This is my second state incarceration since 1988. PA is already known as a "prison state" (29 state prisons and $600 million "found" to build 3 more soon with no end in sight). I am also all too well aware of how unorganized and for the most part uneducated the prisoners in these human warehouses are. PA's solution has always been "build more prisons."
The highest pay rate for prisoner jobs is 42 cents an hour. Those who are fortunate to get a job in one of the correctional industry shops (see bighouseproducts.com) can receive bonuses. These pay rates have been the same for more than 10 years, yet the commissary prices increase quite regularly.
Attention: beginning July 1, 2011, several inmates housed indefinitely in PBSP-SHU D-Facility, Corridor Isolation, will begin an indefinite hunger strike in order to draw attention to, and to peacefully protest, 25 years of torture via CDCR's arbitrary, illegal, and progressively more punitive policies and practices, as summarized in the accompanying Formal Complaint. PBSP-SHU, D-Facility Corridor inmates' hunger strike protest is to continue indefinitely until the following changes are made:
OUR FIVE CORE DEMANDS:
Individual Accountability - This is in response to PBSP's application of "group punishment" as a means to address individual inmates rule violations. This includes the administration's abusive, pretextual use of "safety and concern" to justify what are unnecessary punitive acts. This policy has been applied in the context of justifying indefinite SHU status, and progressively restricting our programming and privileges.
Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria - the debriefing policy is illegal and redundant, as pointed out in the Formal Complaint [IV-A, p. 7]. The Active/Inactive gang status criteria must be modified in order to comply with state law and applicable CDCR rule and regulations [eg, see Formal Complaint, p. 7, IV-B] as follows:
Cease the use of innocuous association to deny inactive status,
Cease the use of informant/debriefer allegations of illegal gang activity to deny inactive status, unless such allegations are also supported by factual corroborating evidence, in which case CDCR-PBSP staff shall and must follow the regulations by issuing a rule violation report and affording the inmate his due process required by law.
Comply with US Commission 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement - CDCR shall implement the findings and recommendations of the US commission on safety and abuse in America's prisons final 2006 report regarding CDCR SHU facilities as follows:
End Conditions of Isolation (p. 14) Ensure that prisoners in SHU and Ad-Seg (Administrative Segregation) have regular meaningful contact and freedom from extreme physical deprivations that are known to cause lasting harm. (pp. 52-57)
Make Segregation a Last Resort (p. 14). Create a more productive form of confinement in the areas of allowing inmates in SHU and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation] the opportunity to engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work, education, religious, and other productive activities relating to having a sense of being a part of the community.
End Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Release inmates to general prison population who have been warehoused indefinitely in SHU for the last 10 to 40 years (and counting). Provide SHU Inmates Immediate Meaningful Access to:
Adequate natural sunlight
Quality health care and treatment, including the mandate of transferring all PBSP-SHU inmates with chronic health care problems to the New Folsom Medical SHU facility.
Provide Adequate Food - cease the practice of denying adequate food, and provide wholesome nutritional meals including special diet meals, and allow inmates to purchase additional vitamin supplements.
PBSP staff must cease their use of food as a tool to punish SHU inmates.
Provide a sergeant/lieutenant to independently observe the serving of each meal, and ensure each tray has the complete issue of food on it.
Feed the inmates whose job it is to serve SHU meals with meals that are separate from the pans of food sent from kitchen for SHU meals.
Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates. Examples include:
Expand visiting regarding amount of time and adding one day per week.
Allow one photo per year.
Allow a weekly phone call.
Allow Two (2) annual packages per year. A 30 lb. package based on "item" weight and not packaging and box weight.
Expand canteen and package items allowed. Allow us to have the items in their original packaging [the cost for cosmetics, stationary, envelopes, should not count towards the max draw limit]
More TV channels.
Allow TV/Radio combinations, or TV and small battery operated radio
Allow Hobby Craft Items - art paper, colored pens, small pieces of colored pencils, watercolors, chalk, etc.
Allow sweat suits and watch caps.
Allow wall calendars.
Install pull-up/dip bars on SHU yards.
Allow correspondence courses that require proctored exams.
This is a call for all prisoners in Security Housing Units (SHUs), Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), and General Populations (GP), as well as the free oppressed and non-oppressed people to support the indefinite July 1st 2011 peaceful Hunger Strike in protest of the violation of our civil/human rights, here at Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU), short corridor D1 through D4 and its overflow D5 through D10. It should be clear to everyone that none of the hunger strike participants want to die, but due to our circumstances, whereas that state of California has sentenced all of us on Indeterminate SHU program to a “civil death” merely on the word of a prison informer (snitch).
The purpose of the Hunger Strike is to combat both the Ad-Seg/SHU psychological and physical torture, as well as the justifications used of support treatment of the type that lends to prisoners being subjected to a civil death. Those subjected to indeterminate SHU programs are neglected and deprived of the basic human necessities while withering away in a very isolated and hostile environment.
