by a North Carolina prisoner August 2012 permalink
I have been a reader of your publication going on a couple years now, and I find it the most uplifting and informative I've seen yet! Also, the comrades in this movement have been most helpful in demonstrating to us how to file a petition against the grievance process here in North Carolina prisons. I am currently housed at Marion Correctional Institution's segregation unit in Marion, North Carolina where they keep any prisoner who dares to challenge and question their conduct or actions. However, I have witnessed over the years how our grievance process has become so watered down to the point when you ask for the DC-410 form you're laughed at by correctional officers and told to spell their names right (ha ha ha). It has become no more than a venting process for us! There is no consideration that this is a constitutionally protected right.
However, I recently have sent copies of my petition to the Justice Department in Atlanta, Georgia and the Inspector General's office in Virginia, as well as two copies to North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NC DPS) Secretary Jennie Lancaster via certified mail. I haven't even gotten acknowledgements that they received any of them. So you see, we're being stifled, even at the highest levels. Therefore, we won't get anything done on this issue, short of court action. The people who are supposed to protect our rights won't even do so. So we regroup, and continue this fight for justice, so as to stop this "rubber stamping" game with our rights.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It seems other prisoners in North Carolina have already come to similar conclusions, as comrades recently passed the two week mark on a hunger strike demanding improvements in conditions, including an end to long-term isolation.
On Monday July 16th, prisoners began hunger strikes at Bertie CI in Windsor, Scotland CI in Laurinburg, and Central Prison in Raleigh. Targeting a wide range of conditions related but not exclusive to solitary confinement, the prisoners have vowed not to eat until their demands are met.(1)
Check this link below for the full list of demands, because apparently the list released by the NC DPS had sections redacted for "security issues."(2) Which might explain why the mainstream media is not reporting the more serious demands, such as "An immediate end to the physical and mental abuse inflicted by officers", "The end of cell restriction. Sometimes prisoners are locked in their cell for weeks or more than a month, unable to come out for showers and recreation" and "An immediate stop to officers' tampering or throwing away prisoners' mail."(1)
We've seen the increased activity in North Carolina over the last couple years, and so has the DPS, who have stepped up a campaign to keep Under Lock & Key and other mail from MIM(Prisons), out of the hands of their prisoners. Below is one image that triggered censorship in the last issue of ULK.
Just as this comrade has been pushing every administrative avenue to get prisoners' rights respected, MIM(Prisons) has been doing the same to fight this rampant censorship and ignoring of grievances. As this comrade says, we continue to regroup and do everything we can to stop these injustices. We encourage the comrades in North Carolina to keep speaking up, as your rights are not guaranteed; you must stand up and demand them.
I would like to bring something to your attention that's going on here at Union Correctional Institution with staff attacks and starvation tactics. In April I was assaulted by prison staff. Upon grieving the issue at the institutional level, I was immediately retaliated against, choked with security waist chains, placed on strip status butt naked, property taken and destroyed, and placed back into cold cell 40/50 degrees with AC blowing for nine days straight without clothes. I had no sheets, no comfort items, no property, no toothpaste, no toilet tissue, no socks, no mattress, no nothing, just sleeping on a concrete bunk.
I was set up with all kinds of weapons, income tax forms, gang letters, bogus urine test, etc. These staff are out of control. I'm constantly being verbally threatened after I have already been assaulted. Security staff have orderlies empty food trays and pour chemicals and spit in the food after they starve us for 7 or 8 days straight, knowing prisoners will eat anything after not being fed for that long. Medical staff here are covering up for these attacks.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This story of prison staff abuse and retaliation against those who file grievances is unfortunately very common in prisons across the country. The campaign to demand grievances be addressed is spreading to new states quickly as comrades look for ways to fight back against this repression. We don't yet have a petition for the state of Florida so we need someone from that state to look up citations and policies specific to Florida for reference in the petition. If you do this research and send us what needs to be rewritten for your particular state, we will gladly send an edited, accurate copy to other USW and Legal Clinic folks in your state.
