The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Campaigns] [California]
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Bringing Grievances to Higher Level Wins Again

Every since my filing of the MIM censorship suit I haven't been able to get a 602 [grievance form] processed, and I was pretty good at filing them and winning them prior to the MIM suit. Since I've been at this prison the only 602 I was able to get acknowledged and processed was one concerning the law library, and only after two months of either having them "screened out" for one reason or another or simply being ignored. It was only because I finally got tired of their b.s., went over their heads and mailed a "retaliation and conspiracy" petition to Sacramento along with a quick letter explaining my situation.

Afterwards I not only got a letter from Sacramento telling me they'd sent it back to appeals court with instructions to properly process, but I got a letter from here basically reprimanding me for going over their heads; but it got the job done.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of perseverance in the face of repression, following in the footsteps of a similar victory in Kern Valley this month.

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[Organizing] [Campaigns] [Texas]
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Grievance Petition Spreads in Texas

I got the grievance petition, and I need more. 350 copies is only enough for 35 people, and I've got 144 on my pod x3 pods my building x8 so send me some more please.

Also, I got a reply from the state bar of Texas. They sent info on how to complain about your [state-assigned] attorney that we can use for the grievances in TDCJ.

I did get a response in person from the grievance regional investigator in a personal interview. They basically told us to keep filing grievances and they will work on problems.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for his ambitious work to spread the Texas grievance petition to every prisoner in his institution. But it is quite costly for us to make so many copies and send them in so we need to encourage everyone to make their own copies if possible. We know that sometimes this will not be possible, and if this is the case for you please explain why and we will try to supply you with the necessary copies.

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[Organizing] [Ohio State Penitentiary] [Ohio] [ULK Issue 27]
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Ohio State Penitentiary Hunger Strike Ends

ohio state penitentiary
Ohio State Penitentiary
9 May 2012, Youngstown, Ohio - Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) hunger strike ends. After long negotiations with Warden David Bobby on 7 May, the hunger striking prisoners at OSP began eating again. Two of the men held out through the eighth, unsatisfied with the agreement. The warden met with them separately and they agreed to come off the strike. Warden Bobby reported that "by lunch time today, everyone was eating." This was confirmed by two prisoner sources.

At this point details of the agreement are unclear, but sources say that the hunger strikers are satisfied and feel they achieved results. One source described the demands and the warden's response as "reasonable." Without going into detail, the main concerns were in regards to commissary cost, state pay rates, phone cost, length of stay, and harsh penalties for petty conduct reports. The warden said that he discussed "many issues" at the meeting with strike representatives, "many things beyond the main demands," but he would not share any of the details.

The strikers are resting and recovering, but have mailed detailed information to outside supporters at Redbird Prison Abolition, which will be released to the public as soon as possible. The warden admitted that one of the hunger strikers was transferred to disciplinary segregation for unrelated rule infractions, but stated that there were no reprisals or punishments for participating. One prisoner source agrees with this statement.

The hunger strike began on April 30 and was timed to align with May Day protests outside.


MIM(prisons) adds: This hunger strike demanded many reforms related to conditions in the prison. As with hunger strikes from California to Palestine, the prison administration made promises to get the prisoners to end the strike. At least one prisoner resumed the hunger strike on June 4 after the warden failed to follow through on his promises.(1)

Hunger strikes are becoming an increasingly popular tactic in the struggle against the criminal injustice system. Prisoners are forced into a position where there is very little they can do to fight for their rights. The legal system refuses to respond, grievances are ignored or destroyed, and on the streets there is more support for "getting tough on crime" than for prisoners' rights. And so prisoners feel their only choice is to put their lives in danger by refusing to eat.

MIM(Prisons) supports outbreaks of organizing and struggle against the criminal injustice system, and we urge prisoner activists to take seriously the need for study and organization before taking action. Not everyone will be a communist, but we can all advance our theory and practice through study and discussion. And we need good organizing theory to make the best use of unity and actions.

