A Prison Diary: Volume 1 Bellmarsh: Hell by Jeffrey Archer 2002 Macmillan
Jeffrey Archer is a well known fiction author and former member of Parliament in Great Britain. He was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party for a year (1985-86). Archer was still active in government politics as Conservative Party candidate for mayor of London in 1999 when he was convicted of perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and sentenced to four years in prison. Archer kept a daily diary in prison and released it as a series of three books. This review covers the first book, which is about his stay in Bellmarsh, where Archer began his prison sentence.
On the positive side, this book is written for a general audience unfamiliar with prisons, and exposes many of the injustices and failures of the British prison system. These same failures, on a much larger scale, exist in the Amerikan criminal injustice system. For instance, British prisons have drug testing regulations that actually encourage marijuana users to become addicted to heroine. Archer documents his interactions with some very intelligent, resourceful, and humane prisoners in Bellmarsh, a high security prison associated with violent criminals. He repeatedly points out the lack of opportunities for prisoners, and the screwed up system that pushes people locked up for minor offenses into a life of crime.
Archer also does a service to the fight against the imperialist prison system by documenting the failure of day-to-day rules and regulations to serve any purpose but torture and isolation. From the lack of access to edible food and water, to the many long hours locked up isolated in cells with no activity, to the restriction on cleaning supplies, Archer details many failures of the British prison system. These conditions, bad as they are, when compared to the Amerikan prisons, seem almost luxurious. In particular, there are restrictions on prisoner abuse by staff, which seem to be actually respected and followed, at least where Archer is concerned.
Archer, however, is a firm believer in the government. And he repeatedly appeals to the leadership of the British system to pay attention to what he is writing so that appropriate reforms can be implemented. Archer never questions the fundamental basis of the criminal injustice system, and in Britain where the imprisonment rate is 154 per 100,000 (compared to the 716 per 100,000 in the U.$.), there is a less compelling story of prisons as a major tool of social control by the government.(1) However, Blacks in England make up 15% of the prison population and about 2.2% of the general population, a disgraceful discrepancy which Archer only touches on in passing when discussing the good prison jobs going only to white prisoners. Even this discrepancy is small-scale compared to the percent of Black's in prison (40-45%) relative to their population size in the U.$.(12%).(2)
Overall, this book is useful as a contribution to bourgeois literature on prisons because it no doubt was widely read by people who otherwise have little exposure to conditions in prison in England. However, it does not expand or contribute to the revolutionary analysis of prisons in any way, and so it leaves its readers hoping someone in power in the government takes heed of the problems and decides to make some changes. We recommend readers interested in learning more about prisons in the United $tates read the more revolutionary books and magazines distributed by MIM(Prisons). Or at the very least, for a more mainstream but still very useful analysis, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander, is a good starting place. We are not aware of revolutionary literature on the prisons in England and welcome suggestions from our readers on this subject.
I have been locked up in a Texas State Prison for the last 4 years and I have to admit they do things very different in this state and in their institutions. The administration treats the prisoners like cattle, but I have strategized against their schemes from the very beginning. I have lost some battles but I am winning the war.
About a month ago two guys got into a fight in the chowhall and after they put handcuffs on both of them they began kicking one of them and hitting him with night sticks when he was on the floor. The whole chowhall came together and approached the ranking Lieutenant and officers and questioned why they were unnecessarily beating him up, and even told them that was enough. The Lieutenant started cursing and screaming, telling people to "get the fxxk back." He was a new Lieutenant and hopefully he learned never to put himself or his staff in danger like that again cause what happened after that amazed me. The convicts set it off!!! That Lieutenant got beat pretty bad and split open seriously. This was the first time I have seen us come together in Texas for what's right.
Yesterday the administration tried to jack us for our dayroom time, and the TV and the fan in the dayroom didn't work the whole time we were out there. The dayroom is already small and over capacity so you can imagine how hot it was. We only get 4 hours a day out of our cells so we couldn't let them get away with this injustice or they would have thought they could handle us on the regular. So everybody refused to rack up in our cells. The Sergeant tried threatening us, saying if he had to call higher rank then he would lock us down for 23 hours, but we didn't budge, we stood our ground. The Lieutenant on shift came down and asked us what the problem was. One person at a time spoke and we represented our argument and cause respectfully, united and firm. He clearly respected the movement and he said "since y'all stood together like this you guys can get another two hours." Everyone began clapping for another victory against the oppressor for a cause.
Now today, the very next day, we were in the dayroom about to watch a very good game everyone was looking forward to when we witnessed a Sergeant who is known for beating up prisoners, beating up a prisoner handcuffed on the floor after tackling him. We went bananas and again together we stood up for one of ours. We couldn't physically help but we let our voices be heard and we were furious. They came in our line and tried to rack us up but we refused and challenged them because they were wrong. We were just doing what we were supposed to do: taking a stand. The Captain ended up giving us his word if we racked up he would let us right back out. He was true to his word like we knew he would be. After things calmed down we were let out. But now they know we aren't gonna sit back while they do us wrong. That's the only way your condition will change: if you take a stand, together.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade describes well the Peace and Unity principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons in action. The UFPP provides a principled basis for organizations and individuals to come together to fight for real and lasting peace. Only by implementing these principles can we have any power over how we are treated in prison.
