I'd like to comment on special needs yards and the lack of revolutionaries therein. I am on such a unit, except here in Oregon they call them mental health units. Of course there is also protective custody but, I'm not addressing PC units in this letter.
I am a former racist skinhead who left the movement decades ago. Since then I began a movement to get others out of the white supremacist movement by educating them on issues of white privilege, aspects of class war and anti-imperialism. I was extremely successful and my efforts have been recognized at a national level. Someone needed to come forward to educate these misguided individuals. I did. Now I pay the price.
As the result of some robberies I was sent to prison. Almost immediately I was recognized and repeatedly attacked while staff lied and covered up a conspiracy to keep me on mainline knowing I had received several valid death threats. Finally I was moved to an institution where I could walk mainline and placed on a "mental health" unit. I am on such a unit because I am a revolutionary. Now I am in a system where often the line between the white power groups and the guards is blurred. In a white privileged and dominated imperialist nation what more could one expect?
Everyone in the Oregon DOC is too busy fighting one another to join together to accomplish anything and it is my experience that there are just as many rats and snitches on mainline units as there are in the "mental health" units here in Oregon. The mentally dead are everywhere. You find them not only amongst the ranks of snitches or rats but, also in those who are brainwashed into believing in the false theory of race or racial superiority.
It is not until whites of the lumpen can realize the privilege the color of their skin affords them in the united states and throw away the doctrine of race or racial superiority that we can join ranks with our brothers and sisters and truly become revolutionaries in the non-violent struggle to end oppression in the U.S. and the doctrine of oppressive imperialism our nation forces upon the innocents of the Third World.
Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Featuring Exchanges with an Outlaw by Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Minister of Defense, New Afrikan Black Panther Party- Prison Chapter December 2010 Kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
also available from: AK Press 674-A 23rd Street Oakland, CA 94612
This book centers around the political dialogue between two revolutionary New Afrikan prisoners. The content is very familiar to MIM(Prisons) and will be to our readers. It is well-written, concise and mostly correct. Therefore it is well worth studying.
Rashid's book is also worth studying alongside this review to better distinguish the revisionist line of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) with the MIM line. While claiming to represent a dialectal materialist assessment of the world we live in, the camp that includes the NABPP-PC, and Tom Big Warrior's (TBW) Red Heart Warrior Society have dogmatically stuck to positions on the oppression and exploitation of Amerikans that have no basis in reality. We will take some space to address this question at the end, as it has not been thoroughly addressed in public to our knowledge.
Both Rashid and Outlaw preface their letters with their own autobiographies. Rashid's in particular is an impressive, almost idealized story of lumpen turned proletarian revolutionary. The simple principle that guides him through prison life is standing up to the pigs every time they violate a prisoner. At times he has inspired those around him to the point that the pigs can't get away with anything. The problem, he later points out, is the others are inspired by him as an individual. So when he was moved, or sent to a control unit, their unity crumbled.
At first, control units seemed an effective tool to control his resistance. But it is then that he found revolutionary theory. Rather than stay focused on combating minor behavior issues of the COs, he began to learn about societies that didn't have cops and prisons, and societies where the people rose up to transform the whole economic system. It is through ideology that you can build lasting unity that can't be destroyed by transfers and censorship.
Both Rashid and Outlaw conclude their autobiographies saying they have nothing to lose. They are two examples of the extreme repression felt by the lumpen of the oppressed nations. As a result, state terrorism no longer works to intimidate them, leaving them free to serve the people.
Democratically Centralized Organizing
In the foreword, Russell "Maroon" Shoats says his reason for not joining the NABPP-PC was that it claimed to operate under democratic centralism, which he believes is impossible for prisoners. We agree with his assessment, which is why we do not invite prisoners to join MIM(Prisons) even when their work and ideological development would otherwise warrant it. The benefits of having a tight cadre organization are lost when its inner workings are wide open to the pigs. Maroon points out that certain leaders will end up with absolute power (with the pigs determining who leads, we might add), and much resources are wasted just trying to maintain the group.
For the most part, there is nothing a comrade could do within prison as a member of MIM(Prisons) that they can't do as a member of USW. There is much work to be done to develop this mass organization, and we need experienced and ideologically trained comrades to lead it. When the situation develops to the point of having local cadre level organizations within a prison, then we would promote the cell structure, where democratic centralism can occur at a local level, just as we do on the outside.
