Enclosed is a clipping from the Austin American-Statesman (2018 May 3) I thought pertinent and might be of interest.
Not having first-hand knowledge of the University of Texas (UT) course "MasculinUT," I found it interesting that the reactionary philistines again attacked academia for addressing patriarchal oppression. As far as I'm concerned, conventional notions of masculinity are a societal conditioning of the psyche, ergo, much like a Black persyn ensnared in a eurocentric society, a mind fuck. So, yeah, maybe the yahoos are correct that traditional concepts of what masculinity entails (e.g., violence against wimmin) is a mental health issue, and as such, men need to be subjected to re-conditioning via communist transition. Maybe, like the bourgeoisie under socialism, men will be repressed. Maybe, hell!
MIM(Prisons) responds: The article enclosed, from the Statesman, talks about the UT masculinity education program, which is an awareness campaign formerly run by the University's Counseling and Mental Health Center. Conservatives attacked the program, claiming it treats masculinity as a mental health problem.
In response, the MasculinUT program was moved to Dean of Students, and, in a statement from its website, "the program's original steering committee was reconvened and expanded to provide recommendations and feedback to ensure that the program's mission is clearly defined and fully aligned with its original intent of reducing sexual assault and interpersonal violence."
We're with this comrade in thinking it might not be so bad to think about masculinity as a mental health issue. As long as we're clear that this and many other mental health issues are a product of the capitalist patriarchy. People aren't born being sexist idiots. They are trained to believe that wimmin don't know what they want, to see wimmin as objects, and to view maleness as a sign of superiority. People will need a lot of retraining to overcome a lifetime of patriarchal education.
We don't know what's involved in the UT program so we can't comment on it. But we can say that after the imperialist patriarchy is overthrown we'll have a long period of cultural revolution where we need to re-invent humyn culture and re-educate everyone to see all people as equal. This is about the patriarchy, but also about the oppression of all groups of people over other groups, across the strands of oppression of nation, class and gender. This involve forcibly repressing patriarchal culture and institutions. We hope that forcible repression of half the population (men) will not be necessary, but there will need to be active promotion of feminists into positions of power, and a careful re-consideration of the appropriate interactions between all humyns.
We received a lot of thoughtful responses to Under Lock & Key 61 debating sex offenders. This is a tough topic. It's easy to recognize that our culture encourages abuse of wimmin. And there are many problems with how the criminal injustice system defines sex crimes and selectively prosecutes this crime. But people don't want to condone rape, and many of us have a persynal reaction of horror to sexual predators that makes it hard to think about this objectively.
Regardless of the societal influences, and the unfair definitions and prosecutions, there are a lot of people who have committed sex crimes, and these should not just be ignored or forgiven. This topic got a lot of people thinking about whether or not sex offenders (SOs) can be part of the movement, and if they committed sex crimes, if they can be reformed.
Defining sex crimes
We have all been raised in a culture that promotes sexism and condones gender oppression. We call this system the patriarchy. It's a system where sexy young teen models sell clothes, and TV and movies glorify powerful men and violence against wimmin. This culture colors every relationship we have. We're taught that being a good man means acting manly and strong and never letting a womyn tell you what to do. And we're taught that being a good womyn means submitting to the needs and desires of your man. With this training, we can't expect equality in relationships. And without equality, we can't expect free consent. Not everyone has a gun to their heads when they are asked to consent to sex, but there are a lot of different forms of power and persuasion.
So we're starting out with a messed up system of gender oppression, and then we're trying to define which acts of sexual violation count as coerced (rape) and which are just "normal." One California prisoner wrote:
"I want to comment on the sex offender topic. Yeah it's rough because like the Nevada 17 1/2 yr old dude it's just that easy to get caught up. As adults we're able to date 18-19 year olds as a 40-50 year old.
"I mean if people are going to argue 15 year old and an 18 is different, the question is why/how? If their answer isn't 'I just want my baby girl to be my baby girl a few more years' then their answer is B.S., because that's what it really boils down to.
"Moving on, the sex offender umbrella is too big. Like it was mentioned, a person taking a leak in public is considered a sex offender? We haven't always had toilets, let's get real and go after the real sex offenders — fully adult male/female taking advantage of a child. That's a sex offender! 20, 30, 40 year old trying to sleep with a 13 year old — sex offender! Possession of child pornography — sex offender!"
This writer raises the question of age to define sex crimes. We ask, why is a 20 year old sleeping with a 13 year old rape, but a 20 year old with a 15 year old isn't? Probably because this writer believes a 15 year old is capable of consent but a 13 year old isn't. That's the key question: who has the ability to give consent?
Truly free consent isn't possible from within a system that promotes gender oppression from birth. But that's not a useful answer when trying to define crimes from the revolutionary perspective. And if we're going to attempting to rehab/punish people who have committed sex crimes, we have to decide what is a reasonable level of consent.
For now, we maintain that we should judge people for their actions, not the label they're given by the criminal injustice system. As this comrade from Maryland explains, society creates sexual predators who act in many different ways, but their actions all show us they are counter-revolutionary.
"I was reading one article on sex offenders in ULK 61, and it was talking about how to determine whether they did the crime or not. The thought came to me of judge of character, their interactions with males & females, whether prisoners or C.O.s, and the traces of conversations when they feel comfortable. Even those who don't have sexual offense charges sometimes make you wonder by the way they jerk-off to female C.O.s & female nurses or what they say to them that have you think if they are undercover sex offenders.
"One prisoner went as far as getting the female nurse information off the internet and called them on the jail phone and got (admin) (Administration Segregation). This is the same person that comes back and forth for jerking off to multiple disciplinary segregation terms, but is locked up for a totally different charge. He's a future sex offender, that can't be trusted for help in the revolution not due to a label, but due to his character and interactions when he sees females.