The Adjustment Center (AC) is the politically corrupt designation given to the death row security housing unit (SHU) at San Quentin (SQ) which also serves as an administrative segregation unit (ASU) overflow. But for all intents and purposes the AC is a secret torture unit at SQ and a fraternal twin of CDCR's other torture units, now partially exposed by media attention resulting from the 2011 peaceful hunger strikes at Corcoran, Pelican Bay, Tehachapi and elsewhere.
Public Affairs Officer Sam Robinson conducts tours at SQ and would tell you with a straight face the AC is overflowing with "the worst of the worst", but you're not allowed inside. That's because the torture unit overlords, which includes but is not limited to Chief Deputy Warden W.A. Rodriguez, his cohort Assistant Warden J. Curzon, and their loyal attack dog Facility Captain Robertson, claim it's a "security risk." Truth be told, we do see how it would "risk" exposing them and the asinine antics common to their clique, how it would cost them the "security" of their jobs, and perhaps land a few of their asses in prison.
All this begs the question "who is really in the AC and how do they end up there indefinitely?" Here is an inside perspective.
On May 7, 2013, shortly after "yard is cancelled due to maintenance" was gleefully blasted over the excessively loud PA system in East block (where the majority of death row prisoners are warehoused), two prisoners in neighboring cells were confronted by a goon squad comprised of a red-faced Sgt. Reynolds and four henchmen all barking ferociously "don't touch anything and strip out!" As if at random these two prisoners were selected to be under suspicion of possessing cellphones. After being detained for over an hour in cages about the size where you might expect to see a pair of pet macaws swinging, they were again humiliated by being staged in their cells, but just long enough to see how everything in them had been tossed like salad during the frantic search that turned up no cellphones or contraband whatsoever, then relocated to the AC indefinitely pending the outcome of an "investigation." No rules violations reports (RVR) were issued, their property remains in a shambles at East Block, and this ride began over three weeks ago. For one of these two unfortunate prisoners his ride through this not so funhouse began in the dungeon.
Cells 1AC63 to 1AC67 are called "the dungeon" because a barred and padlocked gate separates them from the other twelve cells on the tier. The dungeon cell floors, concrete bunks, and walls are cracked, un-level, and flaking. Another bizarre feature is partitions extending about five feet or so from the cell fronts dividing them like horse stalls. The dungeon is primarily used to torture marginalized or hated prisoners, especially those already obviously suffering from mental disorders acquired at some point during their ride through this torture unit at SQ, or at one of the many others operating within the California prison system.
Shane Bauer spent months in an "Iranian SHU program." A short time after his release he blew the cover off gang validation policies and SHU conditions in California prisons. He reported Pelican Bay SHU was not identical to its Iranian twin but worse and in Iranian prison no one has served more than two years in solitary confinement! Getting held hostage in this torture unit for a couple years, decades, or more is business as usual at SQ just as in others operating in the United $tates.
In my opinion, one of the most diabolical ways they keep us on this ride is the "fabrication and rejection process." In short, this means getting RVRs fabricated against us, being found guilty at hearings where due process is considered a thing of the past, then having our appeals rejected. Prisoners cannot appeal a rejected appeal. That of course is by design, intended to delay, and if possible preclude exhausting administrative remedies — a requirement before prisoners can access the courts. The torture unit overlords really want to have their way with you and do all they can to get you to hang yourself in their noose-shaped loopholes. Could that be anything other than the designs of sadistic criminal masterminds?
Consider the following which describes an exceptionally violent combination of mental and physical torture. On September 3, 2012, as I lay unconscious in my cell from several days sleep deprivation caused by a custody staff influenced medical decision to discontinue various permanent chronos, a goon squad comprised of henchmen Anderson, Calderon, Morris, and Vanmastright stormed into my cell. Upon entry they proceeded to beat me into a semiconscious state, dragged me bleeding from wrists and ankles down the tier in excessively tightened handcuffs and shackles, bounced me down two flights of stairs, then from the AC entrance all the way to the Triage Treatment Area (TTA) hoisted me by the chains and/or dragged me by them for about a hundred yards as a med-tech pushed a wheelchair alongside at a distance. I want to interject here to point out this is documented as an "emergency medical cell extraction" executed during a lockdown initiated approximately twelve days prior due to an alleged slashing/stabbing of two AC officers which had nothing to do with me but might have fueled the goon squad's madness. The "emergency treatment" I received consisted of being thrown into a cage built into the corner of a TTA cell and left crumpled there for three hours or so. All that time I screamed in agony, forced to endure excruciating pain as the handcuffs and shackles cut deeper into my skin.
I wasn't even seen by a physician on that day, nor would Dr. Grant agree to examine, document, or treat my injuries any time during my sixteen day hunger strke; all I could think of doing to get seen by medical. But the good squad beating injuries, re-damaged preexisting injuries, and the skin condition which was the major contributing factor leading to my sleep deprivation was ignored. A few days after I attempted to file an emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus in Marin County, an RVR was fabricated alleging I battered the goon squad. My two healthcare appeals have been delayed without reason in excess of ninety days so far, and my RVR hearing appeal citing denial of all witnesses except the reporting employee has been rejected by CDCR appeals coordinator J.D. Lozano.
