I was discussing the issue of declining membership with a well known organizational leader with tens of thousands of followers. He stated that you only want to write if it is behind your philosophy, and that you criticize anyone who does not agree with your strategy. He specifically mentioned the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. So your criticism, well intended or not, is doing more dividing than uniting.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is responding to the article in ULK 33summarizing our annual congress which reported that our number of subscribers has dropped in the past year. First, we want to be clear that subscribers are not the same thing as members. We reported in the same article that the number of active United Struggle from Within members has increased over the past year. But still, we want to see an increase in ULK readers as well and so this is a bad trend.
It is true that MIM(Prisons) is critical of other organizations. This is because we see political struggle and education as fundamental to building an effective revolutionary movement. The MXGM is a good example of an organization that we have reported favorably about in the past. But we need to be honest about where we see faults in the political lines or strategies of other organizations. We hope others will do the same for us. We cannot build real unity if we just ignore significant disagreements over political line and strategy.
Further, we work towards a United Front with all organizations who can unite with us on basic goals. This is an important Maoist strategy that allows different organizations to come together for common goals without sacrificing their independence or brushing real political differences under the rug.
We see these practices as principled. It may lead some individuals to dismiss MIM(Prisons) as too divisive, but we see the real divisiveness in those groups that refuse to publicly acknowledge political differences while privately gossiping or positioning themselves into power. We are willing to lose a few supporters who can't take open political discussion and disagreements to maintain clarity of political line.
It seems as if all chaos has been released on this unit, as now the security officers and administration officers are denying prisoners here their prescribed medication. Medical wants to close evening pill dispensing at 5.30pm whether all prisoners get their medication or not, to avoid overtime. The unit is relatively small and if run by security staff properly, it could run pill window for all prisoners by 5:30pm. But the prison creates conditions that make this impossible, delaying count, shutting down prisoner movement, etc.
Because of a lack of proper medication several prisoners have had violent epileptic seizures. Other prisoners have gone days at a time without their medication. A building missed their medication three days straight.
It is obvious that the wheels have fallen off when the medical department blames security for such denials of a person's medication, and security blames medical by stating they "have no control over medical decisions."
Four days out of ten last month I myself missed medication, and I was placed in protected custody twice for speaking out against such blatant violation of our rights. Because of this, trouble is brewing that presents an environment that is hostile and unsafe for both officers and prisoners, a violation of our right to a safe and secure place to do our time.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Medical neglect is all too common in Amerikan prisons. This should be no surprise as capitalism puts profits before health, and in the case of prisons it puts social control before health. This is a clear example of the criminal injustice system punishing prisoners just for the sake of punishment. There is no possible rehabilitative purpose to denying prisoners their medicine. It is a way to put lives in danger. They might claim to save a few dollars on staff overtime in the short run, but the long-term financial cost of treating seriously ill prisoners will far exceed these savings as many prisoners are on medication critical to control serious conditions.
The abysmal health care in Amerikan prisons mirrors the situation on the streets in this country that spends more money per persyn on health care than any other in the world, but yet has far poorer health than most First World countries and even some Third World countries. Ironically this poor health hits the wealthy in Amerika too. These are some ways in which communism will serve all the world's people, not just the poor. Although the wealthy will be brought down to the same economic level as everyone else in the world, improvements in healthcare, an end to environmental destruction, and opportunities to lead productive lives are all important enhancements in life that all will enjoy when capitalism is overthrown.
The Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) recently stepped in(1) to defend Turning the Tide against our USW comrade's critiques.(2) We can appreciate the greater clarity and honesty in Rashid's piece compared to Michael Novick's, but still cannot forgive him for getting the first question of importance to communists wrong: who are our friends and who are our enemies? Like Jose Maria Sison and Bob Avakian, Rashid has long been exposed to MIM line and writing, and many attempts to struggle with him have been made. It does great damage to the International Communist Movement when these people become icons of "Maoism" in many peoples' eyes, while promoting chauvinistic lines on the role of the oppressor nations under imperialism.
Rashid opens his piece with the most common strawpersyn argument of the revisionists, that the MIM line is wrong because Marx and Lenin never abandoned organizing among Europeans and Amerikans. Rashid needs to be more specific if he's claiming there are groups that are refusing to work with white people or moving to the Third World to organize. While our work mostly targets prisoners, we target prisoners of all nationalities, and similarly our street work is not very nation-specific. The question we would ask instead of "should we organize Amerikans?", is, "what is going to achieve communism faster, organizing rich people around demands for more money, or organizing them around ideas of collective responsibility for equal distribution of humyn needs and ecological sustainability?"
