wane as the days go by
without word from the company. Finally, a messenger arrives on Christmas
Eve with an envelope. Before opening it, Clark, apparently on the knife
edge between luxury and financial ruin, expresses both eir anxiety
regarding eir solvency and eir hope that the check will be large enough
to not only cover the cost of the pool but also airfare to fly over all
the extended family present (ten people!) to enjoy it when it is built.
To much fanfare, Clark opens the envelope and finds that, to eir dismay,
it only contains a subscription to the Jelly-of-the-Month club, a gift
of nugatory value. Enraged, Clark launches into a tirade denouncing eir
boss's perfidy and angrily expresses eir desire to see eir boss tied up.
Taking Clark's words literally, Eddie slips out, locates Clark's boss
(conveniently, Clark mentioned the neighborhood ey lives in during eir
lengthy monologue), and kidnaps em. Bound, gagged, and festooned with a
large ribbon, ey is Eddie's last-minute Christmas gift to Clark.
There are several issues with this scenario.
First, the stakes are very low. The only thing really at risk is Clark's
bonus. Perhaps ey will have to live without the pool for another year.
Perhaps ey will be charged by the bank for a bounced check. Perhaps ey
will even have to forfeit the deposit ey made. But if Clark is low on
cash, that is a problem of eir own making. We are talking about a persyn
who probably spent over three grand just on the electricity for eir
250,000-bulb Christmas light display.(4) If Clark misses out on eir
bonus, what is the big deal? Ey might have to pawn eir lights and forgo
the spectacular light show next year. Eir family might even have to take
fewer of their legendary vacations. But it seems unlikely that they are
in danger of going hungry or having to sell the house or even the car.
Perhaps the aspect of Clark's misfortune which ey most keenly feels —
and which is most relevant to Amerikan audiences — is what it
represents. Denied an explicit share in eir surplus value (ignoring, of
course, that ey still receives a salary of international superprofits),
Clark is confronted by the prospect of eir potential proletarianization.
Scarier than any Ghost of Christmas, the spectre of economic forces
strikes fear into eir heart. Rather than act constructively, however,
Clark, true to eir petty-bourgeois nature, reacts by pointlessly venting
eir rage at eir family. Ey also attempts to ignore the problem by
frantically following family Christmas rituals (providing time in the
narrative for Eddie to complete eir mission with eir absence unnoticed).
The proletariat of the 19th Century may have had to turn to the hard
drug of religion — "the opiate of the masses" (5) — to cope with its
actual oppression, but in Clark's case, nothing so strong is required,
just what might be called the eggnog of the masses: a reading of "The
Night Before Christmas" and also a Tylenol, washed down by a few cups of
So, the stakes are low, but this movie is a comedy. Perhaps the events
depicted can be seen as a microcosm of the proletarian struggle. Would a
mere amplification of things produce a progressive view of international
economic exploitation? Sadly, no. Clark is a member of the labor
aristocracy, with an imperialist, petty-bourgeois, even bourgeois
mindset. Even eir most innocuous actions are tainted with oppression.
Eir actions throughout the film appear to be a re-enactment of
Amerikkkan history and atrocities, down to a roughly chronological
progression from European colonization to Amerikkkan imperialism in the
Pacific. The movie opens with Clark driving eir family to the woods to
chop down a Christmas tree instead of buying one, a handy metaphor for
Amerikkkan theft of the land from Indigenous peoples and destruction of
the environment, as well as a reminder that it was the timber of North
America that originally drew the English colonizers. Next, Clark moves
on to gender oppression. In "The Communist Manifesto", Marx and Engels
wrote that the "bourgeois, not content with having the wives and
daughters of their proletarians at their disposal... take the greatest
pleasure in seducing each other's wives."(6) In multiple ways, Clark
displays these bourgeois ambitions, although ey may be considered only
petty-bourgeois due to eir lack of success. First, while shopping for
Christmas gifts, ey flirts and leers at the female salesclerk. Later, ey
has a daydream about eir pool in which the the vision of eir family
playing is replaced by a fantasy of seduction by a womyn who the
soundtrack implies to be an Indigenous Hawaii'an, thus tying together
the gender and national strands of oppression.
Finally, there is Eddie. Despite eir simple appearance, Eddie is the
fulcrum of one of the biggest paradoxes in the film: is ey a force for
revolution or reaction? An uninvited guest, ey seems to be nothing but a
source of problems, but ey ultimately saves the day with eir actions
against the bourgeoisie. Is ey proletarian? Hardly. It is revealed that
ey has been out of work for seven years. Aha! Perhaps ey is part of the
lumpenproletariat. Even if that were true, ey would be part of the First World lumpen and receive a significant benefit from eir position as a resident of the imperialist u.$. Regardless, the facts reveal that Eddie is no
lumpenproletariat hero. First, the reason for eir protracted
unemployment is that ey is holding out for a management position — a
classic petty-bourgeois aspiration. Furthermore, ey mentions that,
despite having had to trade the home for an RV, ey still retains
ownership in a plot of land, a farm and some livestock. Ey is still petty boourgeois, then; one who, despite reduced circumstances, holds on
to a vestige of the family estate. In addition, another troubling aspect
of Eddie's past is offhandedly revealed. Ey mentions that ey has a plate
in eir head, provided by the VA. Therefore, ey is not just a passive
recipient but an active participant in imperialism: one who enjoys the
privilege of free healthcare in exchange for eir role in aiding Amerikan
war crimes. Despite this, ey does fleetingly provide the film with its
only sliver of appreciation for the destruction wrought by capitalism
and u.$. imperialism. While shopping, Eddie asks Clark "Your company
kill off all them people in India not long ago?", referring to the
Bhopal chemical disaster that killed an estimated 16,000 people and
injured as many as half a million more (7,8). "No, we missed out on that
one," Clark dryly responds, and the conversation moves on, presumably
because Eddie doesn't care. Meanwhile, Eddie causes a chemical disaster
of eir own; after emptying the septic tank of eir RV into the sewer,
subsequent scenes feature interstitial shots of a menacing green smoke
rising from the storm drain.
But let's get back to the action. When we left the
Griswolds, Eddie had just marched Clark's boss into the living room.
Ungagged, eir first instinct is to fire Clark and call the cops. But
after all of 30 seconds, ey has a change of heart. Apparently, all that
was needed was a brief speech by Clark with an addendum by Rusty that
withholding bonuses "sucks" to convince Clark's boss to drop all
charges, reinstate the bonuses, and add another 20% to Clark's bonus.
Clark is so overwhelmed that ey faints.
OK, seriously? If a 20% raise was all that was needed to address the
iniquities of capitalism, MIM(Prisons) would disband and recommend you
vote for Sanders instead. Actually, even that would be too radical.