Surely these experiences come off sounding sensationalized and extreme, but they are nonetheless classic examples of what untold thousands in SHUs throughout the United $tates are reportedly subjected to at an ever increasing rate. Who are the real bunch of lying murderers?
The CDCR has proven over and over to be masters of media manipulation and propaganda wizards. Don't allow them to operate secret torture units like the AC or make them appear to be something they're not. Please don't allow your tax dollars to reward and secure impunity for sadistic, corrupt prison officials whose goal is to build more torture units in your backyards. Call, write, email Gov. Brown, his CDCR Director Beard, and the SQ puppet Warden Kevin R. Chappell to demand they shut it down. Also, please contribute generously to this publication/org helping us to have our voice heard from within, keeping the struggle alive.
We lost a comrade yesterday. It's been a little over 24 hours since it went down. Some men are angry, some are confused, not knowing what to do. Some are afraid, with no hope that anything can be done. The worst thing I've heard was when a coward stated that the man who six officers jumped on, gassed, and slammed on the concrete floor, creating a gash in his head and causing him to die "put himself in that position." I don't care how good you are at humbling yourself, suspending your manhood and dignity and staying out of these crooked officers way, as long as you are in white uniform you are in that position. Your turn just hasn't come around yet.
All of the facts are not out. Supposedly, officers Hay, Velardi, Marquez, Jackson, Crawford, and Gabriel exerted excessive force against this man, who was known to have mental and physical disabilities. The man has asthma, and was recently on suicide watch. Knowing this, they suited up and gassed this man in the chow hall, slamming him to the floor. And instead of taking him directly to medical facilities, they took him to an administration building, where he took his final breath.
The way I understand it, this comrade died because he would not move from his seat in the chow hall and sit in another place. I had no idea that was a crime, let alone that such a crime would bring the death penalty. Nor was I aware that these six officers were judge, jury and executioner. But, the worst part may well be the flagrance of the administration in response to this incident. Supposedly Officer Alvarez simply erased the camera footage, and they have more or less gone on running the unit business as usual, certain that we are so "humbled" that we won't do anything. Well, we will do something.
I don't care if you saw the incident or not, file a Step 1 complaint stating what you have heard about what happened and ask for an investigation. Ask that the video of the incident be reviewed. When they send you a bullshit response, file your step 2. This is just due diligence. That is what movement and struggle is about, working the process. Create a paper trail and documented accounts that will no doubt differ from the cover-up they will try to do by calling it an accident, which disrespects that man whose life was taken, his family, and it disrespects all of us. Call your family and have them call the ombudsman. We need calls and emails and letters about this to go out to other state and federal offices. Write to newsletters, newspapers and others about this tragedy and be prepared to stay as is until something gets done. This man lost his life. If this life doesn't mean anything, neither does ours. For those of you who are afraid of what they will do to you if you file or make noise, they took that man's life, so what can they do to you that is worse?
But, we have to realize that our struggle cannot always be in reaction and on the defensive. We need a solid offensive. It is a power struggle. I'm reminded of what the honorable comrade Frederick Douglass said: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." By now, we should be able to demand that there are cameras all over prisons without blind spots except for restrooms, showers and sleeping areas. Those video and audio feeds should go directly online where a community oversight committee can have 24/7 access to what is happening in prisons in real time. The same committee should have punitive authority over these officers, the committee members themselves being comprised of both crime victims and of the family members of incarcerated persons. Had we had this in place yesterday, I'm certain it would have saved a man's life. The only thing preventing us from having the capacity to make such a demand is our willingness and determination to continue to organize ourselves in unity which is operational, which strengthens our collective leverage. This is our power base.
Hip hop pioneer KRS-One asked the question of crooked cops: "You were sent here to protect us, but who protects us from you?" What we saw in the 80s and early 90s is no different than what we see in today's criminal justice system. What we have to finally realize is that it is the one who holds the power who determines who the criminal is. If these officers killed this man in the way it is coming out, then they are no doubt criminal in their conduct. If justice is to be had it is up to us. Contrary to popular notions justice is not blind, nor do we want her to be. We want her to see clearly what predicament we are in, and we want her to do right by us. Our struggle must seek to subdue and to dominate her, rather than to petition for any favor from her. The longer we wait to stand and do what we must do, the more of these injustices we will endure.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade's assessment that "justice" serves those in power. In the world today this is the imperialists and their criminal injustice system. They call it justice when they provide military aid to corrupt regimes that brutalize and kill their people. They call it justice when they kill or imprison people for trying to cross the border into the United $tates to seek a way out of imperialist-imposed poverty in their home country. They call it justice when they lock people up in long-term isolation cells, proven to call irreparable physical and mental damage, to stop them from educating and helping other prisoners. We fight for a justice of the people. A justice that will put an end to the global domination of a few, the capitalists, at the expense of the majority. Communist justice will liberate the world's people and punish and re-educate the oppressors so that they can become truly productive members of society.
