MIM(Prisons) is working on a book about the lumpen in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates. The first chapter, which we are circulating in draft form for peer review, focuses on identifying the lumpen and calculating the size of this group within U.$. borders. Part of this identification first requires that we understand the definition of the lumpen as distinct from other classes.
The proletariat is the class exploited by the bourgeoisie, receiving less than the value of their labor, and basically with nothing to lose but their chains. Marxists include in the proletariat many unemployed people who constitute a reserve army of workers, available to replace proletarian workers if they become too slow, get sick, organize strikes, or otherwise displease the bourgeoisie. These unemployed help to keep wages low, and while temporarily unemployed, are still a part of the working class in the long term. The lumpenproletariat is the class of people that is permanently unemployed.
In a recent article, Nikolai Brown got into the calculation of how we define the proletariat in the United $tates. Brown calculated the total value of labor by dividing the number of working hours by the total value produced:
"In 2011, the global GDP was $69,110,000,000,000. The total population was estimated mid-year to be 7,021,836,029. Let us assume that half of people regularly work. In this case, each worker produces about $20,000 per year. This would be the value of labor. Furthermore, if we assume each worker works 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, the value of labor is $10 an hour."(1)
This is very relevant at a time when President Obama is promoting a raise in the federal minimum wage to $9/hour. Brown went on to emphasize the position of the majority of workers in the world: "As it stands, estimates of the global median income float between $1,250 and $1,700/year, $8,750- $8,300/year less than the estimated value of labor."
In a response to this article from ServethePeople, we find an important addition to these calculations:
"Bear in mind that not all of production can be distributed as personal income: much of it goes to the means of production, infrastructure, public works, waste, and other ends. If even half of production (probably a considerable overestimate) is available for distribution as personal income, then the value of labor, by the above calculation, is only $5 per hour. Even the minimum 'wage' in the imperialist countries is greater than that, so every last First World 'worker' is a parasite."
The point about distributing value produced is true whether we are talking about capitalism or socialism. The difference is not that the worker gets all the value they produce in their pocket, but that all the value they produce goes to serve the collective interests and not private profit.
MIM(Prisons) agrees with this calculation, and it informs our determination of who falls into the First World lumpen. We can see from this calculation that there is virtually no proletariat in the United $tates. Our goal is to separate out the very small proletariat and the large group of petty bourgeoisie people from the lumpen class.
I am writing to express my concerns with your paper. I am 100% for a true United Front. I do not judge people by the color of their skin. I am white and I'm proud of the fact. I come from Oakland CA and in school was a target just because I was white. My family did not have money.
In a story in ULK 26 May/June 2012 you claim that poor whites searching for identity turn to white supremacist and we find our identity in the false belief of their supremacy in the color of our skin. Well my friend, I refute your belief and you're just way off the mark. I came up in Oakland, CA in the 60s, 70s, 80s when Oakland was at war most of the war was drug war, but in the 60s and 70s there were political wars and protest from the Blacks. There was one movement after another.
I for one never claim that I am better than anyone because I'm white, but growing up in Oakland, because of my white skin I was jumped. In spite of that, to this day I do not judge people by the color of their skin as you clearly do.
Now about ULK 24, 2012 page 3 concerning Special Needs Yards (SNY). I came into the system in the 80s and sure there was no such thing as SNY back then, they called it PSU. CDCR has always housed child molesters, rapists and snitches and they programmed on the GP yards for years, and for the most part we ran them off the yard. SNY was not put in place for that kind of people, SNY was put in place for prisoners who got sick and tired of killing each other. The system back in the day was run by a bunch of older guys who kept the youngsters in line. Well you had a bunch of kids coming into the system, yes more Blacks and Latinos, who were in search of an identity. They would join these prison gangs not knowing what they were getting into. Then you had a lot of kids on the streets looking at the drug dealers with all the money, cars, houses, women, so they joined up with their gang, then they come to prison for drug charges and as soon as they hit prison they have to prove themselves.
Now SNY came into play when people like myself said, wait why are we fighting each other and letting the system take more and more of our rights away from us, so they check in to PSU. But word got around on the GP yard that you can do your time without fear of death so SNY was formed. CDCR said OK that we now got these prisoners that want to drop out of the gangs, that's a win win for everyone. It took me until 2004 to check into SNY. I heard all races there stand as one. I said great. I think SNY has about 65% of the prison yards now, and about 80% of SNY prisoners stand as one voice, with 20% not ready or able to let go of the GP ways.
