A paper published this week challenges the psychological conception of "conformity bias" that evolved from the Stanford Prison Experiment by Zimbardo and the Teacher/Learner experiment by Milgram.(1) The paper makes connections to recent work on the oppression carried out by Nazis in Hitler's Germany, and generally concludes that people's willingness to hurt or oppress others in such situations is "less about people blindly conforming to orders than about getting people to believe in the importance of what they are doing."
In the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971) students were assigned roles as guards and prisoners in a simulation, and soon both groups took on the typical behaviors of those roles, with the guards treating the prisoners so harshly that the experiment was stopped early. MIM(Prisons) has used this as an example that oppression is systematic and that we can't fix things by hiring the right guards, rather we must change the system. In ULK 19, another comrade referred to it in a discussion of how people are conditioned to behave in prisons.(2) The more deterministic conclusion that people take from this is that people will behave badly in order to conform to expectations. The Milgram experiment (1963) involved participants who were the "teacher" being strongly encouraged to apply faked electric shocks to "learners" who answered questions incorrectly. The conclusion here was that humyns will follow orders blindly rather than think for themselves about whether what they are doing is right.
"This may have been the defense they relied upon when seeking to minimize their culpability , but evidence suggests that functionaries like Eichmann had a very good understanding of what they were doing and took pride in the energy and application that they brought to their work.(1)
The analysis in this recent paper is more amenable to a class analysis of society. As the authors point out, it is well-established that Germans, like Adolf Eichmann, enthusiastically participated in the Nazi regime, and it is MIM(Prisons)'s assessment that there is a class and nation perspective that allowed Germans to see what they were doing as good for them and their people.
While our analysis of the Stanford Prison Experiment has lent itself to promoting the need for systematic change, the psychology that came out of it did not. The "conformity bias" concept backs up the great leader theory of history where figures like Hitler and Stalin were all-powerful and all-knowing and the millions of people who supported them were mindless robots. This theory obviously discourages an analysis of conditions and the social forces interacting in and changing those conditions. In contrast, we see the more recent psychological theory in this paper as friendly to a sociological analysis that includes class and nation.
As most of our readers will be quick to recognize, prison guards in real life often do their thing with great enthusiasm. And those guards who don't believe prisoners need to be beaten to create order don't treat them poorly. Clearly the different behaviors are a conscious choice based on the individual's beliefs, as the authors of this paper would likely agree. There is a strong national and class component to who goes to prison and who works in prisons, and this helps justify the more oppressive approach in the minds of prison staff. Despite being superior to the original conclusions made, this recent paper is limited within the realm of psychology itself and therefore fails to provide an explanation for behaviors of groups of people with different standings in society.
We also should not limit our analysis to prison guards and cops who are just the obvious examples of the problem of the oppressor nation. Ward Churchill recalled the name of Eichmann in his infamous piece on the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center to reference those who worked in the twin towers. Like those Amerikans, Adolf Eichmann wasn't an assassin, but a bureaucrat, who was willing to make decisions that led to the deaths of millions of people. Churchill wrote:
"Recourse to 'ignorance' — a derivative, after all, of the word 'ignore' — counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in — and in many cases excelling at — it was because of their absolute refusal to see."(3)
The authors of the recent paper stress that the carrying out of something like the Nazis did in Germany required passionate creativity to excel and to recruit others who believed in what they were doing. It is what we call the subjective factor in social change. Germany was facing objective conditions of economic hardship due to having lost their colonies in WWI, but it took the subjective developments of National Socialism to create the movement that transformed much of the world. That's why our comrade who wrote on psychology and conditioning was correct to stress knowledge to counteract the institutionalized oppression prisoners face.(2) Transforming the subjective factor, the consciousness of humyn beings, is much more complicated than an inherent need to conform or obey orders. Periods of great change in history help demonstrate the dynamic element of group consciousness that is much more flexible than deterministic psychology would have us believe. This is why psychology can never really predict humyn behavior. It is by studying class, nation, gender and other group interests that we can both predict and shift the course of history.
On November 15, 2012 Michigan's ban on affirmative action in college admissions was declared unconstitutional in federal appeals court. This strikes down a 2006 constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of race as a factor to determine which students to admit to college. While bans on affirmative action are fundamentally reactionary in preserving white privilege, this was a weak legal victory for school integration. The justices did not cite the need for equal access to education for all people in their reasoning, but rather struck down the ban because it presents a burden to opponents who must fight it through the ballot box, because this is a costly and time consuming activity. This "undermines the Equal Protection Clause's guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change," according to the majority opinion of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The courts determined they would rather leave this debate over affirmative action to the governing boards of the public universities.(1)
A similar law in California was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving conflicting legal rulings for different parts of the country. It is likely that these cases will move to the Supreme Court. Six states besides Michigan have banned affirmative action in school admissions: Washington, Nebraska, Arizona, New Hampshire, California and Florida.
Debates over affirmative action in Amerika provide revolutionaries with an opportunity to talk about the history of national oppression and the reality of ongoing oppression today. But we need to be careful not to get caught up in the details of affirmative action alone. Based on college admissions information and population statistics, in recent years oppressed nations are actually attending college at rates that are approaching those of their white counterparts. But the story missing here is what's happening to the rest of the Blacks and Latinos who don't attend college, as well as which colleges each nation is attending. Affirmative action would impact the latter problem, but has no affect on the close to 50% of Black and Latino students who don't make it to high school graduation.
From 1976 to 2010, the percentage of Latino college students rose from 3 percent to 13 percent, and the percentage of Black college students rose from 9 percent to 14 percent. During the same period, the percentage of white college students fell from 83 percent to 61 percent. As the table below shows, the percent of Blacks and Latinos in the college student body overall in the U.$. is approaching their representation in the population.(2)
1976 % of student body
2010 % of student body
2010 % of population (age 18-24)
Another relevant measure of college education equality is the percentage of 18-24-year-olds enrolled in college. For 2008 the rates by nationality were(3):
2008 % w/college education(age 18-24)
Clearly there are still wide disparities in educational access as well as the degrees that oppressed nation students are achieving relative to their white counterparts. And a long history of differential college education leads to population statistics that reflect the overall lower educational achievement of oppressed nations. The table below shows the percent of the population with each degree by nationality.(3) The total percentages of each nation with a college degree should get closer together if oppressed nation enrollment continues to approach the population distribution. But that won't necessarily result in the same levels of education achieved.
The debate over affirmative action at the college level gets at the core of what equality is. Those who demand "blind" admissions practices have to pretend that everyone applying for college admissions had equal opportunities up to the point of college application. And this gives us a chance to challenge people on what many like to call a "color-blind" society. Even looking at the privileged Blacks and Latinos who went to schools good enough to qualify them to apply for college admission, pretending equality is only possible if we ignore all the aspects of oppression that these groups face in the U.$., from overt racial hatred to subtle cultural messages of inferiority. Society sets oppressed nation youth up for failure from birth, with TV and movies portraying criminals as Black and Latino and successful corporate employees as white. These youth are stopped by cops on the streets for the offense of skin color alone, looked at suspiciously in stores, and presumed to be less intelligent in school.
