Just recently we had an incident here at the prison. There was a boycott from eating and a refusal to lockdown, leave the yard, or go to our bunks. There were a few fires started and prisoners made it hard for officers to do count.
As good as it might have felt to buck the system, this "two day" short lived revolution seemed to be useless because there was no bottom line or demands, and they ended up putting us on more restriction than we were on before. They feed us 2 cold bag lunches for breakfast and dinner, no visits, no church, no club activities, no yard, no one works, no phones (now restored), no outgoing mail (now restored), no library or law library, and officers give you disciplinary reports for every minor thing you do (passing food, sharing books, talking after 10pm, etc.).
The outcome of this "lost cause" shows the importance of studying MIM's concepts and ideology. One thing it did do is show the oppressor that the oppressed do have the will and intent to stand up. But a revolution that's lead by emotions will never win.
Another issue at hand here is the refusal to let prisoners out on parole because one person who was let out murdered 4 people (he did his full time, no parole, and he asked for mental health help before he was let out but they refused him.) Now the system wants to make us do more time on our sentence (80% instead of 50%), and make it a longer wait to go to work centers. They haven't taken into consideration all the successful parolees and how broken the system is in preparing prisoners for society.
One thing we must keep in mind is that "a man who stands upon the corners of the paths and points the way, but does not go, is just a pointer and a block of wood can do the same."
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade raises a very important point about how we must learn from our failures as well as our successes. And in the case of this protest, as well as many other spontaneous acts of resistance in prisons across the country, the lesson is often that we need to do more to build our level of political knowledge and study theory and strategy so that we can formulate the best approach to our local situation. There is an organizing strategy called focoism that attempts to promote and utilize the spontaneity of the masses to launch a revolution. There is a long history of spontaneous attempts at protest and the focoist strategy of revolution around the world that show us this approach generally leads to more repression, not to victory for the oppressed. We have a responsibility, as revolutionary leaders (and this extends to all readers of Under Lock & Key) to learn from this history and apply these lessons to our work today. MIM(Prisons) has a lot of literature on spontaneity, focoism and organizing strategy. Write to us to request study materials on this topic.
In Ironwood, apparently new regulations have come down from Sacramento ordering staff to remove all signs from the doors depicting race. There were signs on the prison cage door indicating race: blue was for Black, red for Mexican, white for white and green for other. Now the designation for race is Security Threat Group (STG).
There was a recent lockdown (a melee between Sureños and New Afrikans) in one of the housing units. A status report stated that the investigation has been concluded and prisoners who are not members of the affected STGs will resume normal program. In the body of the report the affected STGs identified were Bloods, Crips and Sureños. The next day only whites and "others" were released for program. When asked about the non-affected Afrikans and the non-affected Mexicans, we were informed that because the non-affected prisoners shower in the same showers as the affected prisoners that makes them associates. So effectively all Afrikans and Mexicans are locked down (according to "race").
Up until the argument between a Mexican and an Afrikan on 30 November 2013, the nationalities on this compound got along. Communication has resolved the issues and things are back to normal except for the administration milking the lockdown. The influential people are reminded of the word that came down from their folks up the way and have been striving hard to maintain the peace.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Group punishment is one of the unjust practices that prisoners who have been organizing around humyn rights in California have demanded an end to. And it goes to show how the state systematically oppresses people based on their "race" in 2013.
The last paragraph of this report is particularly important as it exemplifies the hard work that has been put in by members and leaders of various lumpen organizations across California to create peace and build unity in the fight against the criminal injustice system. We are happy to hear that even while the prison is trying to divide prisoners and set them against one another, prisoners are working to maintain peace. We encourage prisoners everywhere to get involved in the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) which was initiated in 2011 to build peace and unity among prisoners to advance our struggle against the criminal injustice system. This prisoner's letter demonstrates the first principle of the UFPP, Peace: "We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."