Book Review: The Chinese Civil War 1945-49 by Michael Lynch Osprey Publishing 2010
This is one in a series of "Essential Histories" published by Osprey: "A multi-volume history of war seen from political, strategic, tactical, cultural and individual perspectives." On the positive side, the book includes a lot of excellent revolutionary art and some useful historical facts that demonstrate the political positions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the failures of the Guomindang (GMD). But overall this book is not recommended because its pretended objectivity leads to a lack of valid political analysis. The author goes to great lengths to paint both the CCP and GMD as equal evils fighting for control of China.
Lynch frequently falls back on psychoanalysis of political leaders when the facts are difficult to explain. For instance, several times he claims Stalin feared a communist China and so tried to keep it divided and get Mao to compromise with Nationalists, but no evidence is offered, beyond Stalin's advice to Mao, which Mao did not take when he thought it was inappropriate for the conditions in China.(p76) Further, there is an entire chapter devoted to psychoanalysis of Mao and Chiang Kai-shek. (For a more political, and less psychological, account of Stalin's history we recommend MIM Theory 6: The Stalin Issue.)
There are some valuable facts in this book. Lynch points out that Nazi Germany supplied most of the GMD weapons until 1936. And goes on to offer a good explanation of the reasons behind the CCP alliance with GMD in 1936, which was driven by the CCP to fight the Japanese invasion and end Nazi aid to GMD. This effectively weakened the GMD while also focusing on the principal contradiction in China at the time: the Japanese invasion. Lynch also does a good job explaining the CCP's strategic ties to the United $tates to get their support against Japan. Many purists criticize Mao for meeting with Amerikan leaders and allying with the GMD against Japan, but to Lynch's credit he gives a reasonable account of the strategic value of these actions.
The book describes in detail the strongly peasant-based armies of both the nationalists and communists, and Lynch notes that the nationalists had to coerce participation from the peasants, but he doesn't explain why the communists didn't have to force participation.(p21) This is an important point in the correctness of the CCP political line, and a key to Lynch's failed analysis of the politics of the revolution. In fact, the title of the book, "Chinese Civil War", indicates that the author fundamentally missed the revolutionary nature of the CCP's struggle. Lynch admits that even defeated soldiers joined the CCP to later become dedicated PLA soldiers, but then he claims the People's Liberation Army (PLA) was unscrupulous in recruiting methods without offering evidence to back this up.(p25)
Calling the peasants "helpless victims" of both the communists and nationalists,(p63) Lynch gives extensive examples of nationalist brutality to soldiers and peasants. The one CCP example is of interrogation of CCP soldiers suspected of betraying the movement. The author quotes Mao on the value of informing on your comrades in spite of persynal feelings of friendship.(p68) Lynch seems to find Mao's position distasteful, but communists know that we must always put political line first and not be liberal with comrades just because we have persynal feelings. Further, a staunch supporter of the U$A, Lynch never mentions the use of torture by imperialist countries even when not at war. Interrogation of people suspected of military sabotage can be criticized from Lynch's armchair, but his equation of this with the GMD torture of their soldiers and the general masses is outrageous even by his standards.
Lynch condemns the CCP as being non-humanitarian for their strategic military calculations to abandon some villages they had controlled when threatened with invasion from the GMD.(p28) This is a particularly underhanded criticism when Lynch fails to point out the significantly better conditions in the villages occupied by the CCP. How can it be a humanitarian failure if the CCP wasn't, in the first place, improving the conditions in the village and far superior for the peasants compared with the GMD?
Further in this vein of attacking the CCP's tactics during war, Lynch does not like the CCP's decision to exercise strict control of Harbin once they won that city. But he does concede that in 1947 the CCP successfully stopped an outbreak of bubonic plague, which he admits was a remarkable achievement.(p37)
We do get some very useful facts about the CCP support among the general Chinese masses: "A key factor in the PLA's harassing of the Nationalists was the amount of help they received from local civilians, who destroy telegraph and telephone lines and tore up sections of railway in order to disrupt GMD troop movements."(p36) But Lynch doesn't attempt to explain why the masses spontaneously supported the CCP because this does not fit with his overall theory of both the CCP and GMD coercing the people.
Lynch expresses surprise that Mao gave his commanders free reign to adjust military tactics since he was the "ultimate military authority."(p43) This apparent contradiction is actually a good hint that Mao understood the importance of evaluation of local conditions to determine tactics. For revolutionaries there is a difference between line, strategy and tactics, one that Lynch fails to grasp. Line is set by the communist party and is meant to be carried out by everyone until it is proven incorrect. Strategy is informed by line and dictates general orientation to implement line. Tactics are determined by combining strategy with local conditions. It was correct political line for Mao to allow his commanders to determine military tactics. (See MIM Theory 5: Diet for a Small Red Planet for more on this question.)
Ultimately Lynch attributes the CCP victory to the GMD's failure in military tactics and "morale" with little mention of the political line of the CCP. He does concede that GMD did not live up to expectations as a party of the people as it was originally envisioned by Sun Yat-sen. The GMD under Chiang became a party of the political elite as evidenced by 90% of their money coming from Shanghai.(p84) "It was Chiang's strategic and political and economic failures that [made possible Mao's victory]."(p88) In the end, Lynch doesn't even consider the correctness of the CCP political line, resulting in the support of the broad mass of the Chinese people, as the driving force behind the victory of the revolutionary forces.
