Understanding the historical foundations that imperialism rests upon, it's not surprising that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has moved to censor MIM material at United States Prison (High-SMU) Florence, Colorado.
As a New Afrikan, and a native indigenous warrior, I strove to show a qualitative form of unity by creating a social-political educational study class with MIM material. However, in a classic predictable anti-social way the BOP censored our materials. By the will to outlast our captors we remain committed and courageous as we strive to expand our political awareness and sharpen our mental tools.
As we study European expansionism, conquest and imperialism we find that their art of politics easily turns into their art of war. By tracking the footprints of history we find the first thing to be seized, controlled and destroyed by European settlers and conquerors is the cultural, political and educational facilities and institutions of those conquered.
By studying the mechanics of imperialistic conquest, we find that to effectively colonize a people the colonial system must thoroughly entrench itself inside the minds of that subjected people. Thus, the educational system of that people must be replaced, and repressed with an anti-social educational system that reinforces a system of slavocracy.
The masters of the means of production fear a people armed with the social weapon of political education, because true liberation education is the well of hope and power that directs and harnesses the humanism of humanity. Education for the colonized is not static nor does it exist on a one dimensional level that's academic in nature. Political, social and cultural education is forever in motion working in a dialectical relationship with materialism. Education is the catalyst for the process of decolonization.
Our brother Frantz Fanon noted: "Decolonization is the veritable creation of new men. But this creation owes nothing of its legitimacy to any supernatural power, the 'thing' which has been colonized becomes 'man' during the same process it frees itself..." Thru correct political and social education the "things" (i.e. the nigga, the pimp, the social parasite, the whore, the agent of fratricide and natural genocide, the gangster, the dope fiend, dope pusha, and every other reactionary element in our community) become true healers of humanity by finding a new sense of humanity within themselves. This is the powerful potential of education.
In Amerikkka it was a crime in the 1700s and 1800s for a slave to be able to read. We hung like strange fruit from trees for just picking up a book. This pervasive ignorance was a sturdy bolt in maintaining the system of chattel slavery, and we find the same system and pervasive ignorance in place today. So for a system that is bent on maintaining the present order of things it becomes a criminal act to possess and process any material that would induce a neo-colonial slave to bend these bars back, break these chains, challenge our minds, find our humanism and take our freedom. The class enemy understands that in the right hands, in the right minds, education would be a dangerous tool. It would become an anti-imperialist weapon of mass destruction and mass liberation at the same time. It would compel the "thing" to become "man", break the chains and rise up and slit the throat of those who presently pull the levers of control.
Our captors work overtime to repress any tendency of the birth of new age Malcolm Xs and George Jacksons. They understand that these jails and prisons are our universities and finishing schools. They know and understand there is a living contradiction between the ruling class and those of us who wear the chains of neo-colonialism. And the imperialists also know and understand there is a scientific development of opposites that's inherent in everything. Thus the material conditions will force the masses to bear the responsibility of solving the economic, political and social contradictions one day. So they can burn all the books, destroy all the libraries, kill all the wisemen, censor all the material they want, but they can't stop liberation.
Much hype and media attention has been brought by the murder of the runner up of the Miss Universe, Miss Venezuela. News pundits like to point out that Venezuela had over 25,000 murders last year and is the world's murder capital. The killing of any person through murder and greed is sad and tragic, but what the media fails to talk about is Amerika's own murder rate.
Statistics for 2010-2011 from the FBI's Crime in the U.S. report has murder and negligent manslaughter at 14,612. This is below the 24,000 murders in Venezuela, but it doesn't account for murders committed by the U.$. armed forces around the globe. In the United States the number of forcible rapes for 2010-2011 was 85,593. This does not account for non-reported rapes as well as rapes in the military.
The government-mouthpiece media in the U.$. viciously portrays other country's problems and flaws in order to keep the prying eyes of the world off the United $tates.
People the world over should strive to end crime in their communities. But most importantly people should understand that the grandfather of all criminals is the imperialist system here in Amerika.
A quote by Malcolm X found in MT7 struck me hard: "I'm not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American."..."No, I am not an American, I'm one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. I don't see any American dream, I see an American nightmare."(1)
I'm hard pressed to find an organization that's "Latino" nationalist and agitating for the emancipation of what is currently the south western portion of the United $tates to become a nation itself.