Wild child running wild Got to find my way through this darkness Got to find my way back to the streets Been living in these hell holes for way too long
Wild child running wild Tired of these pigs having their foot on my neck Tired of being locked in a cage within a cage Running back & forth like a dog behind a fence Tired of being told what to do and not to do
Wild child running wild Got the blood of my ancestors running deep within my veins Harriet, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Malcolm X and many more Always got my feet planted and head held high
Wild child running wild Why do these pigs keep trying to tame me? Why don't they set me free into the wild? Because by nature that is where I am supposed to be "Free & Unchained!"
Revolutionary state of mind has a place in all ages. I was born too late for the 60's so I found mine in these pages of Assata, Angela, Huey Newton and George. They really opened up my mind and made me pick up the sword.
Because this whole damn country is caught up and in turmoil. And if you truly wanna know why too much African blood in the soil, These people kidnapped us, raped us, stole our religion and heritage. And ask why I'm so mad, nigga ain't that a bitch!
So I keep my mind focused on the correct political line, Cause with the right tactics and strategies these suckas won't be getting mine. The urban guerrilla front was built to last long. We're starting from the bottom so the cadre's strong. A revolutionary state of mind is what the people need. To stop the imperialism, and the capitalist greed.
We can't get anything done around here like getting a toilet or sink fixed. There are 800 cells on this yard and in 5% of them these basic amenities don't work. We literally have to fill mop buckets of water to flush down waste. Three of these pods leak water from the ceiling on to the day room 24 hours a day. It's always flooded and this combination is physically and biologically hazardous.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As we explained in ULK 34, prisoner health is a systematic problem. We have documented cases of lack of adequate nutrition or even safe uncontaminated food, brutality that leads to permanent physical health problems, contaminated water, medical neglect and other sources of health problems throughout the prison system. This problem with toilets and other leaking water is yet another example of prisons creating conditions that lead to significant health problems for the captives. Sanitation is a basic problem that we typically see in Third World countries, but this is just one of many examples of poor sanitation in Amerikan prisons. While individual cases like this could be addressed by the prison, we know that inadequate medical care and lack of basic sanitation are conditions the oppressed face around the world, and not something that imperialism has an interest in fixing.
In considering the art of warfare and conflict resolution, many miss the significance of how much an effect of one's party winning on the battlefield of propaganda has on that party's victory in the war. Throughout history, effective information distribution has been a major factor in a nation or group gaining/obtaining power. It is essential in the United $tate's retention of its global position today. So one cannot stress enough the importance of the efforts at educating people about injustice.
One of the main ways in which the U.$.government, and the various governments under its jurisdiction, are able to brazenly contradict their stated laws, purpose, and principles, is by ensuring the effectiveness of its personal propaganda machine - the corporate media. For instance, it is well documented and basically established that the CIA is responsible for the introduction of crack cocaine into the streets of South Central Los Angeles, with knowledge and possible complicity from the Executive Branch. Yet in this "war on drugs" none of those mid-to-top level responsible CIA/Executive Branch officials were ever made to face "justice."
On the other side of that, the average Tyrone, in any hood U$A, is given decades to life in prison for selling a minuscule fraction of what the CIA introduced into his community. And by the media, Tyrone is portrayed as the violent dangerous criminal, while George H.W. Bush, and the Clintons are labeled as heroes. It's an irreconcilable contradiction, yet it is accepted as reasonable by the general public, which is mainly due to its well-documented public opinion manipulation tactics.
And with the Amerikan public being so bombarded with pro-establishment garbage, some people don't have any exposure to any info other than what the corporate media presents, and the U.$. establishment's response to the rise of Wikileaks shows that this is by design. Anyone who stands against corruption, repression, oppression, social imbalance, and the other vile things that this nation's ruling class works to promote, must put much focus on a counter-propaganda campaign to show the people precisely what the effects of their support for the antisocial U.$. establishment's policies and actions are in real life circumstances.
This used to be an uphill battle due to the Establishment's exclusive hold on the corporate media, coupled with there being no real alternative means of info distribution. But one of the advantages to this information age is social media, which can give one access to a whole world of people. Now people don't have to rely on the corporate media as their sole means of obtaining info on current events. The establishment has lost its grip on info control and the opportunity for you and most anyone else to be heard is at hand.