Rashid's third paragraph includes some numbers and math and at first glance i thought it might have some concrete analysis. But alas, the numbers appear just for show as they are a) made up numbers, and b) reflecting the most simple calculation that Marx teaches us to define surplus value. To counter Rashid's empty numbers, let us repeat our most basic math example here. If Amerikans are exploited, then to end exploitation would mean they need to get paid more money. Dividing the global GDP by the number of full-time laborers gives an equitable distribution of income of around $10,000 per persyn per year.(3) To be fair, in Rashid's article he addresses this and quotes Marx to say that we cannot have an equitable distribution of income. In that quote from Wages, Price and Profit Marx was writing about capitalism, which is inherently exploitative. Our goal is communism, or "from each according to her ability, to each according to her need." But we're not there yet, Rashid might argue. OK fine, let's take Rashid's hypothetical McDonald's worker making $58 per 8 hour workday. If we assume 5 days a week and 50 weeks a year we get $14,500 per year. According to the World Bank, half of the world's people make less than $1,225 per year.(4) That report also showed that about 10% of Amerikans are in the world's richest 1% and that almost half of the richest 1% are Amerikans. So Rashid wants to argue that under capitalism it is just that the lowest paid Amerikans earn over 10 times more than half of the world's population because their labor is worth that much more? How is that? What Marx was talking about in Wages, Price and Profit was scientific: a strong persyn might be twice as productive as a weak one, or a specially trained persyn might add more value than an unskilled persyn. So Rashid wants to use this to justify paying anyone who was birthed as a U.$. citizen 10 to 25 times, or more, the average global rate of pay? We have no idea how Rashid justifies this disparity except through crass Amerikan chauvinism.
This empty rhetoric is not Marxism. It is ironic how today people will use this basic formulation for surplus value from Marx to claim people of such vastly different living conditions are in the same class. No one else in the world looks at the conditions in the United $tates and Haiti and thinks, "these countries should really unite to address their common plight." It is only pseudo-Marxists and anarchists who read a little Marx who can come up with such crap.
Rashid later establishes commonality across nations with the definition, "The proletariat simply is one who must sell her labor power to survive, which is as true for the Amerikan worker as it is for one in Haiti." We prefer Marx's definition that the proletariat are those who have nothing to lose but their chains. According to Rashid, we should determine whether someone is exploited based on different measuring sticks depending on what country they live in. Apparently, in the United $tates you must have a $20,000 car, a $200,000 home and hand-held computers for every family member over 5 in order "to survive." Whereas in other countries electricity and clean water are optional. More chauvinism.
Rashid continues discussing class definitions,
"For instance, if there's no [Euro-Amerikan] ('white') proletariat in the US, then there's also no New Afrikan/Black one. If a EA working in McDonalds isn't a proletarian, then neither is one of color. If there's no New Afrikan proletariat, then there's no New Afrikan lumpen proletariat either ("lumpen" literally means "broken"—if they were never of the proletariat, they could not become a 'broken' proletariat)."
Lumpen is usually translated as "rag." Even in the United $tates we have a population of people who live in rags, who have very little to lose. However, we completely agree with Rashid's logic here. And that is why MIM(Prisons) started using the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish from "lumpenproletariat." There is little connection between the lumpen in this country and a real proletariat, with the exceptions being within migrant populations and some second generation youth who form a bridge between Third World proletariat, First World semi-proletariat and First World lumpen classes. Rashid continues,
"Yet the VLA [vulgar labor aristocracy] proponents recognize New Afrikan prisoners as 'lumpen' who are potentially revolutionary. Which begs the question, why aren't they doing work within the oppressed New Afrikan communities where they're less apt to be censored, if indeed they compose a lumpen sector?"
This is directed at us, so we will answer: historical experience and limited resources. As our readers should know, we struggle to do the things we do to support prisoner education programs and organizing work. We do not have the resources right now to do any serious organizing outside of prisons. And we made the conscious decision of how we can best use our resources in no small part due to historical experience of our movement. In other words we go where there is interest in revolutionary politics. The margins, the weakest links in the system, that is where you focus your energy. Within the lumpen class, the imprisoned lumpen have a unique relationship to the system that results in a strong contradiction with that system. The imprisoned population could also be considered 100% lumpen, whereas less than 20% of the New Afrikan nation is lumpen, the rest being among various bourgeois classes, including the labor aristocracy.
"And if the lumpen can be redeemed, why not EA [Euro-Amerikan] workers?"