But the real problem is not the privileged Black and Latino students qualified to apply for college admission. These individual students from oppressed nations who are able to achieve enough to apply to colleges that have admissions requirements are a part of the petty bourgeoisie. The reality is very different for the other half of the oppressed nation youth who are tracked right out of college from first grade (or before) and have no chance of even attending a college that has admissions requirements beyond a high school diploma.
Among the students who entered high school in ninth grade, 63% of Latinos, 59% of Blacks and 53% of First Nations graduated high school in 2009. This is compared to 81% of Asians and 79% of whites. Overall the Black-white and Latino-white graduation rate gap narrowed between 1999 and 2009 but is still very large.(4)
Few statistics are gathered on drop out rates between first grade and ninth grade, but state-based information suggests that middle school drop out rates are high. These no doubt reflect the differentials by nationality, leading to an even higher overall drop out rate for oppressed nations. It is almost certain that fewer than half of Blacks and Latinos who enter grade school complete 12th grade with a diploma. And the students who do graduate come away with an education so inferior that many are not qualified for college. On average, Black and Latino high school seniors perform math and read at the same level as 13-year-old white students.(5) This is not preparation sufficient for competitive college applications.
History of Amerikan School Segregation
The history of segregation in Amerikan schools mirrors the history of segregation and national oppression in the country as a whole. Access to education is a core value that Amerikans claim to embrace. While harshly criticizing the idea of free health care or other government-sponsored services, eliminating free education is a concept only a small group of Amerikans openly advocate. But equal access to K-12 education is an idea that has never been reality for the oppressed nations within the United $nakes. And the differentials in education are so stark that it is virtually impossible for those attending the segregated and inferior schools reserved for Amerika's oppressed nations to overcome these years of training and lack of good schooling to participate and compete as adults in the workforce.
In the late 1950s, after the landmark Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, Amerikan public schools took significant steps towards desegregation. Through the late 1980s, with the use of bussing and other policies, the proportion of Black and Latino students in majority white schools increased and opportunities for education opened up to many oppressed nation youth. But during the 1990s this progress began to reverse and the trend has continued so that today segregation in public schools is worse than it was in the 1960s.
This re-segregation is the result of government rollbacks in federal programs, Supreme Court limitations on desegregation, and active dismantling of integration programs. Essentially, the government determined that desegregation requirements could be ignored. This was partly due to shifting political winds, but MIM(Prisons) looks at the timeline for this re-segregation and finds no surprise that the timing coincides with the crushing of the national liberation movements within U.$. borders in the 1970s. As the public outcry against national oppression receded, with leaders either dead or locked up, and guns and drugs circulating widely to distract the lumpen, the re-segregation of schools was a logical result. And this segregation of schools is among the most obvious aspects of the ongoing national segregation within U.$. borders.
Jonathan Kozol, in his book Segregation in Education: The Shame of the Nation, cites school after school, across the country, with atrocious facilities, in dangerous and unhealthy buildings, insufficient space, non-functioning utilities, and lack of educational materials, serving almost exclusively Black and Latino students. Many of these youth drop out of school before graduating high school. White families flee the school districts or send their kids to private schools. School "choice" has enabled greater segregation by offering options to these white kids that the oppressed nation students can't take advantage of. While "choice" is theoretically open to everyone, it is the wealthy white families who learn about the opportunities for the best schools from their neighbors, friends and co-workers, and who know how to navigate the complexities of the application process. And often knowing someone within the school helps to get their kids admitted to the schools with particularly high demand.(6)
The government reaction to the falling skills and education of segregated schools has been to implement "standards" and "tests" and "discipline" that they pretend will make these schools separate but equal. Yet no progress is seen, and the conditions in these schools continues to worsen. The changes in requirements for underfunded and predominantly Black and Latino schools has resulted in two very different education systems: one for whites which includes cultural classes in art, drama and music, time for recess, and classes that allow for student creativity; and another for oppressed nationalities that includes strict military-like discipline, long school days with no recess, rigid curriculum that teaches to very limited standards, elimination of "fluff" classes like art and music, all taught in severely limited facilities with enormous class sizes. This divergence between the school districts reinforces segregation as white parents can see clearly what their kids miss out on (and are forced to participate in) when they don't attend "white" schools.
According to Kozol, "Thirty-five out of 48 states spend less on students in school districts with the highest numbers of minority children than on students in the districts with the fewest children of minorities. Nationwide, the average differential is about $1,100 for each child. In some states — New York, Texas, Illinois, and Kansas for example — the differential is considerably larger. In New York... it is close to $2,200 for each child." If these numbers are multiplied out to the classroom level, typical classroom funding for low income schools is on the magnitude of $30k to $60k less than for high income classes. At a school level these financial differences are staggering: a 400 student elementary school in New York "receives more than $1 million less per year than schools of the same size in districts with the fewest numbers of poor children."(7) There is an even greater differential when low income oppressed nation districts are separated from low income white districts. There are a few low income white districts but they get more funding than low income oppressed nation districts and so pull up the average funding of low income districts overall.
The achievement gap between Black and white children went down between the Brown v Board of Education ruling and the late 1980s. But it started to grow again in the early 1990s. By 2005, in about half the high schools (those with the largest concentration of Blacks and Latinos) in the 100 largest districts in the country less than half the students entering the schools in ninth grade were graduating high school. Between 1993 and 2002 the number of high schools with this problem increased by 75%. These numbers, not surprisingly, coincide with a drop in Black and Latino enrollment in public universities.(8)
Kozol ties the history of re-segregation back to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on March 21, 1973, (Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby) when the Court overruled a Texas district court finding that inequalities in districts' abilities to finance education are unconstitutional. This was a key class action law suit, in which a very poor non-white neighborhood argued that their high property taxes were insufficient to provide their kids with adequate education while a neighboring rich white district with lower property taxes was able to spend more than twice the amount on students. In the Supreme Court decision Justice Lewis Powell wrote "The argument here is not that the children in districts having relatively low assessable property values are receiving no public education; rather, it is that they are receiving a poorer quality education than available to children in districts having more assessable wealth." And so he argued that "the Equal Protection Clause does not require absolute equality."(9) This means states are not required to provide funds to help equalize the educational access of poorer people. And because of the tremendous segregation in schools, these poorer students are generally Black and Latino.
Ongoing Reality of School Segregation Today
The Civil Rights Project at UCLA does a lot of research on segregation in education in the United $tates. In a September 19, 2012 report they provide some statistics that underscore the growing segregation in public schools.(10) This segregation is particularly dramatic in the border states and the south, and segregation is especially severe in the largest metropolitan areas. They note that desegregation efforts between the 1960s to the late 1980s led to significant achievements in addressing both segregation itself and racial achievement gaps, but the trend reversed after a 1991 Supreme Court ruling (Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell) that made it easier to abandon desegregation efforts.(11)
Key facts from the Civil Rights Project 2012 report include:
"In the early 1990s, the average Latino and black student attended a school where roughly a third of students were low income (as measured by free and reduced price lunch eligibility), but now attend schools where low income students account for nearly two-thirds of their classmates."