And with the daily displays of official lawlessness recently transpiring, and with the corruption adversely affecting more and more people, that's more people with an ear open to your message. Knowledge is power and education is essential to knowledge.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree on the value of alternative news and the need to have media around which to build a movement. This is the reason MIM(Prisons) prioritizes Under Lock & Key, both in print and on the web, as a key responsibility of our organization. However, we do not think, as this writer implies, that the Amerikan people are so mis-educated that they only go along with the government corruption because they don't know otherwise. In reality the Wikileaks exposure has not led to any new uprisings by Amerikan citizens. The government fear about information release is mostly related to international exposure. Within this country they do have to worry about the youth in prisons and universities where there is much broader political consciousness and interest in the real news about what's going on. Amerikans overall are complacent because they are bought off by their government, paid to enjoy a petty bourgeois life at the expense of the international proletariat. And so Amerikans generally are happy to believe the lies fed to them by their government. With Under Lock & Key we hope to reach those at the margins who do not enjoy the Amerikan dream, or who have not yet bought into it. Having a materialist understanding of the social forces in this country will allow us to have a greater impact with our limited resources.
On 27 November 2013 the mailroom at Lovelock Corr Center received from the U.S. post office mail that was addressed to me and sent from the National Catholic Council on Addiction. It included a letter with a 2014 calendar and a catholic prayer book. I received an unauthorized mail notification saying it was not from an approved vendor. On 7 December 2013, I was told to either pay to send it out or they would dispose of it. I am an indigent inmate so sending it out is not an option.
How is the Catholic church not an approved vendor? When I approached the prison chaplain all I was told was "oh it's only a book". I guess as an inmate our faith has no meaning. I would love to see the free world's reaction if it were their prayer book and the government took it from them and destroyed it.
MIM(Prisons) responds: While we don't think that Catholic books and calendars are doing anything positive for the revolutionary struggle, we print this letter as an example of the ridiculous mail policies found in Amerikan prisons. Censorship is generally targetted at political organizations, particularly those like MIM(Prisons) which are educating prisoners about the criminal injustice system and helping them to organize to fight for their rights. But we have seen basic educational material like dictionaries and law books rejected by the censors. And so this rejection of religious literature further proves that prisons are being used as tools of social control and punishment, not centers for rehabilitation. For this reason, we oppose all censorship of mail in the prisons and encourage prisoners to fight these unjust policies by filing grievances, and taking it to court if needed. Ask for our guide to fighting censorship in prison for more information on this.
Thank you for the September/October issue of Under Lock & Key(ULK). As you know, ULK readers are literally a "captive audience." You also know that their confinement seriously limits their ability to access and study the vast body of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist literature you claim to uphold, and also other writings you've given your own interpretations to: which you either claim to embrace or otherwise criticize.
In this latest ULK you critiqued my own recent article "Answering A Revisionist Line on the Labor Aristocracy". Point is, for your readers to weigh the credibility of your interpretations and arguments against what others have written pro and con, they must be able to read not just what you have had to say, but what the other side has said as well.
In your response to my article you said you promote honesty, and clarity in polemics, however you appear yourself to practice deception by omission by publishing only your side of the discussion for your audience to read. And I daresay, your arguments do not accurately represent, and puts your own spin on and omits, a great deal of what I wrote in my article.
Whenever our Party engages in and publishes our polemics with others, we publish both sides' arguments, or if resources don't allow, we try to make the other side's arguments available to our readers. That's called being all-sided and practicing democracy. It's also called being dialectical, which Mao promoted. MIM(Prisons) doesn't do this. And it's not that you don't recognize the need to do so.
Back in 2006 when your parent organization (the Maoist Internationalist Movement) first began its efforts to influence us to embrace its line, especially on the labor aristocracy question, we invited you to publish our debates. MIM's reply was they lacked space in its media — then MIM Notes — and it no longer published its theoretical journal, MIM Theory.
Apparently you've now found space to publish your side of the discussion. Certainly you also have space to publish my own article that you were critiquing and my forthcoming reply to that. I critically invite you to do so, and ask that you print this letter in your next ULK.