Again, look at history. Read J. Sakai's Settlers and read about the Black Panther Party. Today, look at the growing prison system and the regular murder of New Afrikan and other oppressed nation youth by the pigs. Look at where the contradictions and oppression are.
The only really interesting thing about this piece is that Rashid has further drawn a line between the MIM camp and the slew of anarchist and crypto-Trotskyist organizations who are still confused about where wealth comes from. They think people sitting at computers typing keys are exploited, and Rashid accuses our line of requiring "surplus value falling from the sky!" We already told you where the high wages in the imperialist countries came from, Rashid, the Third World proletariat! That is why the average Amerikan makes 25 times the average humyn, and why all Amerikans are in the top 13% in income globally. As the revisionists like to remind us, wealth disparity just keeps getting greater and greater under capitalism. The labor aristocracy today is like nothing that V.I. Lenin ever could have witnessed. We must learn from the methods of Marx and Lenin, not dogmatically repeat their analysis from previous eras to appease Amerikans.
I am writing today because I just wrote you on August 8 and the very next day I was called into the office where I was told that my letter (to you) was of concern. The woman working in the office stated that a number of the issues I mentioned they were currently in the process of trying to fix. They have been saying this for the last year while I've been here, and for at least four years according to many of the long-time inmates here.
So like I said in the last letter, ("I'm sure to see some type of retaliation for this letter"). I've been carefully documenting everything that has been happening since I began: piss test, matrix checks, compliance checks, etc. I ask for any books or other legal material that may help with what I'm dealing with. There are no resources to be had here and I do not want OCC to ship me out under the false pretense of legal library issues. I have around sixteen months left and want to spend my time trying to fix some of this BS that is happening here.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The censorship of mail exposing what is going on behind bars in the Amerikan criminal injustice system is one of the most pressing problems that our movement must fight. Mail is our primary method of communication between prisoners and the outside, and also between prisoners in different institutions as our newsletters share news from across the country. This is why we need legal fighters, both behind bars and on the streets. Get in touch with us if you can help take these censorship cases to court.
I would just like to educate those who hope to be released from SHU/Ad-Seg. STG kickouts are a sham! Rope to hang yourself is what it should be called. I am validated and was excited to be given a "chance" to go to mainline, but I lasted one week and am back in Ad-Seg. During that 1 week staff and gang units harassed me, searched my cell 3 times, and told me they would be back until they "catch me slipping" and could lock me back in SHU again.
I was told socializing with gang members is a violation, yet I'm GP (General Population) so of course I socialize with the fellas around me. I received a letter from a friend on the street who is from the same neighborhood as me, so he closed the letter with our street name. I was told by gang units this was a violation and "promoting gangs". Really? So I must not speak to friends I grew up with because CDCR says so?
Anyway, myself and a few others did not last more than days and we are now under investigation (for what? I've no clue). So for those of you who are active as I am, I wish you luck if you can actually go to the line without dropping out and not coming back. STG kickouts were not designed for us actives.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We believe the program this prisoner writes about is the same as the new STG Step Down program in California. We have reported from others that this is a revolving door that will not really address the problem of Security Threat Group validation, which locks prisoners up in long-term isolation on flimsy "evidence" of membership in a lumpen organization. The reality is, prisons target lumpen organizations out of fear for what they represent. Organizations of the oppressed, many of which get involved in some organizing against the criminal injustice system, are a scary thing to the oppressors. And when these organizations start coming together and building unity to fight broader anti-imperialist battles, like has happened in California around the July 8 hunger strike, this is even more dangerous for the system.
In 2001 at the Lynaugh Unit in Fort Stockton while at medical out in the cage "outside waiting" a man came out of medical and turned around and hit the door, then fell out. The guard kicked the man and told him to go to his cell. Then the guard kicked him once more and told him once more to go to his cell. The man was dead! He had gone to medical to complain about chest pain. The doctor and nurse checked him out and told him that nothing was wrong. This is due to the lack of real medical attention given in prison.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Medical neglect is a serious problem in Amerikan prisons. While the government reports deaths in custody, they do not report how many of those were avoidable. Under Lock & Key reports many deaths as well as cases of medical neglect that do not immediately lead to death, but we only cover a small number of the incidents. Exposing this abuse is a critical element in our fight against the criminal injustice system. We need to share this information both with other prisoners and with people on the streets, and urge them to think about why we have a prison system that wants to let people die of neglect. This is not a system trying to rehabilitate people, it is a system of social control, serving imperialism.