"There is a very strong relationship between the percent of Latino students in a school and the percent of low income students. On a scale in which 1.0 would be a perfect relationship, the correlation is a high .71. The same figure is lower, but still high, for black students (.53). Many minority-segregated schools serve both black and Latino students. The correlation between the combined percentages of these underserved two groups and the percent of poor children is a dismaying .85."
In spite of the suburbanization of nonwhite families, 80% of Latino students and 74% of Black students attend majority nonwhite schools (50-100% oppressed nations). Out of those attending these nonwhite schools, 43% of Latinos and 38% of Blacks attend intensely segregated schools (those with only 0-10% of whites students). And another segment of these segregated students, 15% of Black students, and 14% of Latino students, attend "apartheid schools", where whites make up 0 to 1% of the enrollment.
"Latino students in nearly every region have experienced steadily rising levels of concentration in intensely segregated minority settings. In the West, the share of Latino students in such settings has increased fourfold, from 12% in 1968 to 43% in 2009... Exposure to white students for the average Latino student has decreased dramatically over the years for every Western state, particularly in California, where the average Latino student had 54.5% white peers in 1970 but only 16.5% in 2009."
"Though whites make up just over half of the [U.S. school] enrollment, the typical white student attends a school where three-quarters of their peers are white."
The overwhelming evidence that school segregation continues and even grows without concerted efforts around integration provides evidence of the ongoing segregation between nations overall within the United $tates. Even with residential patterns shifting and neighborhoods integrating different nationalities, families still find ways to segregate their children in schools.
The dramatic school segregation in the United $tates points to both a national and class division in this country. First there is the obvious national division that is reinforced by school segregation, which places whites in a position of dramatic privilege relative to Blacks and Latinos. This privilege extends to poorer whites, underscoring the overall position of the oppressor nation. But there is also a class division within the oppressed nations in the United $tates. The education statistics put about half of oppressed nation youth tracked into the lower class, while the other half can expect to join the petit bourgeoisie which constitutes the vast majority of the Amerikan population. Our class analysis of Amerikan society clearly demonstrates that even the lower class Blacks and Latinos are not a part of the proletariat. But a portion of these undereducated youth are forced into the lumpen class, a group defined by their exclusion from participation in the capitalist system. Future articles will explore the size and role of this lumpen class.
featuring Killer Mike from the album One Rifle Per Family Beatrock Music 2012 www.bambu.la
No surprise I'm from a gangbang culture Where we can keep it civil or pull a thing thing on ya Southern California where th sun don't quit Intergenerational gangs so sons don't quit But immediately you see that the problems that's in my city Are secondary to what's propelling it in my city I mean really break it down, take poor black and brown Educate em poor, take the jobs from out they town The inendate them with sedative drugs and dumb tv Locked into a zoo and hunted daily by the police Then you get a group of youth who know they don't belong Then they gather up and organize and number up strong But see the failure is in seeing that the problem ain't the gang It's the situation in the communities where we hang So I'm so pro-gang it might scare a muthuhfukkuh Cause I fix th misconception that th enemy's our brothers
Bang on the setup, bang on the setup, bang on the setup Upset the setup Bang on the setup, bang on the setup, bang on the setup Homie, we've been setup
I tell em... I went from a street gang thang Then I joined the military Fleet Marine Force thang From a little bitty gang in th south o Los Angeles T draggin bodies outta they house t help a government Who hell bent on keepin money spent ona missle Th reality's the difference between em shits is little We had th objective o armin up over money An they had th objective o armin up over money An we told kids join us we th truth Lies about protectin our block t get recruits Then we find out we gettin killed for a hood An we don't own a single spec o dirt onat hood Whether ina zone down south in Decatur Or ina flatlands offa Lennox and La Brea Or ina low-rise project in Chicago Big money come in and buy up our barrio so...
Throw your sets up, we bout to upset the setup Upset the setup, upset the setup Throw your sets up, we bout to upset the setup Upset the setup, upset the setup
[Killer Mike Verse] I do it for the Crips and the Blooders, BGF brothers, the real...Freeway Ricky Ross and Chris Dutters I do my thang for Hoover, I represent for Fort So my folk and my people throw they set to support Support will mean imagine, she might say the Chi So maybe next summer no mamas gotta cry Cause maybe next summer nobody gotta die Hell, even if we fail, somebody gotta try The only way the system move, is somebody gotta lie And the lie they told us old, they base it on your race They separate: you black, you brown, you yellow and white face Then we further separate by joining gangs and legislate That our neighborhoods are now at war like we are separate states So the police occupy our hood to keep down all the drama So the Starbucks they just built is comfortable for soccer mamas And American Apparel comfortable for all the hipsters And it's zero tolerance for all you spics and you niggas And you chinks and you crackas And it ain't about who whiter and it ain't about who blacker But the money is a factor And the factor is the factories got moved up out da hood When starvation is present and absent is the job A man will simply starve, or he will form a mob If you should form a mafia, then you should think Sicilian Buy the hood for real, every block, every building Every building, feed the children, gang bang, every building Feed the children, feed the children, gang bang, on the system.
Let's face it, most people coming to prison don't arrive with people's safety at the top of their priority list. Most come to prison with their homies' or comrades' safety in mind, but that is about it. Most come from an existence where, if you are not sharp-witted, treacherous or a cold hustler, you don't eat or you don't survive.
Being raised in this mind frame is not easily forgotten, so the economic hurdle is key in a prisoner's mindset. Many grew up in an environment where other nationalities are frowned upon or there are open hostilities between different nations. Then there are the mentally ill prisoners who may kick off some shit over nonsense and others follow suit. There are so many factors that make prisons unsafe that one can write a book on them rather easily. Each factor has many ways in which to approach it and combat it as well. But at the end of the day safe prisons anywhere in Amerika will only come from the hands of prisoners ourselves.
In a capitalist society prisons are not created to rehabilitate prisoners or teach us, they are designed to warehouse and neutralize us. So the first step in attempting to create safer prisons is understanding this. There is one key that unlocks the door to getting safer prisons and that key is education! I am not talking about Amerikan education, I am talking about revolutionary education. Rev Ed transforms people and betters people in all areas, including interacting with one's fellow prisoners. Take away Rev Ed and one is left with backwards thinking, reactionary behavior, abuse, set tripping, predatory behavior, religious nonsense, drug and alcohol addiction — all the tore up tradition that has self-destructed entire generations.
Ignorance of who you are will always bring out the worst in you. Knowing where one comes from, the deep tradition of resistance and legacy of struggle will always propel one in a positive path, a peaceful path, because when we learn who the real oppressor is we no longer look at another prisoner as the bad guy. Rev Ed teaches us that prisoners in general are an oppressed class and when we really grasp this there's no way can we walk around trying to pick fights with our fellow prisoners. Even the thought of this becomes absurd. Instead we are walking around trying to share revolutionary ideas and exchange revolutionary literature in our quest to revolutionize these hell holes. This must be our focus if we want to have the greatest impact that we can to make prisons safer.