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win! Rashid, MOD
MIM(Prisons) responds: The general point that printing both sides of a polemic is a helpful way to educate the masses is a good one. Yet we regularly read Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao talking about some revisionist we don't know anything about, and we learn from these essays. And in the case of the article being criticized, we linked to Rashid's article for our online readers and have sent a copy to everyone in prison who has requested one. We also included some direct quotes in our response. That's more than we can say of Rashid who did not print any of our writings alongside his critique, or even cite our materials where readers could find out more about our position. To our knowledge the NABPP-PC has never published anything we've written.
Like the recent debate with Turning the Tide, we wouldn't have published this critique of Rashid if h had not written h article criticizing us first. And we don't have space to spare in Under Lock & Key for articles that are so off the mark. Every issue we have good content that does not make the cut. We are currently pushing USW comrades to raise the bar for donations to expand the amount of content we can fit into ULK for this very reason. For theoretical study we distribute numerous books and have numerous study packs on this question including our newly released introductory pack on the labor aristocracy. We also distribute a couple study packs by Rashid hself, on topics where we have unity. Finally, we distribute the classics by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. So if our readers fail to grasp the essence of this issue it is not for our lack of making materials available.
As the original review stated, we were underwhelmed by Rashid's piece, which was mostly empty rhetoric. We only responded because we know our readers are influenced by the writings of the NABPP-PC. Rashid promises a reply, which will hopefully enlighten us as to how we misrepresented their line. Certainly we will print any corrections if we published something incorrect. But it seems the NABPP-PC line on the labor aristocracy is just as wrong today as it was in 2006, as they make the same tired arguments the revisionists have made for decades.
Images of a statue of communist leader V.I. Lenin being torn down in Kiev have been celebrated in the Western press, as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to protest the current regime headed by president Viktor Yanukovych.
Much of the coverage of the recent protests in Ukraine condemn government corruption as the common complaint of the protestors, linking it to Ukraine's Soviet past. The association is that this is the legacy of communist rule. In contrast, we would argue that this corruption was the result of economic Liberalism taking hold in the former Soviet Union where bourgeois democracy was lacking. Today's protests are largely inspired by a desire for bourgeois democracy, and the perceived economic benefits it would provide over the current rule by a parasitic bourgeoisie with little interest in the national economy.
The rise of Kruschev to lead the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) after Stalin's death marked the victory of the capitalist roaders within the Communist Party, and the beginning of the era of social-imperialism for the Soviet Union. This lasted from 1956 until the dissolution of the Union in 1991, when Ukraine became an independent republic. The period was marked by moving away from a socialist economy structured around humyn need and towards a market economy guided by profit. This transformation was reflected in the ideology of the people who more and more looked towards the imperialist countries and their crass consumerism as something to aspire to. It also led those in power to have more interest in their local regions than in the prosperity of the Union as a whole.
Even under capitalism, the Soviet Union was more prosperous and more stable than after its dissolution. In 1991, an estimated three quarters of the Soviet people supported maintaining the Union, but the leadership had no motivation to do so.(1) A move towards strengthening the Union would awaken the proletarian interests, which were opposed to the interests of the leadership that was now a new bourgeoisie. Ukraine played a key role in initiating the dissolution of the USSR. And it was no coincidence that in Ukraine, in particular, the dissolution was an economic disaster as the former Soviet nations were tossed to the wolves of economic Liberalism. A small emerging capitalist class took advantage of fixed prices that were a legacy of the Soviet economy and sold cheaply obtained raw materials at market rates to other countries. They turned around and invested that capital outside in international markets while tightening monopolies on trade at home. This was one of the most drastic transfers of wealth from the hands of the producers to the hands of capitalists in recent decades.(2)
Ten years after the October Revolution of 1917, Stalin wrote, "the resultant dropping out of a vast country from the world system of capitalism could not but accelerate [the process of the decay and the dying of capitalism]".(3) The inverse of this is also true, to a degree: the reentry of many countries into the world system breathed life back into it. While this brought great change at the hands of the newly empowered national bourgeoisie in those countries, it did not change the fact that imperialism had already made capitalism an economically regressive system. Hence they did not develop the wealth of their nations as the rising bourgeoisie of centuries past had done by improving production and developing trade. Today's rising bourgeoisie restricts markets via monopolies, and heads straight for high-margin business like drugs, weapons and financial markets. What happened in the ex-Soviet countries is a good demonstration of why Libertarian ideals are not relevant in today's economy.