A good place to start is the United Front for Peace Statement of Principles. Struggle with us if you disagree with any of them, and if you agree, come together with prisoners across the country to build our unity and struggle.

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[Organizing] [Heman Stark YCF] [California] [ULK Issue 27]
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MIM(Prisons) Too Dismissive of Rebellions

In ULK 25 you printed an article of mine about prisoner struggles in the Youth Training School (YTS) in Chino, California. I'd like to comment on your response.

The main points in your response criticize our efforts to better our own conditions. And that's MIM(Prisons)'s common ideology as I've noticed from the material of yours I've read. MIM(Prisons) is quick to condemn and downplay rebellious actions as premature, saying the rebels ain't "ready" and lack unity of the masses to obtain success. But I don't believe that's always the proper analysis of the rebellions you speak against. Ultimate victory is obtained through action, by taking chances. Is it proper revolutionary conduct to sit on the sidelines and cheerlead, even in the midst of war? That makes me think of the Muslim Brotherhood. They failed to participate in the revolt that happened in Egypt, but they were quick to celebrate the victory, they were quick to want to enforce their ideologies in the new government. True revolutionaries must, at some point, get their hands dirty.

To constantly speak against taking action, for lack of proper political education (or for whatever reasons), is to tell Rosa Parks she should've just moved to the back of the bus. It's the same as telling indigenous peoples they're ignorant for fighting back against the oppressors to preserve their way of life, or to tell the rebel fighters in the African and Arab countries to lay down their arms because MIM(Prisons) doesn't feel those citizens are ready. But as we've seen, many oppressive governments have been toppled successfully.

When Fidel and Raul Castro, Che, etc, invaded Cuba they did it with only 82 men. But they only had 22 left after the first ambush. They lacked the loyalty of the masses, took a chance, and succeeded!

In the situation at YTS I admit we were young and lacked the proper political education, and as I've said, I now see all our energy should've been focused on the system itself. But our technique was a success according to our young, uneducated ideologies at the time. Our goal wasn't to try to change the whole California Youth Authority system itself, but to reform YTS, to make our living conditions better, to get things back that had been taken from us. The power was in our hands, the hands of the people. Administration clearly saw that and eventually relented to our demands. The administration's intent was to pacify us, but in my article I never said anything about being pacified. The "few bones" thrown to us did nothing to calm us down. And in the process we learned something of value: we learned an art of war against the system, and how to organize, even if you do choose to call it focoism. Experience in war, even if that battle is lost (ours wasn't), is intrinsically valuable for the preparations of future battles against the oppressors. "Talk," verbal education, can only go so far. Experience is the ultimate teacher. And it's my experience at YTS that has now made me hungry for revolutionary education. I now study politics and try to get my priorities in order to help clean up the hypocrisy of the injustice system. I doubt I'm the only one that's been motivated as a result of my experiences. So wouldn't you call that a victory?!

Any patriot whose ever lost a battle will tell you he's learned something of more value than just how to shed blood.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this writer's commitment to struggle with us over this issue after reading our response to h article in Under Lock & Key. This is a good example of Unity-Struggle-Unity. We must fearlessly tackle our ideological disagreements and questions while working together for change. Theories can only truly be tested in practice, and so in this way we agree that experience is the ultimate teacher.

This is a debate over the lessons of experience, not one of "talk" vs. experience as this prisoner represents. The article we printed talked about the YTS Chino prisoners who engaged in "race riots" where nations fought nations because they were being punished already for violence. The prisoncrats eventually saw the wisdom of resolving the situation by improving conditions rather than increasing repression. Certainly all of the youth involved in these struggles learned some valuable lessons. Most important is the lesson about the arbitrary nature of punishment meted out by the criminal injustice system. But we look to the practice of prisoners across the country and see that violence among prisoners generally leads to more violence and repression by the prison pigs, not the administration giving in to demands.