Prison officials have utilized the assassination of prisoners’ character to each other as well as the general public in order to justify their inhumane treatment of prisoners. The “code of silence” used by guards allows them the freedom to use everything at their disposal in order to break those prisoners who prison officials and correctional officers (C/O) believe cannot be broken.
It is this mentality that set in motion the establishing of the short corridor, D1 through D4 and its D5 though D10 overflow. This mentality has created the current atmosphere in which C/Os and prison officials agreed upon plan to break indeterminate SHU prisoners. This protracted attack on SHU prisoners cuts across every aspect of the prison’s function: Food, mail, visiting, medical, yard, hot/cold temperatures, privileges (canteen, packages, property, etc.), isolation, cell searches, family/friends, and socio-culture, economic, and political deprivation. This is nothing short of the psychological/physical torture of SHU/Ad-Seg prisoners. It takes place day in and day out, without a break or rest.
The prison’s gang intelligence unit was extremely angered at the fact that prisoners who had been held in SHU under inhuman conditions for anywhere from ten (10) to forty (40) years had not been broken. So the gang intelligence unit created the “short corridor” and intensified the pressure of their attacks on the prisoners housed there. The object was to use blanket pressure to encourage these particular isolated prisoners to debrief (i.e. snitch on order to be released from SHU).
The C/Os and administrative officials are all in agreement and all do their part in depriving short corridor prisoners and its overflow of their basic civil/human rights. None of the deliberate attacks are a figment of anyone’s imagination. These continuous attacks are carried out against prisoners to a science by all of them. They are deliberate and conscious acts against essentially defenseless prisoners.
It is these ongoing attacks that have led to the short corridor and overflow SHU prisoners to organize ourselves themselves around an indefinite Hunger Strike in an effort to combat the dehumanizing treatment we prisoners of all races are subjected to on a daily basis.
Therefore, on July 1, 2011, we ask that all prisoners throughout the State of California who have been suffering injustices in General Population, Administrative Segregation and solitary confinement, etc. to join in our peaceful strike to put a stop to the blatant violations of prisoners’ civil/human rights. As you know, prison gang investigators have used threats of validation and other means to get prisoners to engage in a protracted war against each other in order to serve their narrow interests. If you cannot participate in the Hunger Strike then support it in principle by not eating for the first 24 hours of the strike.
I say that those of you who carry yourselves as principled human beings, no matter you’re housing status, must fight to right this and other egregious wrongs. Although it is “us” today (united New Afrikans, Whites, Northern and Southern Mexicans, and others) it will be you all tomorrow. It is in your interests to peacefully support us in this protest today, and to beware of agitators, provocateurs, and obstructionists, because they are the ones who put ninety percent of us back here because they could not remain principled even within themselves.
The following demands are all similar to what is allowed in other super max prisons (e.g. federal Florence, Colorado, Ohio and Indiana State Penitentiaries). The claim by CDCR and PBSP that implementing the practices of the federal prison system or that of other states would be a threat to safety and security are exaggerations.
The names of representatives of all major races listed as co-signers. The prisoners say they are “All races Whites; New Afrikans; Southern Mexs., and Northern Mexs.”
Twisted political procedures, has a way to warp the mind, it can have you believing the hype, which is hypocritically defined. It creates inner cranium confusion By its contradicting oxymoronic pollution. Do you see a short term goal for the ultimate solution? Brainwashed by propaganda, democracy pulls your string, You don't realize you're part of the problem when you organize for votes in their crime ring.
Guilty by association, a wolf in the same pack, That's what the government refers to as, the criminalized "Rico Act." Don't be blinded, by the laws & its crooked ways, set up for the 3rd strike, now you're forever locked in a cage. But when police, who are meant to protect civilians, use that badge as a license to kill, The jury acquits 'em, encouraging further blood spill. Ignorant people praise cops' brutality, till its their door that gets kicked in, its then they feel the injustice, & the truth of oppression seeps within. The biggest tyrant, is the government you praise, you're willing to send your kids to fight their wars, without an argument raised. For imperialist bastards, you're willing to bend over faster its like a Black Sabbath record, getting played backwards. Coerced control, of your mind & your soul, you no longer think for yourself, like a man that is whole. Bent to society's will, unable to clearly see your own path, they've successfully conformed you. Do the simple math. Mental slaves, as the plot starts to thicken, like a poisonous injection, the pulse starts to quicken. A smoked out chamber of toxic gas executes an innocent man held down by leather straps.
On May 23, 2011, the U$ Supreme Court announced its decision issuing an order to the California government to release 48,000 prisoners from various California prisons. The Supreme Court's decision came after a long time demand to alleviate the prison crisis in the state of California. Many in CA maintain that the prisons there are overcrowded, also that taxpayers cannot afford the high cost of housing that many prisoners.