"Then you have the ones that have been locked-up in their teenage years and they're currently in their 30s, and like to chase boys who are easy to manipulate or who want sexual activity. One is big on being a victimizer, but knows and talks a lot of Revolutionary preferences. He has a lot of knowledge but can't be trusted to prevail due to lack of discipline and wanting to continue in his prison rapes & prison sex crimes that he rejoiced in. But he is another one that is not locked up for any sex offenses. Both were juveniles when incarcerated and have been psychologically damaged and lack change & further rehabilitation. Everyone still embraces them in general population and looks past their sexual activities.
"How can people that exploit sexual habits right in clear view of the prisoners be embraced and not looked upon as potential threats to society, families, and fellow prisoners, when you have someone labeled as a sex offender through childhood friendships and has to be sectioned off & outcasted by other prisoners due to the label of sex offender and not background information, the character of the man, their interactions with same sex and opposite sex, and the signs & symbols through their conversation?"
This writer's view is echoed by a comrade in Texas who has come to realize we need to judge people for their actions:
"UFPP is a must! Regardless of what you did to get in prison (rape, rob, murder), I (also a prisoner) only judge you or anyone on how they go forward from this day in prison. I used to work in food service and I would break a serving into fifths for women in prison for killing or abusing children. Then I grew up and got over myself. How do I know they were rightfully convicted and how do I know how they got in this prison life? I don't. We're all in the same spot starting out. What you do from this time forward is your description for me. And people can change. I have."
When we look objectively at how many people, both in prison and in society in general, commit sex crimes, it's pretty depressing. The recent #MeToo movement helped expose just how many sexual predators are in the entertainment industry in particular. And writers like the one above expose individual cases of predators behind bars. This is so common because of a culture that promotes gender inequality. As long as we see wimmin/girls as objects for sexual pleasure we will have a problem with sex crimes. Another prisoner described this pervasive problem in California:
"This letter is in regards to the sex offenders articles in ULK 61. We cannot "always" trust a state to tell us what crimes someone has committed - but most of the time we can. It might not always be so clear, but the majority of the time the person convicted of a sex crime did indeed do it.
"Of the thousands of people I've come across in the SNY prisons I’ve been in, absolutely nobody has claimed his pc 290 case is for urinating in public. The most common is sex with a minor as there is absolutely no thing in the state of California as consensual sex with anyone under age 18. I know this all too well because sex with a teen put me where I'm at.
"There are probably as many different variables that create sex offenders as there are types of sex offenders themselves. The overwhelming factor with the sex offenders I've met in prison (and there's a lot of sex offenders in prison) is drug abuse, especially methamphetamine. It's safe to say that most sex offenders (at least 60-70%) were driven by the effects of meth. There are many in prison who will admit to sex with underage females. Growing up in the housing project of San Francisco's Mission District I knew a lot of adults (mostly men) that had sexual relationships (and even marriages) with teens. It was very common also that the girls my age as a teen carried on with grown men.
"Go to a Latina's traditional 15th birthday celebration and count the amount of males over 20 yrs old. Yes, that is what many are there for: the girls. Do younger girls' parents know about this? Yes, most do. Cinco de Mayo has become another reason for America to party. Latin foods, beers, music, piñatas, etc. We've welcomed with open arms. Are we going to pretend that these 'other' traditions from Latin America don't exist and just continue to tag and store sex offenders or will something be done to address this issue?
This writer makes a good point: lots of sex crime charges are real. Many men have committed these crimes. But there's no need to rely on what the state tells us. In fact this writer demonstrates that people are being honest with em about eir past crimes. We don't gain anything by trusting the criminal injustice system, and we don't need to.
This comrade helps demonstrate our point that sex with teens is condoned by capitalist culture. These cultural influences encourage men to see their behavior taking advantage of wimmin, and pursuing teens, as normal and acceptable. We won't stop this completely until we get rid of the patriarchy and have the power to create a proletarian culture.
Can criminals be reformed?
An important organizing question of today regarding sex offenders is whether or not they can be part of the revolutionary movement. This inspires a lot of debate behind bars. A comrade from Maryland provides some good examples of people becoming revolutionaries in spite of history of anti-people crimes. We agree with eir analysis that everyone who has committed crimes against the people (sex offenders, drug dealers, murderers, etc.) has the potential to reform and be a part of the revolutionary movement. Whether or not we have the resources to help make this happen is discussed in "On Punishment vs Rehabilitation."
"Eldridge Cleaver was incarcerated for rape upon little white girls and was not on Protective Custody, nor was he a victim, but the victimizer. [Cleaver was actually incarcerated for assault, but was open that he had raped wimmin and even attempted to justify it politically. - ULK Editor] Though upon his parole release he worked for a newspaper company until his run-in with Huey Newton at this newspaper company and joined the Black Panther Party to become later down the line a leader within the BPP political organization. James Carr was another that participated in prison rapes even though he grew to become a instrument for the BPP, a body-guard for Huey Newton upon his release, and a prison vanguard alongside George L. Jackson. Basically, saying that in their era they were not faulted by the political group for their past, but were looked upon what they could do in the present and future.
"With what the United States set as standards are only accountable for those who are out of their class and who they don't care about, while their class gets away with such crimes or slapped on the wrist with the least time as possible. They have messed us up psychologically mass media. So even if the people don't know if the crime is true, what the state places upon us as fraud charges, our mindset is automatically it's true cause America says it's true. Just like when we see people on the news wanted for questioning about a crime, we automatically say he did it without knowing.
"Did the Revolutionaries of the 60s, 70s, and 80s not participate in the Anti-People Crimes as modern day even though they were Vanguards for the people and just as conscious as we are. Did they not sell illegal drugs to raise money for court fees & bail fees? Did they not drink alcohol and smoke weed & cigarettes? Did they not graduate to hard drugs? Did they not shoot or stab people in their lifetime? Did they not commit sexual assaults? That's why we are able to learn from their mistake, while also cherishing their great stands of Revolution. So within criticism, criticize all through all eras and let those who want to prove their self do it. If sex offenders, whether guilty or not, started their own organization that was aligned with the same goals, principles, and practices as MIM(Prisons), would you support them or acknowledge their efforts? Do you feel that if a sex offender, guilty or not, got conscious and changed for the better is capable of being a positive tribute to a Revolution?"