This missive is about the prison conditions at Sussex I in Virginia. John David is now the warden of Sussex I state prison. His first day on the job he made his grand opening by placing the whole institution on lockdown for 30 days with no justification. Those 30 days revealed his intentions about what to expect from his gestapo-style treatment. For instance, when we are walking in lines to and fro, if anyone does not walk in a straight line, even if it's one individual out of 40, his rule is that we get no outside recreation and instead get just 1 hour of in-pod rec. During the 30-day lockdown we got no outside recreation whatsoever and no one was able to use the phones on the whole compound. David put us on modified lockdown, just because individuals throughout the compound started complaining to their families and writing grievances, so he had to save face.
David has also put preemptory restrictions on some of the political literature that comes through the mailroom. I was hit with censorship of your study group mailing sent April 26, 2013 because they deemed it "unauthorized." I did receive all mail prior to that letter and I'm currently appealing the decision. It's just repayment, censoring my ability to think outside this cell, trying to control our thoughts and preventing a lot of comrades from learning anything besides the state's perspective. The oppressor will never stop oppressing.
These are the basic examples that were studied in the study group assignment 3 "On Contradiction." "What is the principal aspect of a contradiction? How does the interdependence (identity) of these contradictory aspects in prison life and the struggle between these aspects determine things in prison life and push their development forward?" This censorship only reveals the true political agenda behind super-maxes as being to repress revolutionary thought, not only in the prisons but even in society at large. The resulting division of staff versus prisoners along racial and cultural lines creates an obvious recipe for conflict and abuse, duplicating the conditions of chattel slavery in pre-civil war Amerikkka where poor whites were armed and empowered to have free reign over unarmed and disenfranchised Black slaves on the plantations.
These control unit prisons were designed to effectively isolate, control, and punish prisoners reacting against abuse. In turn they provoke responses, so prison officials can effectively use these events to demonize us as "violent animals" thus playing up self-fulfilling prophecies and stereotypes to justify the construction of more super-max prisons. This was the main motivation that brought the Attica rebellion in 1971, which will be commemorated this coming September 9.
Just two weeks ago a guard was severely stabbed over a confrontation that started over a prisoner who did not have enough time to finish his food tray when the guard took his tray. It's only a fruitless back and forth cycle played out between poor people [by Amerikan standards - editor] who've been divided along color and cultural lines. In the past I felt myself and my peers to be powerless, therefore fighting with the pigs and treating them with open contempt was in a sense therapeutic. Even now when I witness abuse by the pigs my inner rage boils over, but I have learned to check myself and stand as a witness to testify against these outrages.
This is not to say that we ought to be pacifists. Even a mouse will fight you when cornered. Individual pigs are of no more value to the system than the cost of training their replacements, and they can be replaced from the unemployment lines tomorrow. The system will gladly sacrifice any number of them for the opportunity to throw the book at us and paint us as "animals" and "terrorists." Simply filing paperwork and relying on the courts is also a dead end. But it is useful to create a paper trail and document patterns of abuse. From my time and experience in these control unit conditions it allows one to see the bigger picture.
The prison system institutionalizes isolation and secrecy. The prison walls are designed not only to keep the prisoners in, but to keep the public out preventing observation or knowledge of what is going on inside. Confronting this crazy system, we need to be the voice of reason that raises consciousness and empowers awareness inside and out. In challenging a system built on cruelty and the exercise of absolute and hidden power against the disempowered, there will be attempts to provoke us and bait us to incite reactionary violence from us or against us. But we must stick to our strategy and not get pulled into theirs.
Indeed as I write this, the warden of this control unit where I am confined is waging a struggle to use metaphysical tactics to demonize us. But their efforts to distort the external contradictions will only lead to greater exposure of the internal contradiction, the truth, which will build our struggle. We must stop acting foolish like bulls. The bullfighter waves his cape and the bull charges and eventually runs into the bullfighter's sword. But a smart bull wouldn't do that. He'd wait for the bullfighter to charge him and face his horns. Over the years I have witnessed too many good comrades and potential ones being wasted. We must organize to win! The end game will never change. We must emancipate ourselves, remove the blinds and open our minds.
La gente de Savar se junto alrededor de una fábrica derrumbada para unirse con esfuerzos de rescate y encontrar a seres queridos. Los acontecimientos recientes alrededor de los bombardeos en Boston han confundido a internacionalistas. La semana pasada lamentamos las tres muertes innecesarias y las más de 200 personas heridas que ocurrieron en Boston el 15 de abril del 2013. Hoy lamentamos las más de 250 muertes innecesarias (y aumentando) y más de 800 otras personas que siguen otrapadas en los escombros en Bangladesh [actualización 10 de Mayo 2013: el numero de muertos ha pasado los 1000]. Aún estamos confundidos, aunque no sorprendidos, por las expresiones de tristeza tan desproporcionadas entre estadounidenses sobre estos dos casos. Los dos fueron consecuencias innecesarias del imperialismo. Hoy informes reportan que uno de los bombarderos en Boston dijo que fue motivado por las invasiones y ocupaciones de Iraq y Afghanistan por los Estados Unidos - ambas son ocupaciones imperialistas por los recursos del Tercer Mundo. Las muertes en Bangladesh ocurrieron después que un fabricante de prendas, quien produce artículos para el mercado estadounidense amenazo a sus empleadas con inanición para obligarlos a que trabajen en un edificio inseguro, el cual termino derrumbandose mientras ellos estaban adentro.