Fight for 15? More like fight for $8.70. Also, some aspects of Clark's
boss's repentance ring false: ey calls Clark "Carl" and refers to em as
the "little people". Has Clark received a permanent gain or is eir
victory a tenuous and insecure one? We bring this up not to suggest
that Amerikan labor aristocrats are truly oppressed, just to point out
the vanity and futility of imperialism: despite afflicting so much
suffering across the Third World, it has failed to completely resolve
the contradiction between workers and bourgeoisie in Amerika.
Basking in their newfound affluence, however petty it may be, the
Griswolds are rudely interrupted by the arrival of the pigs. Usually not
motivated to do much work, the kidnapping of a member of the bourgeoisie
has kicked the pig machine into high gear, and SWAT teams storm the
Griswold home from every conceivable entrance, including several pigs
rappelling through the windows. (Some pigs even kick down the door of
the neighboring house; although this scene was probably meant to provide
some comic relief and comeuppance to the yuppies, it also wouldn't be
the first or the last time that property and lives were endangered by
pigs getting the address wrong). The deference of the pigs to the
bourgeoisie is further underscored by the arrival of the wife of Clark's
boss in a car driven by a persyn whose heavily decorated dress uniform
marks em as the chief of police. This persyn would also be identified by
most viewers, on the basis of eir skin color, as "black". In fact, ey is
the only non-white character with a speaking role in the entire movie.
This detail is significant on several levels. First, the fact that the
Griswolds live in Chicago, a city with substantial New Afrikan and
[email protected] populations, but appear to interact exclusively with white
Amerikkkans represents an likely-inadvertent, but nonetheless true-to-life, depiction of
the highly segregated nature of housing and employment in Chicago.
Second, we must wonder: what was the motivation of the moviemakers in
casting a New Afrikan in this role? It could be mere tokenism, giving
the sole New Afrikan actor a role that is effectively a chauffeur. Or
perhaps they were being ironic, casting a New Afrikan as the head of the
pigs, the institution that has perhaps committed the most violence
against New Afrikans in recent decades. One shudders to think that
perhaps they thought they were being progressive by casting a New
Afrikan in a strategically Euro-Amerikan role and creating the illusion
of an egalitarian, racially-integrated police force. The true
contradiction in Amerikkka is that of nation, not race. Hence, a persyn
who might be labeled as non-white can still, in some cases, manage to
join the Amerikkkan nation and rise to the role of head pig (or even, as
in the case of Barack Obama, war-criminal-in-chief); the situation in
this film, then, seems prescient of the modern-day prominence of sheriff
Clarke of Milwaukee, another midwestern town. Perhaps a Christmas comedy
is the wrong place to look for an inspiring depiction of New Afrikan
revolutionaries, but it is still unfortunate that all we have been given
is a bootlicker to the bourgeoisie.
Many people have been killed by trigger-happy pigs, and a kidnapping on
Christmas Eve seems like the kind of high-stakes situation that would
bring in the pigs with guns blazing, but the predicament faced by the
Griswolds is resolved with miraculous ease. After Clark's boss explains
the situation, everybody relaxes, although Clark's boss is still
admonished all-around for his idea of cutting Christmas bonuses (the
head pig even says that ey'd like to beat em with a rubber hose — a
seemingly progressive action that, due to its focus on individual
retribution, is actually little more than adventurism; and even that
idea comes across as an outburst that is never fulfilled). What about
Eddie's toxic waste spill? An errant match tossed by Uncle Lewis ignites
it, but the resulting explosion only serves to launch a plastic Santa
and reindeer into the air, creating the perfect Christmas tableau in the
sky and prompting a confused Aunt Bethany to spontaneously break into a
rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner". As the Griswolds and the pigs
dance to Christmas songs in the house, Clark stands on the lawn and
basks in eir achievement. "I did it," ey says. The perfect family
But for us communists, things are far from perfect. Any
potentially lumpen characters in the movie, who may have been teetering
between revolution and reaction, have, by the film's end, fallen firmly
on the side of reaction. Everyone else — the labor aristocrats, the
bourgeoisie, pigs — was already there. This movie is best enjoyed not as a blueprint for revolution but as a satire of the Amerikan way of life. It offers hints of Amerikan brutality both domestically and abroad, as well as a depiction of the manner by which government institutions become tools of the bourgeoisie. But most of all, it exposes the reactionary nature of the labor aristocracy: the decadence of its "workers", the hypocrisy of its "morals" and the futility of any "revolutionary" action among the beneficiaries of imperialism.
The brief flicker of revolutionary action that does occur is quickly
extinguished due to its limited scope and unsystematic nature. As Lenin
once said, "When the workers of a single factory or of a single branch
of industry engage in struggle against their employer or employers, is
this class struggle? No, this is only a weak embryo of it" (9). How
ironic then, that on the (probably mythical) day of Jesus' birth, the
embryo of revolution was delivered as a stillbirth. Let us look forward,
then, to December 26: the (real) day of Mao's birth. Beyond eir persynal
achievements, ey stands as a symbol of real revolution. A genuine
proletarian revolution, not a phony one led by Amerikkkan "workers",
promises real solutions to the real problems facing the world: an end to
the insatiable exploitation by capitalists, an end to the callous
destruction of the environment, an end to the violence perpetrated every
day by pigs. When that day comes, the workers of the world will unite
and we can sing the "Internationale" together.
Sadly, we as prisoners, in many instances take the judgment of our enemy, the injustice system, as truth even when knowing first-hand their ability to get a conviction has little to do with facts or justice. This knowledge should be enough that we not begin to persecute or torment any member of the lumpen class based on convictions and charges that derive in these kangaroo courts. The contradiction is that actual violations of this nature by any member of the lumpen class is a violation against us all. I have served justice on a street level against such violators. Yet I am in prison due to a sex crime conviction that was racially motivated. Even when the alleged victim was impeached for lying and video was shown proving my innocence a jury of 12 whites found me guilty of the crime. I have continued to defend my innocence, lead many groups in prison and stayed politically engaged. Yet I have to deal with the stigma that is created by this label. I continue to use my voice to awaken members of the lumpen class about the poisonous beast of capitalism and educate them about the benefits of socialism.
In the book Soul on Ice, Eldridge Cleaver has a chapter called "The Allegory of the Black Eunuchs," which I would advise all revolutionaries to read. Also to all my New Afrikan comrades our politics are clear on this issue as it was dealt with in the Ten Point Program produced by our revolutionary forefathers, The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Point #8 of the program states, "WE want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails."
Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and beyond, commented in the August 2016 issue of Ebony Magazine on p. 109:
"To many people, including Blacks and radical activists at the time, the call for releasing all prisoners was the most controversial tenet of the Black Panther Party's original Ten-Point Program. After all, how could we justify releasing criminals into society?
"For the Panthers, however, it was impossible to separate 'criminals' from the circumstances that criminalized them. Racist police forces, unjust laws, unfair trials and biased juries all made it impossible to determine whether someone was truly guilty or simply the victim of a rigged system. Even those who were guilty, they argued, had their hands forced because of the oppressive conditions of capitalism and White supremacy. Essentially, the question was, How can you blame someone for becoming a thief when he or she doesn't have a fair shot at an honest job with honest pay?"