On this same topic a Wisconsin prisoner disagrees and sees the example of Eldridge Cleaver as a detriment to the movement overall.
"I personally do not believe there is a place in the movement for sex offenders, and when I say sex offenders I'm referring to those who are in prison for committing sex crimes, not statutory rape, where he's 17 and she's 16 or even if he's 20 and she's 16. I'm, talking about un-consentual, outright rape of women, men and children. I don't have any affinity for those who rape prisoners or prison female officers and staff.
"A lot of people bring up Eldridge Cleaver to support the argument of reform for rapists, where to me Eldridge was not a true revolutionary, he helped bring down the BPP and his mistreatment of Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown and others was egregious at best and outright barbaric at worst. I don't knock those who have compassion and believe in reform for sex offenders, I'm just not one of them."
While we disagree with this writer's statement that SOs can't be reformed, we agree that embracing those who promote gender oppression because of their correct line on national oppression can be very dangerous for a revolutionary movement. The Black Panther Party struggled with gender oppression, but in many ways was ahead of other movements and organizations of their day. This doesn't mean they got it all right, but we have to judge people and movements in the context of their struggle.
Finally, Legion writes compellingly about the potential for rehabilitation of SOs and also offers a framework for undertaking this work.
"So I'm sitting here eating a bowl of cereal and digesting ULK 61 and comrade El Independista made some valid points and MIM(Prisons) dissented. See when we sparked this debate we were struggling with starting a NLO consisting of comrades who have fucked up jackets who are willing to put pride, ego, individualistic patriarchal thoughts and practices to the wayside forming a column of revolutionaries who are given a chance to show and prove that the state was wrong and that U-C-U works for all instead of some. Answering El Independista's questions of possible solutions isolation, ostracization, extermination may I build?
"First and foremost as a revolutionary raised in the game I'd rather deal with a SO than a snitch or a jailhouse thief. Why? Because in most cases the SO can be re-educated if given the ability to perform. If a potential comrade has been framed by the state who will hear him out. He's isolated like the sex offender island in Washington State off of puget sound. Ostracization is another word for shun if the SO shuns his/her anti-people conviction and uses unity-criticism-unity to combat the patriarchy and upholds the merits of a drafted constitution along with personal U-C-U known as self-criticism you can begin to mold revolutionaries who ostracize themselves. Then there is extermination, another word for ending re-education self-critique and revolutionary bent will cause an ill (as in sick) blow to the injustice system. It's all or none. And no, I'm not harboring cho-mos and rapos, just willing to do the work to see us free all of us. For example, if a column of reformed SOs took up a revolutionary mindset and put said mindset into practice one would exterminate a whole under represented class of people.
"In California the Penal Code 226(a) is any sex crime. 266(h-j) have to do with pimping and pandering, 288 is a molester, 290 is the required registration code. Most kidnappers have to register for life. If you're a John you have to register and if you're a prostitute you have to register. If you opt into a shoot out and a child was involved you have to register, and child endangerment is a sex crime. As well as rape, peeing on the side walk, flashing. In prison all these cases get 'P' coded which prohibits the captive from ever being level 1 where there is minimal politics, and forces one to live in enclosed structures with secure doors AKA cell living. This leaves level "P" coded prisoners in 3 and 4 yards. These yards are political, whether GP or SNY there are politics. And on these yards you have folks with a knack for praying on the weak, creating a pattern of sexual abuse. Just look at any day room wall you'll see the # for the PREA hot-line and a slogan that says 'no means no and yes is not allowed.'
"People, we have to prepare for the white wolf invasion. You can't bully the SO problem away. You have to be a social scientist and commentator and build institutions that collapse the structure. And to answer MIM(prison), most SOs are on SNY yards and you have these snitch gangs who look to isolate, ostracize and eliminate "threats." Most SOs aren't rats, hell most aren't even criminals, no rap sheet only accusations. But these "gangsters" need a common enemy, and an easy target is the SO. As a 'do what's best-ist' I would, if given the platform to do so, launch the wolf collective and invite all who read ULK to join, not as a member but as a witness to the scientific display of revolutionary conduct. I do this to sacrifice self for the masses.
"Start with self-critique and a solid understanding of your errors.
Make serious revolutionary action your priority
Honor and respect all human beings' dignity
Never go backwards in thought walk and push
Stand all the way up for what is righteous and do what's leftover
You will be judged by your political work and political line.
"You might think I'm crazy or nuts but I have 36 nuts and bolts that say otherwise. The mathematics makes sense to turn nuts to plugs you plug in nuts meaning you become the change you want to see, and if I have to build the collective brick by brick stone by stone I will. I'm a convict first for all the would-be haters, but I think the time has come to form an infection on the skin of the beast."
Until, and perhaps after, we achieve a society where the culture of capitalist individualism has been destroyed, revolutionary organizations will have to deal with crimes against the people. We need to protect our movement from harm, and we must balance how to protect it from all sides. In some cases, punishment will be appropriate. But our primary focus will always be rehabilitation. Here we will discuss how we think about punishment and rehabilitation in the different stages of revolutionary struggle.(see definitions in Notes below)
Simply punishing someone for a behavior is a generally accepted, but widely ineffective, method of changing that persyn's behavior. There is first the consideration of whether the persyn is compelled by the punishment to change their behavior. (What does the punishment mean to the one being punished? Does the punishment match the crime?) Second is the consideration of whether the persyn being punished understands their crime and how the punishment relates to the crime. So simply punishing someone without providing any accompanying rehabilitation may serve the purposes of satisfying the victims, or detering others from doing the same behavior, but it does little to change that persyn's behavior or change eir mind about eir behavior.