The Supreme Court did not allude to the multiple class action lawsuits, in CA and across the country, the prisoners, their families, and public filed in the Supreme Court as well as in federal courts across the USA, regarding wrongful imprisonments, political imprisonment to activists and whistle-blowers-on-corruption, and regarding over-sentencing on petty charges! In other words, the Supreme Court ignored the urgent need for judicial reform, to fight corruption in the judicial system, and law enforcement reform, to weed out corruption in the police force(s), across the USA.
The decision came about by votes: 5 justices in favor to 4 justices opposed, really as a convenience as CA ran out of money, and the feds too, with a national debt hitting the ceiling of $14.3 trillion! It wasn't to alleviate oppression and free the falsely imprisoned. In fact, neither CA judges nor the US-supreme Court's judges want to admit that there is anyone who is falsely imprisoned, due to retaliations, due to whistle blowing on corruption, or due to a 'trivial' reason. No one among judges, attorneys, or the media ever talks about corruption behind the prison crisis, anywhere across the USA! Judges and the media, across the board, pretend that the system is perfect; they presume that all the judges in the USA and the police officers are completely honest, upright, and perfect!
The US-Supreme Court did not respond to my/our class action lawsuit regarding Bill Richardson (former governor of NM) and his scheme with Joe Williams/GEO to establish the prison industry in NM and demonize the generations to perpetuate his scheme of profiting from prisons, along with GEO! The US Supreme Court did not respond to a more than 50 class action lawsuits, from all across the USA, with more than 200,000 litigants (prisoners, their families and tax payers) who passionately are asking for a judicial reform and law enforcement reform to weed out corruption, bribery, racketeering extortion(s), persecution of minorities, and the treasonous acts of false imprisonments. Instead, the SC acted on its own and announced its decision, to release the 48,000, without any detail as to who are those, who are qualified for the release.(see article on how population reduction is taking place)
For example, in our Class Action lawsuit, Public of the State of New Mexico vs. Bill Richardson, Joe Williams et al, we made it clear to justice John Roberts that our primary interest in the lawsuit is to indict and convict Bill Richardson for his multi-scheme of pay-to-play, or bribery, which includes the prison scheme with Joe Williams/GEO. Judge John Roberts didn't respond even though more than 100,000 litigants from NM passionately asked for the indictment and conviction of Bill Richardson due to his treasonous acts against public of the state of NM, and public of the USA in general. J. Roberts, as we believe, did not want to face any embarrassment before President Obama is shielding and protecting Bill Richardson, for some reason. So it is all about politics, not justice.
Our primary goal, also, in the above referenced class action lawsuit, is to release all the wrongfully imprisoned across the USA, in the following 3 categories: A. We are asking for releasing all the innocents/falsely imprisoned, first (there are hundreds and thousands of them, across the USA, despite the judges' denial of existence of such category of prisoners). B. We are asking for releasing all the political prisoners, who were imprisoned as a retaliation because they blew the whistle on corruption. C. We are asking for releasing all the prisoners whose charges are benign/trivial, then the non-violent offenders.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner calls out a good point, that the imperialist courts do not call for release of prisoners to address legitimate grievances, but only when finances make it impossible to hold more. However, we go much further than to call for release of prisoners in the three categories described above. We see that all prisoners in the Amerikan criminal injustice system are political prisoners. The entire system from the police to the courts to the prisons is political. And we need to put an end to the overall injustice, not just release a few prisoners.
Unlike other social services in the United $tates, public education is the only one where the quality of service you receive is directly impacted by the assessed value of property in your locality. Besides limited busing, there isn't a way around the fact that poorer neighborhoods have crappier schools. When attempts are made to resolve disparities between districts, the rich districts do all they can to resist the change. The obvious methods of spreading the existing money evenly to all districts, and dividing kids evenly across all schools, are seen as taking money away from the rich districts. The rich districts don't think the poor kids deserve the same level of education if it comes at their expense. Poor school districts are predominantly Black and Latino. Very few white kids have to try to get an education in a school that lacks books, desks, teachers, and in some cases even basics like toilets and heat. In 1991 statistics showed that some cities have per-pupil funding for the poorest district equal to only one fifth of the funding in the richest.(1)
"[A] circular phenomenon evolves: The richer districts - those in which the property lots and houses are more highly valued - have more revenue, derived from taxing land and homes, to fund their public schools. The reputation of the schools, in turn, adds to the value of their homes, and this, in turn, expands the tax base for their public schools. The fact that they can levy lower taxes than the poorer districts, but exact more money, raises values even more; and this again, means further funds for smaller classes and for higher teacher salaries within their public schools." Kids educated in poor districts can't compete with the education rich kids are getting by the time they are applying for college.(2)
In 1988, Eastside High School, in a poor and mostly Black and Latino district in Paterson, New Jersey gained some publicity and praise by former U.$. Education Secretary William Bennett and former President Ronald Reagan because the principal, Joe Clark, threw out 300 students in one day who he claimed were involved with violence or drugs. Clark often roamed the halls of his school with a bullhorn and a bat, and was featured on the cover of Time magazine. Two-thirds of those kids ended up in County Jail. Paterson even destroyed a library because it needed space to build a new jail.(3, 4) Joe Clark was an atypical high school principal, but his defense and support by the President and Education Secretary sent a clear invitation to other principals to adopt Clark's methods.