But the Panther Program did not end with releasing New Afrikan prisoners. Point #9 continues to explain:
"We believe that the courts should follow the United States Constitution so that Black people will receive fair trials. The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives a man a right to be tried by his peer group. A peer is a person from a similar economic, social, religious, geographical, environmental, historical and racial background. To do this the court will be forced to select a jury from the Black community from which the Black defendant came. We have been, and are being, tried by all-White juries that have no understanding of the 'average reasoning man' of the Black community."
Here Huey P. Newton was referring to the tenets of the United $tates Constitution to justify a move towards building independent institutions of the oppressed. Newton was always conscious to not get ahead of the masses, but to lead them towards viable solutions. And the Black Panther Party leadership knew that getting justice for New Afrikans in the United $tates was not viable; that only the New Afrikan nation could apply a just morality in judging the actions of its people in the context of being an internal semi-colony of the United $tates white power structure.
So my conclusion to the sex offender debate for issue 61 of Under Lock & Key is that at no point should we take our enemies word or level of injustice over members of the lumpen class, when those lumpen maintain their innocence. Yet we should stand against these violations if they are knowable facts. We should get to know each member of the oppressed lumpen on a personal and individual basis, while understanding the history of the white supremacist criminal injustice system of labeling political prisoners with these kinds of charges in their effort to get them assassinated by other members of the oppressed. Just think of how we lost big Yogi a year or so ago.
U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revolution in China. There are a number of books available in this country that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda books. Here in the United $tates free speech is reserved for those with money and power.
In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a
battle that MIM(Prisons) and many prisoners waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire prisons (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in educational material, or study courses, or even supply a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.
Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.
We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help us with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.
The Chair of the publications review committee for the VA DOC, Melissa Welch, sent MIM(Prisons) a letter denying ULK 56, and then the next month the same letter denying ULK 57. Both letters cite the same reasons:
"D. Material, documents, or photographs that emphasize depictions or promotions of violence, disorder, insurrection, terrorist, or criminal activity in violation of state or federal laws or the violation of the Offender Disciplinary Procedure.
"F. Material that depicts, describes, or promotes gang bylaws, initiations, organizational structure, codes, or other gang-related activity or association."
Last issue of ULK we reported on the censorship of ULK57 in Pennsylvania. After sending a protest letter to appeal the decision we had a rare victory! From the Policy Office, PA
Department of Corrections:
"This is to notify you that the publication in issue does not violate Department Policy. As such, the decision of the correctional institution is reversed and the inmates in the PA Department of
Corrections will be permitted to receive the publication. The correctional institutions will be notified by the Policy Office of the decision."
If anyone in PA hasn't received ULK 57 yet, let us know and we will send another copy to you.
Pennsylvania SCI-Camp Hill
From a prisoner we were forwarded a notice of incoming publication denial for ULK 57: "create a danger within the context of the correctional facility" p.21, 24
The description quotes sentences that can't be found within ULK including: "PREA system strip searches for harassment in PA", "Black prisoners deserve to retaliate against predominantly white ran system", and "This is a excellent reminder of PA importance of fighting." They are making up text as reasons for censorship in Pennsylvania.
Texas - Bill Clemens Unit
A prisoner forwarded us a denial for ULK 57 "Page 11 contains information that could cause a prison disruption."
In March 2017, our study pack Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party was censored for
"Reason C. Page 9 contains information that could cause a strike or prison disruption."
This adds to the growing list of our most important literature that is banned in the state forever, including Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat and [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlan. We need someone with legal expertise to challenge Texas's policies that allow for publications to be banned forever in the state.
Florida - Santa Rosa Correctional Institution
A prisoner forwarded us a notice of impoundment of ULK 57. The reason cited: "Pages 1, 11, 14, 15, & 17 advocates insurgency and disruption of institutional operations."
We appealed this denial and got a response from Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator for the Florida DOC, reiterating the reasons for impoundment and upholding the denial: "In their regularly scheduled meeting of August 30, 2017 the Literature Review Committee of the Florida Department of Corrections upheld the institution's impoundment and rejected the publication for the grounds stated. This means that issue will not be allowed into our correctional institutions."
Following up on a case printed in ULK 57 regarding Florida's denial of the MIM(Prisons) censorship pack, for no specific reasons. We received a response to our appeal of this case from the same Dean Peterson, Library Services Administrator, named above.
"From the number of the FDC form you reference and your description of what happened it is apparent the institutional mailroom did not handle the Censorship Guide as a publication, but instead handled it in accordance with the Florida Administrative Code rule for routine mail. As such, the item was not impounded, was not posted to the list of impounded publications for any other institution to see, was not referred to the Literature Review Committee for review, and thus does not appear on the list of rejected publications. That means that if the exact same Guide came to any other inmate mailroom staff would look at it afresh. In theory, it could even be allowed into the institution. ...
"The Florida Administrative Code makes no provision for further review."
Florida - Florida State Prison
ULK 58 was rejected for what appears to just be a list of titles of articles, some not even complete:
PGS 6 Liberation schools to organize through the wall (talk about the hunger strikes)
PGS 8 DPRK; White Supremacy's Global Agenda
PGS 11 Case law to help those facing
PGS 19 White and gaining consciousness
Florida - Jefferson Correctional Institution
Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings by James Yaki Sayles was denied to a prisoner at Jefferson Correctional Institution because "inmate has received a second copy of the same edition of this publication violating chapter 33-501.401 (16)(b) and procedure 501.401(7)(d)."
Washington state - Coyote Ridge CC
The invitation to and first assignment for our correspondence introductory study group was rejected by Mailroom Employee April Long for the following reasons:
"Advocates violence against others and/or the overthrow of authority.
Advocates that a protected class or group of individuals is inferior and/or makes such class/group the object of ridicule and/or scorn, and may reasonably be thought to precipitate a violent confrontation between the recipient and a member(s) of the target group. Rejected incoming mailing from MIM. Mailing contains working that appears to be referring to law enforcement as 'pigs' it appears to be ridiculing and scornful. There is also a section in mailing labeled solutions that calls prisoners to take actions against prison industries and gives specific ideas/suggestions. Nothing to forward onto offender."
A recent study assignment for the University of Maoist Thought was also censored at Coyote Ridge. MIM(Prisons) has not yet been informed of this censorship incident by the facility. The study group participant wrote and told us it was censored for being a "copy of copyrighted material."
The material in question was published in 1972 in the People's Republic of China. Not only did that government actively work against capitalist concepts such as copyright, we believe that even by the United $tates' own standards this book should not be subject to censorship.
Clallam Bay CF rejected ULK 58 because: "Newsletter is being rejected as it talks about September 9 events including offenders commencing a hunger strike until equal treatment, retaliation and legal rights issues are resolved."