I can state I never had to debrief, I never had to tell on anyone, I am no sex offender. My position on sex offenders stands: they are still considered seriously damaged people that I myself stay away from. This person that sent you his BS about all SNY prisoners are weak and come to this side for better treatment is wrong.
I was in Corcoran as an SNY in the SHU and we all engaged in the hunger strike, we all signed numerous grievances and complaints to the administration, and as you know we didn't get all we requested but we did change things for the better. Yes CDCR needs to change its stand on SHU prisoners and I think this year will see more change.
Now when my SHU time was over they sent me to Ad-Seg pending transfer. Ad-Seg is a mix of SNY and GP. It was SNY prisoners who took the stand and boarded up, no GP took the stand but they enjoyed the outcome of our SNY work. We got our 3 showers each week back, we got hot meals with canteen.
We prisoners here in SNY do not get more privileges than GP. Our program is the same as GP except that they're locked down more because of the nonsense they're not willing to let go of. There has not been one lockdown since I got here six months ago, and that's because we still have guys who have disagreements but we don't try and kill each other, there are fist fights but it ends there.
So the program is the same, but we get more of it because we stand as one people and our fight is not with each other, our fight is to get out of prison as fast as we can. The way to shut down prisons is to not have prisoners to fill them. And the way that is done is for all prisoners to change their thinking, change their outlook on life and become better people no matter what color you are.
If prisoners would stop killing each other because of the color of their skin or where they're from there would be no need for SHU or Ad-Seg.
So before these so-called GP prisoners call all of us weak they need to think about the real facts. SNY in the next five years will be the new GP and these prisoners who want to hold on to the nonsense that keep them in prison will be locked away.
On this side of SNY we ask to be treated like humans and in most cases we are. When we stop fighting each other and put the paperwork in to bring back the programs needed to better our lives, then change comes.
I think we have the same goal in mind, unity and peace. I am willing to work to bring unity and peace to all prisoners no matter the color of your skin or where you are from. With dedication and determination we can change the system and make it work for us in a way to end business as we know it today. We need to reach out to those that will listen and work with us to bring down the number of people in the system.
MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we will address the question of unity and the interests of whites. We have always maintained that whites can be revolutionaries and can act in the interests of the oppressed. But we make statements about groups of people and their material interests. This individual white persyn may in fact really be willing to fight for the interests of all people, but whites as a group in the United $tates have demonstrated their material interests are aligned with the imperialists. And historically they have gone for fascism over revolution (See Sakai's book Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat). Examples of one white persyn in Amerika who claims not to judge people by skin color is not relevant to this scientific analysis. This is not about judging people for the color of their skin, it is about understanding the history of nations and national interests. We don't like Obama better as a President because he is Black, he's still the leader of the biggest terrorist government in the world. Nonetheless, we call on all white people to unite with the movement against national oppression both in the U.$. and globally, and we know some whites will be on our side.
On the SNY debate we have more unity with this prisoner. We agree that there are many individuals in SNY who are part of the anti-imperialist movement, fighting on the side of the oppressed, and not snitching or betraying people. But this letter goes too far in posing SNY as better than GP. Conditions are different in each state and even within states in each prison. We need to judge the actions of individuals rather than making sweeping assumptions about "all SNY prisoners are snitches" or "all GP prisoners are fighting each other."
We also do not agree that "If prisoners would stop killing each other because of the color of their skin or where they're from there would be no need for SHU or Ad-Seg." We maintain that control units are a tool of social control, not a legitimate punishment for prison violence. And so we do not blame the prisoners for the system that confines them and in fact encourages violence. We know that many prisoners in the SHU are locked up for their political organizing, not for violence. We should not perpetuate the myth of legitimacy around these control units.
On December 28, 2012 at approximately 8pm, I and many other prisoners housed here at Estelle Unit High Security witnessed a heinous act of violence. Four TDCJ employees viciously beat a mentally ill Black prisoner whose hands were cuffed behind his back. Some prisoners wrote grievances, and some wrote their family members to complain about the inhumane and barbaric behavior of the officers. In the months and weeks that followed I have witnessed one of the most devious and calculated programs of retaliation that I have ever seen anywhere.
Lieutenant Deward Demoss who works on this High Security Unit has undertaken the task of targeting prisoners who spoke out against the beating. He has instructed the officers under his supervision to write fabricated and bogus disciplinary reports on specifically "pre-chosen" prisoners. Then Lieutenant Demoss goes further by violating prisoners' due process rights by faking investigation and hearing entries on paper work. The coup de grace is when Lt. Deward Demoss actually runs court on the prisoner who has been "set up" by this modern day Agent of Repression! Yes, comrades, this is an example of the type of pig Ward Churchill and Jim Vanderwall warned us about.