Crimes against the people
Crimes against the people are actions that harm the oppressed, either directly or by harming the revolutionary movement of the oppressed. In our current context, they include things like snitching to pigs, facilitating drug addiction, stealing from the masses, and a long list of other counter-revolutionary actions. The list of crimes that must be dealt with today, directly (versus crimes that can't be dealt with until during the wartime period, or post-revolution) will change as we move through stages of struggle. Additionally, what is possible for us to deal with will also change over time, as we grow in strength and acquire more resources.
Even though we see many crimes against the people committed around us daily, we only have so much capacity to try to rehabilitate people, and an even more limited ability for punishment. But while lacking the time and resources to rehabilitate everyone, we also must keep in mind the consequences to the movement of punishing counter-revolutionary actors. Doling out punishment can have potentially dangerous consequences, yet it might be the only option available to us in certain circumstances. So whether to punish vs. rehabilitate is not simply a question of what we are able to do, but also what will be best for the revolutionary movement.
Overall, focus on rehabilitation
There are no cut and dry guidelines on this question of relabilitaion vs. punishment. Our actions will depend on many factors, and we can only figure this out in practice. Focusing too much on hypotheticals only clouds our judgement when we are faced with an actual crime that we need to deal with.
Yet on the overall question of whether to focus on rehabilitation or punishment, we look to Mao's injunction that we focus on rehabilitation of those who make mistakes but are open to correcting their errors and rehabilitating their political line and practice:
"A person with appendicitis is saved when the surgeon removes his appendix. So long as a person who has made mistakes does not hide his sickness for fear of treatment or persist in his mistakes until he is beyond cure, so long as he honestly and sincerely wishes to be cured and to mend his ways, we should welcome him and cure his sickness so that he can become a good comrade. We can never succeed if we just let ourselves go, and lash out at him. In treating an ideological or a political malady, one must never be rough and rash but must adopt the approach of 'curing the sickness to save the patient', which is the only correct and effective method." (Mao Zedong, "Rectify the Party's Style of Work" (1 February 1942, Selected Works, Vol. III)
Before the proletariat seizes state power
We are in the pre-revolutionary period right now. Pre-revolution includes the current period of "relatively peaceful" organizing, and the period of outright war when the oppressed fight to take control of the state. The oppressed-nation lumpen in the United $tates face life-or-death circumstances every day, including consequences of imprisonment, economic disparity, inter-lumpen violence, police violence, and attacks from various white nationalists at all levels of society. While we face daily violence, our organizing at this time primarily focuses on self-defense and building independent institutions of the oppressed. That's why we call this a "relatively peaceful" organizing period, where we focus on preparation.(1)
In our day-to-day struggle, many counter-revolutionary actions will not be a question of life and death as they are in wartime. But they are still serious and potentially dangerous to the movement. This is the period when we have the least power to carry out punishment and to rehabilitate effectively. We should strive for rehabilitation when possible, but with limited power and resources we will need to evaluate each case to determine what we can accomplish.
While we don't have state power, when rehabilitation is not an option, we still have enough power in some situations to punish crimes against the people. This punishment most often involves exclusion from the movement, but can include public criticism and more physical actions. Our actions in this regard will need to be carefully considered in each case.
The case of snitches comes up a lot in prison organizing, where many attempt to curry favor with the guards in this way. Snitches are counter-revolutionary actors who must be cut out from the movement, though we may lack the power to appropriately punish snitches (beyond exclusion) at this time. But we also believe that snitches, and everyone else who commits crimes against the people, have the potential for rehabilitation through education and struggle if we have the opportunity to engage with them deeply. However, that's not always a good use of our time right now. Those who see the error of their ways and come to us with self-criticism for their past actions are clearly an easier target for rehabilitation and revolutionary education. Each case will require individual consideration. Those involved in the struggle and impacted by the crimes will have to assess the appropriate response and mix of re-education and punishment.
At Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio in 1993, prisoners were throwing their trash on the tier in a protest. In the book Condemned by Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) we learn the details. This protest was going on for several days and the guards brought in a trustee to clean the tier. The prisoners tried to talk with this trustee over multiple days, to get em to refuse the job, yet the trustee kept cleaning the tier. The protesting prisoners punished the trustee violently. In this case we see the correct method of first attempting to struggle with someone who is acting against the movement, and later taking more direct action to shut em down to protect the movement. We can't judge this specific incident from afar, and it is something revolutionaries will have to figure out in day-to-day struggle.
Pre-revolution active wartime
Times of war are, of course, characterized by the use of violence and killing of the enemy as the default means of achieving goals. In wartime, the primary focus is on destroying the enemy, and this includes killing counter-revolutionaries. Anyone who acts to support the imperialists is swiftly punished. Some of these crimes merit death, as actions that result in the deaths of many revolutionaries cannot be tolerated.
"Mao Z reminds us in one of his military essays, of the insight from von Clausewitz, that war is different from all other human activity.
"When you check out the record, you can get the feeling that young Mao Z barely bothered to conceal how much he wanted to rip the Li Li-san faction right out of the 'red' military and rural party, by any means necessary. No matter how flimsy the excuse or reason, he really didn't care. To him, the revolution had to disentangele itself, to meet a life-or-death challenge, as quickly as possible.
"...Mao Z and Chu Teh weren't in suburban California, judging or dismissing cases of individuals in a civilian situation. That would be one set of circumstances. They were in a remote war zone, deep in the countryside, preparing feverishly for the largest and possibly most decisive battle any of them had ever gone through, raw soldiers and officers alike. Any disadvantage could cost them everything, while any advantage might be life-saving. That was a different set of circumstances."(2)
During the revolutionary wars of the USSR and China, they did not always have the time or resources to attempt to convince traitors to rejoin the revolution, and in many cases they could not even set up prisons to contain these enemies for future rehabilitation. Mao's guerillas had to turn around and execute lumpen forces that had previously fought side-by-side with them against the Kuomintang. At other times, the People's Liberation Army was able to successfully recruit whole sections of the Kuomintang army into their ranks. Again, an in-the-moment assessment of our threats and capabilities, with a preference for rehabilitation whenever possible, will be necessary even during wartime.
