This is the first article I have written for ULK. I was especially interested in writing about the topic above because, all too often, I have witnessed how the 'gangster' type are eager to dictate to others how their mission is to bring unity, yet their actions and attitudes are completely misplaced. For instance, if we are to fight oppression within the prison system, how is extorting other prisoners, assaulting others, et cetera, a means to that end?
I am not, nor would I ever become, gang-affiliated. In my opinion, if a person joins a gang, it is because they are too weak to stand up for themselves. Prison has become a daycare. Whites sell out whites, blacks team up with whites and babies have babies. What the hell? I've met pedophiles who are ranking gang officials, and snitches are free to roam as they please. Nothing makes any sense anymore and, just for the record, any gang which encourages a prisoner to extend their sentences or which demand that parents of children perform acts which result in them not being able to see them, that crap is no better than the lowest of the lowly.
The things gangs in Missouri do and continue to do are stupid and their actions bring upon us all the oppression. Gang members in Missouri, though they continuously spout the B.S. about solidarity, unity and integrity are, in turn, the cause and continuing justification for our being oppressed.
Instead of fighting for our right to not be abused by 'the system,' Missouri gangs are the tinder with which the fire under oppression is fueled. For every instance of stupidity by Missouri gang members, we, as a whole, lose an integral part of the overall voice with which we need to be able to defend ourselves from the wrongs of the system.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This author asserts that "if a person joins a gang, it is because they are too weak to stand up for themselves." We ask in return: why is it wrong to seek out others to help you defend yourself? Lumpen organizations arose, on the streets and in prisons, in response to very real threats to the safety of oppressed nation people. It is not realistic to think that, in the face of institutional violence and attacks, or organized violence from other groups of people, one should stand alone. And seeking this help and unity is not a sign of weakness.
However, we do agree with this writer that organizations that require their members to engage in anti-people activity, or which engage in actions that harm the general prisoner population, are not friends of the fight against the criminal injustice system. There are many different types of lumpen organizations and conditions vary in different areas. In some situations staying away from L.O.s might be the best practice for anti-imperialists. But at this stage, to organize the lumpen masses, we need to be building unity between lumpen organizations where possible, not perpetuating the fighting that the prison administration encourages. We regularly print articles in ULK from comrades in lumpen orgs doing just this sort of building behind bars. This is the leadership we need to highlight and learn from as most of our readers in prison are in or have been in lumpen organizations..
I strongly disagree with the exclusion of whites from the ranks of the lumpen within the United $tates. (see the tenth paragraph of Wiawimawo's article "Sakai's Investigation of the Lumpen in Revolution" in ULK 64) Although most whites in the United $tates. enjoy "white privilege" there are also whole communities of disenfranchised, impoverished whites. These communities are heavily reliant on government support systems to survive (i.e. food stamps, SSI, welfare, section 8 housing, etc.) They are also rife with crime, drugs, and street gangs.
For example, take the lumpen organizations (L.O.s) from Chicago (i.e. the Gaylords and the Simon City Royals). Both of these organizations were started by disenfranchised, impoverished communities consisting of mostly whites. They were originally founded to protect their communities from outside forces.
By stating that only oppressed "minorities" can be considered lumpen, Wiawimawo is engaging in paternalist politics that causes divisions within the movement. The truth is that any people that fit the political, social, and economic profile are lumpen. Disenfranchisement is not unique, nor immune, to any nationality. In solidarity!
Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: We are sending you a copy of "Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates?" so you can better understand our position on this question. First let's look at the quote from my article that you are responding to:
"This is why, in our work on the First World lumpen in the United $tates, we excluded white people from the model by default. We did this despite knowing many white lumpen individuals who are comrades and don't fit the model."