However, all is not lost. Many prisoners have responded to this unethical and criminal behavior by writing numerous Step 1 and Step 2 grievances. Letters have been sent to the ACLU, state legislators, and the media. Prison officials have even knocked out the local Pacifica Radio affiliate, KPFT, to sabotage prisoners access to the fearless free voices on KPFT who champion prisoner issues. Stay tuned for more reports from the front lines.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is not the first time Deward Demoss has been called out in Under Lock & Key for his work at Estelle prison. We know the problem isn't really about one individual, replacing Demoss will not change the fundamentally oppressive criminal injustice system. This prisoner is correct to call out the responses of filing grievances and publicizing the violence and subsequent retaliation. The pages of Under Lock & Key are open to all who work to expose injustice in their institutions. We encourage everyone to take an example from this prisoner and build both publicity and resistance to the repression. And then we must take it one step further and educate all involved about the role individual oppressors and actions play as a part of the imperialist system as a whole. Through this education and organizing we can build the anti-imperialist movement.
Every ill-conceived notion and manipulative scheme to sabotage the success of the lumpen under class is embodied within the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
For the past 3 months a common front page headline article in the El Paso Times has been associated with a cheating scandal involving El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) "trustees" and various school officials and administrators. In truth, this scandal and scam has been marinating for years, not months. There is concrete evidence which shows TEA was aware that something was not right in El Paso but for whatever reason whether it be cronyism, nepotism, or a hidden political agenda, the scandal was kept quiet.
However, when the Department of Education and the Department of inJustice, represented by the FBI, got involved, a shocking scheme was revealed. EPISD educators and administrators were trying to game the federal accountability system by "disappearing" certain students who did not perform well academically and didn't score well on certain standardized tests. In some cases, EPISD administrators not only kicked poor performing students out of school, they did not offer them an alternative. Further, it was discovered that these crooked "trustees" would sic ICE agents on the predominantly Latino children, not just kicking them out of school, but deporting them out of the country! This ensured that they would not be around to tell it!
I mentioned that there might be a hidden political agenda at work here and there is. In 2011, during the Texas state legislative session, Texas lawmakers decided to cut $5.8 billion dollars from the public school budget. These budget cuts placed many school districts that serve minorities in dire straits; they just did not have the financial resources to teach the children or pay quality teachers. During this time Governor Rick Perry was eyeing a bid for the Republican Presidential nomination and in his best imperialist oppressor moment, he refused to accept any federal government stimulus money or allow Texas independent school districts to compete for money in a new initiative called Race to the Top. Perry outright lied to the media and said Texas educators don't need any federal money to educate children in Texas. The Federal government changed requirements and regulations for Race to the Top funds and allowed independent school districts to apply themselves for federal money instead of relying on racist, crooked-ass politicians like Governor Rick Perry to represent them. As a result of the rule change, Texas led all states in the United $nakes in applications for federal money geared toward education. Looks like old redneck Rick is out of touch with what his constituents really want and need. Or is he?
While Governor Rick Perry is fully aware of the lumpen's need for a quality education, it is not his intent to provide quality education for the lumpen under class. Better education would derail Texas's pathway-to-prison strategy. Do you really believe that Black and Latino men and wimmin have the market cornered on criminal behavior? Comrades, so many times it is our social and economic conditions that lead us to the penitentiary. MIM theorists have been telling us this for years!
In 1793 political scholar William Godwin criticized the whole idea of a national education system. He states in his inquiry concerning political justice that: "the project of a national education ought uniformly to be discouraged on account of its obvious alliance with national government. Government will not fail to employ it (education) to strengthen its hand and perpetuate its institutions...Their view as instigator of a system of education will not fail to be analogous to their views in their political capacity..."
We have taken a quantum leap here. We are not just talking about the flawed system of mis-education in El Paso or Texas as a whole. I am telling you that there is a serious flaw in the national education system in the United $nakes and this should be enough to convince a comrade to study Maoism seriously.
But I'm not done with redneck Rick yet. I want to reveal a couple more facts about what he has got cooking in Texas. Comrades, with a prison system that is overflowing with Blacks and Latinos, what particular slot is redneck Rick trying to get the poor lumpen underclass to fill? Moreover, what particular slot is this pig's poor education system trying to get them to accept?
Recently, 600 independent school districts in Texas took the State government to court stating they were not being given adequate funding to educate children, and that this neglect by the State amounted to a serious violation of the U.S. Constitution. The court ruled in favor of the school districts! Furthermore, it was found that Texas's inability to provide adequate funding for schools was unconstitutional.