Gente muere todos los días en bombardeos en lugares como Iraq y Afghanistan donde han tenido bastante participación militar estadounidense y aún no vemos estadounidenses respondiendo como lo han hecho durante esta última semana. Esas personas a quienes se les llenaron los ojos de lágrimas sobre las muertes en Boston mientras apenas registraron las muertes en Bangladesh como un punto abajo de la pantalla de sus televisiones son emblemáticas del problema del chauvinismo nacional que existe en los estados Unidos. En lugar de este punto de vista nosotros promovemos la responsabilidad colectiva. La sociedad humana es un producto de actos humanos que nosotros como una especie colectiva determinamos. Para nosotros que vivimos en el país más poderoso del mundo, nuestra responsabilidad es tanto así más grande.
El lector estadounidense podría preguntar ¿debemos ceder a las demandas de cualquiera que deje una bomba casera entre una multitud? Claro que no. Lo que nosotros estamos diciendo es que si los estadounidenses le pusieran la misma atención a las muertes causadas por su propia nación como a las muertes infligidas a su nación entonces éstas últimas serían menos frecuentes. Pero claro, éstas últimas son leves en comparación a los anteriores porque los estadounidenses matan mucha más gente de otras naciones que viceversa. Asumiendo la responsabilidad por ésta verdad y actuando para cambiarla es lo más práctico que uno puede hacer para prevenir todas las muertes innecesarias. La mayor parte de la "respuesta" a los bombardeos en Boston han sido impresiones artificiales de los políticos y subjetivismo emocional - todo teatro y nada de sustancia. Para la gente del mundo que sólo soluciones verdaderas ganan respeto no palabras vacías.
Un mundo pacífico sí es posible. Pero un mundo pacífico es prevenido por uno con explotación. No se puede mantener desigualdad de riquezas y motivos de ganancias sin usar la fuerza. MIM(Prisiones) está por un fin a ese uso de fuerza, por un fin a toda opresión y explotación, y por un fin a las muertes innecesarias que son el resultado del sistema imperialista en varias formas. Hacemos un llamado a ciudadanos estadounidenses a que se unan con nosotros para asumir la responsabilidad colectiva por los actos de nuestro gobierno y las muertes y destrucción que resultan de ellos. Asumir responsabilidad significa tomar acción para cambiar esas cosas y luchar contra el chauvinismo cultural que domina nuestra sociedad.
Greetings to all revolutionary comrades who are captives in the gulags of these United $nakes of Amurderer. In light of the many struggles that have come to the forefront in these past few years I was dismayed at the lack of attention May Day received this year.
Inside the gulag called Ohio State Penitentiary, 30 days prior to May Day 2012 [this was originally published as 2013 - editor] several captives began planning what was hoped to become a massive hunger strike. This was to take place in C-Block where captives considered to be the most violent in the state are held.
The plan was to begin the strike on May 1 to coincide with the general May Day strikes taking place all over the world.
There were about 30 who had decided to go for the long run, but because some paperwork detailing some of our demands and our prospected start date was confiscated haphazardly by an escort pig, we decided on a whim to start a day early. This took the pig-overseers by surprise as some had taken that Monday off work anticipating confronting us at the onset of our demonstration.
So our core began a day early and we were joined by the rest on May Day, giving us a total of about 60 out of 140. By day 6 we were beginning to lose numbers but our point had been made: solidarity and organization can happen inside 23-hour lockdown, even on short notice.
Several pieces were run in the local newspapers. We had the attention of the bourgeoisie who responded negatively to a captive's article on how austerity has caused smaller food portions.
Our main demand was for the ending of the hopelessness of an indefinite classification to level 5-A & 5-B, better known as supermax, of "3 years or more." For so-called lesser offenses, one can receive this same classification for a period of "less than 3 years."
As we began to lose participants Warden D. Bobby decided to address the demands by adding good behavior incentives: extra phone calls, photos every three months, extra visit per month, etc. Basically they were saying that it is our negative behavior that keeps us here. They also began showing 3 new-release movies per week as well as offering lots more mental health and drug abuse programs.
As California has learned, not much changes without massive efforts and solidarity. This attests to our need for further acts of solidarity and organization for struggle, and the development of leadership backed by science to bring about a movement for change.
Thursday, May 23 at 11pm, 20 or so captives began flooding the ranges as backlash to the enforcement of an old rule stating "no loan, borrow, or trading" amongst captives. We remain on lockdown 23/7 while there is one person allowed out of our cell at a time for recreation. In an attempt to stop the passing and sharing of coffee, literature and photos, this captive's rec is terminated if caught passing. Because rec is a so-called guarantee, and it's our only out-of-cell time besides a shower, many rallied to address this. Some even swore to battle the captors if need be to prove their unwillingness to stop passing or give up rec.
A meeting with D. Bobby led to a promise to back off the rule and also give a few more behavioral incentives, and add a few more TV stations; pacification, no real change, and proof for the need of protests on May Day and beyond.