These facts show how public education is not intended to be, and does not function as, a force to uplift the oppressed nations within U.$. borders. Wealthy districts' protection of "their" tax dollars prove that they will not share their wealth without being forced to do so. The only way to equal education and employment opportunities for everyone is through socialist revolution, and eventually communism.
MIM(Prisons) has been steadily expanding our education efforts both in response to the lack of education afforded our readership, and because it is one of the most important forces we can utilize to advance revolution. Our primary task at this historical stage is to increase public opinion in favor of national liberation movements. And as we organize for revolution we must be sure we are following a correct path and not one that will lead to failure and setbacks. We determine this through our study of history and current conditions, and share these ideas with others through education. Much more could be done, and ultimately this effort should be picked up and spread by people on the inside, but we play a valuable supporting role.
One way MIM(Prisons) supports education behind bars is through our Serve the People Free Political Books for Prisoners Program. Prisoners who cannot afford to buy books can instead exchange revolutionary work for revolutionary literature. Our selection includes magazines and old newspapers from the Maoist Internationalist Movement; classic essays by Mao, Lenin, Marx, and others; history books about China under Mao and the socialist Soviet Union; materials by the Black Panthers and the Young Lords; and works by modern Maoist theorists. We encourage participants of the Free Books Program to share the lit with others, study it with them, and write to MIM(Prisons) with their questions or thoughts so we can better help them with their political education.
A more structured way MIM(Prisons) supports education behind bars is through the various study groups that we facilitate. There are two levels of introductory study groups that will help someone who is new to revolutionary thought, or who is already well-versed but wants to know more about MIM(Prisons)'s politics. Comrades who complete these courses, do not have a worked out line against MIM(Prisons), and are actively involved in some kind of writing work will be invited to join the Under Lock & Key Writers group. This group participates in a higher level of study and discussion, and participants use their knowledge to contribute articles to Under Lock & Key and other anti-imperialist projects.
In the past several years we have put together over a dozen study packs for comrades to use on their own, or in correspondence with MIM(Prisons). We especially encourage people to form study groups inside their prison using these study packs as a guide. Some study pack topics include: strategy (focused on MIM Theory 5), organizational structure, culture (focused on MIM Theory 13), False Nationalism, False Internationalism, fascism, and more. We send these study packs to people whose letters seem like they could benefit significantly from the process, and to participants of the Free Books for Prisoners Program.
We have also been in the long process of compiling a Maoist glossary to post online at www.prisoncensorship.info and to send in to our readers. It will be a miniature dictionary of terms for our struggle, defined from a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist perspective. Comrades who want to contribute to this project can write us for a draft version of what we have so far.
Although we have been developing, with much invaluable help from our comrades inside, useful tools to expand and spread revolutionary education, you can teach others without using even one of them. If you can read this article, you can start educating others about Maoism, our need for revolution, and how we can get there. Start by sharing Under Lock & Key with someone and discussing the articles. What did you find interesting? What did you disagree with? Why do you think the author made a particular statement? What was confusing for you? What new information did you learn? What are you going to do with that information? What do you want to learn about more?
Because education and study rely so heavily on the written word, we should be putting some energy into teaching others how to read. One persyn who knows how to read can spread political education to others exponentially. But someone who cannot read on their own is limited in their ability to fully grasp the difficult questions of making revolution. We are building our revolutionary leadership and need to help others lead by helping them to read.
MIM(Prisons) has been trying to develop our support for literacy programs. Comrades behind bars should take up this important task of teaching others to read, and let MIM(Prisons) know what we can do to better support their efforts. We are especially interested in hearing from people who learned how to read while locked up, and what helped them.
This issue of Under Lock & Key is focused on education because it is the basis of our practice at this time. Education and study are the only ways that we are going to be able to develop as leaders of the revolution toward a just society free of starvation, rape, war, and oppression of all kinds. Theoretical education improves our organizing and mass education work, which is the only way we are going to turn people on to the need and possibility of liberation, and in favor of efforts of the oppressed to liberate themselves.