Coyote Ridge CC rejected ULK 58 for a different set of reasons: "Contains plans for activity that violates state/federal law, the Washington Administrative Code, Department policy and/or local facet/rules. Contains correspondence, information, or other items relating to another offender(s) without prior approval from the Superintendent/designee: or attempts or conveys unauthorized offender to offender correspondence."
We received the following report from a Canadian prisoner who had sent us some stamps to pay for a few issues of ULK to be mailed to Canada.
"A few months ago, on July 18, I received notice from the V&C department informing that five issues of ULK had arrived here for me. The notice also explained that the issues had been seized because of a Commissioner's Directive (764.6) which states that '[t]he institutional head may prohibit entry into the institution of material that portrays excessive violence and aggression, or prison violence; or if he or she believes on reasonable grounds that the material would incite inmates to commit similar acts.' I grieved the seizure, among other things, citing the sections on page 2 of ULK, which 'explicitly discourage[s prisoners] from engaging in any violence or illegal acts,' and citing too the UFPP statement of peace on page 3, which speaks of the organizational aim to end needless conflicts and violence within prisons.
"Well, I can now report that my grievance was upheld and that all copies of ULK were released to me, but not without the censorship of drawings deemed to portray or promote the kind of violence described in the above-cited Commissioner's Directive. It's a decision I can live with for now."
We got reports from two people that the blanket ban on ULK in Missouri was removed and ULK 58 was received. If you're in Missouri and still not getting your ULK, be sure to let us know.
Michigan - Richard A Handlon CF
ULK 58 was rejected because "Articles in Under Lock & Key contains information about criminal activity that might entice criminal activity within the prison facility - threat to security."
Illinois - Stateville CC
ULK 58 was rejected because: "The publication appears to: Advocate or encourage violence, hatred, or group disruption or it poses an intolerable risk of violence or disruption. Be otherwise detrimental to security, good order, rehabilitation, or discipline or it might facilitate criminal activity or be detrimental to mental health. Detrimental to safety and security of the facility. Disrupts order. Promotes organization and leadership."
Many prisoners have utilized the petition demanding their grievances be heard. The Commissioner simply forwarded the grievances to the person in charge of the grievance system, who wrote a letter to each prisoner that filed a petition. The letter informed the prisoners that they should file a grievance about the issue if they had a problem with the grievance system. Absurd, but true.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We responded to this comrade asking what they think should be done next to resolve this problem. Clearly, writing grievances isn't working. Writing to the Commissioner gets no results. Lawsuits can give some relief, but often only temporarily. And of course lawsuit victories come with the problem of enforcement.
Ultimately we believe we need to completely change our society in order to fix this problem. We try to contribute to lawsuits, but even more importantly we contribute to education and institution-building, so when our lawsuits fail we can still make progress in our struggle to a more just humynity.
The enclosed letter is submitted to you for follow-up to "Insulin Indifference Disables Prisoners".(ULK 57, p. 6) The publishing editor of that letter omitted the solution to that problem. Does anyone have time to comment on if mine compares to the grievance guides presently available? Or is my method in conflict with the advice in other manuals? I want to know how I compare with other grievance methods.
The problem in the article is a policy of no lunchtime fingersticks/insulin injections. The prison serves lunch so late it is outside the timeframe that a pre-breakfast shot of 70/30 insulin works for some diabetics within the prison.
For diabetics having this problem, immediately following lunch they may have symptoms of extremely elevated glucose, like hunger (even though they have just ate lunch), blurry vision, dry mouth, thirst, pins and needles (like tingling nerve pain), and frequent urination. In addition, at next fingerstick before supper their glucose may be extremely elevated.
"Extremely elevated" blood sugar is dangerous because it "can cause life threatening changes in the body within a matter of hours. An extremely high blood sugar level... And I am talking at least 300... can cause an imbalance in the delicate acid-based structure in the tissues of the body."(1)
So if you take 70/30 insulin (and your prison doesn't do lunchtime fingersticks/insulin injections) and you have the above symptoms, and/or if your suppertime glucose level is still over 300 several hours after lunch, then you should first try a medical request. Then, if necessary, a grievance explaining the problem. If filing a grievance (the formal step), then include the illustration of how extremely elevated glucose harms the body, located in the last paragraph of "Insulin Indifference Disables Prisoners." This way the warden, or other prison officials signing off on the grievance, cannot claim they were unaware of the damage that was occurring due to that they "are not medical professionals." (This is a popular excuse used by non-medical prison officials to escape liability in prison medical care cases.)
Two solutions to the problem are: 1. For the prison to start serving lunch earlier, or 2. For the prison to start providing lunchtime fingerstick/insulin injection, at which time you should receive a small dose of regular-type insulin, also called "mealtime insulin." Immediately following these two suggested solutions on your grievance, you should write "To do neither would constitute deliberate indifference."
In your medical request or your grievance, you should also explain that staff should periodically adjust your new lunchtime dose of regular insulin to determine exactly what amount is required to lower the residual glucose from lunch so it is at least somewhere between 200 - 300 by suppertime fingerstick. This will keep your glucose out of the danger zone between lunch and supper.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The problem with timing insulin injections with mealtimes is not lack of education or medical expertise. The problem of indifference is built in to the capitalist, white supremacist power structure. Imprisoned people, and oppressed nations in general, are not thought to need or deserve to have access to proper medical care. Prisoners' right to their eyesight or to keep all their toes is of absolutely no concern to the imperialist power structure. In fact, from the imperialist system's perspective it is probably better for prisoners and oppressed nation people to continue suffering, and be kept busy filing grievances. That way it's even harder to fight back.
We're glad this author wrote in with more details on what people could do to resolve the individual problems they are having with administration's approach to diabetes management. If we're talking about real remedies, though, and about fixing a problem, we need to acknowledge that capitalism and national oppression are the real cause of extremely elevated glucose levels. We need to struggle on our individual problems so we can be stronger for our revolutionary work. Don't lose sight of the bigger picture!
On 26 October 2017, U.$. President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. The declaration should lead to more federal funding for grants to combat opioid abuse.(1) As we explain below, this epidemic disproportionately affects euro-Amerikans. Trump linked his campaign to build a wall along the current Mexican border to the battle against this epidemic, despite the fact that prescription painkillers are at the root of it. This is consistent with the Amerikan government's solution for drug problems created by imperialism. For the crack epidemic of the 1980s Amerika responded with mass incarceration of New Afrikan men as the solution. As opioid addiction continues a steady rise, Trump offers further militarization of the border.
Opioids have been used by humyns for thousands of years both medicinally and recreationally, with many periods of epidemic addiction. Use began with opium from poppies. Morphine was isolated in 1806. By the early 1900s heroin was promoted as a cure for morphine addiction in the United $tates, before being made illegal in 1924. There was a lull in heroin use during the 1980s, when cocaine and crack overshadowed it. Various prescription pain killers began to come back into vogue in the 1990s
after the "Just Say No!" mentality was wearing off. Since then, use and abuse has been on a steady rise, feeding a new surge in the use of heroin as a cheaper alternative. This rise, in the economic centers of both the United $tates and China, is directly linked to capitalism.