If we really want to learn from practice we must look at more than just one situation and draw scientific conclusions from history. It is likely that more than one individual prayed for change to the conditions in YTS Chino during this time, but we don't conclude that praying to god results in improvements in prisons just from this one experience. Similarly we can't take this one situation as evidence that violence among the people will lead the oppressors to lessen oppression when this is contradicted in the vast majority of prisons.

MIM(Prisons) does walk a line between supporting just struggles of the oppressed wherever they break out, and drawing lessons from the struggles while trying to push them to ever more advanced and successful levels. While we struggle against focoism, we have a bigger problem of inaction due to fear among the prison masses. So we recognize the positive aspects of immature rebellions that serve as breeding grounds for more advanced comrades and strategies. When these struggles present just demands we will support them, but we should not blindly cheerlead for every outbreak of rebellion.

The case of Cuba is a good historical example where we would defend their just struggle against imperialist aggression while pointing out that their revolution ended up dependent on Soviet imperialism and this hindered their ability to develop socialism and advance further in the interests of the Cuban people. This is a scientific analysis of history that must be undertaken so that we can learn from successes and failures. Many times in many countries people take up armed struggle without Maoist leadership and people's support. We resolutely support these struggles when they oppose imperialism, but we don't want to mislead people by suggesting that this is the best path to follow for other struggles.

This comrade's development of political awareness out of his experience at YTS Chino is a victory for the oppressed. But to sum up that history overall as a victory would imply that random violence among the oppressed wins victories from the oppressor. What makes it useful to retell these histories is to say here's what was righteous, and here's what was backwards or immature in our approach, to apply those lessons to our future struggles and share them with those who find themselves in similar situations today so that they can do better than we did.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 27]
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Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White in long-term isolation cell

Snow White and the Huntsman is a more in-depth, live-action take on the Disney classic. A variety of themes are explored in this film that were glossed over or undeveloped in the animated version, but the basic plot remains the same.

The story begins with Snow White as a small girl. Her mother falls ill and dies. Shortly thereafter the widower king is drawn into battle with a "dark and mysterious" army, whose warriors are made of obsidian or glass. The army is defeated and a prisoner, a beautiful womyn, is rescued. The king marries the prisoner the very next day, and she quickly is revealed to be an evil witch. The new queen kills the king, locks Snow White in a tower, and destroys the entire kingdom. How Snow White survived her decade of solitary confinement was not addressed in the film, but would have been interesting for us to analyze and likely criticize.

The queen was under a spell that kept her the fairest in the land, so long as she sucks the youth and beauty out of young wimmin to constantly replenish her powers. This beauty enables her to manipulate people who are distracted by her good looks, and to cast spells of her own. The spell can only be broken by "fairest blood," and as Snow White comes of age in her prison tower, she becomes a threat to the queen's powers. The magic mirror on the wall instructs the queen to eat Snow White's heart so that she will become immortal.

The queen's brother goes to retrieve Snow White for a meeting with the queen. Of course Snow White escapes, and through a course of events leads a revolution to take back the kingdom from the evil queen. It is Snow White's "purity" and "innocence" (as well as a blessing from a forest creature straight out of Princess Mononoke) that give her magical powers to overcome the queen's spells and tricks. A classic Jesus story, complete with a resurrection.

When the evil queen first took power, the subjects initially tried to resist her rule. They were defeated each time, and eventually everyone gave up, broke into sects, turned alcoholic, and warred with each other just trying to stay alive. An oracle dwarf identified Snow White as having a "destiny." It was only the power of this destined leader that could bring everyone together and overcome the evil queen.

The take-home lessons from Snow White and the Huntsman are defeatist. "Find a good leader and follow them." "People's struggle isn't winnable." "There's nothing you can do to challenge the all-powerful status quo." These are typical messages to be expected from a mainstream Amerikkkan movie.