In the last essay of the book, Rashid finally answers Maroon by saying that the NABPP-PC is a pre-party that will become real (along with its democratic centralism) outside of prisons.
The Original Black Panther Party
The main criticism of the original Black Panther Party (BPP) in Rashid's essay on organizational structure is their failure to distinguish between the vanguard party and the mass organization. Connected to this was a failure to practice democratic centralism. How could they when they were signing up members fresh off the street? These new recruits shouldn't have the same say as Huey Newton, but neither should Huey Newton alone dictate what the party does. We agree with Rashid that the weakness of the BPP came from these internal contradictions, which allowed the FBI to destroy it so quickly.(p. 353)
It's not clear how this assessment relates to an earlier section where he implies that an armed mass base and better counterintelligence would have protected the BPP. Rashid criticizes MIM's line, as he sees it, that a Black revolutionary party cannot operate above ground in the United $tates today.(p. 133) Inexplicably, 15 pages later he seems to agree with MIM by stating that Farrakhan would have to go underground or be killed the next day if he opposed capitalism and promoted real New Afrikan independence.
He also criticizes MIM on armed struggle and their assessment of George Jackson's foco theory. Mao applied Sun Tzu's Art of War to the imperialist countries to say that revolutionaries should not engage in armed struggle until their governments are truly helpless. Rashid says that he agrees with MIM's criticism of the Cuban model that lacked a mass base for revolution. But he supports George Jackson's "variant of urban-based focos, emphasiz[ing] that a principal purpose of revolutionary armed struggle is to not only destroy the enemy's forces, but to protect the political work and workers…"(p.134) He goes on to criticize MIM for a "let's wait" line that ends up promoting a bloodless revolution in his view.
He complains that the U.$. military was already overextended (in 2004) and MIM was "still just talking." But Mao defined the point to switch strategies as when "the bourgeoisie becomes really helpless, [and] the majority of the proletariat are determined to rise in arms and fight…" MIM(Prisons) agrees with Mao's military strategy, and one would have to be in a dream world to imply that either of these conditions have been reached, despite the level of U.$. military involvement abroad. Rashid is saying that we need armed struggle regardless of conditions to defend our political wing. Despite his successes with using force to defend the masses in prison, we do not think this translates to conditions in general society. Guerrilla theory that tells us to only fight battles we know we can win also says not to take up defensive positions around targets that we can't defend.
Another criticism made by Rashid is that the BPP didn't enforce a policy of members committing class suicide, and he seems to criticize their self-identification as a "lumpen" party in 1970 and 1971. Interestingly, he foresees a "working-class-conscious petty bourgeois" leading the New Afrikan liberation struggle.(p.232) He comes down left of the current New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP) line by condemning the call for independent Black capitalism as unrealistic, and requiring the petty bourgeoisie to commit class suicide as well.(p.177) Whether the vanguard is more petty bourgeois or lumpen in origin is a minor point, but we mention all this to ask why all the class suicide if all Amerikans are so exploited and oppressed as he claims elsewhere (see below)?
Tom Big Warrior
In contrast to Rashid, except for some superficial mentions of Maoist terminology, we don't have much agreement with Tom Big Warrior (TBW) in his introduction or his afterword to this book. In both, he states that the principal contradiction in the world is internal to the U.$. empire, and it is between its need to consolidate hegemony and the chaos it creates. This implies a theory where imperialism is collapsing internally, and will be taken down by chaos rather than the conscious rising of the oppressed nations as MIM(Prisons) believes. He speaks favorably of intercommunalism, as has Rashid who once wrote that "the old definitions of nationalism no longer apply." We see intercommunalism as an ultra-left line that undermines the approach of national liberation struggles.
Speaking for the NABPP-PC on page 380, TBW states that they want a Comintern to direct revolutionaries around the world. We oppose a new Comintern, following in the footsteps of MIM, Mao and Stalin. In the past, TBW has taken up other erroneous lines of the rcp=u$a such as accusing Third World nations of "Muslim fascism." He also talks out of both sides of his mouth like Bob Avakian about Amerikan workers benefiting from imperialism, but also being victims of it. He has openly attacked the MIM line as being "crazy," while admitting to have never studied it. This is the definition of idealism, when one condemns theories based on what one desires to be the truth.