These days you hear Latinos all throughout the United $tates clamoring for comprehensive immigration reform. Enough of this assimilation, and how about a call for what was once Mexico to return to its people. Whether this emancipated state will become part of modern day Mexico or form its own nation is for the people to decide for themselves. Those same people clamoring for immigration reform, who fail to realize that they are an oppressed nation within an oppressor nation, can't help but feel as if they constitute a part of this oppressor class (white chauvinism). The policies that will be enacted due to their protesting and petitions will only hurt and destroy the Latino communities. As a people who are already stigmatized and oppressed, the crumbs of the white nation are counter to the ultimate interests of Latino people.
It's no secret how the INS and ICE deport huge numbers of Latino people who only come here to make and earn a living. Some might ask: if Amerika is so fucked up why do you want Latinos here? Well if numbers are power then the more people we have the better we are able to form a revolutionary nationalistic party and arouse national sentiment in face of brutality. Moreover as burdensome jobs will go to those immigrants the better it'll be to swell the ranks of the proletariat.
Most people these days are so jingoistic with Amerikanism that at the same time they wave the U.$. flag they wave their country of origin flag too, not grasping how NAFTA and trade relations with "south Amerika" are one sided and are to the advantage of the white U.$. middle class. Even within prison you hear prisoners clamoring of how great the United $tates is.
Oppressed nations must take notice that you are not what the U.$. constitution meant to defend, you never will be and it's futile to think cheering and asking for reforms will free your nation. H. Ford Douglas put it nicely: "There is as much force in a black [Brown, red, etc] man's standing up and exclaiming after the manner of the 'old Roman' - 'I am an American citizen,' as there was in the Irish man who swore he was a loaf of bread, because he happened to be born in a bake oven... I can hate this government without being disloyal, because it has stricken down my manhood and treated me as a saleable commodity. I can join a foreign enemy and fight against it, without being a traitor, because it treats me as an ALIEN and a STRANGER, and I am free to avow that should such a contingency arise I should not hesitate to take any advantage in order to procure indemnity for the future. I can feel no pride in the glory, growth, greatness or grandeur of this nation."(2)
by a North Carolina prisoner January 2014 permalink
They say "America is the land of the free" But what about the millions of people who are just like me Locked in a cage for petty crimes Don't you see in this so called land of the free a dead president's face on a piece of paper is worth more than you or me And they say the U.S.A. is home of the brave What's so brave about locking a man in a cage with nothing other than time to bottle up his rage There is some who are addicts others who are mentally ill And the answer to the problem when society no longer wants us around send us to a court so a judge can lay us down But that judge is no better than you or me He's just as crooked as any other politician you see If you have the money he'll let you go free But if you're indigent the outcome is the millions of people who are just like me
On 21 May 2013 I filed a Section 1983 Civil Suit against Illinois Department of Corrections employees S. Rhone-Plaskett (Counselor), A. Winemiller (Correctional Officer), Jackie Miller (Administrative Review Board Representative), and Grievance Officer (John Doe) for the unconstitutional banning of the November/December 2012 No. 29 issue of Under Lock & Key (ULK).
This lawsuit is the second one that I have filed concerning the bogus banning of ULK and I expect to file many more in the future. This lawsuit is based on the grounds that the Defendants cannot substantiate the banning of ULK and that the banning of ULK violates my Constitutional Rights to:
Receive and own reading material;
Have freedom of speech; and
Have freedom of political expression.
Any material or support you can offer that would aid me in my battle against censorship in Illinois would be greatly appreciated. Specifically, I would count it a blessing if you would comb through your archives and send me anything you have regarding censorship of ULK in Illinois, especially the November/December 2012 No. 29 issue of ULK.
Filing lawsuits does work! Because of the pressure I have been applying by filing Section 1983s, I was allowed to have the March/April 2013 No. 31 issue of ULK, the first issue of ULK that I have received since November 2011. So keep your heads high and your hearts strong as we continue to fight the phenomenon of censorship. It is just another contradiction facilitated by the proletariat/bourgeois contradiction.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Some comrades in Illinois have been permitted to receive ULK without censorship, after much work on their end to defend their rights. In other facilities, it is still banned. Specifically, at Sheridan, Menard, Stateville, and Lawrence Correctional Centers, ULK is being censorsed for any reason from "banned in facility" (Stateville) to "promotes unauthorized organization activity" (Menard). Still, we are being banned without notice to publisher or prisoner (Lawrence) and mailroom employees at Sheridan inconsistently enforce a policy that labels are not permitted on mail pieces; we have yet to see this policy in writing in any official format.