Note i say that we know "many white lumpen individuals who are comrades," meaning we agree with you that there are white lumpen, we just excluded them from the model presented in the paper cited. So why did we do this? Well, it is mostly based in our assessment of the principal contradiction in the United $tates being between the white oppressor nation and the oppressed nations. In the paper we do write:
"White men [who are currently/formerly incarcerated lumpen] number about 1.3 million, but are much more likely to find employment and join the labor aristocracy after release from prison. While in prison white men do fall into the lumpen class but lack the oppressed nation outlook and so often join white supremacist groups rather than supporting revolutionary organizing. This is just one factor contributing to a national outlook that leads us to exclude whites overall when discussing the revolutionary potential of the First World lumpen."
We also point out that historically the settler nation made up of Europeans has always been a petty bourgeois nation, while the oppressed nations have histories that are largely proletarian, but also lumpen-proletarian. History affects our national and class consciousness, so we can't just look at a snapshot in time. But the point of the paper was to show the size of the First World lumpen in the oppressed nations of the United $tates and a snapshot of how their conditions differ significantly from the white nation.
We'd say the examples you provide are exceptions that prove the rule. It takes some digging to come up with them, but certainly they exist. And in the context of the topic of this issue of Under Lock & Key we can certainly agree with you that they should not be ignored.
Most often, in U.$. prisons, when we talk about white L.O.s we are talking about white nationalist groups of some type. In our study, white supremacist organizations that are promoting fascism in this country today are made up of three main groups: former military, members of lumpen organizations/prisoners, and alienated petty bourgeois youth gathering around racist subcultures on the internet. The first two are the more dangerous groups, though the third gives the movement more of a feeling of a mass base of popularity. In our work it is with the second group that we can have the most impact. And we've had a number of former hardcore white supremacists become leaders within United Struggle from Within, and many more have participated in progressive battles for prisoner rights. It is in such alliances with the oppressed nations around the common interests of the imprisoned lumpen that we can really win over potential recruits who were initially drawn to fascism.
We welcome reports on examples of white lumpen organizing in the interests of ending oppression, and further analysis of the white lumpen as a base for progressive organizing.
The third goal of the expanded newspaper [from the ULK 64"Make ULK Monthly" article (1)] states, "Broader distribution of anti-imperialist information." Furthermore, in the "who should be part of this expansion?" section of the article MIM(Prisons) states that "we will continue to publish articles from individuals who share our anti-imperialist agenda though perhaps are not Maoists."
I believe that the third goal can be achieved by practicing the above quote. The ULK subscription rate would increase by allowing "outsiders" to publish material within the publication (such as anarchists). This increase in subscribers would also increase the number of art and article submissions to ULK, as well as donations.
Let us remember that Marx agreed with Proudhon and other anarchists in regard to the necessity for the proletariat to abolish the state. It is only by abolishing the state that we can create a class-less society (since the state is the manifestation of class antagonisms). The dividing line between communists and anarchists is not the abolition of the state, but the process in which the state should be abolished. Because there are many similarities between communist and anarchist ideologies both ULK and its readers would benefit greatly from the inclusion of anarchist commentary (besides, MIM(Prisons) can always comment on an anarchist article to correct it if necessary.)
MIM(Prisons) responds: MIM(Prisons) welcomes anarchist writers to submit to ULK. This writer is correct that our areas of disagreement are limited to the strategy to getting to classless society, and we agree on our ultimate goal of society with no groups of people having power over other groups. There is also a lot to agree on in the struggle along the way.
The new newsletter in the works will still be a Maoist newsletter, meaning that all writings will pass through a Maoist editorial staff that will either edit or respond to any writings that disagree with the basic tenets of Maoism depending on the position of the author. We do think our readers benefit from seeing debates, and we want to focus on debates that push our movement and our unity forward. We share this comrade's idea that expanding the contributors to this publication will also expand our distribution. We invite potential contributors to get in touch.
Arguably the hardest aspect of organizing (especially revolutionary organizing) is building consciousness. Not specifically of the subject matter (i.e., anti-capitalist/imperialist, socialism, equality, prisoner struggle) but of their role in the larger picture and its influence on their lives. Such consciousness leads to meaningful action. Due to this, it is the most rewarding of political objectives. It is also the most difficult to cultivate.