The underground economy had been growing for decades before 1991, and this new freedom to compete was a boon to the criminal organizations that existed. These mafias were on the ground with direct access to the resources of the people before the imperialists had time to fight over these newly opened economies. With rising nationalism in the republics, Russian imperialism had to keep its distance, while other imperialist countries had no base in the region to get established. The inter-imperialist rivalry over the region is playing out today.
In the early years of independence, the Ukrainian state merged with that criminal class that was taking advantage of the political and economic turmoil in the country.(4) As a result the GDP dropped to a mere third of what it was just before the Union dissolved.(5) This came after decades of declining economic growth after the initial shift away from socialist economics. The mafias in the former Soviet countries saw an opportunity to seize local power and wealth in their respective republics as the super power crumbled. Some were further enticed by Amerikan bribes, such as Russian President Boris Yeltsin's family who received billions of dollars.(6) For a time there was hope that these changes would improve economic conditions as the bourgeois Liberal mythology led the former Soviet peoples to believe that they could follow the advice (and political donations) of the United $tates.
This mess, which the region is still struggling with, was the ultimate result of what Mao Zedong said about the rise of a new bourgeoisie within the communist party after the seizure of state power due to their inherent privilege as directors of the state. A successful socialist project must combat these bourgeois tendencies at every turn in order to prevent the proletariat from suffering at the hands of a new bourgeois exploiting class. At the core of the Cultural Revolution was combating the theory of productive forces, which Mao had previously criticized the Soviet Union for implementing. The turn to the western imperialist countries as economic models was the logical conclusion of the theory of productive forces in the Soviet Union.
One of the messages underpinning today's protests in Ukraine is the desire to move closer to the European Union (EU), as opposed to the Russian sphere of influence. It seems that looking to the west for hope has only increased in Ukraine over the last couple decades. But there is no obvious advantage to becoming a client of imperialist Western Europe over imperialist Russia except for the higher concentration of super-profits in the EU. And as other newcomers to the EU can attest, the imperialist nations in Europe will oppose any perceived distribution of their super-profits to the east. Similar nationalism is fueling the Ukrainian protestors who oppose the perceived transfer of wealth from their country to Russia. In general, increased trade will help a country economically. But in this battle Russia and the EU are fighting to cut each other off from trading with Ukraine. As always, capitalism tends towards monopolies and imperialism depends on monopsonies.
It is little wonder that the masses would be unsatisfied living under the rule of corrupt autocrats. Yet, it was just 2004 when the U.$.-funded so-called "Orange Revolution" threw out a previous mafia boss named Leonid Kuchma.(7) This regime change gained support from those making similar demands to today's protestors, but it did not change the nature of the system as these protests demonstrate. And that orchestrated movement was no revolution. It was a mass protest, followed by a coup d'etat; something that the imperialists have been funding quite regularly in central Eurasia these days. A revolution involves the overthrow of a system and transformation to a new system, specifically a change in the economic system or what Marxists call the mode of production. We don't see any movement in this direction in Ukraine from where we are, as nationalism is being used as a carrier for bourgeois ideologies among the exploited people of Ukraine, just as Stalin warned against.
Rather than a revolutionary anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist movement, the criminal corruption in Ukraine has led to right-wing populism in recent years. This was marked by the surge of the Svoboda party into the parliament. The men who toppled the statue of Lenin and smashed it with sledge hammers waved Svodoba flags as they did so, indicating that they represented not just a vague anti-Russia sentiment, but a clear anti-socialist one.