I won't sugar coat it: this is hard work. When I read about shit popping off in what amounts to lumpen-on-lumpen crime I feel your pain because I been there and I still experience bullshit that clings to many of those who continue to hold on to nonsense or reactionary views. So I know how it is when violence ensues around you, especially if you have been working to educate people for a period of time.
These challenges don't change the fact that if you want a safe environment in prison you need to educate your fellow prisoners. The best way to do this is to start with yourself and your cellmate if you have one. I have always had long exchanges of ideas with a cellie. Whatever revolutionary publication I had I would read it, or my cellie would, and we would discuss what we agreed with or disagreed with. Once me and my cellmate were on the same page we would begin to educate our neighbors on either side regardless of who it was, passing publications and eventually books, and eventually involving the whole tier or pod. Many times this process would begin by just passing a publication to someone or telling one persyn to read it and pass it down the line. After a while the questions will begin. This is one way I have experienced creating more educated prisoners and thus safer conditions.
I have also found prisoners who could not read or write, and the state usually does not have material or classes for these people, so I would tell these prisoners I'll spend the time and effort to teach them to read on the condition that they must in turn teach someone else once they are able. One time I taught a prisoner to read out on the mainline and when I saw he had not found someone to tutor I went around and found someone for him. I would go to the law library when I was on the mainline and see someone trying to maneuver in the law and I'd reach out to help this persyn. These people were all different nationalities but in order to create "peaceful prisons" I have learned that you can't limit yourself to your own nation; someone has to build that bridge of relations. If I get to a yard where there is no bridge, I will fill the vacuum because someone has to.
What I have experienced in doing time (and I have spent more time of my life incarcerated than out in society) is that the majority of violence that occurs is over a business deal gone bad, either drugs or gambling debts. So if we have enough discipline to cut this out of the picture would reduce a lot of the violence. The next issue is predatory behavior which is just one persyn or group oppressing or attempting to oppress another, either because of ones nationality or what geographic location one grew up in. If you refrain from this behavior safer prisons become even more of a reality.
In California, prisoners in Pelican Bay recently issued a statement to end hostilities between all nationalities in California prisons, county jails and streets. This is unprecedented in California where lumpen-on-lumpen crime has gone on with deadly consequences for many years. This is only a step, but it is a necessary step in building any type of serious change or any transformation in each nation. The days when the state would pit prisoners on prisoners in California and use us as gladiators for their amusement are over. Prisoners have finally identified the real problem we face, i.e. the real oppressor. And if California can do this and if those in Pelican Bay SHU, who the state claims control all California "gangs," can do this then there is no reason why every prison in Amerika can't do the same and call for an end to all hostilities in all prisons, jails and streets! This is a necessary step if prisoners ever hope to create real safe zones in prisons.
We are seeing history play out in California where our future is in our own hands. If we want to have prisons where we can really rehabilitate ourselves then we must make it happen and the only way for this to happen is if we do so collectively and by ending the hostilities between all nationalities. This knocks down barricades that would otherwise slow down this process. This is not saying we don't have differences, there are many differences, but once you identify your oppressor you realize that lumpen-on-lumpen crime is not helping to reduce our oppression. It's very simple and all groups of all nationalities here in Pelican Bay SHU have agreed to this agreement. If we can do it so can you!
The real safe prisons will come when prisoners can exercise forms of people's power in these concentration camps. People's power exists when contradictions are resolved without having to rely on the state. Like the example I gave of helping my fellow prisoners to read and write or do legal work. Most prisons do not have programs for this, so rather than sit around and complain about it I started my own program on the mainline.
People's power can also be solving problems and preventing violence through mediation which does not involve the state. In Pelican Bay SHU there is the "Short Corridor Collective" which is a representative from each group Chicano, Black, white and sub groups, which seeks peaceful mutual resolutions to problems affecting prisoners. They even have come out with certain demands to the state. If Pelican Bay SHU can do it why can't other prisons across the United $tates form collectives that seek peaceful resolutions to issues affecting prisoners? The answer is they can, and they must, if real peace and progress are to be achieved within prisons.
Political education is the key. Once someone learns real history and understands the class contradictions in the United $tates, and how our oppression can actually be traced directly to capitalism, there is no way they will want to waste time on nonsense. Instead of sitting around gossiping about other poor people who are locked up and plotting on how to hurt other poor people, these educated people will instead study, educate others, form study groups, share progressive literature and books, and create independent institutions behind prison walls in order to advance the prison movement as well as the movement, for humyn rights more broadly.
The only thing I see in the way of us not having safer prisons is us not making these prisons safer!
by a North Carolina prisoner November 2012 permalink
The prison system in North Carolina does not have a law library. The courts say they don't need to provide law libraries because we have the North Carolina Prisoner Legal Service, Inc. (NCPLS). The truth is NCPLS helps maybe one or two prisoners a year.
Recently NCPLS sent me a letter telling me not to write back about the publication class action lawsuit case Urbanial v. Stanley until I have filed a grievance and the grievance is appealed to Step 3 and I get the response back. When I did that I sent the grievance and response to NCPLS, only to have them send the materials back without any letter explaining why they sent them back.
I have requested assistance from NCPLS in civil matters 25 or more times. This is going back to the 1990s when my civil rights were being violated over and over again. As NCPLS states in one of their letters, it's a price we the prisoners must pay for being prisoners. I am not allowed to even touch a staff member, and they should not be allowed to unjustly pepper spray me, etc. When they do, I have to go through a grievance system before I can file the lawsuit in court, and when I do file lawsuits they are dismissed. As you can see, I am given no legal assistance in filing these lawsuits either.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade continues to fight repression and censorship with the odds stacked against h. Over the years, others in North Carolina have been researching and fighting the lack of law libraries. Unfortunately, on paper, the nominal existence of the NCPLS enables North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) to skirt the Constitutional requirement that it provides its prisoners access to courts.
Bounds v. Smith 430 U.S. 817 (1977) permits prison authorities to provide either law libraries or counsel to satisfy this requirement, but it does not need to provide both. When a prisoner's appointed counsel is useless, and they don't have a law library in which to research a case to challenge this, their only hope is assistance from outside organizations and supporters.
The Prisoners' Legal Clinic is one such organization, under the MIM(Prisons) umbrella, which was reestablished a few years ago in an attempt to provide some of this much-needed legal support to our comrades with an anti-imperialist focus. One of the help guides we distribute for prisoners to use and build on is related to access to courts. This help guide is in very rough format currently, but with the expertise of our jailhouse lawyer contacts we can clean it up, and begin to distribute it more widely.
To get involved in the Prisoners' Legal Clinic, write to MIM(Prisons) and say you want to put in work on this project!
On October 10 a peace accord went into place across the California prison system to end hostilities between different racial groups. The Pelican Bay State Prison - Security Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU) Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives issued a statement in August, and hundreds responded on October 10 with hunger strikes to continue the struggle against so-called gang validation and the SHU. The original statement calls on lumpen organizations to turn to “causes beneficial to all” instead of infighting among the oppressed. Recently leaders in Pelican Bay State Prison reasserted that this applies to all lumpen organizations in CDCR, down to the youth authority.