The 2012 London Olympics are almost upon us and the world waits, holds their breath even, in anticipation of this most glorious of events which will surely decide what country can lay claim to the best athletes bar none.
But take a closer look and you'll see that the Olympics are in all actuality nothing more than bourgeois propaganda; a multifaceted cultural and ideological weapon of the international bourgeoisie in which they pretend that the world isn't divided into oppressor and oppressed nations. Through the institution of the Olympics the international bourgeoisie seeks to make us believe that the entire humyn species is all living in harmony as equal members of one big happy family, and that the nations of the world co-exist peacefully as if all are members of one big "global village" with the exception of some "rogue states." Nothing however could be further form the truth! Part of that truth being that the Olympics are really just another synonym for this "global village" construct, a construct used to white-wash reality.
The term and concept of what the petty-bourgeoisie ideologues have deemed "global village" and what the big bourgeoisie have in turn labeled more correctly as "globalization" can be more appropriately elaborated and defined as "...a supra class, supranational and universalist process of irresistible all around homogenization of the world under the auspices of monopoly capitalism, through the multilateral agencies (United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB/IBRD) and World Trade Organization (WTO)) and the multinational or transnational firms and banks."(1)
But this ain't no nit-wit critique of the process of globalization per the mythical "99%," who aren't 99% of anything but more like part of the top 13% of the richest people in the world!(2) No, this is a critique of the "global village" construct which has its origin rooted in petty-bourgeois ideology just like the "99%," and which is but a rephrasing of that same process of "globalization" from the international bourgeoisie, as if both the exploiters and exploited are all in the global struggle for humynity together! But we communists know this construct and its material reality by its original name: imperialism!
As previously stated, the Olympics don't just serve to gloss over national and class contradictions on a global scale. They also serve as an extension and propagation of bourgeois ideology a la "human nature," i.e. that always inherent drive to compete.
Indeed, the Olympics serve to keep both the masses of the world and the more progressive wing of the enemy population distracted from the harsh reality of imperialist society (as do professional sports in general). The reality is that the imperialists are on a global rampage in which they're voraciously and ruthlessly raping and plundering the oppressed people of the world and their national territories, i.e. Latin America, Africa and Asia (the Third World). The lie that is the concept of the "global village" exaggerates "...the coherence of the world capitalist system to the point of glossing over the distinction of national modes of production"(1) and its main proponents are in the oppressor states: the industrialized and ethnologically developed countries, the First World, principally the United $tates.
Furthermore, "globalization"/imperialism pretends that the dismantling of national barriers to the operation of capital markets and finance capital brings progress to the Third World or "developing economies" whilst the idealistic and naive petty-bourgeoisie of both the imperialist countries and the Third World believe it. But the truth of the matter is that the "...counterproductive character of neocolonialism is the result of imperialist financing for the overproduction of raw materials and some manufactures for the consumption of the capitalist countries and the upper classes in the underdeveloped countries since the 70s."(1)
On top of this, the popularization of the global village concept isn't just done by the bourgeoisie. This fake global concept is even propagated by so-called "communists" principally in the First World thru the guise of revisionist trickery!
On the one hand we have the barefaced bourgeoisie who uses these concepts to deny Lenin's formulation of imperialism and proletarian revolution, saying that it belongs to the past and that the current neocolonial system is a "post-imperialist phenomenon," as if imperialism and all its tools of oppression and exploitation have all but withered away!