I would like to respond to an article on page 8 of ULK33: Rats Undermine United Front. The brother who sent that in to you should be on something other than what he spoke about. I feel he should've been informing you about how these pigs down here continue to bring us cold food in lockup. How they mistreat Muslims during Ramadan and all throughout their stay here as far as how they are fed. It is so ridiculous how they so blatantly give you cold half-cooked, sometimes spoiled beans and a funky crusty peanut butter sandwich in place of a "pork-free" meal. There's a sign posted in all the chow halls that says "drink at your own risk" when it comes to the juice. They put this poison out on the tables knowing that the majority of the offender population is more than likely going to drink it. We are not getting the proper portions, or enough to eat.
When you write a grievance and a step 2 followup, you get some type of frivolous disposition back on it. I have several grievances from different offices, all with the same disposition on them. It is as if the employees are trained with what to write on the back on the grievances. And they always side with the guilty officer.
Also, a female guard or nurse has power. Especially in these little hick and country-ass towns, where they wish a muthafucka would get out of line. Don't matter what color you are. When they get thru beatin' you half to death, behind something some female said, you'll more than likely be beat blue. I've seen it at least fifty times. I even had a woman lie on me and say that I had threatened her physically, from behind two closed and locked doors. The warden looked at her like she was crazy and let me make it. I was just blessed to be in the presence of a warden who knows the game.
The article should have also talked about how we get charged $100 every year for medical, but they don't pay us for working or provide a way for us to work the $100 off. Also, we only get $50 when we leave, and $50 when we go report. If you discharge they give you a whole hundred. Wow! And the windbreakers they make us wear during the winter months, and have the nerve to call it a coat. They work you in winter weather with no thermal clothing, even though they have more than enough to issue out.
Damn man, talk about the shit that's really going on. The real shit. How muthafukas came in gangsta-and-guerrilla, but leaving out like ginger bread dolls. Yeah. And you all know who you are. You boys outta control down here in the great state of Texas.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There are a few points in this letter that need a response. First, we're not sure exactly what issue the author is taking with the original article in ULK where another prisoner wrote about how rats working for the prison were undermining his United Front work. It sounds like this prisoner thinks that's not important, but if we are going to fight these terrible conditions we need some unity, and building a United Front across organizations is critical to this battle. We can't just write about the problems without also talking about the solutions, or organizing successes and failures, and how to build from there.
The point this writer raises about female prison staff is a good demonstration of the gender oppression that happens in prison, that is very different from what goes on on the streets. While biological men generally have gender privilege relative to biological wimmin in Amerika, there are some differences by nationality and also within prison. In the prison situation, where most prisoners are men, female prison workers can accuse those men of sexual misconduct and get them beat or punished, without having to provide any proof. Further, numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics demonstrate this power difference: "Significantly, most perpetrators of staff sexual misconduct were female and most victims were male: among male victims of staff sexual misconduct, 69% of prisoners and 64% of jail inmates reported sexual activity with female staff."(1) Overall MIM(Prisons) sees gender privilege as the norm for both men and wimmin in the First World, relative to both men and wimmin in the Third World. But the abuse in prisons should not be ignored.
by a North Carolina prisoner August 2013 permalink
On August 2nd my old cellmate had only been here 5 days and within those 5 days the pigs were really messing with him. Then on the 2nd they told him they were moving him, just to move an inmate across the hall into his cell. They were going to move him to the end of the hall in a sally port with a prisoner who had feces smeared on his cell wall and old food in his cell. Before the move he asked to see the Sgt/Lt, but was told no, pack up or they would pack his stuff.
After moving he and I were at recreation call and we, along with one other prisoner, refused to lock up until the Lt/Captain came down. When she came I locked up. As she approached his sally port she asked what the smell was. He explained. They got the prisoner out of his cell and janitors bleached and removed all the items from the cell, and after the weekend on 8/5 he was moved to another cell.
Had we not stood our ground that prisoner's cell would still be covered in feces. The pigs knew this and were doing nothing. All of the H-Con staff here at Polk Incorrectional institution just didn't care, and went even further to harass a prisoner who they thought they could take advantage of due to his health (he just had surgery on his foot to reattach bones and replace a steel rod after PERT team pigs shattered it during an assault using excessive use of force a few months back). We need more times of unity like this in North Carolina prisons.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a small example of prisoners uniting for common cause. And this is a good start to building the broader unity that is necessary for the United Front for Peace that will build the power and strength of the anti-imperialist movement behind bars.
19 August 2013 - Today, a federal court approved the force-feeding of people who are on hunger strike in California prisons to protest torture in the form of long-term isolation and group punishment. The force-feeding itself is considered torture by many, including those who have been on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay since February and have been suffering through force-feeding for months.