Governor Rick Perry has recently been making trips to California attempting to lure businesses to Texas citing Texas's low tax rates and easy-going regulations for large corporations. Nevertheless, Perry ignores the cries of the lumpen for adequate funding for education. His actions speak volumes: "My allegiance is to the imperialist corporations, I could care less about educating the lumpen under class, they might wake up to my real agenda!" I suspect these are the thoughts of Governor Perry.
Today, February 22, 2013, activists from Houston, TX prepare to travel to Austin, Texas, the state capitol, in order to lobby and protest in reference to the $5.8 billion that was cut from education in 2011. The battle cry for the lumpen in Texas seems to be "If you don't fight for what you want you deserve what you get!" As the great James Brown would say "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!"
MIM(Prisons) responds: As we reported in an article in Under Lock & Key 30 on national oppression in education, on average, Black and Latino high school seniors perform math and read at the same level as 13-year-old white students. Money available for school districts with a majority of the students from oppressed nations is far less than what is available for white school districts, and segregation is on the rise again in Amerikan schools. So we are not surprised to see this story about Texas denying money and education to oppressed nation children. The court decisions in these cases have gone back and forth, and we can't count on them to rectify the problem.
While the differences in funding between schools based on national composition is damning, this is just a symptom of the problem. The campaign to increase school funding is dominated by the petty bourgeois labor unions who utilize oppressed nation children in their campaign for higher pay. As this prisoner points out, the schools will still be run by the government and deliver the education they want. This will not address the needs of the oppressed or create anti-imperialist change. We need to use the school situation as a tool to educate youth about national oppression and the need to join the fight against imperialism. Just as we run independent study programs for prisoners across the United $tates, the youth need independent education programs that teach them what they need to know to create a better world.
This movie claims to chronicle the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attack, culminating in his death in May 2011. This is a hollywood film, so we can't expect an accurate documentary. But that doesn't really matter since the movie will represent what Amerikans think of when they picture the CIA's work in the Middle East. And what they get is a propaganda film glorifying Amerikan torture of prisoners, and depicting Pakistani people as violent and generally pretty stupid. From start to finish there is nothing of value in this movie, and a lot of harmful and misleading propaganda. The main message that revolutionaries should take from it revolves around government information gathering. From tracking phones to networks of people watching and following individuals, the government has extensive and sophisticated techniques at their disposal, and even the most cautious will have a very hard time avoiding even a small amount of government surveillance.
The plot focuses almost exclusively on a CIA agent, "Maya," who devoted her career to finding clues to Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Early in the film there are a lot of graphic scenes of prisoners being tortured to get information, including waterboarding, beatings, cages, and food and sleep deprivation. Maya is bothered by the torture initially, but quickly adapts and joins in the interrogations. The movie is very pro-torture, showing critical information coming from every single tortured prisoner, ignoring the fact that so many prisoners held in Amerikan detention facilities after 9/11 were never charged, committed no crimes, and had no information. Throughout the film there are constant digs against Obama's ban on torture as a method of extracting information in 2009. Ironically, in the movie the CIA still found Osama bin Laden, using no torture after the ban. But we're left understanding that it would have been much easier if the CIA still had free reign with prisoners.
Although Zero Dark Thirty portrays Obama as soft on terror and a hindrance to the CIA's work, we should not be fooled into thinking that the U.$. government has really ended the use of torture. While we have no clear information about what goes on in interrogation cells in other countries, we know that right here in U.$. prisons, torture is used daily. And this domestic torture is usually not even focused on getting information, it's either sadistic entertainment for prison staff or punishment for political organizing. In one example of this, a USW comrade who wrote about Amerikan prison control units died shortly after his article was printed, under suspicious circumstances in Attica Correctional Facility.
Banning certain interrogation techniques, even if that ban is actually enforced in the Third World, is just an attempt to put makeup on the hideous face of imperialism. Even if no Amerikan citizen ever practices torture on Third World peoples (something we know isn't true), the fact is that the United $tates prefers to pay proxies to carry out its dirty work anyway. Torture, military actions, rape, theft, etc., can all be done at a safe distance by paying neo-colonial armies and groups to work on behalf of the Amerikan government.
Whether actions are carried out by Navy SEALs, CIA agents, or proxy armies and individuals, Amerikan imperialism is working hard to keep the majority of the world's people under control and available for exploitation. The death of bin Laden is portrayed as a big victory in Zero Dark Thirty, but for the majority of the world's people this was just one more example of Amerikan militarism, a system that works against the material interests of most people in the world.