On the other hand we have the so-called and sometimes self-proclaimed "Maoists" in the First World who are really nothing but crypto-Trotskyists that spread the false notion, correctly criticized by MIM, that "...the world proletarian revolution can only be the result of a simplified struggle between a globally united monopoly bourgeoisie and the world proletariat and that the total collapse of the unified imperialism is impending despite the current state of the subjective forces of the revolution in the world."(1)
We must take the time to study and analyze the world around us and its history thru the historical materialist perspective and from the point of view of the oppressed and exploited Third World masses. We need to look at the two great socialist projects of the 20th century. The first was born from the First World War and strong proletarian leadership, and the second was born of the Second World War and strong peasant backing which gave further credence and elaboration to the importance of national liberation and the correct theory that socialism can only be accomplished one country at a time, of which the establishment of the USSR should have proved to the muddle-headed. This study makes clear that the global village/globalization concept that the bourgeoisie uses to deceive the masses and the world is the same theory the revisionists use to accomplish the aims of their bourgeois brethren.
So when you're watching the Olympics this summer remember two things: 1) The world isn't one big happy family. It is divided into oppressor and oppressed nations. This is the principal contradiction on a world scale, while the fundamental contradiction on a world scale is the bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. The Olympics are nothing but the vain attempts of the international bourgeoisie, and imperialist states to whom they are bound, to cover up national and class contradictions and to white-wash reality so that we will confuse the true prize of national liberation, self-determination and complete emancipation from the imperialists for gold medals. 2) Just as the global village construct of the petty-bourgeoisie that dominates that class is a myth and a lie, so is the global village thesis of the crypto-Trotskyists (simultaneous world revolution) which they've specifically tailored to their purposes. It is an ideological weapon of the revisionists used to fool the oppressed nations within U.$. borders into believing that we need not seek national liberation and self-determination for ourselves because according to them all nationalism is bourgeois in essence and "the whole world comes first!"
Lenin, Stalin and Mao all took clear positions on the national question which was liberty at its core; so why can't the First World "communists"? Ask yourself this, go into deep thought, study the question and you will be enlightened ten-fold.
Step Up: Revolution centers around a dance crew called The Mob that is based in a "slum" of Miami, though has recruited members from all over the world. Their "slum" origins are questionable as they all have bodies of professional athletes and dress like models. And while The Mob always has the resources for the most fantastic props for their performances, we never see any signs of poverty or oppressive conditions in their neighborhood, except for almost being displaced by a development project. Like the billboards for this movie suggest, there is a focus on the forbidden love story between Mob co-founder Sean and daughter of the rich developer who threatens to destroy their neighborhood, Emily, throughout the movie.
The story line is mostly a joke as one would expect, since we all came for the crazy dance moves, right? The only semi-interesting line of dialogue in the whole film is when Emily challenges The Mob for not even saying anything in their art. This is particularly interesting juxtaposed to Sean's line throughout the film that The Mob was created so that their voices could be heard in a city where they are "invisible."
On the one hand, Emily's challenge is a valid critique when the leaders of The Mob are clear that they are all about being financially successful through their art from the beginning to the very last line of the film. At the same time, it perpetuates the idea that there is art without a message, which just isn't true.
This critique reflects back on the greater art form that is the film itself. This is apparently a popular genre now, building off the success of TV talent shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and America's Got Talent. Many of the performers in the movie are recruited from these shows, and are real-world examples of the success that The Mob is working for. The Step Up series of movies is all about providing the audience with an adrenaline rush with ever-more intense dance moves, soundtracks and visual effects.
It seems that they were pushing up on their limits in creating more extreme dance performances, and they stepped into the realm of protest art for a minute to up the ante with this latest edition of Step Up. In this genre there is often a strong element of competition, which can provide a source of drama and maybe a fight or two to add to the excitement. But this version stepped it up by having a dance crew that went up against the system, sort of.
The Mob actually starts out as a highly trained flash mob, rather than protest art. Instead of using performance art to convey a specific message in a more impactful way, the flash mob is a modern phenomenon that focuses on transforming the moment with no long-term goals or message. Building on Guy Debord's theory of the Society of the Spectacle, some think these disruptions of the spectacle that is the status quo is somehow a revolutionary act. Most just think it's neat and fun. And ultimately that is what The Mob is about, despite their short venture into protesting the destruction of their hood.