On April 28, 2011 a complaint was made against two lieutenants and the associate warden of operations (AWO) at Lovelock Correctional Center (LCC) for threatening the entire Protective Segregation (PS) housing unit population with group punishment if the gambling, homosexual activity, tattooing, etc. continued, despite the fact that those who'd been caught were known and identified and/or already facing disciplinary procedures.
The same night, a number of individuals were caught gambling, and the following morning both PS housing units 3A and 3B were locked down. The lockdown was purportedly in response to the gambling incident.
On May 10, 2011 a minor altercation occurred between two prisoners in the LCC dining hall. These two individuals were placed in more secure housing where they received:
law library access
library access (i.e. book cart)
cleaning supplies for cells
full food portions in two hot meals per day
due process prior to loss of privileges and punishment
The remaining PS prisoners in 3A and 3B, having nothing to do with any of these incidents, received:
lockdown for 6 days with showers on first and fourth days
loss of cell visiting privileges (permanently)
loss of open access to cells and toilet accommodations (permanently)
no law library access
no religious access
no library access
no telephone access
no cell cleaning supplies
no tier time/yard time
refused grievances and "advised" not to "fly paperwork if we want off of lockdown"
During the lockdown a shakedown (described as getting the unit into compliance) was done resulting in the confiscation of appliances, which was later returned because "it should not have been taken in the first place."
Upon being let off of lockdown some of the population united around these and other issues long overdue for redress and formulated a complaint alleging several violations of civil and human rights which are embraced by the following acts and holdings among others: 22 USCA 6021 (9) 22 USCA 6401 (in toto) 42 USCA 1997a (CRIPA) 42 USCA 2000cl (RLUIPA) Bounds v Smith 37SCT1491 430US817 Heck v. Humphrey 114SCT2364 512US477 Wolff v McDonnell 94 SCT 2963 418 US 539 Breenholtz v Nebraska 99 SCT 2100 442 US 1 Estelle v Gamble 97 SCT 285 429 US 97 Turner v Safley 102 CT 2754 482 US 78 All of which are US Supreme Court holdings which are binding upon Nevada (Nevada constitution article 1 Sec 2 Bargas v Warden NSP 482 P2d 317 87 Nev 30 91 SCT 1267 403 US 935 29 LED 715)
The complaint raises the following (and other) issues which are constant and pervasive conditions at LCC among PS prisoners:
unsanitary/unsafe dining hall conditions
inadequate food and medical treatment
compulsory strip searches daily (to boxers) frequently done by females
verbal abuse by staff in the form of derogatory racial, cultural and gender charged epithets
abusive and retaliatory behavior toward adherents of non-traditional religions
inadequate legal access and retaliation for accessing legal process
coercion/harassment in the form of cell searches and theft/destruction of personal property as retaliation and for furtherance of personal agendas
withholding/theft of mail, opening legal mail outside of prisoner's presence
use of prisoners in supervisory capacity and as facilitators/teachers of rehabilitative and psych programs which impact earned sentence credits, parole board decisions and sentence duration
fomenting hostility and animus between prisoners using confidential or otherwise sensitive information
group punishment/threats of collective retaliation and punishments
The above is a summary of the mentioned complaint and does not contain much in the way of detail and specificity. However, it serves to articulate the overall conditions here (and elsewhere) and exemplifies the need for solidarity and presenting a united front against oppression. It should never be allowed to get this bad before action is taken, but it apparently must get bad enough to inspire action.
It is easier to keep what one has than it is to regain what one has already lost, but this is not a message which is widely understood by the new prisoner class.
In any event, if information concerning our struggle becomes available, it will be put "before the world."
MIM(Prisons) adds: We applaud prisoners coming together to fight repression in their housing units. In this case it is prisoners in protective custody, a place our prison comrades are fond of reminding us is rife with people who informed on other prisoners (often falsely) to save their own hides. We cannot often know who, in PC or general population, is a snitch, but we can judge prisoners by their actions and uphold the correctness of struggles against prison brutality wherever they arise.
On the flyer there is an example of a support letter to send to administrators about this issue. It is reprinted below for your convenience.
Dear Warden Lewis,
I am writing this letter to you to express my concern for the prisoners held in Pelican Bay State Prison’s short-corridor Group D. It is my understanding that these people have no disciplinary charges, but are being held in extreme isolation, unable to send photographs to their families or speak to them on the phone.
I am concerned that these prisoners, who are under your responsibility, are being denied their Constitutional right to due process. Not only do these prisoners not have any disciplinary charges, but IGI is intimidating and harassing them into fabricating information to avoid false gang validations. This is illegal and upsetting. As a citizen of the state of California, I fund your paycheck, and I expect more from a state employee than to allow these gross violations of the Constitution to happen right under your nose.
Studies prove time and time again that prisoners who have contact with their family are able to rehabilitate much better than those who are isolated. They are better able to adjust to society when they are released, and avoid being sent back to prison. It is completely irresponsible that you would permit IGI to cause this potential damage in a person’s life, when they are supposed to be allowed these privileges.