7 March 2013 — Today marks the 1-year anniversary of a truce between two rival lumpen organizations (LOs) in El Salvador, Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha-13. The truce has its origins inside Salvadoran prisons, where secret meetings were mediated by members of the Church, and facilitated by the Salvadoran government. The result was a shuffling around of LO members to different prisons, and a reduction of the homicide rate in El Salvador from 14 per day to 5.(1)
Without getting too deep into the origins of Barrio 18 and Mara Salvacrucha-13 (MS-13), it is significant to note that they both originated in Los Angeles, California (Barrio 18 in the 1950s-60s, MS-13 in the 1980s). Barrio 18 was originally made up of Mexican nationals but adapted its recruiting base as Latinos of other backgrounds migrated to southern California. MS-13 emerged from refugees of the civil war in El Salvador who had congregated in Los Angeles. In the 1990s, policy changes in the U.$. government led to the deportation of thousands of LO members back to their home countries, where their respective LOs were not yet established. In El Salvador, both groups took off.
The political climate in the 1990s in El Salvador was marked by an end to the civil war in 1992. Not surprisingly, the local conditions contributed to the ease of recruitment for these LOs. One of the Barrio 18 members who participated in the peace talks, Carlos Mojica, told the Christian Science Monitor "the streets were left filled with weapons, orphaned children, conditions of extreme poverty, disintegrated households."(2) These are ripe conditions for the proliferation of street organizations. When youth have no support and adults have no jobs, they must turn to other means for survival.
Change of Heart
Some cite an incident in June 2011 as a peak in the violence of these two organizations, which was a reality check for many. Barrio 18 has been blamed by the Salvadoran government and many citizens for a bus burning which killed at least 14 people in Mejicanos, San Salvador. This bus burning received media attention worldwide, and was accompanied by a bus shooting the same evening which killed 3 people. All the targets of this violence were reported to be unaffiliated citizens and travelers.
Others cite time and persynal experience as what changed their minds about violence. In the United $tates, many, if not most, LO members age out into the labor aristocracy or petty-bourgeoisie. But this isn't an option in El Salvador which is not an exploiter country with a bought-off labor aristocracy. Members who would otherwise be aging out of the LO if they were U.$. citizens, instead see an imperative need to change the conditions for themselves and younger generations.(2) MS-13 member Dany Mendez told BBC News "I have lost too many friends and relatives in the violence. We don't want another war because we are thinking about our children."(3)
Of course many activists in the United $tates, including MIM(Prisons) and signatories of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, see a need to end lumpen-on-lumpen violence in this country. But it's clear that conditions here are much better than in El Salvador in that a significant portion of people can leave their days of wylin' out in their past and move on to join the oppressor classes. The material conditions which lead to movement of the lumpen class in the United $tates is explored in our forthcoming book. How much these differences in material conditions affects the movement in this country toward peace between lumpen organizations will be determined by those of us working for this peace.
The peace agreement between MS-13 and Barrio 18 has not been touted as an end to the violence forever, but instead is framed as "a break in the violence so the various stakeholders can work out long-term solutions."(4) Since the beginning, the peacemakers have been calling on the Salvadoran government to generate jobs and work with former and current LO members on developing skills that will help them make a living without relying on violence.
Last month, a program was initiated by U.$. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with Salvadoran businesses and non-governmental organizations, in a purported effort to prevent youth from joining LOs in the first place. They claim this program has nothing to do with the truce, and have no intention of helping people who have already chosen or been forced to join a lumpen organization.(5) Considering the long history of U.$. neocolonialism in Central America, it is not surprising that U$AID is putting their 2 cents in. Time will tell the long-term effects of this $42 million investment, but we can safely assume it will amount to manipulation of the Salvadoran people by the United $tates government.(6)
After one solid year, the truce has withstood everyone's doubts and has not been broken. If the government is not going to step up to help prevent the violence, then the LOs will have to organize to do it themselves. One of the principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons is Independence, which is just as important in El Salvador where the United $tates has dominated politics and the economy. We see today where U.$. intervention has gotten them thus far. MS-13 and Barrio 18 members know what their communities need better than U.$. investors do, and they should be supported in their efforts to change. It is our strong suspicion that those looking to change the conditions in which they live in any substantive way will eventually find that an end to capitalism itself is the order of the day.
One such organization which is supporting the peace treaty in El Salvador is Homies Unidos, which has chapters in Los Angeles and El Salvador. Alex Sanchez is the director of Homies Unidos in LA, and in recent history has been targeted by the FBI for harassment and detainment.(7) The bogus charges were finally dropped last month after restricting his ability to work for years. We tried to get in touch with Homies Unidos to gather more information on the real effects of the peace treaty on the ground, and what more is needed to maintain and advance the peace, but unfortunately we have not heard back.