Wait, Are Whites Revolutionary?
After reading this book, you might ask yourself that question. Comrades have already asked this question of NABPP-PC and TBW in the past and received a clear answer of "yes." This debate is old. The former Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) had it with the so-called "Revolutionary Communist Party (USA)" (rcp=u$a), among others, for decades before denouncing them as a CIA front. Interestingly, Rashid and TBW both like to quote Bob Avakian but fail to provide an assessment or criticism of the rcp=u$a line in this 386 page volume.
Most of these writings predate the formation of the NABPP-PC, but are presented in a book with the NABPP-PC's name on it, so we will take it as representative of their line. The history of struggle with the MIM camp dates back to the original writing of much of the material presented in this book. Comrades in the MIM camp, including United Struggle from Within, the emerging NAMP, and a comrade who went on to help found MIM(Prisons) engaged in debates with all of the leading members of the party, as well as TBW, shortly after their formation.
The point is that not only had at least two of the NABPP-PC's leaders studied MIM line prior to forming their own, but they openly opposed this line following their formation. While not addressed directly, it seems that the only line dividing the NABPP-PC from joining the rcp=u$a is its belief in the need for a separate vanguard for the New Afrikan nation.
Contradictory Class Analyses: Economics
On pages 205-6 Outlaw asks Rashid:
"But from your analysis of these classes who do you consider to be the most revolutionary, considering the majority of workers in empire are complacent to some degree or another, due to the international class relationships of empire to the Third World nations, and the conveniences proletarians, and even lumpen-proletarians, are afforded as a result of that international situation and relationship?"
Rashid responds on pages 208-9 by stating that our class analysis is "mandatory for waging any successful resistance" but that he is only able to give a general analysis due to his lack of access to information. He does say:
"[T]he US is neither a majority peasant nor proletarian society. It is principally petty bourgeoisie. It has an over 80% service-based economy… So the US proletarian class is small and growing increasingly so, while the world proletariat is growing and becoming increasingly multi-ethnic."
On page 122 he also upholds this line that all non-productive workers are petty bourgeois, and not exploited proletarians. On page 232 he expands this analysis to explain the relationship between the imperialist nations, who are predominantly petty bourgeois, and the Third World that is mostly exploited. But in a footnote he takes it all back saying, "modern technological advances have broadened the scope of the working class" and clearly states, "[t]he predominantly service sector US working class is in actuality part of the proletarian class." He justifies this by saying that the income of these service workers is no different than the industrial proletariat. Yet he takes an obviously chauvinist approach of only comparing incomes of Amerikans. The real industrial proletariat is in the Third World and makes a small fraction of what Amerikan so-called "workers" do.
We agree that it is dogmatic to say this persyn is proletariat because she makes the tools and this persyn is not because she cleans the factory. But this is a minor point. The real issue is that whole countries, such as the United $tates, are not self-sustainable, but are living on the labor and resources of other nations. A country that is made up of mostly service workers cannot continue to pay all its people without exploiting wealth from somewhere else, since only the productive labor creates value.
A less disputed line put forth by Rashid and TBW is that U.$. prisoners are exploited. We have put forth our thesis debunking the exploitation myth, and exposing the prison system as an example of the parasitic "service" economy built on the sweat and blood of the Third World.(see ULK 8) More outrageously, in an article on the 13th Amendment, Rashid says that over 1/2 of Amerikans are currently "enslaved" by capitalism. This article contains some unrealistic claims, such as that no one could possibly enjoy working in the imperialist countries, and that these workers do not have freedom of mobility. Over half of Amerikans own homes. Not only are these alleged "slaves" landowners, but in the modern imperialist economy real estate has become more closely related to finance capital in a way that super-profits are gained by owning real estate in the First World. (see ULK 17)
Both Rashid and Outlaw demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between imperialist countries and the Third World, with Rashid going so far to say that reparations to New Afrika outside of a war against imperialism would mean more exploitation of the proletariat. While contradictory, Rashid's economic analysis in the original letters is more correct than not. In his treatment of history we will see more confusion, and perhaps some reasons why he ended up finding the "multi-national working class" to be the necessary vehicle for revolution in the United $tates despite his focus on single-nation organizing.