Several prisoners in Illinois have stepped up to help out with the censorship battle in their state. We recently began engaging with these volunteers on an organized basis to help push this battle to a head. We need prisoners who are facing censorship to fight out their persynal censorship battles, like the author of this article has done. MIM(Prisons) and the Prisoners' Legal Clinic volunteers can assist, but we can't fight the battle for you.
The author of this article is correct that occasionally we will make gains, and expand space, for revolutionary organizing. We can use the legal system to make small reforms that make our job easier; for example, defending the right to receive revolutionary newsletters. But we don't expect to be free of all censorship, as it is a manifestation of the battle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; it is a manifestation of the battle between the Amerikan oppressor nation, and the oppressed internal semi-colonies. We use the administrative procedures and courts when we can, but ultimately we know we can't rid ourselves of censorship, or any other social ill, unless we resolve the root problem: oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, and oppression of the internal semi-colonies by the Amerikan nation. We can only make this sweeping change by throwing out the entire capitalist imperialist system itself.
by a North Carolina prisoner January 2014 permalink
I would like to update my article in ULK 33. Our lawsuit against guard assaults on prisoners has gained attention and helped us win some protections. The pigs in Raleigh were ordered to install eleven new cameras and extra equipment to double storage capacity, set up a new policy to investigate assaults, and the court hired an expert to go into the prison to inspect it to see if blind spots are covered and other areas have been corrected. They have also replaced the entire unit staff.
We are now in discovery since the judge refused to throw out the prisoner beatings lawsuit. This case is getting some press, and the Herald Sun reported: "The judge made a not so veiled reference to the practice of punishing inmates by locking them up in dim solitary units." The judge said "your case is about sunlight where you claim there were systematic violations" to the lawyers for the prisoners. "What we need to do with this lawsuit is not bury it in a deep, dark hole and proceed with discovery."(1)
So one damn thing for sure we got a judge on our side. The same way they have taken from us (a little at a time) we all can do the same to them. It's just a matter of team work.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of a winnable court battle that will result in some improvements in safety for prisoners. But it will not stop the inhumane abuse that continues throughout prisons in North Carolina. This is an ongoing contradiction of our fight against the criminal injustice system at this stage: we take on reformist battles to try to improve the conditions under which our comrades suffer, but we know that these reforms offer no more than minor adjustments to a system that is based on the oppression and suffering of those locked within.
It is ironic that the prisoners in North Carolina have to go to court to fight for their own safety within prison, while the state's justification for every repressive act is "safety" (including North Carolina's excuse for censoring Under Lock & Key for over three years straight). This exposes the reality of the criminal injustice system: a brutal tool of social control that endangers the safety of all who are captured in its broad nets. We need to take advantage of reform battles like this one, both to gain some breathing room for our comrades and to educate others and build unity. We can't end the abuse until we eliminate the criminal injustice system, but these reformist battles are important steps along the way in our ultimate fight against imperialism as a whole.
by a South Carolina prisoner January 2014 permalink
It's cold outside, yesterday we had ice on the ground, and lots of rain, and for a month now I have been without shoes. We are given clogs, which you know are not made for inclement weather. They have holes in the bottoms. I wear compression hose due to edema in my legs. The cement sidewalk eats a hole in them and medical won't replace them for a month, the clogs I'm told have to be worn one year before they can be exchanged. The service life is one year, which does not take into account the weight of a person or his walking habits.
The medical department at Evans Correctional Institution is dysfunctional. South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) hired a racist physician's assistant as a necessary component to reduce prison medical expenditures. Finally after letters to the medical board, Senators, filing grievances, talking to other prisoners who experienced problems with this same physician's assistant, prompting them to engage this fight against intolerance, he finally moved on. SCDC only hires those with less than perfect records, the last doctor was barred from practice in 3 states (Dr. Paul Drago #9700531). Now the nurses are taking up where they left off, we've had three deaths that I know of and it's not getting any better.
The food is mostly a mystery meat that is supposed to be turkey, which used to come in a box that read "not for human consumption." Now we have the same meat, in a different box. More often than not the food is cold (not serving temperature), prisoners are given the wrong size portions, some more, others less. Food supervisors just come for the pay check, and we get 6 minutes to eat. Some prisoners say they are going to bed hungry. The others that can afford it go to the canteen where most of the food is high in price and salt.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We looked up Dr. Drago and found that he was a plastic surgeon before working at the prison, not exactly the specialty needed there. But after having his license revoked in multiple states, this was likely the only job he could get. This is how little we value the health of prisoners: subjecting them to the "care" of doctors who are deemed unfit to practice medicine outside of prison.