Since you are the Warden of Pelican Bay State Prison, I am asking that you intervene in these illegal and irresponsible practices going on in short-corridor Group D. Please allow the prisoners held there their full privileges according to CDCR policies, and end the harassment and intimidation of prisoners, especially ones who have no information, and no disciplinary actions.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I also thank you for your future efforts to resolve this problem.
Allow me to first salute and extend my comradely blessings to those who have evolved in realization that unification and commonality is the one and only true efficient vehicle for our struggle towards liberation. However, being that this is my first entry this article will be contributed to the topic of unity and peace.
As I reside in the Maryland prison system, I can only speak on the assessment of this region, and a lack of unity and peace amongst the prison class has established a stronghold throughout the many institutions. We have an environment littered with opposing groups which historically have common origins that share the same vision and cause. Somewhere along the timeline they have gotten away from a political platform geared towards revamping the conditions of the lower and lumpen classes of society. They have swayed away from the real opposition, which as a result has plagued the prison community by creating these mentalities and groups of mass destruction. That is why I support and believe that the collective conscious minds need to manufacture a united front to combat the fatuous and self-destructive mind-state which has been a detriment for too long.
Nevertheless, from what I've evaluated, I believe before we can consolidate to one unit we need to focus on peace. Without peace amongst the many power structures there can't be unity. In order to establish peace there must be a certain height of maturity amongst the leadership in these regimes to conceive the significance and dire need to unify and stand for a common purpose. Personal growth and development must be acquired for one to widen their lens to envision the benefits of this objective. Only once this level of growth is reached between the leadership can they exert their influence and pass down the educational curriculum necessary to manifest/cultivate a paradigm shift emulating a united mission. Only then can we extirpate (root out) the infantile foolishness, the individualistic agendas, and breed a sound social atmosphere. Of course I've given thought that there may be renegade members within the groups who refuse to adhere to the cause, but I'm a firm believer of operating with an iron fist, and we need to weed out those who neglect to contribute and continue to destroy. Some may associate this statement with radical theory. But I believe considering the words can't produce the same results as action.
Moreover, once we build on this foundation of peace we can then move in the direction of unity. It is imperative that we have unification, because without the strength of unity we dis-empower ourselves. Every movement which has gained its liberation derived from uniting the people for a common cause. We injure our purpose by our ignorance and succumbing to the psychological tactics of divide and conquer. While our ignorance continues to serve as strength and energy to this system which governs us all, we will continue to wallow in this cycle of repression. So, yes I do believe peace and unity are the essence of true liberation, and probably the last remaining alternative for improvement. I admire this attempt for international unity, this alarming call for a united front, and as a member of The New Man Corp, you have my support.
Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings by James Yaki Sayles Kersplebedeb and Spear & Shield Publications 2010
Available for $20 + shipping/handling from: Kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
"THE BOOK IS ABOUT HOW THE "WRETCHED" can transform themselves into the ENLIGHTENED and the SELF-GOVERNING!! If you don't take anything else away with your reading of [The Wretched of the Earth], you must take this."(p.381)
Like many of the books reviewed in Under Lock & Key, Meditations On Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth is written by someone who spent most of his adult life in a U.$. prison. That there are so many such books these days speaks to the growing plague of the mass incarceration experiment that is the U.$. injustice system. The content of many of these books speaks to the development of the consciousness of this growing class of people in the belly of the beast. While of the lumpen class, they differ from the subjects of Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth in both their incarceration and their First World status. And while great thinkers are among them, their ideas are reflected in the general prison population superficially at best. The need for the development of mass consciousness (one based in revolutionary nationalism, and an understanding of how to think, not what to think) and the project of oppressed people taking their destinies in their own hands make up the main theme of this book.
Wretched has greatly influenced many in our circles, and is itself a book highly recommended by MIM(Prisons). It is of particular interest in being perhaps the most complete and accurate discussion of the lumpen-proletariat that we've read to date. While not completely applicable to conditions in the United $tates, it is even more relevant to the growing numbers of displaced Third World people living in slums and refugee camps than when it was first written. For the most part, Yaki discusses Wretched as it applies to the oppressed nations of the United $tates, in particular New Afrika.
The four-part meditations on Wretched make up the bulk of the book. The introduction to this section is an attempt to break down The Wretched of the Earth for a modern young audience. In it the author stresses the importance of rereading theoretical books to fully grasp them. He also stresses that the process of studying and then understanding the original and complex form of such works (as opposed to a summary or cheat sheet) is itself transformative in developing one's confidence and abilities. At no stage of revolutionary transformation are there shortcuts. The only way to defend the struggle from counter-revolutionaries is to thoroughly raise the consciousness of the masses as a whole. "Get away from the idea that only certain people or groups can be 'intellectual,' and think about everyone as 'intellectual.'"(p.192) And as he concludes in part two of the Meditations, We often forget that our whole job here is to transform humyn beings.