The only theme that was remotely interesting was the queen's views on gender and beauty. She has been a victim of beauty for twenty lifetimes and has built up a lot of resentment toward men. This resentment comes up in her murder of the king, because she is distrustful of men, who will just throw her out when she ages. In a later scene, she is assessing two male prisoners who have just been captured, and one is young and handsome. Before killing him with her own fingers, she gives a monologue about how he would have been her ruin, but instead she will be his ruin. This is a good critique of the fetishization of youth and beauty and its contribution to a variety of mental health challenges people in our society must face. Had the queen not been valued by men only for her beauty, she may have been a more benevolent dictator, at least to the handsome young men who cross her path.

Snow White and the Huntsman doesn't get my recommendation. We don't need any more encouragement in our society to drink our sorrows about the status quo away, waiting for our own Snow White. And it's unnecessary to wait, because your Snow White is you!

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[Racism] [Missouri] [ULK Issue 27]
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More News About Missouri Please

I have some concerns about articles that are from California prisons. Aren't these same things going on in Missouri prisons as well? There are Trayvons happening everyday in Missouri, but no one talks about it. In Missouri prisons you can't even come together for a strike or anything else because if you do you will be put in SHU.

All I am asking my brothers and sisters of MIM(Prisons) is to please take a look at these Missouri prisons.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this comrade's desire to see more in Under Lock & Key about what's going on in prisons in h state. But this is really a call to h, and others who feel their state is underrepresented in ULK, to send us articles. We rely on our readers for news. Become a correspondent and send regular articles about what's going on in your prison and you will see more news about your state in ULK. Ask for a copy of our writing guide to get started.

This article referenced in:
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[Organizing] [Brown Berets - Prison Chapter] [ULK Issue 28]
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Prisoner Uprisings Foretell Growing Movement

Recently, prisoners have begun to rediscover their voice and power power in some of the most vile dungeons in Amerika. On May 22, 2012, the latest development has come from Red Onion State Prion in Virginia where prisoners rose up and defied the oppressor. This refusal to be passive in the face of brutality seems to occur more and more often these days. Red Onion shares the same oppression as Pelican Bay SHU prisoners and others across Amerika who face many of the same forms of abuse, cruelty and neglect.

There are over 90 thousand people in Amerika being held in solitary or segregation of some sort. Most of these 90 thousand are Latino or Black, making this mass imprisonment also a manifestation of national oppression.(1) But national oppression is also tied to the economic relations as today's developments with the world economies and social unrest point to the exhaustion of capitalism. This exhaustion coupled with the changing demographic where more than half of all babies born in the U.$. are non-white(2) is unleashing a mass imprisonment of Latinos and New Afrikans in unprecedented numbers. These are basically internment camps for the internal semi-colonies.

This rise in oppression is not simply in imprisonment; there has also been an economic offensive to go with it. Indeed, states comprising Aztlán and New Afrika have seen a more than 20% rise in poverty between 2007 and 2010.(3) We should see that it's not simply a case of a couple crooked cops, or some faulty prison administrators that cause us to be held in miserable conditions. It is much bigger and much deeper than that. What we experience is a long legacy of oppression unleashed on the people since the first settler stepped foot on this continent. This legacy can now be traced up to the highest levels of the ruling class, and sometimes reveals itself. But for the most part, the oppression we face is drenched in secrecy and washed in legalese to the point that laymen cannot grasp it even when experiencing it directly.

At the same time many prisoners are beginning to break through the shell of settler propaganda to see our oppression for what it is. We can see that when corporate media says prisoners are "gang members" they are simply attempting to cover up our brutal treatment. When it reports on a "riot" it is really an uprising. But prisoners, whether in California, Virginia or even the secret prisons, are all being oppressed with the same intent by the state: to break our resistance! This was revealed most recently on a news program where a self-described CIA operative Jorge Rodriguez described torturing suspected-Al Qaeda prisoners. It was in this interview where he described psychological torture inflicted to "instill a sense of hopelessness."(4)

Such was the intent of the solitary confinement: leaving prisoners naked, physical abuse, and the use of what he called "dietary manipulation," which is starving a prisoner with skimpy trays or rotten uncooked food — sound familiar? This was all done intentionally to instill this sense of hopelessness in order to force the prisoner to cooperate with the state. These methods are not materialized spontaneously but are designed from years of study in military and intelligence schools for psy-warfare. What we are experiencing in Amerika's superman prisons is a long legacy that is drenched in blood. Yet we are not victims, but survivors of capitalism. Our survival baffles the oppressor who cannot grasp that the people don't need profit to propel us, to motivate us on our path to freedom. Our drive is mysterious to the oppressor whose only action is brought on by profit.