For eight days during December 2011, I was placed in a cell completely nude, and without any state or personal property what-so-ever, while outside temperatures fell down into the low 20 degree range, after having my face and head completely shaved at the direction of TDCJ officers. I was forced to sleep nude on the concrete floor, even as my cell was flooded by ice cold rainwater due to a leak in the ceiling, and the section exhaust fan was operated at night time increasing the ill effects of the cold temperatures.
My cell and person were subjected to a thorough search every two hours around the clock for the entire period by a team of TDCJ officers armed with tear gas, pepper spray, and billy clubs. The coercive language, verbal abuse and repeated threats of use of force and chemical agents upon refusal to exit my cell for shake-downs, or other failures to precisely follow orders, was constant. During the cell searches human feces was tracked all over the floor and bunk by officers and was never cleaned up, nor were cleaning supplies provided.
Security checks requiring a verbal or visual response were conducted every 30 minutes and cell lights were left on 24/7, inducing sleep deprivation. Blinds were installed over my cell door windows inducing sensory deprivation, and near constant banging, hammering, grinding, yelling and other sudden and loud noises created a barrage of audio-assaults that was contestant and nerve-wracking. On several occasions I was inappropriately punished with sub-standard food-loaf in place of regular meal trays, not justified by any offense, and I was forced to eat by hand after defecating while unable to clean myself due to a lack of soap, towels and toilet paper.
All recreation, showers and legal communication were denied. I was never charged nor convicted of any disciplinary offense and I assert that these actions by TDCJ officers, and at the authoritative direction of TDCJ prion administration, violated commonly accepted standards of custodial care as well as my civil rights under both the federal and Texas state constitutions, and, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.
I filed grievances on the abuse and ill treatment, however, I never received an official response, thereby denying me my constitutional right to due process and concurrently derailing my efforts at obtaining relief and administrative resolution.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This torture is often used by prison officials as punishment for prisoners who are fighting abuse and injustice, in an attempt to break their spirit and end their attempts to seek justice. This prisoner is now planning to file a civil rights lawsuit, after his attempts at administrative relief failed, and so we are happy to see that the torture did not stop him. But we know that these conditions, especially when faced long term in control units across the country, cause serious physical and mental harm. This is why the campaign to shut down control units is a critical battle for prisoners across the country.
Since my earlier letter I have now come across many prisoners who are existing members. It is encouraging to know that other prisoners want a revolution recharge to Texas's prison environment. In my past years of confinement, in the units I have been assigned to, not many prisoners saw the need for revolutionary prison reform. On this unit, I am coming across more prisoners who are seeing the need and attempting through civil litigation to see this reform come about.
Texas still wants to deny prisoners the right to have the government redress our grievances for violations of our constitutional rights. The right of a prisoner to petition the government exists in theory only, but not in practice.
The poorer and less educated prisoners have to face a two-front battle just to get into court. As an indigent prisoner I have to fight access to courts officials just to get the legal correspondence supplies that I need to litigate my claims. After I get them into court I have to battle court authorities and judges just to keep them in.
When I write to judges of my treatment by officials I face retribution by other prison officials. Judges and court authorities want to deny my right to exercise my claims in court under proper due process and equal protection rights. If I had funds, family or friends who could help me out with legal correspondence supplies, then the prison officials would not be able to place me in a figurative full-body straitjacket.
It is so bad that many prisoners' claims being filed in court are being stolen right out of court by magistrate judges, dismissing lawsuits on which they do not have the right to render a final judgement. When prisoners appeal it, they send it to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. District court judges' judgements are nothing more than a court directed verdict. The rendered judgements do not fit the evidence filed in court in complaints, evidence and exhibits.
Prisoners in Texas have filed so many individual lawsuits that Texas does not want any more to be filed because, whether a lawsuit succeeds or fails, it leaves an electronic paper trail. Texas prison officials are scared that the feds will step in and take their prison system away. This to me is an encouraging sign so I say keep up the good work and soon we can see the Texas prison walls come crumbling down.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade that lawsuits are an important part of our current strategy to fight the criminal injustice system. But this will never bring about revolutionary change, because the legal system is a part of the criminal injustice system as a whole, as this comrade's experience demonstrates. The imperialists will never relinquish control of this critical part of their internal system of national oppression through legal battles. We can use their system against them to an extent, and even win some key battles in the legal arena, but we will do that as a part of the broader struggle which must build for independent revolutionary change.