When we have state power, we will be in a better position to rehabilitate people. But in the short term the masses will demand punishment for those who owe blood debts. In China shortly after the anti-Japanese war was won and the Communist Party took power, Mao addressed this topic:
"The number of counter-revolutionaries to be killed must be kept within certain proportions. The principle to follow here is that those who owe blood debts or are guilty of other extremely serious crimes and have to be executed to assuage the people's anger and those who have caused extremely serious harm to the national interest must be unhesitatingly sentenced to death and executed without delay. As for those whose crimes deserve capital punishment but who owe no blood debts and are not bitterly hated by the people or who have done serious but not extremely serious harm to the national interest, the policy to follow is to hand down the death sentence, grant a two-year reprieve and subject them to forced labour to see how they behave. In addition, it must be explicitly stipulated that in cases where it is marginal whether to make an arrest, under no circumstances should there be an arrest and that to act otherwise would be a mistake, and that in cases where it is marginal whether to execute, under no circumstances should there be an execution and that to act otherwise would be a mistake."(3)
In this situation, the Communist Party was acknowledging that it could not get too far ahead of the masses. Punishing those who had committed extremely serious crimes was part of demonstrating to the masses that the Party was acting in their interests. But the goal was not punishment and execution. The goal was to move as many people towards rehabilitation as possible. And we can't know who has the potential for rehabilitation until we try. Overall, communists should assume that all people can be educated/re-educated because humyns have great capacity to learn and grow, especially when removed from harmful/reactionary circumstances.
Of course forced labor in China was a punishment for these counter-revolutionaries. But it was also an opportunity for reform and rehabilitation. As we learn in the book Prisoners of Liberation by Adele and Allyn Rickett, even people who had served as spies for imperialists during the war were given a chance at rehabilitation. The Ricketts, in China for academic study on a Fullbright Scholarship, were passing information to the Amerikkkan and Briti$h governments. This was while the Chinese were fighting for control of Beijing and then into the imperialist war on Korea, in which the Chinese were fighting against Amerikan troops.
The Ricketts were spies in wartime. Yet the Chinese Communists did not execute them. Instead they were imprisoned in a facility where the emphasis was on re-education and self-criticism. It took both Allyn and Adele years to come to an understanding of why their actions were wrong. But during that time they were never physically abused. Their forced confinement was certainly a punishment, but in the end they came to see this time in a Chinese prison as justified and a valuable educational experience that made them both better people. They were transformed.
Balance of forces for punishment and rehabilitation
In all cases, we must balance several considerations:
The weight of the crimes of a persyn
The sentiment of the masses towards that persyn and their crimes
The power we have to implement rehabilitation programs effectively
The ability to perform punishment if deemed appropriate
Our assessment of the above considerations will change based on our stage of struggle and our ever-evolving strength and abilities. In all cases revolutionaries should strive to reform and rehabilitate as many people as possible. But the limits of our resources pre-revolution, the need for expedience on life-and-death situations in wartime, and the need to fulfill the masses' demand for justice post-war must also be taken into account.
Estoy tratando de atraer la atención sobre el sistema penitenciario estatal de Colorado política "extraoficialmente" para mantener a los presos chicanos en guerra / opresión fraccionarias. Colorado ha estado plagado de la misma violencia e ideología de “moreno contra moreno” como los sistemas de California de los últimos 30 años. Sólo recientemente, hubo un despertar que transformó la mentalidad "pandillera " de las masas en un estado mental revolucionario en la liberación y lucha por Aztlán. Esto se ha enfrentado con todos los niveles de represión, como transferencias fuera del estado a lugares secretos, MCC (El nuevo nombre políticamente correcto de Colorado para el encierro de SHU / Ad-Seg STG donde los reclusos sólo pueden salir de la celda cada 72 horas para ducharse, etc.)
El 14 de junio, el Poder [email protected] y la Lucha por Aztlán fueron negados por el comité de publicación por el siguiente motivo: "El material plantea una amenaza potencial a la seguridad de la población de delincuentes o empleados de DOC, trabajadores contratados y voluntarios al abogar por disturbios en la instalación o el incumplimiento con las normas o reglamentos de la prisión". La verdad del asunto es que fue negada porque vino a mí en un período de tiempo específico cuando las masas chicanas en
Colorado habían decidido dejar de ser los títeres de la opresión racista capitalista de un sistema que activamente ha ayudado y facilitado la destrucción de nuestra gente, poniendo nuestras vidas en peligro de muchas maneras. Lo siguiente son pequeños ejemplos de estas condiciones.
Poner a los miembros rivales en grupos, donde seguramente serán atacados tan gravemente que la muerte o el intento de asesinato son escenarios probables. Abrir las celdas de los rivales STG mientras que los presos son esposados y encadenados a mesas, para que puedan ser atacados, etc. Ésta ha sido la norma por años. Ahora que hemos superado la mentalidad tribal en un esfuerzo para educar y crear conciencia sobre el genocidio racista de nuestra gente, el cual el sistema nos manipuló para hacer con
nuestras propias manos, nos azotan en las celdas, nos censuran y oprimen aún más. Me sorprenderé si alguna vez recibes esta carta.
Actualmente, estoy en proceso de quejas sobre libros. Cualquier material que pueda ayudar o contactos para avanzar en nuestra lucha será muy apreciada. Una vez que termine el proceso de queja, enviaré copias de todo el material sobre el tema. Gracias por tu tiempo. En solidaridad con la lucha para terminar con la opresión y liberar a Aztlán.
Greetings from the A-yard of Valley State Prison. In honor of the anniversary of the Attica uprising, and as an act of solidarity, the members of our study group abstained form eating for 24 hours. For one day we did not eat, starting with the Sunday G-slam, lunches (cold) and the evening meal. Ten copies of the solidarity study pack were passed out to members of our sg and a few other prisoners who were interested. A comrade was kind enough to photocopy my solidarity study pack which MIM(Prisons) provided. Most of the prisoners who attend our group were not even aware of the events at Attica on 9 September 1971, or the calls for prison reform which the Attica uprising prompted. A special emphasis was put on finding ways to promote peace and to educate all prisoners across the country on principles of the UFPP.