Health and health care are generally available in direct proportion to people's wealth and status under imperialism. Those at the bottom are lucky to have access to any medical care, and live in conditions that lead to greatly reduced life expectancy. The life expectancy in many African countries is less than 60, and those doing well are in their 60s, while imperialist countries of the world enjoy a life expectancy in the 80s. This discrepancy is killing people, lives that could be saved with a more equitable distribution of resources and education. Prisoners in the United $tates share the interests of the oppressed in the Third World in the fight for access to health care and safe and sanitary living conditions.
As of 27 December 2013 we have received reader surveys back from 7.6% of our subscribers over the last 11 months. We began running the survey in Under Lock & Key requesting some basic persynal information and feedback on the content of ULK. Our goal was to assess who is reading ULK and what we can do to improve the content. The survey respondents overall represent a distribution of prisoners in line with the general prison population, with a few exceptions consistent with the focus of our work. In particular, we have significant over-representation from Texas, California and Pennsylvania among our readers. This means prisoners in those states are getting more input into the content of ULK. While we are no longer collecting survey responses, we welcome readers to send us your feedback on what you like and what you think could be improved as we are constantly looking to improve ULK.
Assuming that respondants to our reader survey represent the general readership of ULK, we evaluated the information on their demographics to see how this compares to the prison population overall in the United $tates. Below we discuss some differences between ULK readers and the general prison population.
Our average surveyed age is 40, but in 2011 only 40% of the prison population was over 40. This is not a surprising fact: people who are older and more educated behind the bars are turning to revolutionary politics. We could conclude that a longer time in prison leads people to become more politically advanced.
Relative to the U.$. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) on "race" of prisoners, our survey respondents include a slight over-representation of New Afrikans and a significant underrepresentation of Latinos (16% compared to a 23% "Hispanic" population in 2011 overall). We are not surprised to have an undercount of Spanish-speaking folks responding to an english language survey, especially as Spanish-only migrants have been the fastest growing segment of the U.$. prison population in recent years. In addition, there was a significant percentage (8.3%) of people who identify as indigenous in our survey (including those who identified as half indigenous and half white). The BJS does not collect statistics on First Nations, so we must assume they are included in the remaining 5% that they do not class as Black, white or Hispanic. This indicates 8.3% is a relatively high percentage compared to the general prison population. As an organization fighting for the national liberation of oppressed nations, both internationally and within U.$. borders, we are not surprised that our readership in prison is even more skewed away from whites than the general prison population which is already only 34% white.
The latest study we found (2006) reports that 52% of prisoners are re-incarcerated. 61% of our respondents were incarcerated at least once before. This may be because those with a prison record get longer sentences and so are more likely to come into contact with ULK. They are also more likely to be older and active in prison, if our theory about age of prisoners is correct.
A very high percent (48%) of survey respondents are locked up in some form of solitary confinement (RHU, SHU, Control Units, Administrative Segregation, etc.). This is consistent with our experience that politically aware and active prisoners are targeted for isolation as punishment for their activism, and to try to isolate them from other prisoners to reduce their influence. Our research on control units indicates that less than 5% of prisoners are in long-term isolation in the United $tates.
In response to our question about what people like best about ULK, the most popular response (22%) was "all of it!" We appreciate the enthusiasm of our readers. More specific responses that were popular included a lot of support for the unity demonstrated by ULK articles (11%) and the stories about other prisoner's work and organizing (20%). There was also a lot of appreciation for state-specific and legal reporting (6%). Five percent of survey respondents liked best the core mission of ULK (which people described as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, internationalism, reporting the truth, or just "the mission"). In addition, we saw responses in support of book reviews, culture, Spanish, country-wide and world news reporting, and general education.
In response to the question about what our readers would like to see more of in ULK, aside from the third of the respondents who thought it was just perfect as is or just requested more of ULK, one of the popular responses (9.5%) was a request for more theory, including information on the history of revolutionary movements and revolutionary heroes, quotes from communists, Maoist theory in general, and more in depth analysis from MIM(Prisons). Related to the request for theory, because strategy is developed from theory, and tactics come from strategic direction, we also had a lot of people asking for strategic direction in general (5.5%), and many asking for more campaigns and tactical campaign work they can do in their prisons (5%). This is a good reminder for our USW leaders as well as our ULK writers and editors that we should tie general prison news to campaign work when possible, and we should be looking for opportunities to initiate new campaigns that will be both educational and lead to potential tactical victories for the revolutionary movement.