The decision in California came shortly after we posted a report from a comrade who was denied liquid supplements and collapsed on July 21 in Corcoran State Prison. Many others have collapsed since then, and the state's behavior has made it clear that the health of prisoners has not been a concern of theirs. They apply very strict rules to how they count people as being on "hunger strike," knowing that strikers depend on the state to report their numbers to the public, forcing them to abide by these rules that don't allow for any electrolytes.
The state has consistently used health care as a weapon to manipulate prisoners into submission, rather than act as the custodians of health and safety that they claim to be. Now that strikers are approaching life-threatening conditions, the CDCR is acting to prevent them from exercising one of the strongest forms of protest that they have from within these isolation cells. The attention given to the situation inside California prisons right now is already unprecedented and they fear that if more prisoners die they may lose their power to torture prisoners in the future. The torture is important to them because it is what they believe to be their best tool to prevent the oppressed from fighting their oppression (the injustice system's true purpose). The ongoing hunger strike, decades in the making, has begun to turn the tables on that idea though.
This recent report asserts that 70 of 130 prisoners currently on hunger strike have been going since July 8, 2013. There are a number of groups of prisoners in California who are ready to restart hunger strike in support of the 70 (or more) who are in it for the long haul as the struggle heightens.
In the months leading up to July 8, there was some debate about the return to the hunger strike tactic, particularly as previous attempts were aborted prematurely without any changes from the state. But those first two strikes resonated among the oppressed across the country, and particularly in California where 30,000 prisoners stood up against long-term isolation on July 8, 2013. As we approach 50 days on strike, and repeated assertions from participants that they will not stop for mere promises this time, this struggle is approaching a crucial point. To date, control units have been a fairly effective tool of repression. But if oppression breeds resistance, then even these tools of total control can be overcome. At no other point have we been closer to that goal than we are right now. Those who have and will give their lives for this struggle must not die in vain. Those 30,000 plus prisoners who supported this campaign must take every opportunity over the coming months to build, educate and organize to prepare for the next phase of this struggle. A failure to seize this moment in the prison movement will mean much more suffering for the imprisoned lumpen in the decades to come.
On 8/13/2013 an offender who has severe breathing problems was pepper sprayed in the face. I am sorry to say it took his life. On 8/14/2013 on A3 in an isolation cell an offender had his hand in the door where the hinges are. A guard, Mr. Wright, closed the door on his hand, cutting it and breaking bones. I asked Mr. Wright about it and he said he did not do it out of malicious intent. I was working as SSI all day and had to clean up all the blood that was in the cell. A Sergeant came and told Mr. Wright that he should be careful what he says in his report, and ripped it up, and all morning the Sergeant helped him cover up the incident.
From around 8am to 2:30pm I was out cleaning pod. I cleaned isolation cells at 8am and again around 2pm on 8/14/2013. I heard them talk about it all morning. They disrespect us, harm us, and when they do something to us they high five each other. Their actions to fib on reports are backed up by each other. How to ever catch them to tell the truth is a major problem.
I am at a unit that violates multiple policies of its own. It hides its actions and harms us in many ways. I started looking into the rules and I am really not surprised at what I found. I have seen them handcuff and beat one prisoner and they later on pepper sprayed another for having his jacket on at pill call. I have filed multiple grievances and have received no answer. We can't defend ourselves at all without double punishment due to the guards being one solid group that high five each other after they beat us down. They do such mean things to us and get away with it. These officials go out of their way to do mean things to us. We are held in isolation for months even years even though we have not broken any rules. How far must we bend before we get help from outside?
One mailroom worker made sexual advances and I knew it was a setup so I filed a grievance and sent a statement to the warden. A captain came and I refused to be forced to write a statement for him so I wrote him up. On the grievance response it stated that my verbal statement was different than my written statement. But I gave no verbal statement. The grievance investigator did not even investigate.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner is right that catching the guards and exposing the truth is a major problem. This is part of the important role played by Under Lock & Key: providing a forum to expose guard brutality and abuse. By documenting these incidents we can show that they are not just individual cases, but a systematic part of the criminal injustice system, and something that we must fight as a whole. Write to us with details about abuse in your prison.
To help fight the grievance system, which denies prisoner's an avenue to appeal injustice and guard abuse, get involved in our campaign to demand grievances be addressed. There is already a petition for Texas, and petitions exist for many other states as well. If we don't have a petition for your state we can send you a generic petition which you can customize for your state.