We share the PBSP-SHU Collective’s view that peace is key to building unity against the criminal injustice system. Prison organizations and individual prisoners across the country have pledged themselves to the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) principles and are building this United Front in their prisons, communities and organizations.
We know this won’t be easy, but there is a basis for this unity and peace. As was written in the original announcement of the UFPP:
“We fully recognize that whether we are conscious of it or not, we are already ‘united’ – in our suffering and our daily repression. We face the same common enemy. We are trapped in the same oppressive conditions. We wear the same prison clothes, we go to the same hellhole box (isolation), we get brutalized by the same racist pigs. We are one people, no matter your hood, set or nationality. We know ‘we need unity’ – but unity of a different type from the unity we have at present. We want to move from a unity in oppression to unity in serving the people and striving toward national independence.”
The ending of hostilities between large lumpen organizations has sweeping implications for the possibilities for prisoner organizing. USW comrades in California should work to seize this opportunity however possible, to translate the peace agreement into meaningful organizing in the interests of all prisoners.
It is with great pleasure that we announce a new release that MIM(Prisons) is adding to the labor aristocracy section of our must-read list. Divided World Divided Class by Zak Cope contributes up-to-date economic analysis and new historical analysis to the MIM line on the labor aristocracy. I actually flipped through the bibliography before reading the book and was instantly intrigued at the works cited, which included all of the classic sources that MIM has discussed in the past as well as newer material MIM(Prisons) has been reviewing for our own work.
The Labor Aristocracy Canon
Before addressing this new book, let me first put it in the context of our existing must-read materials on the labor aristocracy, which has long been the issue that the Maoist Internationalist Movement differentiated itself on. MIM(Prisons) recently assembled an introductory study pack on this topic, featuring material from MIM Theory 1: A White Proletariat? (1992) and Monkey Smashes Heaven #1 (2011). We still recommend this pack as the starting point for most prisoners, as it is both cheaper to acquire and easier to understand than Cope's book and other material on the list.
Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat by J. Sakai is a classic book documenting the history of Amerika as an oppressor nation whose class nature has always been bourgeois. It is for those interested in Amerikan history in more detail, and particularly the history of the national contradiction in the United $tates. While acknowledging Sakai's thesis, Cope actually expands the analysis to a global scale, which leads to a greater focus on Britain in much of the book as the leading imperialist power, later surpassed by Amerika. This complete picture is developed by Cope in a theory-rich analysis, weaving many sources together to present his thesis. HW Edwards's Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy is a less cohesive attempt at a similar approach that is almost half a century old. Edwards is wishy-washy on the role of First World "workers," where Cope is not. Edwards provides a number of good statistics and examples of his thesis, but it is presented in a more haphazard way. That said, Labor Aristocracy is still on our must-read list and we distribute it with a study guide.
MIM went back to the labor aristocracy question in MIM Theory 10: The Labor Aristocracy. This issue built on MT 1 some, but primarily focuses on an in-depth look at the global class analysis under imperialism by the COMINTERN. The importance of this issue during WWII is often overlooked, and this essay gets deep into the two-line struggle within the communist movement at the time. We have a study pack on this piece as well.
The last work that we include in the canon is Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997(ICS) by MC5 of the Maoist Internationalist Movement. This book is most similar to Cope's work, with Cope seeming to borrow specific ideas and sources without ever acknowledging MC5's work. Since Cope is very generous in acknowledging ideas he got from others, one suspects that there is a political motivation behind ignoring the number one proponent of the position he is trying to defend in his book. We think MC5 would see Cope's work as a compliment and a step forward for the scientific analysis, particularly since Cope does not bring in anything to oppose the MIM line or to confuse the issue. Cope's book is very well researched and put together as an original work, and we have no interest in defending intellectual property.
The major new contribution in Cope's book is the historical analysis of the labor aristocracy in the context of the global system of imperialism. He also does some original calculations to measure superexploitation. His analysis of class, nation and modern events is all found in contemporary Maoism. Cope seems to be walking a line of upholding MIM Thought, while not dirtying his reputation with the MIM name. This is seen in his discussion of nationalism, which is often a dividing line between MIM Thought and the social democrats of academia. Cope gives a very agreeable definition of nation, and even more importantly, an analysis of its role and importance in the imperialist system related to class divisions. Yet, he fails to cite Stalin in doing so, while Maoists are honest about Stalin's contributions on the national question. So what we have is an excellent book on the labor aristocracy that avoids other issues that are difficult for the left-wing white nationalists to handle. In a way, this sanitized version of what is already a very bitter pill for readers in the First World may be useful to make this theory more available in an academic context. But no serious communist can just ignore important questions around Stalin and even the smaller, yet groundbreaking work of MIM itself.
MC5 or Cope?
For the rest of this review I will discuss Divided World in relation to Imperialism and its Class Structure (ICS) as they are parallel works. The above-mentioned sanitizing is evident in the two books' different approaches and definitions. Both attempt to present the basics, before getting into some intense analysis later on. Yet Cope sticks to discussing mostly Marx, with a healthy dose of Lenin's theory of imperialism without too much mention of the Soviet Union, while MC5 cites the practice of Stalin and Mao as leaders of socialist countries, as well as the contemporary pseudo-Maoists. It is a connection to communist practice that makes ICS the better book politically.
Cope's work, by default, has the benefit of having more recent statistics to use in part II for his economic analysis, though his approach is very different from MC5's anyway. Part III, which focuses on debunking the myths promoted by the pseudo-Marxist apologists for high wages in the First World, also has fresh statistics to use. MC5 addresses many ideological opponents throughout h book, but Cope's approach leaves us with a more concise reference in the way it lists the main myths promoted by our opponents and then knocks them down with basic facts.
MC5 spends more time addressing the ideas of specific authors who oppose the MIM thesis, while Cope tends to stick to the general arguments except when addressing authors such as Emmanuel who is an early trail-blazer of MIM Thought, but said some things that Cope correctly criticizes. Overall this provides for a more readable book, as the reader can get lost trying to figure out what position MC5 is arguing against when s/he refers to authors the reader has not read.
The model of imperialism that you get from each book is basically the same. Both address unequal exchange and capital export as mechanisms for transferring wealth to the First World. Both stress the structural basis of these mechanisms in militarized borders, death squads, monopoly and much higher concentrations of capital in the First World due to primitive accumulation and reinforced by the mechanisms of continued superexploitation.
While both authors take us through a series of numbers and calculations to estimate the transfer of value in imperialism, MC5 does so in a way that makes the class structure arguments more clearly. By focusing on the proportions, MC5 leaves the revisionists looking silly trying to explain how greater production per wage dollar in the Third World coexists with supposedly lower rates of exploitation in the Third World. Or how the larger unproductive sector in the First World can make similar wages to the productive sector, while the productive sector in the First World allegedly produces all the value to pay both sectors, and profit rates and capital concentration between sectors remain equal. Or if they acknowledge a great transfer of wealth from the Third World to the First World, and it is not going to 99% of the population as they claim, why is it not showing up in capital accumulation in those countries? As MC5 points out, remembering these structural questions is more important than the numbers.