Prisons will continue to have uprisings as more and more are now conscious and aware that things don't have to be the way they are, and torture does not have to be tolerated. Marx summed it up when he said "mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely it will always be found that the task itself only arises when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation. At the same time the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism."(5) What this is basically saying is once the productive forces develop to a point, they will naturally enter the next stage in social evolution. I think prisoners are at the stage in social evolution across Amerika and this is reflected in the uprisings we are seeing develop as never before.

The folks in Red Onion are a link in a long chain that reaches from concentration camp to concentration camp and the Brown Berets - Prison Chapter stands in solidarity with them in our common march towards human rights!


Notes:
1. http://www.abolishcontrolunits.org/research
2. NPR, Latino USA, 7-13-2012
3. Stateline/Pew Center 2012.
4. CBS, 60 minutes. "Hard measures" 4-29-2012
5. Preface to "The Critique of Political Economy" by Karl Marx. pg 329.

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[Abuse] [Organizing] [Lanesboro Correctional Institution] [North Carolina]
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Lockdown in North Carolina Needs Organized Response

I was transferred to Lansboro CI on May 27. Lansboro is said to be the "most dangerous prison in North Carolina" and next on the list is Scotland. Recently, on June 6, the Prison Emergency Rescue Team (PERT) raided the prison 200-300 deep and ripped it apart. Their main purpose was to find drugs, weapons and most of all cell phones. They really wanted the cell phones to shut off any chances of communication from prison to prison. Their goal was to eliminate any chance of a future mass movement and current communication from top rank "gang" leaders.

In all, there were about 70-100 people who were nabbed. The PERT team brought with them a sensor detector (an enhanced metal detector used at airports) that they forced everyone to walk through. This detects drugs, weapons or cell phones. The people who set the detector off were then taken to "dry cell", in which the prisoner had nothing in their cells but their boxers, shower shoes and mattress. They were made to stay there for 48 hours until they used the bathroom - in which the officers would search the feces for contraband.

In their search for cell phones (which prisoners had hidden in their rectum), they also put the entire prison on lockdown until all contraband was confiscated. In the midst of the confusion, the PERT team confiscated some of our hygiene, threw prisoners religious items on the floor, personal pictures in the toilet and trash and even assaulted a couple of my brothers - all just as harassment.

These 70-100 prisoners have been sitting in an empty cell with feces in their toilets for 2-5 days; most of them have no contraband on them. After they have defecated, they will be forced to go through an x-ray machine, which the prison needs the prisoners' signed permission for, and they do not have it.

Our human rights have been violated by these oppressive prison officials and it must be resolved by the prisoners first. We must take a stand against this bullshit they think they can pull on us. Out of all 70-100 people they nabbed, they have only reported to have found 10-20 cell phones and modicum amounts of drugs and weapons. Their lack of effort to resolve the situation and get on with confiscating instead of leaving prisoners in their cells with feces is not only inhumane, but a prolonging of having the prison on lockdown. We have been on lockdown since June 6.

Segregation pods are already overcrowded to the point where they have prisoners on dry cell in the receiving area. They have to transfer prisoners due to so many receiving long-term isolation sentences (between 6 months and 1.5 years.) Prisoners here must turn our frustration and anger against our oppressors instead of each other. But I can say it is very difficult to do when you always have to watch your back because someone may stab you or your brothers at any moment - which is rampant here. It is possible, but it will take a hellava push by tribe members, who control this prison! Let's get to work!!!