I want to comment on your article "Soulja Boy Dissed by Amerikan Rappers," featured in ULK22. Personally it is a grave disappointment to witness what hip hop has morphed into. We went from "Fuck da Police" and "Don't Believe da Hype" to "A Milli" and "Arab Money." Ironically the vast majority of the people that these modern day braggarts grew up around don't even have U.S. middle-class money, let alone "Arab Money."
Modern day hip hop artists seem unable and/or unwilling to move beyond this brag-about-my-wealth style of rap. Of course there's exceptions to this but in general there's no longer any social consciousness or depth to the lyrics of these mainstream hip hop artists. I'm no hater and I love to see people prosper and enjoy life but an album has to go beyond an artist detailing his or her good fortunes, to really have merit.
But pertaining specifically to the article, is it any real surprise that these artists ostracize an associate for something as simple as speaking his mind? The one main thing that the Black nation has been consistently good at throughout the years is attacking one another and embracing division, internal division.
Additionally all, or most of, the major hip hop artists are personally benefiting from the current system and establishment so naturally they stay in tune with it. They don't care that the overwhelming majority of people who look like them have been systematically discriminated against and oppressed from the very origin of this racist and corrupt country. The Hollywood set of the Black nation, which most of these hip hop artists integrate to, would sell their mothers and sisters for the crumbs their "massa" throws to them.
In part it goes all the way back to their forefather's house, which is Uncle Tom's cabin. A place where anybody who opposes "massa" is the enemy. And these descendants of Uncle Tom are the same today, they will go the extra mile, extra 1,000 miles, to protect their imperialists masters' interests; chiefly because they perceive some sort of shared interests and maybe even camaraderie.
Many people, even some in the underprivileged class, accept and embrace the glaring inconsistencies and contradictions which permeates U.$. society. They willfully embrace the lie that the establishment means good for them and the rest of the world, and when they're being pacified with their "Arab-Money" there's little chance they'll think any different.
MIM(Prisons) responds: While we share this comrade's dismay at the current state of politics from major hip hop artists, we don't see them as quite so isolated in their benefits from the current system. While the New Afrikan nation certainly faces ongoing national oppression within U.$. borders, they also enjoy the wealth of an imperialist country and can see that they are better off than the majority of the world's people. The vast majority of U.$. citizens, regardless of nation, are earning more than the value of their labor and are part of the labor aristocracy. So in a way, hip hop artists who speak about their good fortune, do represent something real to their audience, even if their level of wealth is unattainable for most of their listeners. And the shared interests with the imperialists are real: the wealth of the labor aristocracy is won from the exploitation of the Third World.
Amendment I of the Bill of Rights of the United States:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
After decades of expanding the repression of the U.$. prison system, and despite their effectiveness in misleading and breaking up unity, the control units remain a flashpoint of struggle within U.$. borders. These flashes do take time to develop, due to the excessive restrictions placed on those in these units. So when they do come to light, they emerge from much struggle and are not likely to fizzle out soon.
The struggle against control units is a struggle against torture. It is a struggle against not just the violation of some of the most basic rights that this country was founded on, but also basic humyn needs like sunlight, exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction.
Orders From the Top
As U.$. president, Barack Obama once honored Rosa Parks and the movement of civil disobedience that she symbolized. It was a movement of Black people for basic rights under U.$. imperialism. Yet today the Obama administration gives its explicit approval to the torture and repression going on in a country that imprisons more of its population than any other state in humyn history, and a higher percentage of Blacks than the openly racist Apartheid state of South Africa. U.$. prisons also hold a higher percentage of their prisoners in long-term isolation than any other state that has been documented.
The 2014 federal budget proposed by Obama includes an overall increase in funding for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. More damning, it describes the remodeling of the recently acquired Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois to include an Administrative Maximum Custody (ADX) and Special Management Unit (SMU). ADX "houses the most violent, disruptive, dangerous and escape-prone inmates within the Federal Prison System including those convicted of terrorist activities." "The SMU program is for inmates who have participated in or had a leadership role in geographical group/gang-related activity or those who otherwise present unique security and management concerns." The budget proposal claims that one in six prisoners in maximum security are "gang affiliated." It does not specify how many of the 2100 beds will be SMU or ADX classified.(1) While lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the treatment people face in these units, and international bodies like the United Nations condemn them as torture, the Obama regime is providing clear leadership to the hundreds of state and local agencies involved in the U.$. prison system on how prisoners are to be treated.
Obama's role is even more clear in Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners are being held as enemy combatants by the military. Prisoners there began another hunger strike on 6 February 2013. Since then the ranks of the strike have grown to over 130 people.(2) Many are being force-fed, and many are skeletal in appearance now.
All this is being done as the United $tates still has the audacity to claim it is promoting freedom around the world, with bombs. As we highlight the connections of the struggle against control units to the struggle against the imperialist system itself, the global importance of this struggle becomes evident. As RAIM pointed out in their recent statement to the international communist movement, failures at building socialism in the past have been connected to a temptation to imitate Amerikan ways. One way the anti-imperialist minority in the First World can strengthen the movements in the Third World is by making it very clear that this is not a model to follow, and that the Amerikan dream is built on torture, genocide, exploitation and injustice.