The National Question
As part four of the meditations trails off into unfinished notes due to Yaki's untimely death, he is discussing the need for national culture and history. He echoes Fanon's assertion that national culture must be living and evolving, and not what the Panthers criticized as "pork chop nationalism." He discusses the relevance of pre-colonial histories, as well as the struggles of oppressed nations during the early years of colonization, to counter the Euro-Amerikan story that starts with them rescuing the oppressed nation from barbarity. These histories are important, but they are history. Sitting around dressed in Egyptian clothing or speaking Nahuatl aren't helping the nation. It is idealism to skip over more recent history of struggles for self-reliance and self-determination in defiance of imperialism.
We don't even need to go back to ancient times to identify histories that have been lost and hidden; many of us don't even know our recent past. Recording the little-known history of the "wretched" of the richest country in the world is the first step to understanding how we got here and how we can move forward. We are working on this with a number of comrades as an important step to developing national (and class) consciousness.(1)
Yaki agrees with the MIM line that nation is the most important contradiction today, while presenting a good understanding of the class contradictions that underlay and overlap with nation. Recently, debates in another prison-based journal, 4StruggleMag, have questioned the relevance of nationalism as the basis of revolutionary organizing; taking an essentially Trotskyist view, but justifying it via "new" conditions of globalization.(2) Really the theory of globalization is just one aspect of Lenin's theory of imperialism. The author, critiquing nationalism, discusses that nations themselves were a modern concept that united many groups that were once separated by culture and land. This was true for the nation-states of europe that united internally and the nations of the colonial world that were united by their common oppression under european domination. It was in this colonial relationship, and specifically with the demands of imperialism, that nations solidified in dialectical relationship to each other: oppressor vs. oppressed.
Yaki disagrees with the reading of history that sees nations as a modern construct. He stresses the importance of recognizing that oppressed nations existed as people with rich cultures before europeans drew up national boundaries based on colonial land claims (ie. Egypt, China, Maya). While true, talking about "nations" that predate capitalism is similar to talking about the "imperialism" of the Roman empire. For followers of Lenin, empire does not equal imperialism. Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism; an economic system forced by the extreme accumulation of capital that requires its export to other people (nations) to maintain profit rates, without which capitalism will not continue to produce (one of its inherent contradictions and flaws).
When we talk about nations, we are talking about imperialist class relations; the relations of production and distribution under the economic system of imperialism (which is not more than a couple hundred years old). More specifically, we are talking about a system where whole nations oppress and exploit other nations. While different classes exist within each nation, these questions are secondary to the global class analysis in the period of imperialism. To answer the anti-nationalist author in 4StruggleMag who claims nationalism never led to liberation, or to internationalism, we refer to socialist China, the most advanced movement for the liberation of people from capitalism to date in humyn history. Even within the confines of this imperialist country, the most advanced movement took nationalist form in the Black Panther Party.
Any theoretical questioning of the relevance of the nation to revolutionary anti-capitalism must address the nature of imperialism. Within the United $tates the lines between oppressor and oppressed nation have weakened, particularly on the question of exploitation. This provides a material basis for questioning the relevance of nationalism within our movements here. As Yaki wrote, "here, in the seat of empire, even the 'slaves' are 'petty-bourgeois,' and our poverty is not what it would be if We didn't in a thousand ways also benefit from the spoils of the exploitation of peoples throughout the world. Our passivity wouldn't be what it is if not for our thinking that We have something to lose..."(p.188) But globally, the contradictions between nations continue to heighten, and there is no basis for debate over whether nation remains the principal contradiction.
As we said, nations, like all things in the world, are dialectical in nature. That means they constantly change. There is nothing to say that nations will not expand as implied by the globalization argument, but this will not eliminate the distinction between exploiter and exploited nations.
While we won't try to address the relevance of revolutionary nationalism within the United $tates definitively here, Yaki is very adamant about the need for an understanding of the internal class structure of the internal semi-colonies. And as different as conditions were in revolutionary Algeria, many of the concepts from Wretched apply here as Yaki demonstrates. "[D]on't We evidence a positive negation of common sense as We, too, try to persuade ourselves that colonialism and capitalist exploitation and alienation don't exist? Don't We, too, grab hold of a belief in fatality (very common among young people these days)? And, what about OUR myths, spirits and magical/metaphysical superstructure? In our context, We employ conspiracy theories, the zodiac and numerology, Kente cloth and phrases from ancient languages; We invoke the power of a diet and the taboo of certain animals as food products."