While K2 is one dangerous substance plaguing U.$. prisons these days, partly due to its undetectability, opioids are by far the biggest killer in the United $tates, and we expect that is true in prisons as well. Drug overdoses surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United $tates in 2007 and has continued a steady rise ever since. The majority of these overdoses have been from opioids.(2)
While the increase in deaths from opioids has been strong across the United $tates, rates are significantly higher among whites, and even higher among First Nations. One reason that use rates are lower among New Afrikans and [email protected] is that it has been shown that doctors are more reluctant to prescribe opioids to them because they are viewed as more likely to become addicted, and Amerikan doctors see them as having a greater pain threshold.(3)
We did see some evidence of this trend in the results of our survey on the effects of drugs in U.$. prisons. The most popular answer to our question of whether certain groups did more drugs in prison than others was no, it affects everyone. But many clarified that there was a strong racial divide where New Afrikans preferred weed and K2, while whites and usually [email protected] went for heroin and/or meth. Some of these respondents said that New Afrikans did less drugs.(4) A couple said that New Afrikans used to do less drugs but now that's changing as addiction is spreading. In states where K2 has not hit yet (CA, GA, CO) it was common to hear that whites and "hispanics" (or in California, "southern" Mexicans) did more drugs. The pattern of New Afrikans preferring weed and K2 seemed common across the country, and could have implications for strategies combating drug use among New Afrikans compared to other groups. In particular, stressing that K2 is completely different and more dangerous than weed could be part of a harm reduction strategy focused on New Afrikans.
If prison staff were doing their jobs, then we would expect rates of both overdoses and use in general to be lower in prisons. But we know, and our survey confirmed, that this is not the case (78% of respondents mentioned staff being responsible for bringing in at least some of the drugs in their prison). In hindsight, it may have been useful to ask our readers what percentage of prisoners are users and addicts. Some of the estimates that were offered of the numbers using drugs in general were
20-30%, 90%, 75%, and many saying it had its grips on the whole population.
Deaths from opioids in the general U.$. population in 2015 was 10.5 per 100,000, double the rate in 2005.(5) This is higher than the rates in many state prison systems for overdoses from any drug, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania that all reported average rates of 1 per 100,000 from 2001-2012. California was closer at 8 per 100,000 and Maryland exceeded the general population at 17 deaths from overdoses per 100,000 prisoners.(6) At the same time,
prison staff have been known to cover up deaths from overdoses, so those 1 per 100,000 rates may be falsified.
In our survey of ULK readers, we learned that Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, is quite popular in prisons (particularly in the northeast/midwestern states). Survey respondents mentioned it as often as weed as one of the most popular drugs, and more than heroin. Suboxone is actually used to treat heroin addiction. And while it is not supposed to be active like other opioids, it can lead to a high and be addictive. It is relatively safe, and will not generally lead to overdose until you combine it with other substances, which can lead to death.
Prescription drugs are not as common as other drugs in most prisons, according to our survey. Though in some cases they are available. We received a few responses from prisons where prescription drugs prescribed by the medical staff seemed to be the only thing going on the black market. Clearly there is variability by facility.
Two Paths to Recovery
The increases in opioid abuse in the United $tates has been staggering, and they cause a disproportionate amount of the deaths from drug overdoses. About 10% of opioid addicts worldwide are in the United $tates, despite only being less than 5% of the world's population.(7) At the same time, only about 1% of people in the United $tates are abusing opioids.(8) This is not the worst episode in U.$. history, and certainly not in world history.
Around 1914 there were 200,000 heroin addicts in the United $tates, or 2% of the population. In contrast, some numbers for opium addicts in China prior to liberation put the addiction rate as high as 20% of the population around 1900, and 10% by the 1930s. That's not to dismiss the seriousness of the problem in the United $tates, but to highlight the power of proletarian dictatorship, which eliminated drug addiction about 3 years after liberation.
Richard Fortmann did a direct comparison of the United $tates in 1952 (which had 60,000 opioid addicts) and revolutionary China (which started with millions in 1949).(9) Despite being the richest country in the world, unscathed by the war, with an unparalleled health-care system, addicts in the United $tates increased over the following two decades. Whereas China, a horribly poor country coming out of decades of civil war, with 100s of years of opium abuse plaguing its people, had eliminated the problem by 1953.(9) Fortmann pointed to the politics behind the Chinese success:
"If the average drug addiction expert in the United States were shown a description of the treatment modalities used by the Chinese after 1949 in their anti-opium campaign, his/her probable response would be to say that we are already doing these things in the United States, plus much more. And s/he would be right."(9)
About one third of addicts went cold turkey after the revolution, with the more standard detox treatment taking 12 days to complete. How could they be so successful so fast? What the above comparison is missing is what happened in China in the greater social context. The Chinese were a people in the process of liberating themselves, and becoming a new, socialist people. The struggle to give up opium was just one aspect of a nationwide movement to destroy remnants of the oppressive past. Meanwhile the people were being called on and challenged in all sorts of new ways to engage in building the new society. There was so much that was more stimulating than opium to be doing with their time. Wimmin, who took up opium addiction in large numbers after being forced into prostitution in opium dens, were quickly gaining opportunities to engage at all levels of society. The poor, isolated peasants were now organized in collectives, working together to solve all kinds of problems related to food production, biology and social organization. The successful struggle against drug addiction in China was merely one impressive side effect of the revolutionizing of the whole society.
In contrast, in the capitalist countries, despair lurks behind every corner as someone struggles to stay clean. The approach has ranged from criminalization to medicalization of drug addiction as a disease. "Once an addict, always an addict", as they say. Always an individualist approach, ignoring the most important, social causes of the problem. That drug addiction is primarily a social disease was proven by the practice of the Chinese in the early 1950s, but Western "science" largely does not acknowledge the unquestionable results from that massive experiment.
It is also worth pointing out the correlation between drug abuse and addiction, and capitalist economics specifically. Whether it was colonial powers forcing opium on the Chinese masses who had nothing, in order to enslave them to their economic will, or it is modern Amerikan society indulging its alienation in the over-production of prescription pills from big pharmaceutical companies marketing medicine for a profit.
And now, opioid addiction is on the rise again in capitalist China after decades. A steady rise in drug-related arrests in China since 1990 are one indicator of the growing problem.(10) As more profits flowed into the country, so have more drugs, especially since the 1990s. We recently published a review of Is China an Imperialist Country?, where we lamented the loses suffered by the Chinese people since the counter-revolution in 1976. It goes to show that when you imitate the imperialists, and put advancing the productive forces and profits over serving the people, you invite in
all the social ills of imperialism.
In China drug addiction has now become something that people fear. Like it did with its economy, China has followed in the imperialists' footsteps in how it handles drug addiction. Chinese policy has begun treating addicts as patients that need to be cured to protect society. Rather than seeing those who give up drugs as having defeated the oppressor's ways, they are monitored by the state, lose social credibility, and have a hard time getting a job.(11) Under socialism, everyone had a job and no one needed recreational drugs to maintain themselves mentally. The path to combating drug addiction and abuse is well-established. Attempts under imperialism that don't involve liberatory politics of the oppressed have little to no effect.