In pursuit of building consciousness, revolutionaries face many obstacles. A predominant, recurring obstacle is expanding peoples' perspective beyond their individual material concerns. A person's material interests constitute primary motivation for activism against and contributing to capitalism. In the Third World we see stringent struggles against capitalism. The opposite is equally true within capitalist societies. Material interests/motivations are inextricably welded to an individual's perspective of, and instinct for, self-preservation. This leads to a spectacular (depending on your ideological bent) narrowing down of alternatives, options and ultimately choices. A non-conducive situation for First World revolutionary organizing.
Our natural inclination is to allow self-preservation to impulse our actions once fear or a threat exceeds acceptable levels. People react as basic as scared animals in danger. Due to social evolution, our responses are more complex and advanced, more involved, what one can call a "social" self-preservation instinct. Similar to the brain shutting down because of excessive stress or trauma, emerging consciousness among First Worlders regresses when one's standard of living is threatened. Breaking First World attachment to physical/material comforts (possessions, commodities, thing-centrism) is first imperative to any revolutionary organizing, in particular; and wider political consciousness, in general.
A great amount of time, energy and attention must be given to shattering these real constraints. Class suicide among First World activists is the end result of such efforts. Through a patient, methodical process of expansive efforts (educational of real costs of capitalism/imperialism), diligence in those efforts and demonstrating the feasibility of alternative means (non-capitalistic), an organizer can make a meaningful contribution to supplanting capitalism.
People are selfish and revolutionary anti-imperialists should remind themselves that their target is the personal element, first and foremost. Even the perfect rally/demonstration, regardless of how correct its politics, will have a difficult time penetrating the calloused minds of those long accustomed to, and blinded by, capitalism. Especially when it concerns prisoners and penal systems/institutions. Most First Worlders simply deem it a necessary evil to preserve society.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Those First Worlders this author refers to are right that the prison system and institutions are a necessary evil to preserve the society as it is. That's the main difference between our prison work and that of many prison abolitionists — we know that we can't get rid of prisons in their current form unless we also get rid of capitalism.
This article brings up real challenges in our work. In ULK, we hope to host an ongoing conversation about ways we can be most effective in accomplishing the tasks this author calls out as most imperative: building consciousness, changing value systems, showing alternatives, etc. Send in your experiences and successes so we can continue learning from each other!
by a North Carolina prisoner February 2019 permalink
I have been fighting for better conditions in my current prison since I got here in June 2017. Tell the prison masses they have to write en masse to their unit managers, warden and director of prisons in their state. It's free!! There is no excuse.
The easiest thing to do, which I did, is to write up your declarations and remonstrations using carbon copy paper. Make 2-3 copies for each block/pod in every unit. Pass them out to comrades in those blocks, so they can encourage/force/persuade the masses to take 15 minutes to recopy and post it out. Done.
The first time I initiated these shots the warden called me to his office for a meeting with him, the unit manager, and assistant warden. He stopped the early counts, the 9 p.m. count, and turning off of phones. This sh!t works. On the second salvo he initiated recreation seven days a week. We are still pounding.
MIM(Prisons) responds: More reasonable hours for count, more contact with the outside world, and more recreation are all related to our anti-imperialist struggle, even though they may seem like petty reforms. Better sleep makes us mentally sharper, for writing, self-control, and creativity. Interaction with the outside world can give us motivation and positive social contact. And exercise (especially outdoors) helps with our physical as well as mental health.
We'd love to analyze a little deeper the benefits of running a campaign like the one described, because it's not just good for changing conditions. The people who are copying the letters and seeing results are at a special place in their recruiting. They might not be ready to initiate a campaign like this, and they might not even identify as part of "the struggle." But they have some interest in this work and are putting in some (albeit relatively small) effort.