In closing, I want you to know that I may be new to this but I am tryign hard to learn and organize here at VSP and so are others. We, as always appreciate very much the material support and organizational guidance of MIM(Prisons). Thank you.
MIM(Prisons) has set the ambitious goal of making Under Lock & Key a monthly publication by 2022. ULK fills a need in prison, providing revolutionary anti-imperialist reporting on and about the lumpen behind bars. This is a relatively small revolutionary project focused on the criminal injustice system. But prisons are just one part of the larger imperialist machine. And it will take a revolutionary movement much broader than just prisons to bring down capitalism. We are a part of that movement, and it is our job to do what we can to push forward its development.
At this stage in the struggle there are revolutionary cells organizing in various segments within the belly of the beast. We're building a United Front for Peace in Prisons to bring together the movement behind bars. And beyond that we want a united front against imperialism that includes both prison and non-prison organizations. This broader movement needs a unifying publication, a newspaper that can be used to both disseminate information and organize people.
Lenin wrote What is to be Done? about the importance of a regular newspaper publication for organizing the revolution in Russia. And in the early stages of organizing, before the movement gained popularity and broader membership, the Bolshevik leader argued that revolutionaries needed to dream of wide distribution of a regular publication. He wrote that, with enough local groups and study circles taking up active work:
"[W]e could, in the not distant future, establish a weekly newspaper for regular distribution in tens of thousands of copies throughout Russia. This newspaper would become part of an enormous pair of smith's bellows that would fan every spark of the class struggle and of popular indignation into a general conflagration. Around what is in itself still a very innocuous and very small, but regular and common, effort, in the full sense of the word, a regular army of tried fighters would systematically gather and receive their training. On the ladders and scaffolding of this general organisational structure [...] [revolutionaries would] rouse the whole people to settle accounts with the shame and the curse of Russia. That is what we should dream of!"
Why print a newspaper when we have the Internet?
Lenin was writing at a time where there was no other way to communicate between localities. We now have the Internet, and some will argue that online agitation is all we need. We can communicate with people around the globe in a few seconds on the Internet. And this is indeed a powerful organizing tool. So why put out a newspaper beyond prisons, one of the few places in First World countries without access to the Internet? The answer to this question is access and organizing.
Most people don't accidentally come across Maoist websites while browsing online, and with the imminent end of net neutrality this will likely become even more true. We're not going to get publicity in mainstream media. And we don't want to encourage bad security by asking people to post on facebook or twitter and expose themselves to the cops. Newspapers can be left for pickup in coffee shops, libraries, book stores, homeless shelters, community centers, laundromats and other places where folks can happen across a perspective they won't see elsewhere. This expands access to revolutionary news and education.
We can use the Internet to quickly share information about campaigns, and rally people from many locations for quick actions. And we can publish the content of a newspaper online, greatly expanding its reach beyond print media. But while the Internet is a powerful tool, it doesn't get us out on the streets organizing people, talking to them, and building study groups and organizing committees.
With a print publication, organizers can walk up and engage people in a way we can not do online. Newspapers give organizers a tool to use in face-to-face organizing. Talking to people about their conditions, and making the connections to the imperialist system. Asking someone to read an article and talk to them about it. Responding to a speech at a rally with a newspaper article on that topic as a starting point for conversation with folks already sympathetic to the cause.
Political goals of the expanded newspaper
Get organizing updates to comrades in prison with greater frequency
Build unity among the Maoist movement within U.$. borders
Broader distribution of anti-imperialist information
Closer coordination of work between various organizations within the united front against imperialism
Organizing tool for folks on the streets and behind bars
What is needed to expand ULK
Distributors: We can only achieve our goal if we can quickly expand
our network of distributors. This is where you, our readers and supporters come in. We will send you a small stack of ULKs every issue for a year for $50. For our Re-Lease on Life Program comrades we will send them for free until you can afford to pay. Selling them for $1 a piece is one way to get the funds to pay for your subscription. Or if you have the money you can take the easier route of dropping off a few copies at local shops and public spaces that have a spot for people to pick up free publications. For our imprisoned readers, reach out to any individuals or institutions on the outside that you think might be able to take on a regular shipment of ULKs.
Money: It will cost more money to print more newspapers, and also more postage to send it out to distributors. We're asking our distributors to cover the mailing costs of what we send them. We also need people to step up and help fund the printing and the costs of mailing in to prisoners.
Content: Our immediate goal is to increase the frequency of ULK, so that comrades inside are getting more regular organizing updates. As this will also expand the content, we hope to increase the breadth of topics that ULK currently tackles, exposing different sectors of the movement to each others' work. We are working on partnerships with fraternal organizations to help create content for this newsletter. We also call on individuals to increase their efforts to produce quality content that addresses the needs of the oppressed from a proletarian perspective.
Who should be part of this expansion?
Revolutionary anti-imperialist organizations that see Maoism as the furthest advance towards communism to date. This is an explicitly revolutionary project. We will not be toning down the Maoism that is our guiding political line. But we will continue to publish articles from individuals who share our anti-imperialist agenda though perhaps are not Maoists.
We need to expand our outside distributors beyond former prisoners. Expanding the content in our newspaper will help attract more supporters. But we also need more supporters to expand. So our number one challenge to comrades on the streets right now is to step up and become a regular distributor of ULK. Without a broader distribution network, we will not reach our goal of doubling the frequency.
Task list to prepare for January 2022
Start by distributing ULK locally. Sign up with us today by sending $50 to our PO Box with an address to send ULKs to, and begin exploring
ways to distribute the publication regularly. (No checks made out to MIM(Prisons), let us know if you want to send a check)
Commit to a financial contribution for this expansion. Ideally a monthly amount we can count on. You can start donating now to help us build up the cash needed for this project.