For this issue of Under Lock & Key we took on the task of investigating the impacts of drugs and the drug trade on the prison movement. We ran a survey in the Jan/Feb 2017 and March/April 2017 issues of Under Lock &
Key. We received 62 completed surveys from our readers in U.$. prisons. We have incorporated the more interesting results in a series of articles in this issue. This article looks at the central question of the role of the drug trade inside and outside prisons and how to effectively organize among the lumpen in that context. In other articles we look more closely at the recent plague of K2 in U.$. prisons, and the latest rise
in opioid addiction and what socialism and capitalism have to offer us as solutions.
Bourgeois society blames the individual
Bourgeois society takes an individualistic view of the world. When it comes to drugs, the focus is on the individual: we talk about how they failed and succumbed to drugs because of their weakness or mistakes as an individual. While individuals must ultimately take responsibility for their actions, it is only by understanding society at a group level, using dialectical materialism to study the political economy of our world, that we can address problems on a scale that will make a real impact. Even at the individual level, it's more effective to help people make connections to the root causes of their problems (not supposed persynality flaws) and empower them to fight those causes if we want lasting change.
Much of our criminal injustice system is built on punishment and shaming of those who have been convicted. A proletarian approach to justice uses self-criticism to take accountability for one's actions, while studying political economy to understand why that path was even an option in the first place, and an attractive one at that.
In the essay "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", Cetewayo, a Black Panther leader, provides a good example of overcoming the conditions one is born into. Ey was addicted to heroin from age 13 to 18, before joining the Black Panther Party. Eir example stresses the importance of providing alternative outlets for oppressed nation youth. In some cases the mere existence of that alternative can change lives.
Drugs and the Principal Contradiction in Prison
MIM(Prisons) and leaders in the Countrywide Council of United Struggle from Within (Double C) have had many conversations about what the principal contradiction is within the prison population. MIM(Prisons) has put forth that the parasitic/individualistic versus self-sufficient/collective material interests of the lumpen class is the principal contradiction within the prison movement in the United $tates today. The drug problem in prisons relates directly to this contradiction. Those pursuing drugs and/or dealing are focused on their persynal interests, at the expense of others. The drug trade is inherently parasitic as it requires an addicted population to be profitable, and users are escaping the world for an individual high, rather than working to make the world better for themselves and others.
A Double C comrade from Arkansas explains this contradiction:
"Things have been slow motion here due to lockdown. Reason being too much violence across the prison. Some of this violence is due to the underground economy. Being submerged in a culture of consumerism which is not only an obstacle to our emancipation (mentally and physically) this self-destructive method of oppression is a big problem consuming the population. I've been in prisons where the market is not packed or heavily packed with drugz. It is in those yards that unity and productive lines are greatly practiced. The minute drugz become the leading item of consumption, shit breaks down, individualism sets in and all of the fucked up tendencies follow suit.
"I say 75% of the population in this yard is a consumer. About 5% have no self control, it's usually this percentage that ends up a 'debt' victim (since you owe $ you owe a clean up). Aggressor or not, consumerism is a plague that victimizes everyone one way or another. This consumerism only aids the pigz, rats, infiltrators, and oppressors in continuing with a banking concept of 'education/rehabilitation' and therefore domesticating the population.
"I mean the consequences and outcomes are not hidden, it is a constant display of what it is when you can't pay the IRS, so it is not as if people don't know. I've seen people slow down or stopped some old habits after experiencing/witnessing these beheadings. Shit, I just hit the yard because pigz were all inside the block searching and homeboy's puddles of blood were still on the yard."
Drugs and Violence
It is no secret that drugs and violence often go hand-in-hand. As the above comrade alludes to, this is often related to debts. But one of the things we learned from our recent survey of ULK readers is that in most prisons there is an inherent threat of violence towards people who might take up effective organizing against drugs.
A California comrade wrote,
"No one in prison is going to put their safety and security on the line over drugs. You have to understand that life has little value in prison. If you do anything to jeopardize an individual's ability to earn a living, it will cost you your life."
Another California comrade was more explicit,
"If you say anything about the drugs, cell phones, extortions, etc., whether if you're in the general population, or now, worse yet in 2017, SNY/Level IV, the correctional officers inform the key gang members that you're running your mouth. You either get hit immediately, or at the next prison. Although my safety is now at stake, by prisoners, it's being orchestrated by corrections higher-ups concocting the story."
This was in response to our survey question "Have you seen effective efforts by prisoners to organize against drug use and its effects? If so, please describe them." Not only were the responses largely adamant "no"s, the vast majority said it would be dangerous to do so. This was despite the fact that we did not ask whether it would be dangerous to do so. Therefore, we assume that more than 73% might say so if asked.
Some readers questioned what to do about staff involvement bringing drugs into the prisons. One writer from Pennsylvania said:
"It's hardly ever dry in Fayette and this institution is a big problem why. A lot of the staff bring it in. Then when someone goes in debt or does something they wouldn't normally do, they don't want to help you, if you ask for help. There's no unity anymore. Nobody fights or stands up for nothing. Everybody rather fight each other than the pigs. It would take a lot to make a change in the drug situation. Is it wrong to put the pigs out there for what they're doing? Would I be considered a snitch? I know there would be retaliation on me, maybe even a ass whoopin. I'm curious on your input on this."
If we look at the involvement of staff in bringing drugs into prisons, and the violence associated with the drug trade, we have to call bullshit when these very same institutions censor Under Lock & Key on the claim that it might incite violence. The system is complicit, and many staff actively participate, in the plague of drugs that is destroying the minds and bodies of the oppressed nation men and wimmin, while promoting individualistic money-seeking behavior that leads to brutal violence between the oppressed themselves.
Organizing in Prisons
While the reports responding to that question were mostly negative, and the situation seems dire, we do want to report on the positive things we heard. We heard about successful efforts by New Afrikans getting out of the SHU in California, some Muslim communities and the Nation of Gods and Earths. Some have been at this for over a decade. All of these programs seemed to be of limited scope, but it is good to know there are organizations providing an alternative.
In Arkansas, a comrade reports,
"For the mass majority of drug users and prisoners I have not seen any positive efforts to stop drug use and its effects. But for my affiliation, the ALKN, we have put the product of K2/deuce in law with heroin and its byproducts where no member should be in use of or make attempts to sell for profit or gain. If you do you will receive the consequences of the body who governs this affiliation and organization for lack of discipline and obedience to pollute your self/body and those around you who are the future and leaders of tomorrow's nations."