At this stage, the best thing we can do for them is help set up "easy wins." They probably aren't dedicated enough to remain committed after a big setback. So asking them to put in a ton of effort for no reward is just not realistically going to inspire them to stay engaged. Whenever we can devise campaigns or activities that give this positive feedback to the people participating, with minimal effort, we should jump on those projects. These folks might not have learned the relationship between working hard and reward, so we can help teach that association. "Without directly experiencing the connection between effort and reward, animals, whether they're rats or people, default to laziness."(1)
Also keep in mind that all is not lost on the folks who are not participating, and are watching the campaign from the sidelines. Like we wrote in our response to "Sack the Sack Lunches," this type of campaign can help spark people's interest, just by witnessing and experiencing the results. Let's not condemn these folks for not participating, and instead let's try harder to inspire them with our successes, and then help them with easy wins when they are ready to participate.
In some states like Texas, where even indigent mail is restricted to 5 letters per month, it's not free to write to these administrators to change conditions. There are plenty of excuses (or reasons) why people can't engage in this type of campaign. Still, whenever possible, we agree that we should be pushing campaigns like these. It just means we have to get more creative in developing them.
I feel inspired by the fact that you decided to use my Liberation Theology article in ULK 65. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to our movement. I will continue to submit articles to you in the future.
The feedback you gave on the article was great. Under the MIM(Prisons) responds section, you agreed with me that Liberation Theology can be a useful revolutionary tool, and that it's good to "try to approach people where they are at." However, you also said that "we should be careful not to mislead them into thinking that we endorse their mysticism. The very belief in a higher power discourages people from believing that they can control the development of their own and all of humanity's future." You also warned against neglecting materialism.
I 100% agree. While I did mention that I was an atheist in the article, I failed to mention that materialism truly is the best world view if you're going for revolution. After all, materialism deals with reality in so far as we humyns are capable of comprehending it. And proper theory leads to proper action which leads to better theory.
But I just like how you do feedback in general. You encourage the people to submit their views and if you ever disagree with or wish to qualify a comrade's ideas, you publicize eir views and then explain why you disagree underneath it. Mao would have it no other way. This is why ey encouraged the people and the intellectuals to think for themselves, because ey knew that because eir method is sound, ey would be able to refute errors on logical grounds without having to lie or undermine the people's freedom, which is what the U.$. power-elite does.
Also, I read the book Grit that you sent me. I learned some valuable lessons from it. The main thing I've been able to utilize was the simple chart Duckworth advocates for organizing goals. I've made it a habit to review my own goal chart. My highest goal says "undermine and liberate," which means undermine the imperialists and liberate the oppressed. My low level goals are different throughout the week. Writing this letter to you, comrades, was one of these goals. Every little goal adds up to the top one.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Comrade, you were not the only one glad we printed your piece. Multiple USW comrades wrote us mentioning your article as being useful. We appreciate this comrade's feedback on our feedback, and we're always looking for more info from our subscribers on how we can do our job better. It's a topic we are always reviewing and trying to improve, like any good organizer should! We especially appreciate hearing feedback from people who have contributed to our programs and campaigns.
We all need to be able to learn from constructive criticism, and this ongoing discussion is an example of the criticism/self-criticism process in action. Only by learning from our mistakes (and those of others) will the revolutionaries and the movement continue to grow and move forward. People, and organizations, that dogmatically insist they are always right will quickly stagnate and offer no real hope for the oppressed. And as you can see in the pages of ULK this is a two-way street. It's not just about MIM(Prisons) telling writers where we think they are wrong. It's also about us learning from readers of and writers for ULK. The self-criticism printed in this issue regarding our George Jackson article in ULK 65 is a small example of this.
In the interest of transparency, we want to underline that MIM(Prisons) is the editor of this newspaper. So we choose what letters we respond to, and we often cut parts out of those. We aim to give a platform to the articles that contribute to the ongoing conversations in ULK, and that contribute to anti-imperialist organizing in general. So ULK is not a reflection of what everyone is writing to us about, but it is a reflection of the anti-imperialist organizing going on behind bars.