Recently an ex-LAPD officer, Chris Dorner, was in the news for killing cops and their family members, and then eventually himself in the resulting manhunt. This is a classic case of the chickens coming home to roost. When this story broke, many of us prisoners were not surprised about this activity. The state has for generations unleashed pig brutality on the internal semi-colonies (brown, black and red peoples), it is a way of life. What is surprising is for this to be unleashed on the state by one of its own.
Dorner was fired by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 2009 in retaliation for reporting police brutality including incidents of unwarranted abuse on innocent Latino and Black people in Los Angeles. This speaking up against pig brutality was crossing the line, and threatened the pig culture that permeates the states institutions. Poor people are looked at as the enemy by the state. It's not only one's skin color, although skin and thus nation continues to be a driving force for oppression. But state terrorism does not happen in Bel Air or other wealthy or "middle class" communities. These terrorist acts are carried out in poor communities.
When the manhunt was launched for Dorner, people were told that if they had a truck they should "stay home."(1) This is sending the message that the state is seeking to attack any truck on the road, and this is not a big exaggeration. One only need ask Emma Hernadez, the 71-year-old Chicana who was shot with her daughter while they were driving a truck delivering newspapers.(2) I didn't know what was more surprising: the fact that the pigs turned a truck into swiss cheese with wimmin in it with no provocation, or the fact that the corporate news media was slow to mention it. The Spanish language outlet Univision mentioned it while other English stations took days to cover it. When they did they grudgingly mentioned "a shooting" and a day later "two wimmin were shot." The media once more failed to criticize the state terror that we experience. This shooting was treated as critically as a fender bender.
What transpired with Dorner points to a contradiction within the United $tates where some of the oppressed are allowed to eat from master's table and given crumbs like jobs, rank in its military, and positions in the political body that ultimately serve the oppressor nation. These crumbs come at the expense of oppressing other oppressed people. This dilemma hits people with different results. Some in the military come to this realization while in the Third World and react by either committing suicide, attacking the state like Dorner did, or simply continuing to oppress other people. The media, which is the state's mouthpiece, says how "dangerous" Dorner is, but who is he a danger to? With his training he could have easily attacked people on the street but he stated he is bringing a war on the LAPD in an online manifesto, so the only danger he would pose is to the state. Putting the state on the defensive benefits those oppressed by Amerikkka.
The death of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty, like the U.$. military, has been on the rise in recent years. In 2009 there were 122 pigs killed in the line of duty, in 2010 there were 154, and 163 for 2011.(3) Like the enlisted military, Amerikan police are compelled to oppress Third World peoples, often people who look just like them. This has resulted in not only resistance from those being oppressed but also in mental trauma for the oppressor in what has been referred to as "post traumatic stress disorder." This trauma, regardless of what it's called, is brought on by one coming to the realization that killing innocents for Amerikan empire is a horrible thing; so horrible that it often results in violence either unleashed on the state, on oneself or one's family, or on the public.
Pig violence inflicts terror on the barrios and ghettos in the United $tates in its most crude forms, which then works to traumatize the people, particularly our youth. We are so immune to violence that we often consume the oppression inflicted on us and mirror this oppression on others just as many of those abused as children go on to abuse others. It is a process that mimics behavior one was taught.
We are beginning to understand that violence affects us more than we know. More than merely teaching us violent behavior, we are now learning that violence affects us biologically as well. A study recently found that children exposed to violence are prone to disease about 7 to 10 years earlier. According to this study "that early childhood adversity imprints itself in our chromosomes."(4)
Growing up in neighborhoods where an activity like walking the dog in the evening is met with being thrown against the wall by a pig, or a child riding her/his bike after school is met with being questioned, photographed and having a field card filled out which locks you into a gang database, affects our youth in ways we are only now learning about. National oppression is not simply occupying our land or killing us on the streets. There are many more diabolical ways in which this genocide is inflicted besides bullets.
The stress that our youth are now facing by the pig terror comes in many forms. One journalist for example said he interviewed a 22-year-old from Queens, NY who has already been "stopped and frisked" 70 times.(5) Think of how this must affect our youth when living one's childhood revolves around being approached, harassed and hunted by gun-toting pigs who you know have a license to kill you at any time. But the streets are not the only place where our youth are hunted by the pigs. In "operation crew cut" the NYPD doubled officers in an attempt to combat "gangs" via social media. This can be seen as an attempt to bait our youth online to discuss illegal acts or to pry info out of youth which may implicate others, trolling the internet in search of more brown and Black skins that they cannot get from the streets.