Volunteer to start writing articles. Ask for a copy of our recently
updated writing guide.
Revolutionary organizations interested in getting involved in this project, get in touch to start talking about how we can work together.
Abolitionists From Within (AFW) is back on the move here at SVSP quad this Bloody September. This September 9, 2018 we remember the anniversary of Attica of Sept 9, 1971 and them faceless freedom revolutionary fighters who fought and died in these prisons uprising throughout history of our struggle as we continue to fight the oppression, exploitation, abuse and inhumane treatment of prisoners. A lot of rights and privileges comrades have today is because of these soldiers at war with this corrupt system.
Throughout this country, we as New Afrikans must reconstruct our thoughts and come up with ways and ideas to get control over our minds behind enemy lines, and work to educate the lumpen. I know our young comrades think they know everything. Being upright, independent and fearless against all odds and not fearing the outcome of whatever is what the young comrades are looking for true leadership.
This Sept 9 day I refrained from all negative conversation. AFW continues to push to end prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities throughout this country. I had the chance to meet and become a student of the main 4 reps to end all hostilities between our racial groups, and also a brother from the representatives body. I spoke with brother X about our beloved brother W.L. Nolan and GJ and our conditions today as "new man," and how GJ struggled to transform the Black criminal mentality into a Black revolutionary mentality. And solidarity with all you comrades around the country this Sept 9 day.
We have been trying to set up an effective Release on Life program here at MIM(Prisons) for many years. We have expanded the pre-release support we offer to our active comrades behind bars. And we've set up some structures for better contact and support on the streets. But what we can offer is still so little in the face of the very harsh reality of life on the streets after a prison stint. We're working on expanding what we can offer. That takes money. But it also requires ideas and people on the streets to work on this. We know what we're doing now is inadequate. But we're trying to build.
For a few years we published a Re-lease on Life newsletter (ROL) which was mailed out to our comrades on the streets and those with release dates in the near future. But we didn't get much interest around this newsletter. We know people are inspired by ULK because we get lots of letters about it and article submissions for it. ROL didn't inspire many responses or articles. So we're discontinuing that effort. Instead we will focus on practical logistical support for our releasees. And we will continue to print release articles in ULK.
Get in touch if you have a date or expect to be released in the next few years. Start working with us now so we can help set you up for success on the streets.
Below is an interview with one of our comrades who was recently released, underscoring the challenges with life on the streets and the importance of preparation and education while you're still locked up.
Revolutionary Greetings!!! I was released from the penitentiary on July 9th 2018. I've been out for over a month. The state and federal government ain't helping us with shit. It's on us to hustle to provide for ourselves. Learn all u can in prison cuz once u hit these streets it's non stop action. For all y'all without a date, mad love n respect. Each one teach one.
Question: Have you found any support for finding housing? If not, what have you tried and what do you recommend others do if they don't have people to live with already set up?
No I have received housing. I haven't received shit from the state or federal government. If u ain't got friends or family to provide u with a roof over ur head then u gonna struggle out here for real. I got family and friends that blessed my game.
Question: Have you been able to sign up for any government support programs (food stamps, SSI, welfare, etc)?
Yes I did sign up for benefits and shit like that but the state and federal government both denied me.
Question: What did you do to find work after release?
I applied at staffing agencies and shit like that but after they ran my name I never got called. I still don't have a job. Been out 2 months already. Self-employed I guess.
Question: You say people should learn all they can in prison. What kinds of programs and studies do you recommend people focus on in prison to prepare for the streets?
I say people should learn all they can in prison like read books. I did my time in solitary confinement Ad-Seg cuz I'm a active STG member. I educated myself. That's what I mean. Use ur time wisely cuz once u hit these streets its a whole nother world.
Some of our fellow comrades remain skeptical or indifferent about our engagement in the political process. Don't be foolish! We have to act while we can to fortify our freedoms and ensure that government does not try to quarantine our communist ideology. Too long have we been unrepresented at the polls for elections.
The fact that we have been unrepresented only condones and promotes the inundated lies that sound convincing and are spread through education, through the media and through entertainment. "In January 2010, a conservative minority on the Supreme Court radically rewrote Ameri[k]a's campaign-finance laws to allow mega-donors and corporations to contribute unlimited sums, often in secret, to political action committees. The Citizens United v. FEC decision gave wealthy donors unprecedented influence to buy elections, which Republicans quickly used to their political advantage" (Rolling Stone, Ari Berman, February 8-22, 2018, p.30). I do not believe there is any difference from today's political culture and the one of the late 1780s "Three-Fifths Compromise" which treated each slave as three-fifths of a person for tax and representation purposes. It has always been about which political party is going to get the vote.
These mid-term elections elect a body of electors who elect the president and vice president. Under the Trump administration we have watched numerous offices filled and seats to our judicial branch, two of which after the next Supreme Court justice seat, will be for the life of that persyn. How does that weigh on us? I do not know, so the advancement of "why the need to vote?" is a relevant topic for discussion amongst us comrades.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is right that we should be talking about elections in ULK because so many people are focused on this topic in the United $tates right now. On the "left" we regularly hear about the critical need to get Democrats elected in mid-terms to limit President Trump's power. But we come at this topic from a different perspective.
To determine what is the most effective actions we can take today we need to first identify our principal enemy. For revolutionaries this enemy is imperialism, the global system which keeps many nations poor and oppressed in order to provide wealth for a few nations. We happen to live within one of the imperialist powers: the United $tates. Here still imperialism is our principal enemy. And the President is certainly the leader of this imperialist country. But congress is just as much a part of that leadership structure. And whether members of congress are Democrats or Republicans matters not one little bit to which side they are on; being in the Amerikan government requires supporting imperialism.
So when this writer points out that revolutionaries are dramatically underrepresented in the government, we think that's to be expected. The system is not set up to allow for a peaceful revolution through elections. And in fact, when we look closely at the interests of the vast majority of people who could legally vote in elections, we see that their material interests are aligned with imperialism. So of course they are electing these imperialists! The capitalist system has advanced to the point where people living within imperialist countries can be bought off with the vast wealth plundered from the Third World. And buying people off includes buying their voting allegiance since they want to help perpetuate this system that is giving them a comfortable life.