In the end the movie abruptly brings you back to the main motivation being financial success, which could have been the producers poking a bit of fun at those who came to see the movie looking for a more subversive message. But at the same time it was true-to-life in the way that dance and music are used in advertising to sell an image of rebellion and being extreme to youth with money to spend. This movie is very much part of that. But that phenomenon is much bigger in the way that oppressed nation culture, especially in the form of hip hop, was taken and sold to white youth as a form of rebellion, then sanitized by the white tastes that then shaped the culture and sold it back to Black youth as something that was supposed to represent them.
It is this aspect of culture that is hinted at in the film when The Mob says they "are everyone" and that they represent the culture of the neighborhood that the developers will destroy with their plans. In reality, the culture presented by The Mob is a very globalized and technologically-centered culture that does not represent one place or one people, but does reflect material wealth, large amounts of leisure time and mobility that is inaccessible to the majority of the world's people. The movie tries to pass this big-money pop culture off as a local scene threatened by big bad corporations. The timing and message was perhaps an attempt to play on the hype around the "99%" movement, who would see these rich kids as the poor.
But it would be wrong to say that the art and culture presented in movies like Step Up is "devoid of content," as implied by Emily's critique. There was a lot of sex and romance culture promotion in this movie, and in the dancing itself. There was a promotion of the art of dance as a big party. And there was the ever-present theme, dating back to Dirty Dancing (and probably before), of the need to break the rules to express yourself. But the source of conflict of this expression in Hollywood movies is usually centered around sexuality and romance. In Step Up: Revolution, fighting the redevelopment project becomes a cause that drives the dancers to break the rules. But even then, the message you are left with is that it is good to push the limits to be cutting edge in order to be successful at marketing yourself. The most radical action of The Mob is scarred as representing the low point and temporary breakup of the group, and it was the only time they actually got in trouble with law enforcement (who were unrealistically absent throughout the movie). It's like the successful politician or non-profit organizer who got arrested once in college for the experience and now has some street cred as a result, but never really represented a challenge to the system. While the term "revolution" has been perpetually overused in marketing, in a way to dilute the power of the word, to use the word in reference to this sort of rebellious behavior is even more insidious. Those who feel like they are doing something radical, when in reality they are part of the system that revolution aims to overthrow, are all too common in the belly of the beast.
This movie takes certain elements of flash mobs and overlaps them with political action in a way to make them seem more radical and powerful than they are. Flash mobs as a phenomenon play into people's desires to be a part of something bigger than themselves and are a combination of youthful rebellion and partying. While sometimes used for political messages as The Mob eventually does, they are generally post-modern forms of expression with no coherent goals or message. The Mob at least has the advantage over your standard flash mob for being well-rehearsed and planned out ahead of time by a dedicated organization, which allows them to easily focus their work on fighting the developers. While they had discipline and hard work, their class interests were what kept them focused on their financial success. The more common flash mob that brings together random people to a location for a party is representative of the same class interests. The post-modern art form takes group action, one of the most powerful tools we have, and makes it inherently individualistic and unconsolidated, making it a spectacle itself. It is much easier to mobilize a mass of petty bourgeois youth to create their own spectacle than it is to exert their power to challenge the system.
While we know this movie wasn't trying to enter into serious political dialogue for solving the world's problems, there are many people holding desires for a better world that end up putting their energy and enthusiasm into self-indulgent dead ends. While dance can be revolutionary, the revolution will not be a dance party. If changing the world was all fun and sexy, don't you think it would have happened by now?
I'm writing to contribute to the continuing exposure of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)'s corrupt capitalist-imperialist system locking up human beings in long-term solitary confinement for decades.
As we know, the anniversary of the 1st hunger strike just passed 1 July 2012. We must remember the three soldados who lost their lives in this battle for our basic human rights and to end all indefinite isolation units (SHUs and Ad-Segs).