But wanton murder by the pigs is still alive and well; the lead raincloud continues to hang over our heads in streets across the United $tates. In 2011 54 people were killed by the LAPD.(6) This is the same police department that Dorner rose up on. This national oppression is supported by the highest levels of the Amerikkkan government. When the NYPD officer who killed Sean Bell back in 2008 was acquitted, Obama, who was a candidate for president at the time, issued a statement to the public to "respect the verdict." This is not a matter of a couple of pigs acting up here and there; it's national oppression.
The social reality of the oppressed is much different than what is perceived from those who are not oppressed in the United $tates. Our interaction with the pigs is violent and traumatic. It is common for homes to be raided by "mistake" and often these raids result in an occupant being murdered or injured physically, but almost always occupants are injured psychologically. The author Michelle Alexander gets at this a little when she writes: "In countless situations in which police could easily have arrested someone or conducted a search without a military-style raid, police blast into people's homes, typically in the middle of the night, throwing grenades, shouting, and pointing guns and rifles at anyone inside, often including young children."(8)
I would add to this that pig raids are much more than this for children. Anyone who has ever experienced a pig raid, especially through the eyes of a child, can understand what I mean. Personally I remember as a child when the pigs raided my home. Seeing our home stormed guns a-blazing, and having a gun pointed at me, watching my family be cuffed and beaten by these predators. It's not a matter of the pigs going in a house doing their "job." It is a much more brutal reality for most people facing national oppression.
The oppressed nations people here in the United $tates have come to see our social conditions as normal, but this is only because we have been oppressed since birth. We grew up with our land occupied, and we have never seen anything else but living under an imperialist society. Mao once said: "In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class."(9)
This cuts right to the bone of the matter and dispels the revisionist outlook of picking and choosing oppression to suit their agenda. What Mao is saying is everything is stamped with a class brand. Some will say art does not or should not be political but art will, like all other phenomena, have a class character to it and thus will serve one class or the other. This concept also applies to national oppression: if a nation is oppressed in any given society, all ideas — and thus actions — are stamped with the brand of national oppression. Pig terror is a form of national oppression we face in the United $tates and actions taken by Dorner are a result of the contradictions that occur when those from the oppressed nations grapple internally with what the state is having them do to other oppressed people.
On February 13, Dorner's last stand took place, where he was surrounded in a mountain cabin in Big Bear, California. He shot it out, taking down another pig before he was finally killed. This was an unprecedented event of an ex-cop declaring war on the state. But matter is in constant motion and contradictions arise constantly. The fact that people are products of matter tells us that there will continue to be contradictory struggles like this in the future. Historical materialism tells us that the oppressed will continue to resist in many ways. Even those who are lured or bought off by imperialism will many times break with the oppressor and instead serve the ruling class a taste of its own medicine.
Throughout the few years I have spent reading Under Lock & Key (ULK) it is apparent to me that many people behind these prison walls have come together, either to subscribe to ULK or express their opinions and expose conditions within their specific prisons. But this is just one aspect of the basis of a United Front, and does not constitute a quantum leap in our march towards building a politically conscious class within prison life itself.
Many comrades have expressed a need for sharing education, whether piecemeal or in study groups, and I have always been an advocate of such. But I always viewed other prisoners' lack of interest in holding political discussions as an obstacle for a United Front advancement. That was my subjective view until it finally dawned on me that there might be lack of interest wherever I was housed, but it was abundant in ULK.
Comrades taking the time to pick up an issue of ULK have started educating themselves on the political thoughts of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. In acquainting themselves and reading it they are in a process of studying. Furthermore those comrades who take it a step further to write essays, articles on specific topics, and/or express their opinions on other comrades' articles, can open up debates or collaborations for future tasks to be accomplished. By forming a study group within the lines of ULK by ULK subscribers and finally bringing up the other aspect of educating ourselves from grasping what we study, we acquire knowledge.
But our new-found education must be put into practice. We must apply what we have learned to our current conditions.
"Every study of Marxism shakes up people and the contradiction between the two world outlooks comes to the fore. Marxism gives hammer blows to the non-proletarian outlook and fuels the ideological force, as in every task, three stages each with its own contradiction, present themselves. At the beginning arises the contradiction between starting the study and not starting it. Starting up already constitutes a 50% advance." - Comrade Gonzalo from Peru.
Although I strongly encourage comrades to study the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, one cannot just narrow on that road. Many other topics/subjects are encouraged as well: legal news, winning 602s (grievances), fighting mail censorship, filing a writ of habeas corpus, etc. Any topic that's informative and helpful to our interests is an advanced step in our struggle.