Within imperialist countries we can't expect to have a majority on the side of the oppressed, fighting for revolution, until conditions change dramatically. At this point we're not even close. Trump's reactionary policies and rhetoric may be angering some self-described leftists, but only to the extent that they want to get a more soft-spoken imperialist into the White House. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama are friends of the oppressed. They just peddle a different flavor of imperialism.
It's a mistake for revolutionaries to focus on getting Trump out of office. And when we tell people to vote in mid-term elections we are telling them to vote for the imperialists. There are no revolutionary candidates for high office. And with the implication that we oppose Trump, we're telling people that we support the Democrats. This is not only misleading but also will soon be demoralizing. What happens if the Democrats win big? And at the next presidential election a Democrat comes into office. When we still have imperialism, and the Democratic President is funding more prisons, more police, and more invasions of other countries, what are people going to think of the revolutionaries who campaigned for the Democrats?
This writer raises the question of the Supreme Court. Presidents have the power to fill seats in the court with someone who will serve for life. And these individuals have a big impact on laws in the United $tates. The right to legal abortions, for instance, is a decision many fear could be overturned with a more conservative court. This is an example of a law that has a real impact on people's lives, especially hurting those without the resources to buy access to safe abortions. Just as we fight for legal victories to gain more organizing space and less abuse within prisons, we would oppose outlawing abortion. But these laws and legal precedents are no different than variances in how a city deploys its police force: more trigger happy cops in the projects means more dead oppressed nation youth. There are so many laws and policies within imperialism that are harmful to the oppressed.
Focusing on the Supreme Court again keeps us from seeing the big picture: it's all still a part of imperialism. We will have variations in legal rights and in modes of repression, but imperialism is still the same system of exploitation and oppression. And many of the Supreme Court decisions that Amerikans worry about are only possible due to the luxury of living in this wealthy country. Of course we support affirmative action, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access. But these are things aren't even considered in many Third World countries where the masses are barely surviving in the wake of imperialist wars, direct and by proxy, to secure cheap resources and labor, with puppet dictators in power. The United $tates has not become less imperialist by implementing more rights for more people within U.$. borders.
There are battles that can be fought in these non-revolutionary times that do contribute to weakening imperialism, such as ending torture and political repression within the injustice system. And so we say: keep your eyes on the principal enemy. That enemy is imperialism. Fight that enemy for rights for those living within U.$. borders, but never sacrifice or lose sight of the bigger picture. An imperialist who supports legal abortion for Amerikan wimmin is still an imperialist.
Durante el tiempo que crecí en Newark, New Jersey, siempre escuchaba
las historias sobre disturbios, los movimientos de base, y los resultados de la
vida en las décadas de 1960 y 70. Sin embargo, yo era un joven que sólo
se preocupaba por drogarse, estar en pandillas y querer ser reconocido como alguien grande y malo. Y sí, fui reconocido, pero por malas razones. En el año 1999, a la edad de 20 años, fui acusado de asesinato y condenado a 40 años de prisión.
Los primeros años en la prisión todavía me portaba mal, y todavía trataba que me reconocieran como alguien grande y malo. Pero no fue hasta el 2005 que la chispa revolucionaria se encendió por primera vez en mi mente. Todo comenzó cuando fui a reclusión solitaria por una pelea en la que estuve involucrado. Durante el tiempo en reclusión solitaria no tenía nada para leer o cualquier cosa para mantener mi mente ocupada. Así que pasé las horas parado en la puerta gritando y echando maldiciones a los marranos cuando pasaban para la cuenta. Y bueno, creo que mi vecino del costado ya estaba cansado de escuchar mis gritos, así que tocó a mí pared y me preguntó si necesitaba un libro para leer. Entonces le dije, “Sí, porque no.” Me pasó un libro llamado Assata por Assata Shakur. Antes de esto yo nunca había escuchado sobre ella ni leído el libro, pero como no tenía nada mejor que hacer en la reclusión, lo leí.
Mientras leía el libro, pasando hoja tras hoja, la historia de Assata me habló. Sentí y reconocí su lucha. En dos días terminé de leer el libro y ahora fui yo quien tocó la pared de mi vecino, queriendo más para leer. Mi vecino era un hermano mayor y durante el año que pasé en reclusión él siguió dándome libros como, Blood in My Eye (Sangre en mi Ojo), Soul on Ice (Alma sobre Hielo) y otros grandes libros. Mi vecino era un firme partidario de la ideología de la Armada de Liberación Negra y las Panteras Negras. Yo que soy Latino, él también me enseño de gente y grupos como Che Guevara y el partido de Señores Jóvenes. Ahora, en lugar de pasarme horas gritando en la puerta, mi vecino y yo pasábamos horas hablando, construyendo y ayudándome a ser más consciente de mí mismo. Él me ayudó a darme cuenta que mi deseo de querer ser conocido como grande y malo, era sólo esa fuerza egoísta por reconocimiento que a un día me llevaría a darme contra una pared de ladrillo.
Después de que concluyó mi castigo en reclusión solitaria, continué con mis estudios durante la línea principal. Me puse a leer sobre gente como
Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Tse-tung, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Marx y
muchos más. El andar con pandillas ni siquiera estaba en mi radar. Esa sola chispa se convirtió en una llama, cambiando mi manera de pensar, mi manera de hablar y la manera cómo me comportaba. A lo largo de los años desde ese tiempo, esa llama es ahora un fuego hambriento dentro de mí, como el calor de
la tierra encendida. Mi única misión es ayudar a educar a los oprimidos sobre las condiciones políticas y sociales ¡bajo las que nosotros vivimos! Porque cómo mi vecino me enseñó hace mucho tiempo, ¡“Cada uno le enseña a uno!” ¡Poder a la gente!