Svodoba's populism challenges the current ruling bourgeois mafia, while their nationalism serves to divide the proletariat by inflaming various grudges in the region. This is in strong contrast to the revolutionary nationalism supported by Lenin and Stalin and by Maoists today. In a criticism of the provisional government prior to the October Revolution in 1917, Lenin wrote on Ukraine:
"We do not favour the existence of small states. We stand for the closest union of the workers of the world against 'their own' capitalists and those of all other countries. But for this union to be voluntary, the Russian worker, who does not for a moment trust the Russian or the Ukrainian bourgeoisie in anything, now stands for the right of the Ukrainians to secede, without imposing his friendship upon them, but striving to win their friendship by treating them as an equal, as an ally and brother in the struggle for socialism."(8)
This is a concise summary of the Bolshevik line on nationalism.
A Note on Class and Criminality
Without doing an in-depth class analysis of Ukraine, we can still generalize that it is a proletarian nation. Only 5.1% of households had incomes of more than US$15,000 in the year 2011.(9) That mark is close to the dividing line we'd use for exploiters vs. exploited internationally. Therefore we'd say that 95% of people in Ukraine have objective interests in ending imperialism. This serves as a reminder to our readers that we say the white nation in North Amerika is an oppressor nation, not the white race, which does not exist.
While official unemployment rates in Ukraine have been a modest 7 to 8% in recent years, the CIA Factbook reports that there are a large number of unregistered and underemployed workers not included in that calculation. That unquantified group is likely some combination of underground economy workers and lumpen proletariat. In 2011, the Ukrainian Prime Minister said that 40% of the domestic market was illegal,(10) that's about double the rate for the world overall.(11) On top of that, another 31% of the Ukrainian market was operating under limited taxes and regulations implemented in March 2005, which were put in place to reduce the massive black market. In other words, the underground economy was probably much bigger than 40% before these tax exemptions were put in place.
One way we have distinguished the lumpen is as a class that would benefit, whether they think so or not, from regular employment. This is true both for the lumpen-proletariat typical of today's Third World mega-slums, and the First World lumpen, even though "regular employment" means very different things in different countries. While there is a portion of the lumpen that could accurately be called the "criminal" lumpen because they make their living taking from others, we do not define the lumpen as those who engage in crime. Of course not, as the biggest criminals in the world are the imperialists, robbing and murdering millions globally.
For the lumpen, the path of crime is only one option; for the imperialists it defines their relationship to the rest of humynity. Crime happens to be the option most promoted for the lumpen by the corporate culture in the United $tates through music and television. And in chaotic situations like the former Soviet republics faced it may be the most immediately appealing option for many. But it is not the option that solves the problems faced by the lumpen as a class. Ukraine is a stark example of where that model might take us. As the lumpen proletariat grows in the Third World, and the First World lumpen threatens to follow suit in conditions of imperialist crisis, we push to unite the interests of those classes with the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations that they come from. Only by liberating themselves from imperialism can those nations build economies that do not exclude people.
Among the bourgeoisie, there are few who are innocent of breaking the laws of their own class. But there are those who operate legitimate businesses and there are those who operate in the underground market. This legality has little bearing on their class interests. All national bourgeoisies support the capitalist system that they benefit from, though they will fight against the imperialist if their interests collide.
So there is no such thing as "the criminal class" because we define class by the group's relationship to production and distribution, and not to the legality of their livelihoods. And we should combat the influence of the bourgeois criminals on the lumpen who, on the whole, would be better served by an end to imperialism than by trying to follow in their footsteps.
While the Ukrainian people push for something more stable and beneficial to them, the Russian imperialists face off with the EU. The EU is backed by the United $tates who has publicly discussed sanctions against Ukraine justified by hypocritical condemnation of the Ukrainian government using police to attack peaceful protests. Hey John Kerry, the world still remembers the images of police brutality on Occupy Wall Street encampments.
The real story here may be in the inter-imperialist rivalry being fought out in the Ukrainian streets and parliament. While the Ukraine nation has an interest in ending imperialism, the dominant politics in that country do not reflect that interest. And one reason for that is the lasting effects of mistakes from the past, which still lead to subjective rejection of communism for many Ukrainians in the 21st century. This only further reiterates the importance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the need to always put politics in command in building a socialist economy to prevent the future exploitation and suffering of the peoples of the world. This is likely a precursor to much more violent conflict over the rights to markets in the former Soviet republics. Violence can be prevented in the future by keeping the exploited masses organized on the road to socialism.