And to all who participated and those who gave and continue to give us moral support over our torturous and inhumane conditions of being segregated and placed in solitary confinement, known as CDCR's SHUs and Ad-Segs "Crypts", indefinitely with no rights or due process.
It's also very important we don't forget about the women and girls locked up in women prisons, Central California Women's Facility Chowchilla, Valley State Prison for Women, California Institution for Women, White Oaks, CRC, etc. I can't imagine the hardships and torturous conditions these women/girls have to endure. I would bet my life on it that thousands of these women/girls are also locked away in isolation confinement crypts. So let's walk side by side with our equal counterparts women and girls who are being isolated to indefinite SHUs, where concerns around living conditions of mental/physical torturous behavior fall on deaf ears.
I know this first hand because I've been in solitary confinement indefinitely since 1993 and counting. All we're asking for is to be treated as humans. Our 5 core demands are very reasonable.
But as the world now knows, California CDCR continues to deny that we are human by placing us in their "crypts" based on lies and making it a priority that we don't get basic necessities: medical, mental health treatment, human contact with our family, and sunlight.
I ask everyone who is a part of this struggle to join the fight to eliminate unjust solitary confinement.
The prisoncrats will never admit they are terrorist dictators who are allowed to run California's prisons with no honest oversight or accountability for their terrorist ideology, behavior and actions. They falsely use so-called "prison security concerns" to label thousands of human beings as prison gang members or associates to justify decades of isolation practices.
Attorney Peter Schey, from the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, has filed a petition to the United Nations concerning our solitary confinement. There is also a separate federal civil rights action in motion. This will take time, as we know how the court system operates.
Don't give up hope, this is gonna be a long battle and journey. A lot of us are stuck in these "crypts" until real change comes. It's up to us to protect the new generation - so they don't have to go through torturous inhumane isolation.
Supporters on the outside can use these two-sided, quarter sheet fliers to let the people know about the Day of Solidarity being organized across U.S. prisons for September 9, 2012. Just click the image above to download the PDF, print them out, cut them up and hand them out. Don't leave it to the bourgeois media to report on and define this movement.
On July 7, 2012 a kite was passed to me, and it read as follows:
"I might be in some trouble. You don't know me and this is going to blow your mind. If I die in the next day Sr. Menendez in Unit 11 is responsible and probably the warden too. They are going to use inmates to do it. I threatened the warden with letters to the health department about blatant violations in the culinary and the way they do laundry and other things they are getting away with in here. If you hear of an inmate dying in the next couple of days don't let my death go in vain."
Without addressing the veracity of this communication, it is disturbing for a number of reasons (aside from the obvious). First and foremost is the specter of the state's use of inmates (and I use "inmates" here in the most specifically derogatory and anti-revolutionary sense of the term) to do their bidding. That a prisoner who sought to expose an evil visited upon us all would then have to fear reprisal from fellow targets of the evil, at the direction of the oppressor, is treachery of a singularly despicable character. (This is nothing new, but its nature has become more dominant, as is discussed below.) This is aside from the actual violation of our most fundamental constitutional and human rights, the subsequent retaliation for exposing this malfeasance of prison officials and the complete and utter disregard and contempt for human dignity.
This "tool" culture is becoming increasingly prevalent. Today, not only do we revolutionary and activist prisoners have to combat the oppressors themselves, but we must overcome their minions within the ranks of the oppressed as well — we must be ever vigilant against their agents among us. Not in the ordinary sense of infiltrators and narcs, but a whole culture of puppets, sympathizers and panderers intoxicated by imperialist fictions. What is truly frightening about this new breed of traitor is this fact: they want no recompense for their treachery. They believe in the rightness of the betrayal. They believe in the rightness of their loyalty to the oppressor, the enemy. These "people" are not seeking gain. They are an enemy cadre, steeped in enemy thought and ideology. They are (in the truest sense) patriotic Amerikkkans.