Cope takes a numbers approach that ends with a transfer of $6.5 trillion from the non-OECD countries to the OECD in 2009 when OECD profits were $6.8 trillion. This leaves a small margin of theoretical exploitation of the First World. He points out that using these numbers gives $500 of profits per year per OECD worker compared to $18,571 per non-OECD worker. So even that is pretty damning. But he goes on to explain why the idea that OECD workers are exploited at all is pretty ridiculous by talking about the percentage of unproductive labor in the First World, an idea that MC5 stresses. Both authors make assumptions in their calculations that are very generous to the First Worldist line, yet come up with numbers showing huge transfers of wealth from the Third World to the First World "workers." Cope even uses OECD membership as the dividing line, leading him to include countries like Mexico on the exploiter side of the calculation. MC5, while a little less orthodox in h calculations, came up with $6.8 trillion in superprofits going to the non-capitalist class in the First World in 1993 (compared to Cope's $0.3 trillion in surplus being exploited from them in 2009). As both authors point out, they make the best of data that is not designed to answer these kinds of questions as they try to tease out hidden transfers of value.
Implications to our Practice
If Cope's book helps bring acceptance to the reality of the labor aristocracy in economic terms, there is still a major battle over what it all means for revolutionaries. In MIM's decades of struggle with the revisionists on this question we have already seen parties move away from a flat out rejection of the labor aristocracy thesis. Cope's conclusions on the labor aristocracy and fascism are well within the lines of MIM Thought. But already Cope's conclusions have been criticized:
As mentioned in an earlier post, this kind of "third worldism" represents the very chauvinism it claims to reject. To accept that there is no point in making revolution at the centres of capitalism, and thus to wait for the peripheries to make revolution for all of us, is to abdicate revolutionary responsibility—it is to demand that people living in the most exploited social contexts (as Cope's theory proves) should do the revolutionary work for the rest of us. (2)
Some see MIM Thought as ultra-leftist, and just plain old depressing for its lack of populism. Practitioners of revolutionary science do not get depressed when reality does not correspond to their wishes, but are inspired by the power of the scientific method to understand and shape phenomenon. But there is truth in this critique of Cope's book due to its disconnection from practice. A seemingly intentional approach to appeal to academia has the result of tending towards defeatism.
When it comes to practice in the United $tates, the question of the internal semi-colonies has always been primary for the revolutionary struggle. Yet today, there is a much greater level of integration. Cope's conclusions have some interesting implications for this question. On the one hand there is no anti-imperialist class struggle here "since economic betterment for people in the rich countries is today intrinsically dependent on imperialism". (Cope, p. 304) Yet assimilation is still prevented by the need for white supremacism to rally Amerikans around defending imperialist oppression of other peoples. Since national oppression will always translate into some relative economic disadvantage, we may be witnessing the closest real world example of national oppression that is independent of class. And Cope argues that this will continue within U.$. borders because you can't educate racism away, you must destroy the social relations that create it. (Cope, p. 6)
While Cope is explicitly non-partisan, MC5 provides a bit more guidance in terms of what this all means for imposing a dictatorship of the proletariat in a majority exploiter country, and how class struggle will be affected after that dictatorship is imposed. MIM also gives the explicit instruction that we do not support inter-imperialist rivalry or protectionism. This becomes a bigger challenge to promote and enforce among our allies in the united front against imperialism. Certainly, promoting these books and other literature on the topic is one part of that battle, but we will need other approaches to reach the masses who are taken in by the social democrats who dominate our political arena as well as their own potential material interests.
As long as would-be anti-imperialists in the First World ignore the labor aristocracy question, they will keep banging their heads against brick walls. It is only by accepting and studying it that we can begin to make breakthroughs, and this is even true, though less immediately so, in the Third World as Cope acknowledges (Cope, p. 214). Despite works dating back over a hundred years discussing this theory of class under imperialism, we are in the early stages of applying it to the polarized conditions of advanced imperialism with the environmental crisis and other contradictions that it brings with it.
A comrade from another trench spoke once on leadership and what it means to h: "The answer is that like it or not, people who collect information, analyze and then make decisions on what is true and not true, are leaders. People who do not are not leaders."(1)
Sensory deprivation in solitary confinement creates an inability to make decisions because information flow is very nearly cut off. Another way this bourgeois imperialist society stops leaders in their tracks is by making one's decisions, after analyzing information, seem off, to seem crazy or "mentally ill."
"Another problem relevant to revolutionaries is they have a more intellectual tendency to describe reality independently of the socially acceptable way of so doing. The individual is one who feels manipulated and controlled by outside forces, and is aware of the limitations of his individuality and room for maneuver... he gives himself importance, and does not care what others think, or at least feels that to care about that won't help him to live. He tends to see himself as good and others as wicked."(2)
Prisoners, prison abolitionists and anti-imperialists of all stripes are familiar with the above mindset. It is a mindset that's a prerequisite to successful prolonged struggle against entrenched anti-people systems. Hegemonic propaganda that pigs use to uphold the superstructure inculcates the majority of citizens to turn on non-mainstream individuals. I'm positive some reading these words will be shocked to hear the above quote is the bourgeois definition of schizophrenia.
Comrade Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense of the Black Panther Party, was labeled mentally ill by prison administrators, cops and non-revolutionary whites. His leadership ability of disseminating truths gleaned from study posed such a threat to capitalist hegemony that he had to be discredited by the label "crazy." In prison, pigs forced Newton to visit a psychiatrist. He had this to say:
"From the minute I entered his office I made my position clear. I told him that I had no faith or confidence in psychological tests because they were not designed to relate to the culture of poor and oppressed people. I was willing to talk to him, I said, but I would not submit to any testing. As we talked, he started running games on me. For instance, in the midst of our conversation he would try to speak in psychological questions such as 'do you feel people are persecuting you?' Each time he did this I told him I would not submit to any sort of testing, and if he persisted I was going to leave the room. The psychiatrist insisted that I had a bias against psychological testing. He was correct."(3)
Mental illness is just a form of social control. Just the same as "corrections" and "spreading democracy" are forms of social control. I believe the prison system uses mental health jackets, and society in general tags people as "just plain crazy," to break revolutionary's self-esteem, leadership skills and family connections. When something as large as koncentration kamps throws its weight into convincing people's mothers, fathers and sisters that said person is nuts, it's a short walk away from these individuals actually becoming insane with lack of "free-world" support.
Their tactics are to divide and conquer by pasting "schizophrenic," "depressed" and "anti-social" tags on the foreheads of revolutionary genius. They psychotropically castrate and lobotomize mind-washed leaders into their people's own genocide.
I could leave prison by consenting to swallow my own destruction. I could leave solitary if "all I did" was snitch for them. Most of my family's gone because they believe I'm insane. Forty-six letters sit unmailed because I lack postage. After filing two lawsuits, the Prison Litigation Reform Act bleeds 60% of the $25 a month my dear poor grandmother sends. She could have retired this year, but with all her grandsons in chains.