Editorial power is one reason why we advocate for single-nation organizations to lead their own nations, including having their own ideological platforms such as newspapers. Newspaper editors inherently filter what they think is most important to include and discuss, and our judgement on what is important to all nations could be wrong.
[The following was written about the same time as we were writing Intersecting Strands of Oppression for ULK 65. This author echoes our own discussion of the Brett Kavanaugh hearing while heavily citing MIM Theory 2/3, as we did in our piece. This question of how gender and nation interact, and how revolutionaries should approach these topics in order to push things in the right direction continue to be of utmost importance. - MIM(Prisons)]
On 27 September 2018, in the United States Senate's Judiciary Committee, the nation heard riveting testimony of an attempted sexual assault, and the denial of that assault. A Crime that had occurred 37-years ago with no corroborating witnesses.
In a he-say, she-say trial, who gets the benefit of the doubt? The accused, or the accuser? In this era of #MeToo, is it guilty until you can prove yourself innocent, or innocent until proven guilty? Could due process be sacrificed at the altar of gender politics and why does it matter?
In reviewing my in-cell library on feminist theory, these matters and debates are not new, and the answers to these questions have long been addressed. The first question that has to be asked, "Who speaks for the feminist?" "Who has her girlfriend's back?" The demarcation in the feminist lines can best be exemplified by the research compiled by one feminist researcher, Ealasaid Munro:
"The emergence of 'privilege-checking,' however, reflects the reality that mainstream feminism remains dominated by straight white middle-classes. Parvan Amara interviewed self-identified working class feminists for a piece published on the internet magazine The F Word and noted that many of the women she spoke to found themselves excluded from mainstream feminism both on the internet and 'in real life.' Amara notes that many women tend to encounter feminism at university. Women who do not go on to further education face a barrier when attempting to engage with those academic debates that drive feminism."(1)
So if academia is where the debates that are driving feminist theory are occurring, what does that academic debate look like if she is not white?
"Ignoring the difference of race between women and the implications of those differences presents the most serious threat to the mobilization of women's joint power. Refusing to recognize difference makes it impossible to see the different problems and pitfalls facing us as women. Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down on the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying."(2)
Another theorist surmised, "Black women's own views on rape can't help being shaped by the actions of their white sisters. That is to say, that Black people cannot use a white supremacist justice system without perpetuating white supremacy."(3)
These other theorists have long been critical of weaponizing process. This was recently on display in California. There, a recall movement was taking place to remove a judge for imposing a light sentence on a Stanford University student for sexual assault. The most vocal opponents to the recall were Black women. The most visible, former California Supreme Court justice, Janice M. Brown.(4) She argued, that punishing a judge for exercising discretion will only harm defendants of color. Statistics bear this out. Per 100,000 of the Black and Brown population in 2010, 6,000 were imprisoned; while per 100,000 of the white population in 2010, 640 were imprisoned.(5) Black and Brown persons of color are in front of Criminal Court judges far more than whites.
Another theorist called this type of feminism Carceral Feminism, and rails against the federal passage of the 1999 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). "Many of the feminists who had lobbied for the passage of VAWA remained silent about countless other women whose 911 calls resulted in more violence. Often white, well-heeled feminists, their legislative accomplishment did little to stem violence against less affluent, more marginalized women."(6) And a further theorist noted, "If women do not share 'common oppression,' what then can serve as a basis for our coming together?"(7)
These other feminist theorist, the marginalized, had observed that the debate was about rational-feminism versus emotional-feminism. This feminist theorist argues that rational-feminism must prevail over emotional feminism.
"The sisterhood line as currently practiced (but not in the 1960s and early 1970s) is white, bourgeois, sexist propaganda. Women just turn around from seeking approval from men that they never got; to demanding unconditional approval from women. They put each other on a pedestal and imagine each other to be flawless goddesses."(8)
This same theorist argues, the root of emotional feminism is nothing more than a chauvinist plot to keep women marginalized and caught up in their emotions, rather than applying her faculties of reasoning.