Doubtless, the state creates deprivations and uses these deprivations as bargaining chips to enlist the aid of petty snitches and unsavories of all types. That is never going to change in or out of prison. That is not the same animal. What is named here is a devoted enemy, an unrecognized and unofficial extension of the state in both thought and deed.
We must be aware of this counter-revolutionary element and be prepared to deal with them as they arise. There is increased urgency for A) the unification of all revolutionaries and activists regardless of race, religion, gender, custody, set or hood; B) critical analyses of the battle field without set mentalities; and C) application of the principles and theory which arise out of critical analyses. We must rethink our strategies and possibly our associations and act based upon what we have been taught by our conditions, not by what we feel or desire. The local conditions as applied to the global struggle should advise us — not predilection.
The only reason why we have remained oppressed is the enemy's effective and continuous infiltration and dis-empowerment. It is the enemy's ability to disunite and exploit this disunity, which provides them with a critical advantage. These are textbook guerrilla tactics which continue to work and reinforce the need for a steel-willed revolutionary vanguard. As such, we must immediately re-evaluate our objectives and tactical assessments, and evolve to meet the pale of the enemy. This requires that we take a long hard look at our environment and account for this emerging class of "enemy combatants."
A friend of the enemy is still an enemy.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We recently announced a day of solidarity for the United Front for Peace in Prisons, which in part is about promoting the five principles to discourage the kind of petty back-biting where prisoners will sell out for small favors from the pigs. But this comrade brings up a good point, that not all prisoners can be won over. The divisions created by the oppressors are not just individuals bought off to carry out individual reactionary acts in exchange for favors, but also individuals who buy in to the Amerikan political ideology and truly support imperialism as a system. Both groups are dangerous to the movement. We must protect ourselves from these people, both by trying to turn them to the side of the oppressed while exposing them and avoiding their traps and aggression.
Based on a suggestion from a USW comrade in California, we have reformatted all the petitions for the grievance petition campaign. The new format makes it easy for prisoners to persynalize each petition, and to provide clear examples of the experiences they've had with the broken grievance system in their state. These are details some prison administrators have asked for in their responses to the petitions they've received.
We also incorporated all addresses for who should receive copies of the petition right onto the petition itself. This way people don't have to worry about keeping track of two pieces of paper (one with the address, and one with their signature).
The petitions can be downloaded and printed by people on the outside by clicking on each state's name above. You should send the petition to your prisoner contacts (with extra copies if you can!) who are having their voices and complaints quashed by prison authorities. The ability to have grievances addressed has a direct impact on the day-to-day living conditions of prisoners, can help to hold prison authorities accountable for their actions, and even affects one's ability to take an issue to court if necessary.
We here at Wayne in Goldsboro, NC just received the invite to join the solidarity demonstration, and certain individuals will partake. Not all persons are willingly sacrificial, through lack of guidance and direction. For this reason I am asking for educational material to study and distribute through these dismal crypts.
We as politically conscious soldiers in this great struggle have a large task of making aware the fuckery that the great imperialists are doing through disenfranchisement and psychological warfare known as censorship.
Myself and the Revolutionary Order I am co-organizing would like to formally join the United Front/USW. We recognize the 5 principles as essential and they are also woven into and throughout our structure.
We are WOMMB (Warrior's Order Mobilized for Maximum Building) and we're focused on personal/social liberation and personal/social re-building, beginning with ourselves and fellow prisoners. Our methods and curriculum will center on rites of passage and initiatory values and structures. We aim to awaken the population, instill discipline, build character and destroy the bourgeois/slave identity. There are codes of conduct to voluntarily follow and a host of topics to be studied and mastered.
I will enclose our communique and 5 point plan/mission statement so that you will have a complete understanding of our position and goals.
We are seeking a relationship/partnership of solidarity, mutual assistance and collective planning and organizing. We would like to know more about MIM(Prisons) and how we can be of service.