FDR 25 is a kkkontrol unit policy which I have filed suit on. A policy deputy director for administration Mike Haddon states:
"The policy you are requesting is FDR 25, Intensive Management Unit, it states 'mail, other than first class, privileged and/or religious shall not be allowed for inmates on intensive management and includes newspapers, books, magazines, pamphlets, brochures, etc.' This policy's release could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the Utah Department of Corrections hence it is protected. If this information were to be released into the system, inmates could use that information to fight policy. We do not let that chapter out to anyone who isn't in law enforcement. Your request for a copy of the 78 page policy is, therefore, denied."
A policy that prevents people from collecting information, receiving information and analyzing said information, coupled with the unconstitutional fact that the Utah DOC doesn't provide a law library per supreme court ruling Bivens, halts the ability for captives to "describe reality independently" of that policy. Since only pigs can know that policy, we can't fight it.
Even if I could know it and struggle with it and beat it in court I'd just be labelled "mentally ill," more so than I am now. And this is the purpose of sensory deprivation and mental illness: halting revolutionary leadership and maintaining the status quo. Stopping information and throwing dirty jackets on truth.
Who does bourgeois psychiatry serve by destroying oppressed peoples? The oppressor nation. What types of people are being killed off in these concentration camps? The oppressed nations. What population turns a blind eye to this reality, or even worse, that the Third World is parceled up and packaged for First World consumer consumption? The oppressor nation. What nation must be organized to defeat the oppressor nation? And if we wish to succeed shouldn't we discern friend from foe?
"The job of psychiatrist [and those that subscribe to bourgeois psychiatry] must be abolished [and reeducated after repenting oppressive policy, genocidal injustice and terroristic 'spreading of democracy'], if only because it is corrupting to the truth to have a profession of people [or nation] making money by constructing various vague illnesses [vague reasons for war or psychotropics/institutionalization] that people have. Instead, all oppressed people and progressive-minded people must take up the science of controlling their own destinies."(4)
MIM(Prisons) adds: Just as physical violence is used against the oppressed as a means of control and installing fear, so is psychological violence. So when we think about promoting safety in prisons, we cannot do that without addressing psychological violence as well. Often that is the predominate form of violence used against revolutionaries. Our approach to this must be twofold in terms of helping comrades survive the torture they currently face in U.$. gulags, and to put an end to that torture altogether to really ensure people are safe. It is for this reason that we reviewed and distribute portions of the recently revised Survivors Manual from the American Friends Service Committee. Our Serve the People Programs, such as our Free Political Literature for Prisoners Program and University BARS study groups exist for all prisoners, but are especially important for keeping those in isolation engaged, active and sane. All comrades should support these programs with money and labor, while comrades on the inside should keep the issue of long-term isolation at the forefront of the general struggle for prisoner rights.
“The Anti-Exploits of Men Against Sexism” Ed Mead Revolutionary Rumors PRESS [email protected]
This pamphlet is an historical account of the organization Men Against Sexism (MAS). It is written in an informal, story-telling style, from the perspective of Ed Mead, one of MAS’s primary organizers. “Anti-Exploits” spans the development of MAS, from Mead’s first encounter with the near-rape of a fellow prisoner on his tier in the mid-1970s, to the successful height of the organization and the eradication of prisoner rape in Washington State Prison. This success impacted facilities all across the state.
Men Against Sexism was created to bring prisoners together to fight against their common oppression. Mead recognized that homophobia, sexism, rape, and pimping were causing unnecessary divisions within the prisoner population. “Only by rooting out internalized sexism would men treat one another with respect.”(p. 5) He brought together politically-minded prisoners, queers, and even some former sexual predators, to change the culture of what was acceptable and not on the tier.
We should take the example of MAS as inspiration to identify our own collective divisive behaviors on our unit, and attempt to build bridges to overcome these barriers. Mead’s reputation of being a revolutionary, stand-up guy in defense of prisoners’ rights preceded him across the facility, and helped him win allies in unlikely places.
In the mid-1970s, prison conditions were much different than they are today, and organizing MAS seems to have been relatively easy according to the account given. Of course there were challenges amongst the prisoner population itself (for example, MAS defending a convicted pedophile from being gang raped and sold as a sex slave put many people off) but the administration didn’t play a significant role in thwarting the mission of MAS. The primary organizers were allowed to cell together, and several different prisoner organizations were mentioned which had their own meeting spaces.
Today it seems we are lucky if more than two prisoners can get together to do anything besides watch TV. This is a testament to the dialectical relationship between the prisoner movement and the forces of the state. During the time of MAS, the prisoner movement was relatively strong compared to where it’s at today. After the booming prisoner rights movement of the 1970s, the state figured out that to undermine those movements they needed to develop methods to keep prisoners isolated from each other. Not the least significant of which is the proliferation of the control unit, where prisoners are housed for 23 or more hours per day with very little contact with the world outside their cell, let alone their facility.
MAS recognized that there is power in numbers. They collected donations from allies outside prison to purchase access to cells from other prisoners and designated them as “safe cells.” MAS would identify newcomers to the facility who looked vulnerable and offer them protection in these group safe cells. This is in stark contrast to how the state offers so-called protection to victims of prisoner rape, which is generally to isolate them in control units.(1) Bonnie Kerness of the American Friends Service Committee writes of this practice being used with transgender prisoners, and the concept applies to all prisoners who are gender oppressed in prison no matter their gender identity,
"In some cases this can be a safe place to avoid the violence of other prisoners. More often this isolation of transgender prisoners places them at greater risk of violence at the hands of correctional officers…
“Regardless of whether or not it provides some level of protection or safety, isolation is a poor alternative to general population. The physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological impacts of solitary confinement are tantamount to torture for many.”(2)
As late as 2009, data was compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) stating “Approximately 2.1% of prison inmates and 1.5% of jail inmates reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, whereas approximately 2.8% of prison inmates and 2.0% of jail inmates reported staff sexual misconduct.”(3) Certainly much of this staff-on-prisoner sexual assault occurs in general population, but isolating victims makes them that much more accessible.
Isolation as the best option for protection is the most obvious example of individualizing struggles of prisoners. What is more individualized than one persyn in a room alone all day? Individualizing prisoners’ struggles is also carried out by the rejection of group grievances in many states. All across the country our comrades meet difficulty when attempting to file grievances on behalf of a group of prisoners. In California, a comrade attempted to simply cite a Director’s Level Appeal Decision stating MIM is not a banned distributor in the state on h censorship appeal, but it was rejected because that Director’s Level Decision “belongs to another inmate.”(4) We must identify the state’s attempts to divide us from our potential comrades in all forms, and actively work against it.
MAS worked to abolish prisoner-on-prisoner sexual slavery and rape, where the pigs were consenting to this gender oppression by noninterference. But the state paid for this hands-off approach when the autonomy of the movement actually united prisoners against oppression.
What about gender oppression in prisons today?