MIM(Prisons) responds: We echo this prisoner's call for unity among the Lumpen Organizations (LOs) in prison. Many individuals and organizations have signed on to the United Front for Peace in Prisons to move the struggle against the criminal injustice system forward. The first principal of the UFPP is Peace: "We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."

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[Idealism/Religion] [Download and Print] [ULK Issue 48]
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Truly Quoting Marx on Religion

Often we hear or read quick quotes which are taken to mean something, or infer something different from the intended meaning. Marx's quote on religion is just such an example.

We have all heard or read Marx's "statement" that "religion is the opiate of the masses." This is not an accurate quote of what Marx wrote in his "Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right." This quote has given rise to the belief that Marx did not take the issue of religion seriously and dismissed it as folly. This is not true.(1)

Let's review in context what Marx did write about religion:

"Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people."

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about conditions is the demand to give up a condition that needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion. Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain, not so that man will wear the chain without any fantasy or consolation, but so that he will shake off the chain and cull the living flower.

Clearly Marx is not discussing the seriousness of religion, or the role it plays in the lives of oppressed peoples. Marx realizes the power of delusion that religion holds over people. I disagree with MIM(Prisons) that religion "is simply a belief in authority."(2) Perhaps that is true for some people. But I believe it is a panacea for woe and oppression — a search and hope for a better life than the one believers currently lead. It is the oppressed's answer to the question of existentialism.

Due to the anxieties of existence — anxieties people experience as the result of natural causes like floods, famine and earthquakes, or man-made causes such as enslavement, exploitation or oppression — that make people feel powerless, they often resort to magical thinking, or beliefs in supernatural agents as a plea for the anxiety to end. Thus was born religion, its roots in anxiety.

Religion is a potent tool of capitalism and imperialism. To eliminate one, all must be eliminated if the people are to experience true freedom and liberation.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Overall, we have great unity with what this comrade writes about religion and Marx's view of it. But eir disagreement with something we wrote is a bit of a strawpersyn argument. First, it is ironic to use Christopher Hitchens to criticize us as too dismissive of religion. Hitchens was popular for his atheist ideas among the Amerikan petty bourgeoisie. His attack on so-called "Islamo-fascism" was better received than his allies on the left (led by Bob Avakian) and right (epitomized in David Horowitz). All three represent the spectrum of white nationalist thinking that uses religion as an excuse to attack the oppressed nations, primarily in the Islamic world today.

Islamo fascism

In this attempt to critique, we think this comrade takes the quote from the Fundamental Political Line of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons out of context. The article presents the religious view in a discussion on science, correctly stating that it is simply a belief in authority, rather than a belief in one's own ability to study reality and find truth.

The MIM article also discusses pre-scientific thinking, addressing religion's role as a "panacea for woe and oppression." In pre-capitalist times, such thinking was the norm and religion was more than just an attempt to deal with the bad times, it was an attempt to explain all aspects of reality. Once scientific thought was developed and popularized, it has been the class interests of the oppressors that have kept religious ideology alive to serve their interests, as this comrade alludes. But that doesn't mean everyone who is religious is a dupe. Muslims are currently striking some of the greatest blows against U.$. imperialism, so they must have a pretty good grasp on how to actualize their own interests in a world that throws many horrors in their direction.


Notes:
1. "God is not great: how religion poisons everything" by Christopher Hitchens p9-10
2. "Fundamental Political Line of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons" March 2012. p17.

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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What Else

Comrades, I'm white
and I hate white people
not because they are white
but because they love themselves
too much
more than anyone else
more than anything else
more than all else
I love all else
my mom's white
my brother's white
father and sisters white
and I hate white people
not because they are white
but because they are killing my people
and my planet
all for green paper
and towering white steeples
I'm a traitor
who grew up in a trailer
I branded cows in my youth
ninety miles to the south
the nearest traffic light
we pissed off the porch
poached deer - ate rattlesnake
comrades, I'm white
But don't hold that against me
because I hate this motherfucking country
to death
my pen's my weapon
my blood - my breath
my planet - my species
above all else

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