"The root of this is the patriarchal socialization of women to restrict themselves to the sphere of feelings, while letting men develop the rational faculties necessary to wield power. Women are taught to read romantic novels, major in English, or maybe psychology, if the women seem like they are getting too many scientific ideas."(9)
Is the rallying cry, "I BELIEVE HER", the death nails to due process? Is process going to be sacrificed at the alter of gender politics? Is the new standard for America's fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons "GUILTY, UNTIL YOU CAN PROVE YOURSELF INNOCENT"?
One theorist's 1992 writings used the 1986 rape convictions of white women by the race of their rapist. 68% of their rapists were white; 22% of their rapists were Black; 5% were Other; and 2% of their rapists were Mixed. The theorist begs feminists to take a serious look at the 22% of white women raped in 1986 who were raped by Black men.
The theorist goes on to state a general proposition that all feminists can generally agree upon, "Three-quarters of all rapes are by acquaintances, and the figures on rape should reflect that women are raped by the type of people they date."
In 1986, 12% of the men available to white women were Black. However, no where near 12% of the sex white women were having were with Black men. Thus the 22% of white women's rapist being Black is disproportionately high. Furthermore, the population of white women was more than six-times the population of Black men. For every [1% of] white women who had a sexual acquaintance with a Black man, it takes [6% of] Black men to be those acquaintances. Out of those acquaintances charged with rape, the 22% figure means a very high proportion of Black men generally are convicted of rape of white women compared to white men.
The theorist takes note, up to this point, the figures have been examined from the perspective of the rape victim. But taken from the Black man's perspective, white women are a large group of the American population, while Black men are a relatively small one. For Black men, 63.3% of their rape accusers were white women. If Black men had 63.3% of their sexual interactions with white women, then the accusations might be fair, but this was far from the case.
The theorist surmised we could get an idea of how skewed the accusations were looking at "interracial dating." The theorist could not give a figure for what percentage of the dates people went on were interracial. Instead, the theorist surmised we could guess that it was similar to the figures for the percentage of people in interracial marriages. Black men married to white women accounted for 0.3% of total marriages in the United States as of 1989. In 1989, less than 4% of Black married men were married to white women, so we estimate that less than 4% of Black men's dating were with white women. Hence, less than 4% of accusations faced by Black men should come from white women. Instead, the figure was 63.3%.(10)
The history of that story is the other side of sexual politics here in America. An America where the LAPD and Oakland-PD have had 100s of convictions overturned, due to incredibly, credible, false testimony of police officers. A land where 15% of the Black population in Tulia, Texas, were incarcerated by the incredibly, credible, testimony of a single racist officer.(11) According to the San Quentin News, 139 prisoners nationwide were exonerated in 2017.(12)
Credible demeanor in testimony has never been foolproof. The National Academy of Sciences, along with the FBI, have noted eyewitness testimony is the most unreliable testimony.(13) While this would obviously be in reference to witnesses testifying against strangers, but the juries which wrongly convinced these defendants were doing so from witnesses who were credible and convincing in their testimony. In 2013, 153 of the 268 exonerations by the Innocence Project were for rape.(14) 72% of all DNA exonerations are people of color. Of the 72%, 61% are African Americans.(15)
Theorists can clearly see, "I BELIEVE HER," with its lock-in-step demands of sisterhood, is classic emotional-feminist theory. What is the emotional-feminist rationale to do away with "INNOCENT, UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY"? Nor could emotional-theorists surmise they are not doing away with this unitedly, American, idea. [...] "I BELIEVE HER" is a presumption-of-guilt, rather than the presumption-of-innocence that the rational feminist are standing for, and for years have been arguing against the emotional-feminist assault on process. While emotional-feminism, with its well-heeled, racial, social, and economic status is having the loudest voice, their marginalized sisters, whose rational-feminist approach, is the only voice of hope for fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons; a hope the other side doesn't win the debate.