In 2003, under strong pressure from a broad range of activists and lobbyists, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), and in May 2012 the final rules were completed. With the initiation of the PREA, statistics on prison rape are becoming more available. But comprehensive, sweeping data on the frequency of prison rape does not exist and so we can not detect trends from 1975 to the present, or even from 2003 to present. Despite high hopes for the PREA from anti-rape activists, we can’t yet determine if there has been any benefit, and in some cases the rates of prison rape seem to be increasing.
When MAS was picking out newcomers to recruit into their safe cells, they were identifying people who they saw as obviously queer, or in some way likely to be a target. MAS was using their intuition and persynal experience to identify people who are more likely to be victimized. According to the BJS, in their 2009 study, prisoners who are “white or multi-racial, have a college education, have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and experienced sexual victimization prior to coming to the facility” … had “significantly higher” rates of inmate-on-inmate victimization.(1) Human Rights Watch similarly reported in 2001,
“Specifically, prisoners fitting any part of the following description are more likely to be targeted: young, small in size, physically weak, white, gay, first offender, possessing ‘feminine’ characteristics such as long hair or a high voice; being unassertive, unaggressive, shy, intellectual, not street-smart, or ‘passive’; or having been convicted of a sexual offense against a minor. Prisoners with any one of these characteristics typically face an increased risk of sexual abuse, while prisoners with several overlapping characteristics are much more likely than other prisoners to be targeted for abuse.”(5)
The descriptions above of who’s more subject to prison rape are bourgeois definitions of what MIM called gender. Bullying, rape, sexual identity, and sexual orientation are phenomena that exist in the realm of leisure-time activity. Oppression that exists in leisure-time can generally be categorized as gender oppression. Gender oppression also rests clearly on health status and physical ability, which, in work-time also affects class status.(6) Since prisoners on the whole spend very little time engaged in productive labor, their time behind bars can be categorized as a twisted form of leisure-time. Prisons are primarily a form of national oppression, and gender is used as a means to this end.
Consider this statistic from BJS, “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.”(3) An oversimplified analysis of this one statistic says the biologically-female staff are gendered men, and the prisoners are gendered wimmin, no matter their biology. But in the United $tates, where all citizens enjoy gender privilege over the Third World, this oversimplification ignores the international scope of imperialism and the benefits reaped by Amerikans and the internal semi-colonies alike. While there is an argument to be made that the United $tates tortures more people in its prisons than any other country, this is balanced out with a nice juicy carrot (video games, tv, drugs, porn) for many prisoners. This carrot limits the need to use the more obvious forms of repression that are more widespread in the Third World. Some of our most prominent USW leaders determine that conditions where they’re at are too comfortable and prevent people from devoting their lives to revolution, even though these people are actually on the receiving end of much oppression.
On a similar level, MIM(Prisons) advocates for the end of oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But we are not jumping on the bandwagon to legalize gay marriage.(7) We also don’t campaign for sex reassignment surgery and hormones for prisoners.(8) This is because we see these as examples of gender privilege, and any privileges obtained by people in the United $tates inherently come on the backs of the Third World. Whereas in the time Men Against Sexism was formed the gay rights movement was militant and engaging in street wars against police, they are now overall placated by the class privilege they receive as members of the petty-bourgeoisie.
We encourage everyone facing oppression to recognize its true roots – capitalism and imperialism – and use their privileges to undermine the United $tates’ world domination. Without an internationalist perspective, we will inevitably end up on the wrong side of history.
[This article was added to and facts were corrected by the Under Lock & Key Editor]
Recently, Chicago rapper Lil Reese signed a $30 million contract with Def Jam to make music. A day or two later he brutally beat down a woman for verbally disrespecting him. Lil Reese is an affiliate of another Chicago rapper, Chief Keef, who has also been making a name for himself for being at the center of controversy around violence in hip hop. A recent episode of Nightline addressed the fact that at least 419 people have been killed in a dozen neighborhoods in Chicago in 2012, more than the number of U.$. troops killed in Afghanistan where resistance to the occupation continues to grow. The program centered around a sit-down of 38 members of lumpen organizations in Chicago organized by Cease Fire, a group discussed in ULK 25. It also featured a Chief Keef and Lil Reese video to criticize Keef's anti-snitching stance. MTV.com reports that the participants almost unanimously agreed that it would practically take a miracle to stop the violence.
The misogynistic nature of rap music has been analyzed and explored thoroughly. This article is not meant to downplay the senseless violence against a humyn being, but the "powers that be" are using the incident with Lil Reese and programs like Nightline to formulate another sinister plot to target the oppressed nations in Amerika.
Chicago has had one of its most deadly years in terms of urban gun violence, and this has been attributed to Chicago street tribes and lumpen organizations. The Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre perpetrated by a man who claimed to be "The Joker" does not generate the same fear or threat that young Blacks and Latinos in the hood with guns do. Why is that?
Imperialists are not worried about white males in Amerikkka with guns. It is the oppressed nations that pose the most realistic threat to the oppressive imperialistic regime. We have seen the toll that the so-called "war on drugs" has had on our Black and Latino nations. Genocide, social control, and mass incarceration of the lumpen underclass; it's the Amerikan way! During the presidential debates both candidates agreed on keeping gun laws the same.
One of the most brutal social control programs is being formulated as we speak and it will be cloaked in a "war on gun violence." In truth it will be a death blow to urban street tribes and lumpen organizations. President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder have pushed for one of the highest budgets for federal prisons and detention facilities that we have seen in years. The states are actually reducing their prison budgets because of the dismal economic conditions, but the feds are pumping up the volume! A whopping $9 billion dollars has been allocated for the U.$. Department of Injustice in 2013 for corrections, jails, and detention facilities. Of that, $6.9 billion has been allocated to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2013, an increase of about 4% in tight fiscal times.
There is a prison in Thomson, Illinois that had been tagged as the location where Guantanamo Bay detainees were supposed to be housed after President Obama closed the barbaric torture chamber in Cuba. However the Amerikan public balked! They said they did not want these "dangerous terrorists" housed on Amerikan soil. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder still wants to purchase the prison in Thomson, Illinois and change it into a Super-Max just like the one in Florence, Colorado. 1,400 Ad-Seg/solitary confinement beds for "the worst of the worst" in Amerikkka. These beds will be for oppressed nations, just like the solitary confinement cells in prisons across the country.
MIM(Prisons) has reported extensively on the use of control units as a tool of social control. These torture units are used to target political organizers and leaders of oppressed nations who are seen as a particular threat to the imperialist system. We have been collecting statistics on these control units for years, because the isolation cells are often hidden within other prisons and no consistent information is kept on this pervasive torture within Amerika. We invite prisoners to write to us for a survey about control units in their state to contribute to this important documentation project.
For those facing violent conditions in Chicago or elsewhere who turn to despair, remember that there are many who come from the streets of that very city, from the Black Panthers to lumpen organizations, who have taken positive paths. If it weren't for the interference of white media and the police, things would be different now. Ultimately solutions to those problems must come from the people involved who don't want to be living like that, no matter how they brag about being tough in a rap. The way out may not be obvious, but things are always in a state of change. And when it comes to humyn society, it is up to humyns what that change looks like. Struggle ain't easy, but it is the only way if you have ideals that contradict with the current society under imperialism.