A lot of people (9%) want to see more state-specific information (every prisoner wants more information on their own state). We can only increase the content about your state if you take action and write about what's going on there. We rely on our readers for all of the state-specific reporting in ULK. And to really make good news, people need to be organizing so that we have campaigns, successes and failures to report on. So this is a response we hope comes from comrades who are sitting down now to write about their organizing efforts for the next issue.
There were also a lot of requests for resource lists (14.5%) or connections to other resources, and requests for legal information (12%). This is not part of our core mission for Under Lock & Key. We do run the Prisoners' Legal Clinic to help fight key legal battles, such as the censorship of political material. But MIM(Prisons)'s core mission is to build the anti-imperialist prison movement, and so we prioritize communist political organizing. We do not have the labor or funding to provide general resource lists and legal assistance in addition to our core work. We know there are not many groups out there doing this, but resource lists and legal assistance will ultimately only provide band-aids to a fundamentally broken system of imperialism. And anti-imperialist organizing is even more scarce in prisons than legal and resource work.
Additional suggestions from readers for specific areas of expansion included: art, control units, current events, international news, poetry, security, Spanish, U.$. government reporting, and issues faced by the elderly, wimmin and LGBTQ prisoners. There were a wide range of topics suggested and the ULK staff will be discussing all of them as we strive to improve Under Lock & Key.
A few prisoners responded to some of the survey questions requesting that ULK be "less racial", and "stop generalizing whites as oppressors" while one respondent liked "your hate against white people." These responses represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the MIM(Prisons) political line around nation. We do not hate white people; we hate the imperialist system which kills, tortures and oppresses the majority of the world's people for the wealth and enjoyment of the minority. We are scientists and we see clearly that in the United $tates the white nation is part of the minority of imperialist allies leading global oppression. But we also can see that the majority of the people in Russia before the revolution in 1917 who were oppressed were "white." It is not skin color that determines people's status as oppressor or oppressed. However, because of national oppression in the world today, we do see whole nations of people oppressed as a group by other nations. The white nation in the United $tates is an oppressor group, and there are many oppressed nations in the Third World. From an economic perspective, the other nations within U.$. borders are also part of the oppressors (New Afrikans, [email protected], etc.), but these groups also face national oppression and so have some interest in anti-imperialism. It's a complex system, that requires careful analysis and cannot be boiled down to race or hate against white people. We hope these readers will engage with us further for study to understand our position.
In this issue of Under Lock & Key we are featuring an extra four pages of content, which we hope our readers find to be educational and helpful in their organizing work. These four pages were funded by donators and the ULK Sustainers group, a group of United Struggle from Within members and supporters in prison who send in donations to expand ULK. To help fulfill the requests for more that was loud and clear in the survey results, join the ULK Sustainers group today.
No. I do not believe in your government never have never will No. I do not support your wars for your greed i will not kill No. I will not sit back and shut up nor play deaf, dumb and blind No. I will not hear what you say you can't corrupt my mind No. I will not teach my children your hate nor will i teach them your lies I can see your true colors through your red, white, and blue disguise No. I will not go to your church nor will i read your bible No. I will not worship your god fake prophets, a book or an idol
At this time; in this place; I genuinely know why the caged bird sings other than being falsely imprisoned, he’s being called N.I.G.G.E.R. of all things... As I give perfect praise to “the most high,” I can only wonder how many more bullets have to fly? How many more of my precious Black and Latino prisoners must die? Before those of us who still dare to be free can remove the blood filled tearz from our eyez. We’ve all been shackled by the same chainz, victimized by the same pain, so... in whose name doez death blossom? I can vividly recall being racially profiled as a juvenile, because as a child I refused to pledge my allegiance to a flag that forced so many of my B.L.A.C.K. Panthers into exile... This beautiful black revolutionary love of mine is God’s design, bottom line... I speak from the perspective of a S.O.U.L.J.A with an objective. Cause being Black in this "white man's worls," justice is often selective. On behalf of the collective, I stand on the front lines. My message to the b.l.a.c.k. man is to fight the power, nourish the seeds and restore our flowers... This form of revolutionary love will never be televized, nor will it be glamorized, because the very essence of this love affair depicts us finally being unified!! Let’z reflect back to the bird in the cage, back to the dehumanization that we endured while naked on the auction blocks and stage... Or picture the 25-50 million Africans that died during the passage that never made it to the grave because it is only through these degrees of pain, horror and terror, can one truly understand the life of a slave... On the strength of those whose lives were gave, that divine sacrifice in turn allowed countless other B.L.A.C.K. lives to be saved!!