Last year statements appeared in another newsletter from a USW leader who spoke in the voice of a subcommittee of the United Struggle from Within Countrywide Council (USW CC). These statements were not first run by, nor approved by the Countrywide Council.
The previous year, the USW CC, established policies for official correspondence with other organizations. We published an article in ULK 58 describing these efforts and giving guidance to all USW members. USW is a mass organization, meaning that people with differing beliefs can be members and might write or state things as USW members that contradict. In the cited article we instructed USW members to pass on communications with other organizations to the USW CC once you are unable to handle the discussion on your own. Meanwhile the USW CC established official policy that any statements from the CC would come through official MIM(Prisons) communication channels:
The statements in question, printed in Turning the Tide, did not go through this process. We cannot expect other publications to know and enforce this. Rather it is the USW leader who broke protocol, and wrote a self-criticism to that effect. But this does go to show that comrades should not take as gospel anything in print that claims to be from USW or even the USW CC. If it appears in Under Lock & Key, then you can be assured that it went through the proper channels of approval.
This incident triggered us to address the question of how to verify communications from MIM(Prisons) and the USW CC in general. Unfortunately the only sure fire way to verify an isolated communication is cryptographically. This makes it hard to verify things in print, coming through the mail, etc.
Every regular reader of our website who has a computer should copy and save our public gpg key from our contact page. Even if you don't know what to do with this key, you could figure it out in the future when needed. The sooner you save the key, perhaps the more sure you can be that the key is legitimately from the original MIM(Prisons). If someone seized control of our website, and slowly started changing the political line on that site, and you waited to copy the key then it might have already have been changed.
While GPG is our primary public way of verifying statements, another tool our comrades have been promoting is a chat tool called Tox, which is available for all common operating systems, including smart phones like android. If you are someone who works with us already and have a device that you can install Tox on, we can exchange Tox IDs to establish encrypted and verifiable communications moving forward. Tox is a chat tool (like texting), and can be easier to set up than email with GPG.
Email without GPG signing, or letters through the mail are easy to fake as one-off communications. So repeated communications back-and-forth should be used to confirm any questionable messages. Our website and Under Lock & Key should be considered more reliable, and harder to fake by our enemies.
Most of our communications with most of our readers are at the level of line and strategy. Therefore, our allies and supporters can and must use a political lens to verify communications. You should study our work and our line so that you can tell when something unusual pops up. And then you should communicate with us about it in the most verifiable and secure line of communication that you have at your disposal. Overall, as a movement, politics in command is the best way for us to defend against falsified, or unofficial communications leading us astray.
by a Pennsylvania prisoner February 2019 permalink
Following a fifteen-day lockdown of all Pennsylvania state prisons, new policies were erected for receiving mail. Publications were halted, and hundreds of book packages from free prison book programs were returned to sender. This occurred because several staff members at various Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) prisons claimed to become deathly ill after handling prisoner mail.
DOC officials assumed it was synthetic marijuana, or K-2, being sent in through the mail. However Dr. Lewis Nelson, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and other prominent medical staff called the DOC on their lies and excuses about the lockdown and new policies and procedures dealing with prisoner mail. Dr. Nelson blew the whistle, so to speak, when he pointed out that one must ingest or inhale synthetic marijuana to have any type of effect on individuals.(1) One cannot be affected by merely touching it, or paper soaked in K-2. Furthermore, he stated that synthetic marijuana simply does not have the type of effects that the individuals were having.
So, one might ask, what the real agenda the DOC had in the change in procedure. The DOC has wanted to control what prisoners read and what type of mail they received for quite some time. It goes to show just how much prisons seek to control others. Needless to say, the DOC is currently under investigation due to its frivolous claims. Mail must be sent to a company in Florida, where it is scanned. It is then forwarded to each respective prisoner at whatever prison he/she is confined. Pennsylvania prisoners receive copies of photos, letters and greeting cards, and the originals are eventually destroyed. Even our legal mail is opened in the presence of each prisoner, handled in a biohazard container, then photocopied. The copies are given to the prisoner, and the originals placed in an "evidence" bag, and eventually destroyed, or so the DOC claims.