While practice varies among the many individuals at different stages in the organization, the Latin Kings/ALKQN has historically opposed the use of hard drugs amongst its members. Many in New York in the 1990s attributed their recovery from drug addiction to their participation in
There are some good examples of lumpen organizations engaging in what we might call policies of harm reduction. One comrade mentioned the 16 Laws and Policies of Chairman Larry Hoover as an example of effective organizing against drugs in eir prison. Lumpen leaders like Jeff Fort and Larry Hoover are where we see a national bourgeoisie with independent power in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates. The proletarian organizations of the oppressed nations should work to unite with such forces before the imperialists corrupt them or force them into submission. In fact, the Black Panthers did just that, but failed to build long-term unity with the Black P. Stone Rangers largely due to state interference and repression.
On the other hand, in some states comrades reported that lumpen organizations are among the biggest benefactors from the drug trade. Some of the same names that are mentioned doing positive work are mentioned as being the problem elsewhere. This is partly explained by the largely unaffiliated franchise system that some of these names operate under. But it is also a demonstration of the principal contradiction mentioned above, which is present in the First World lumpen outside of prisons, too. There is a strong individualist/parasitic tendency combating with the reality that self-sufficiency and collective action best serve the oppressed nations. Too often these organizations are doing significant harm to individuals and the broader movement against the criminal injustice system, and can not be part of any progressive united front until they pull out of these anti-people activities.
The more economically entrenched an organization is in the drug trade, the more they are siding with the imperialists and against the people. But on the whole, the First World lumpen, particularly oppressed nation youth, have the self-interest and therefore the potential to side with their people and with the proletariat of the world.
As one Texas comrade commented:
"I must say that the survey opened a door on the issue about drugs within prison. After doing the survey I brought this up with a couple of people to see if we could organize a program to help people with a drug habit. I'm an ex-drug dealer with a life sentence. I can admit I was caught up with the corruption of the U.S. chasing the almighty dollar, not caring about anyone not even family. Coming to prison made me open my eyes. With the help of MIM and Under Lock & Key I've been learning the principles of the United Front and put them in my everyday speech and walk within this prison. The enemy understands that the pen is a powerful tool. Comrades don't trip on me like other organizations done when I let them know I'm a black Muslim who studied a lot of Mao Zedong.
Building Independent Institutions of the Oppressed
At least one respondent mentioned "prisoners giving up sources" (to the pigs to shut down people who are dealing) in response to the question about effective anti-drug organizing. From the responses shown below, it is clear that the state is not interested in effective anti-drug programming in prisons. This is an example of why we need independent institutions of the oppressed. We cannot expect the existing power structure to meet the health needs of the oppressed nation people suffering from an epidemic of drug abuse in U.$. prisons.
The Black Panthers faced similar conditions in the 1960s in the Black ghettos of the United $tates. As they wrote in Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide,
"It is also the practice of pig-police, especially narcotics agents, to seize a quantity of drugs from one dealer, arrest him, but only turn in a portion of the confiscated drugs for evidence. The rest is given to another dealer who sells it and gives a percentage of the profits to the narcotics agents. The pig-police also utilize informers who are dealers. In return for information, they receive immunity from arrest. The police cannot solve the problem, for they are a part of the problem."
Our survey showed significant abuse of Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. In the 1970s Methadone clinics, backed by the Rockefeller Program, became big in New York. The state even linked welfare benefits to these services. Yet, Mutulu Shakur says, "In New York City, 60 percent of the illegal drugs on the street during the early '70s was methadone. So we could not blame drug addiction at that time on Turkey or Afghanistan or the rest of that triangle."(2) Revolutionaries began to see this drug that was being used as treatment as breaking up the revolutionary movement and the community. Mitulu Shakur and others in the Lincoln Detox Center used acupuncture as a treatment for drug addiction. Lincoln Detox is an example of an independent institution developed by communists to combat drug addiction in the United $tates.
"[O]n November 10, 1970, a group of the Young Lords, a South Bronx anti-drug coalition, and members of the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (a mass organization of health workers) with the support of the Lincoln Collective took over the Nurses' Residence building of Lincoln Hospital and established a drug treatment program called The People's Drug Program, which became known as Lincoln Detox Center."(3) Lincoln Detox was a program that was subsequently run by the Young Lords Party, Black Panthers that had survived the Panther 21 raid, the Republic of New Afrika, and White Lightning, a radical organization of white former drug addicts, until 1979 when a police raid forced the communists out of the hospital, removing the political content of the program.(4)
Young Lord Vicente "Panama" Alba was there from day one, and tells eir story of breaking free of addiction cold turkey to take up the call of the revolution. After sitting on the stoop watching NYPD officers selling heroin in eir neighborhood, and a few days after attending a Young Lords demonstration, Panama said, "Because of the way I felt that day, I told myself I couldn't continue to be a drug user. I couldn't be a heroin addict and a revolutionary, and I wanted to be a revolutionary. I made a decision to kick a dope habit."(3) This experience echoes that of millions of addicted Chinese who went cold turkey to take up building socialism in their country after 1949.
Mutulu Shakur describes how the Lincoln Detox Center took a political approach similar to the Chinese in combatting addiction, "This became a center for revolutionary, political change in the methodology and treatment modality of drug addiction because the method was not only medical but it was also political." Shakur was one of the clinic's members who visited socialist China in the 1970s to learn acupuncture techniques for treating addiction. He goes on to describe the program:
"So the Lincoln Detox became not only recognized by the community as a political formation but its work in developing and saving men and women of the third world inside of the oppressed communities, resuscitating these brothers and sisters and putting them into some form of healing process within the community we became a threat to the city of New York and consequently with the development of the barefoot doctor acupuncture cadre, we began to move around the country and educate various other communities instead of schools and orientations around acupuncture drug withdrawal and the strategy of methadone and the teaching the brothers and sisters the fundamentals of acupuncture to serious acupuncture, how it was used in the revolutionary context in China and in Vietnam and how we were able to use it in the South Bronx and our success."(2)
Dealing with the Dealers
Though the Black Panthers had organized the workers at Lincoln Hospital leading up to the takeover, by that time the New York chapter was already in decline due to repression and legal battles. While many BPP branches had to engage with drug cartels, the New York chapter stood out in their launching of heavily-armed raids on local dealers and dumping all of their heroin into the gutters. The New York Panthers faced unique circumstances in a city that contained half of the heroin addicts in the country, which was being supplied by la Cosa Nostra with help from the CIA. While there was mass support for the actions of the Panthers at first, state repression pushed the New York Panthers down an ultra-left path. The Panther 21 trial was a huge setback to their mass organizing, with 21 prominent Panthers being jailed and tried on trumped up terrorism charges. After they were all exonerated, the New York Panthers, siding ideologically with Eldridge Cleaver who was pushing an ultra-left line from exile in Algeria, made the transition to the underground. If they were going to be accused of bombings and shootings anyway, then they might as well actually do some, right?