Those studying the class structure within the oppressed nations, New Afrikan or not, within the United $tates will find much value in Yaki's writings. Even in the introduction, the editors remind us that, at the very least, revolutionary nationalism was a powerful force in our recent history. For example, in 1969 Newsweek found that 27% of northern Black youth under 30 "would like a separate Black nation."(p.19) And in the 1960s communist teens from the Black Disciples organized comrades from various gangs to defend Black homes in other parts of Illinois from drive-by shootings by the White Citizens Council and their backers in local police departments.(p.16) In the same period, when Malcolm X was alive and pushing a no-compromise revolutionary nationalist line on its behalf, the Nation of Islam had reached over 200,000 members.(p.18) Shortly thereafter, a majority of Blacks in the United $tates felt that the Black Panther Party represented their interests. When we look around today and ask whether New Afrikan nationalism has any revolutionary basis, we cannot ignore these recent memories.
Class, then Back to Nation
In his essay, On Transforming the Colonial and "Criminal" Mentality, Yaki addresses George Jackson's discussion of the potential in the lumpen versus their actual consciousness, which parallel's Marx's point about humyns consciously determining their own conditions and Lenin's definition of the masses as the conscious minority of the larger proletariat, which as a class is a potentially revolutionary force.(3) He quotes a critique of Eldridge Cleaver's line on the lumpen, which glorified organized crime. The critique argues that organized crime has its interests in the current system, and it is a carrot provided to the internal semi-colonies by imperialism. MIM(Prisons) looks to organized crime to find an independent national bourgeoisie (such as Larry Hoover, whose targeting by the state is mentioned in the book's introduction), but many are compradors as well, working with the imperialists to control the oppressed for them. This is even more true where the state has more influence (i.e. prison colonies).
While Yaki's focus on consciousness is consistent with Maoism, we have some differences with his application. Yaki, and his ideological camp, disagree with George Jackson and the MIM line that all prisoners are political. The state is a political organization, serving a certain class interest. We say all prisoners are political to break the common misperception people have that they are in prison because they did something wrong. Yaki's point about the lumpen is that if they don't turn around, understand the conditions that brought them there and then work to transform those conditions, then they are no use to the liberation struggle, and they are therefore not worthy of the term "political prisoner." He argues that to allow those with bourgeois ideas to call themselves a "political prisoner" dilutes the term. His camp uses "captive colonial" to refer to the New Afrikan imprisoned by Amerika regardless of one's ideology. That is a fine term, but by redefining the commonly used "political prisoner" from its narrow petty bourgeois definition, we push the ideological struggle forward by reclaiming popular language. In our view, "political prisoner" does not represent a group with a coherent ideology, just as "proletariat" does not.
Yaki puts a lot of weight on ideology when he defines nation as a "new unity" as well by saying, "[t]o me, being a 'New Afrikan' is not about the color of one's skin, but about one's thought and practice."(p.275) While skin color is an unscientific way to categorize people, we would caution that there are in fact material factors that define a nation; it's not just how we identify as individuals. Saying it is only about thought and practice leaves open the possibility of forming nations along lines of sexual preference, colors, favorite sports teams - lines that divide neighbors in the same community facing the same conditions. On the flip side, it creates space for the white-washing of national liberation movements by denying the group level oppression that the oppressor nation practices against the oppressed. To say that nations are fluid, ever-changing things is not to say that we can define them based purely on ideas in our heads and have them be meaningful.
Yaki Offers Much Knowledge
The use of the term "meditations" in the title is indicative of Yaki's approach, which clearly promotes a deep study of the material as well as making connections that lead to applying concepts to current situations. It is not a study guide in the traditional style of review questions and summaries. It does provide a critical analysis of the race-based interpretations of Fanon, such as that in Fanon for Beginners, which make it a valuable counter-measure to such bourgeois work.
His stress on hard work to build a solid foundation leads him to an agreeable line on armed struggle in contrast to others we have studied from the same ideological camp. On the back of the book, Sanyika Shakur quotes the author as saying, "i'd rather have one cadre free than 100 ak-47's" after Shakur was imprisoned again, related to possession of an assault rifle. Shakur writes, "t took me years to overstand & appreciate that one sentence." Discipline is something the revolutionary lumpen must develop, and taking a serious, meditative approach to study can help do just that.
In his essay, Malcolm X: Model of Personal Transformation, Yaki concludes, "We can go through the motions of changing our lives... but the test of the truth comes when the prison doors are opened, or, when otherwise We're confronted with situations which test our characters." (p.118)
Yaki was a New Afrikan revolutionary and a Prisoner of War. As part of the post-Panther era, Yaki reflects realistically on security questions, pointing out that it's too late to start instituting security measures after Martial Law has been enacted. From reading this book, everything you can gather about Yaki builds an impression of seriousness and commitment to our cause. In this way, this book is more than just a useful study guide for understanding and applying Fanon's ideas; it is an exemplary model for revolutionaries to help develop their own practice.