We are permitted to receive books, magazines and other publications now, as of very recently. They still must be sent to a secure processing center, where they are searched and then forwarded to each respective prisoner.
This is a reminder that we are all being controlled. Unless we get together and do something about it. How long will we allow prison officials to violate our rights and take away freedoms that are promised to us in the U.$. constitution and its amendments? This is a call to arms, and the need to fight the system instead of tearing down one another. I refuse to allow the U.$. prison system to continue violating my rights, and what few freedoms are afforded to me. I will continue to struggle against the wretched machine that seeks to break me. This is a call for comrades to do the same.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We wrote about this Pennsylvania mail policy in ULK 65 and since that time, a new policy to send books and magazines to yet another separate address was implemented.(2) In response to outcry by prisoners and family, the PA DOC did back down on their policy that books could only be ordered through the PA DOC, from their approved vendors. That is no small victory.
We have instances of letters sent to the Florida processing center being returned to us just stamped "return to sender" after being opened and then taped shut. No reason is given. We think it's safe to assume it's the contents of the letter that inspires this censorship, because not all our mail is being returned, and it is being opened at the processing center. In at least one case, our Guide to Fighting Censorship was the item returned to us.
This is an important censorship battle and we join this comrade's call for everyone in Pennsylvania to take up the fight. This is an easy excuse to selectively censor revolutionary material, or selectively censor prisoners who are politically active. We anticipate an increase in denials of our mail. When you are notified of censorship, appeal it, and also let us know what was censored. If you haven't received mail from us in a while, check in and let us know. We always keep up subscriptions for 6 months after your last letter to us. Also follow this comrade's example and keep us informed about changes to the rules and updates on the fight against them. For our part, we will also be appealing when we have evidence of censorship and working with you to fight from the outside.
by a North Carolina prisoner February 2019 permalink
Myself and two other prisoners currently being held at Pender Correctional in North Carolina have founded a band of like-minded brothers that are fed up with the way the state and prison systems have found a way to excuse slavery. They are preying on people's downfalls, and use them for their own gain. In North Carolina there is a lot of overcrowding and the only way to get on good time is to work, which saves them money, not having to pay prisoners minimum wage. This work also makes income for the prison at their enterprise plants, where prisoners work for 40-55 hours a week for $10.50-$21.30 in pay (for the week). They have the workers making officers' uniforms, chemicals, working farms, making eye wear, and a laundry service that not only cleans prison clothes but also hospital and rest home clothes.
If you are one of the lucky ones that gets to go to a minimum camp and go out on work release to work an outside job, they charge you $150 a week for room and board. Hold on, that's double dipping. They get paid by the federal government to house us. Then they write us up for every petty thing they can, such as too many clothes, disrespect, profanity, etc. and take $10 from us each time. They also invented a way to charge us every time we receive money from our family.
We decided that we won't go for it anymore, but we are limited to what we can do while we're in here, for fear of retaliation. We're already suffering because we refuse to work. We are building steam every day by spreading the word. We need help from someone that knows the best ways to organize and lead. So can you please help us with advice and resource list and materials to pass out? Also we could really use law books to help further some various lawsuits we have filed and need to file. Please help in any way you can. We are a band of your fellow brothers seeking guidance. Thank you for your time!
MIM(Prisons) responds: These comrades organizing against the extortion of their labor are setting an example for others. Getting like-minded people together and coming up with a unified plan of action is an accomplishment in and of itself. We will send some materials, grievance petitions and other resources that may be useful. But we also call on other prisoners to respond with any advice you have for these organizers. What can we do to have the best chances of success? Are there problems these comrades should look out for? This is the dialectical process that revolutionaries use, summing up our practice to learn from successes and failures. And sharing that learning with others makes an even bigger impact. Turn your own organizing failures into successes by learning from them and helping others to avoid the same mistakes.