These were the conditions under which the Black Liberation Army was formed. Though there was overlap between the BLA and those who led community projects like Lincoln Detox, the path of the underground guerrillas generally meant giving up the mass organizing in the community. Instead, raiding local drug dealers became a staple of theirs as a means of obtaining money. Money that essentially belonged to the NYPD, which was enabling those dealers and benefiting them financially. The former-Panthers-turned-BLA continued to destroy the dope they found, and punished the dealers they raided.
Again, we are confronted with this dual nature of the lumpen class. It would certainly be ultra-left to view all drug dealers as enemies to be attacked. It is also certainly clear that the CIA/Mafia/NYPD heroin trade in New York was an enemy that needed to be addressed. But how does the revolutionary movement interact with the criminal-minded LOs today? In its revolutionary transformation, China also had to deal with powerful criminal organizations. The Green Gang, which united the Shanghai Triads, significantly funded the Guomindang's rise to power, primarily through profits from opium sales. In the late 1940s they opened up negotiations with the Communist Party as the fate of China was becoming obvious. However, no agreement was reached, and the criminal organizations were quickly eliminated in mainland China after 1949. They took refuge in capitalist outposts like Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Chinatowns elsewhere in Asia and Europe. While heroin has returned to China, the gangs have not yet.(5)
While the contradiction between the communists and the drug gangs did come to a head, it was after defeating Japanese imperialism and after defeating the reactionary Guomindang government. And even then, most drug dealers were reformed and joined the building of a socialist society.
Many respondents to our survey sounded almost hopeless when it came to imagining a prison system without rampant drug addiction. But this hopelessness is not completely unfounded. As "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", reads:
"The government is totally incapable of addressing itself to the true causes of drug addiction, for to do so would necessitate effecting a radical transformation of this society. The social consciousness of this society, the values, mores and traditions would have to be altered. And this would be impossible without totally changing the way in which the means of producing social wealth is owned and distributed. Only a
revolution can eliminate the plague."
To back up what the Panthers were saying here, we can look at socialist China and how they eliminated opium addiction in a few years, while heroin spread in the capitalist United $tates. The Chinese proved that this is a social issue and not primarily a biological/medical one. The communist approach differed greatly from the Guomindang in that addicts were not blamed or punished for their addiction. They were considered victims of foreign governments and other enemies of the people. Even many former dealers were reformed.(6) Although we don't have the state power now to implement broad policies like the Chinese Communist Party, we can help drug users focus on understanding the cause and consequences of their use in a social context. We need people to see how dope is harming not only themselves, but more generally their people, both inside and outside of prison. People start doing drugs because of problems in their lives that come from problems in capitalist society. Being in prison sucks, and dope helps people escape, even if it's fleeting. But this escape is counter productive. As so many writers in this issue of ULK have explained, it just serves the interests of the criminal injustice system. We can help people overcome addictions by giving them something else to focus on: the fight against the system that wants to keep them passive and addicted.
I got a message to all the tweakers, tecatos, potheads and boozers. Wake Up! Can't you see you're doing exactly what the oppressors wants you to do? So why are you giving them the satisfaction? With all the cameras rolling 24-7, you think they don't know what you're doing? Newsflash: You ain't that slick, buddy.
"All I had to do is drink a lot of water to flush out my system." I overheard one drug addict say when he came back from medical, for a drug test. "My piss came back clean even though I just used in the morning."
It's a miracle! We must run and tell the others! Now it's safe to puff puff, cough cough, & slam slam! As long as you hydrate and drink drink (a lotta water), you could pass pass (the 'drug test'), no problem. Your passing grade might be a D- but at least you didn't fail, right? Wrong!
Let's face it, water or no water, your urine is dirty. I know it, you know it, and the porkchop-patrol most definitely knows it. They just don't care. Besides, lucky for you, there's never enough room in the "hole." Five segregation singleman cells for a facility that houses 650 prisoners equals "no vacancy".
It's like you have to schedule an appointment, make it onto a guest list, then wait for about a month, in order to make it into the hole. But if the COs really did their job this whole place would be empty.
Literally, there would only be about 20 people left in each dorm. That's how bad this epidemic is. But fear not my drug-addicted friend, the pigs have bigger fish to fry. Or at least that's what they want us to think.
Extremely violent prisoners get top priority over minor drug offenders. But if you've been locked up as long as I have, then you'd know that extreme acts of violence are mostly over a minor drug debt. Common sense tells me, "get rid of the drugs and the violence shall cease." I have a hunch that the "system" could stop the drug flow at any time. But, looking at it through their eyes, why ruin a good thing?
Figuratively speaking, drugs are the oil that keep the oppression machine running. Sobriety is the monkey-wrench that'll break this bitch down. So put the word out, we need more wrenches. Staying clean is the worst thing we could do to these puercos.
Think about it for a second. Imagine if we obliterate the drug trade in prison. Most of these facilities would go out of business. Half the staff would start filling out applications at Mickey D'z, and Walmart, at the end of their shifts. But instead, most of us wanna keep on getting shit-faced; letting the enemy win with its foot on our necks. Wake up!
The enemy loves getting us high. Because it leads to a lot of drama, and drama is the safety blanket that keeps the oppressors warm at night. It gives them job security and a fat bank account. Meanwhile, all the users and dealers turn against each other while the pigs kick back and laugh. Don't worry, though. They're gonna let you keep using and selling on one condition; as long as y'all keep fighting and snitching, stabbing and pinching.
Don't get my words twisted. I'm not implying that you could keep on using, and abusing, and not get caught. Because every now and then, like once in a blue moon, they make an example out of somebody. But from what I've seen, their victim is usually the most humble junkie on the block. Yeah, this dude gets high but he's cool. He pays his debts, and doesn't bother nobody. But for some reason, the puercos got it in for him. He already got a few "dirties," and has an appointment at the "hole."
"But what about that trouble-making tweaker?" There's 1 in every block. "How come he doesn't ever get called for a random drug test, and go away?" I ask myself.
Lord knows this trouble-making tweaker is not low key. He's a dead beat and proud of it. His drug debts are stacking up, and on top of that, he's starting fights in the open; all in front of the cameras. And
still, the hooras act like they don't see him. They treat him like a model inmate.
It's like the pigs are watching in the wings, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Instead of nipping the problem in the bud, they wait for the problem to get smashed out, stabbed, or removed from the yard. Only then they jump into action.
But don't think they're gonna swoop in like some superheroes. No. They take their sweet time, sometimes just stand there looking; waiting for the "victim" to get nicely bruised up. Only then, they bust out the cuffs and add charges.
"Come on, you guys are not even doing nothing!" I once heard a pig say to a boo bop squad while they beat a tweaker. "You gotta hit 'em harder if you want me to stop it!" Then he laughed, I laughed, and half the yard laughed. But it wasn't funny. And his sick sense of humor cost him his job, cause I didn't see him after that.
But that's what he gets for letting things get out of hand. And all that - the beating and the firing - could've been avoided if his co-workers would've done their job properly in the first place. But why ruin a good thing?
Wake up amigos! It's time to stop entertaining these hooras. It's time to put down the needles, and the pookies, and get our minds back.