What to Expect
A Yemeni prisoner held in Guantanamo Bay, who has been on hunger strike since the start had an Op-Ed published in The New York Times, where he wrote,
"I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can't describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn't. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
"I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I'm sleeping.
"There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren't enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up."(3)
Another prisoner who has since been released from Guantanamo Bay after a 438-day hunger strike reported how the force feeding was brutal and they did not clean the tubes between feeding people. The prisoners asked military personnel why they were doing this:
"They told us, 'We want you to break your hunger strike.' They tell us directly like that. They ask us to break our hunger strike. They said, 'We'll never deal with you as the detainees until you break your hunger strike.'"(2)
Comrades from NCTT-Corcoran-SHU (a New Afrikan think tank) have reported that staff at Corcoran State Prison have been announcing similar plans to prisoners in California, indicating that they will not be providing proper medical care and attention to strikers in their prison in the future. These threats, which violate state policies, will also result in undercounting strikers.(4) It is possible that information will not flow as freely this time around, meaning outside supporters will have little information to go on until the struggle is over. This reinforces the need for strong unity among those inside and the ability to act independent of outside support.
We've also received word of plans to move prisoners and staff around strategically over the next couple months. In particular, Special Needs Yard prisoners are reportedly being moved to other facilities and given work assignments. Prison staff apparently thinks this will dilute the spirit of prisoners. However, depending on the balance of forces, this could go either way. We know there are strong supporters of the prisoners' rights movement in SNY already, and we hope these coming months provide the conditions to further break down the divisions within the imprisoned lumpen class. While we know that staff regularly bribe prisoners to create disruptions among the population, the mass support for the interests of all prisoners will make it hard for these bribed prisoners to create disruptions openly in the coming months, hopefully longer.
There have been positive reports of prisoners being moved to areas they once could not go, as a result of the agreement to end hostilities that has been in place for over 6 months now, which was endorsed by the largest organizations in California prisons. In particular, positive reports have come from Pelican Bay and Corcoran, where two of the main SHUs are located. San Quentin death row has also reached out to share ideas to build their own prisoner rights campaign over the coming months.
We have received some letters about ideas on tactics for advancing the prisoner rights movement in California. We've printed some in ULK and shared others with United Struggle from Within members in California. But in most cases it is impossible for us to have a full understanding of the balance of forces, and thus we are not in a position to determine which tactics are best. In addition, conditions vary so much between facilities. Clearly the comrades in Pelican Bay and Corcoran took the lead in struggling to shut down the SHU and they will likely continue to do so. What we can say for sure is that July 8 will be an opportunity to have your voice amplified by acting in solidarity with all across the state, and many in other states as well. To determine how you can best do this, you must think through and balance the effectiveness of your tactics with the risks involved.
Where we can provide leadership is in our ideological alignment. Some lists of goals that are circulating include things that are not humyn needs. These demands may be subjectively popular among the prison masses, but will greatly damage support from the outside and internationally by trivializing the struggle for basic rights. As we presented in ULK 31, below are the strategic goals that, if attained, we think would represent the establishment of basic humyn rights for prisoners (note a small change to point 1.f.).
An end to torture of all prisoners, including an end to the use of Security Housing Units (SHU) as long-term isolation prisons.
Basic humyn needs are centered around 1) healthy food and water, 2) fresh air and exercise, 3) clothes and shelter from the elements and 4) social interactions and community with other humyns. It is the SHU's failure to provide for these basic needs that have led people around the world to condemn long-term isolation as torture. Therefore we demand that the following minimum standards be met for all prisoners:
no prisoner should be held in Security Housing Units for longer than 30 days. Rehouse all prisoners currently in SHU to mainline facilities.
interaction with other prisoners every day
time spent outdoors with space and basic equipment for exercise every day
healthy food and clean water every day
proper clothing and climate control
an end to the use of and threat of violence by staff against prisoners who have not made any physical threat to others
access to phone calls and contact visits with family at least once a week
timely and proper health care
ability to engage in productive activities, including correspondence courses and hobby crafts
a meaningful way to grieve any abuses or denial of the above basic rights
Freedom of association.
As social beings, people in prison will always develop relationships with other prisoners. We believe positive and productive relationships should be encouraged. Currently the CDCR makes it a crime punishable by torture (SHU) to affiliate with certain individuals or organizations. This is contrary to the judiciary's interpretation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We demand that prisoners of the state of California only be punished for violating the law, and that there be:
no punishment based on what books one reads or has in their possession
no punishment for jailhouse lawyering for oneself or for others, for filing grievances or for any challenges to conditions of confinement through legal means
no punishment for what outside organizations one belongs to or corresponds with
no punishment for communicating with other prisoners if not breaking the law
no punishment for tattoos
no punishment for what individuals of the same race/nation/organizational affiliation do unless you as an individual were involved in violating a rule or the law, i.e. no group punishment
no punishment for affiliation with a gang, security threat group, or other organization - in other words a complete end to the gang validation system that punishes people (currently puts people in the SHU for an indeterminate amount of time) based on their affiliation and/or ideology without having broken any rules or laws