Contradictory Class Analyses: History
While repeatedly recalling the history of poor whites becoming slave catchers, marking the first consolidation of the white nation, Rashid lists "join[ing] their struggle up with the Israeli working class" as one of the strategies that would have led to greater success for Hamas.(p.50) This schizophrenic approach to the settler nations is present throughout the book. He echoes J. Sakai on Bacon's Rebellion, but then discards the overall lessons of Sakai's book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat. While Sakai argued that these poor, former indentured servants had joined the oppressor nation in 1676, Rashid argues that modern-day Israelis and Amerikans, most of whom are in the top 10% income bracket globally, are exploited proletarians and allies in the struggle for a communist future.
Later in the book he goes so far as to say that white "right-wing militias, survivalists and military hobbyists" are "potential allies" who "have a serious beef with imperialist monopoly capitalism." This issue came to the forefront with the "anti-globalization" movement in the later 1990s. Both MIM and J. Sakai(1) led the struggle to criticize the anti-imperialist anarchists for following the lead of the white nationalist organizations calling for Amerikan protectionism. These groups are the making of a fascist movement in the United $tates which is why the distinction between exploited and exploiter nations is so important.
In the discussion of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) we gain some insight into Rashid's contradictory lines on who our friends and enemies are. Here he correctly explains that European countries bought off their domestic populations with wealth from the Third World, to turn those working classes against the Third World workers and peasants. But his turn from the MIM line takes place in attempting to address the strategy of the RNA. He sees a strong danger of neo-colonialism in the RNA struggle for national liberation, as happened in the numerous liberation struggles in Africa itself. So he talks about how ultimately we want a world without nations, so let's put class first to solve this problem (and he assumes most white Amerikans are proletariat). This is an ultraleft error of getting ahead of conditions. He goes on to say that the imperialists would easily turn the white population against a minority New Afrikan liberation movement trying to seize the Black Belt South. Here you have a rightist justification for pragmatism.
This is not to dismiss either of those concerns, which are very real. But his solution in both cases is based in a faulty class analysis. This book paraphrases Mao to point out that your class analysis is your starting point, and that your political line determines your success. Liquidating a New Afrikan revolutionary movement into a white class struggle over superprofits will not succeed in achieving his stated goals of a world without oppression. While the original Black Panthers themselves put forth different class analyses of Amerika at various points, they proved in practice that developing strong Black nationalism will bring out those sectors of the white population who are sympathetic. We must not cater to the majority of white people, but to the world's majority of people.
Dangers of Revisionism
The danger of revisionism is that it works to lead good potential recruits away from the revolutionary cause, both setting back the movement and discouraging others. The fact that Rashid sounds like MIM half the time in this book makes it more likely he will attract those with more scientific outlooks. We think those familiar with MIM Theory, or who have at least read this review could find this book both useful and interesting. However, the NABPP-PC and TBW are actively promoting a number of incorrect lines under the Panther banner, to the very people who need the Panthers' correct example of Maoism the most. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and it is far beyond time that we bring these criticisms into the open to advance the ideological understanding of the whole movement.
Black-on-Black crime, I see it all the time, Why come brothers hurting each other, instead of loving one another?; _______Every Black person ain't Black, _______Black is where the heart is at. Black-on-Black violence, I see it steadily destroying us, Why come Black people keep killing each other, instead of helping and protecting one another?; _______Every Black person ain't Black, _______Black is where the heart is at. Black people betraying themselves and each other, Always disrespecting, lying, stealing and cheating one another, Why come brothers can't work it out? Psychological warfare, mind control and genocide is what I'm really talking about; _______Every Black person ain't Black, _______Black is where the heart is at. Brothers not wanting peace and reconciliation, Only helping the enemy (racism, capitalism, and imperialism) to oppress the Black Nation; Black love, Black reconciliation and Black redemption is what we work for and need, Brothers and sisters join in and defeat our enemies. _______Every Black person ain't Black, _______Black is where the heart is at. Black people wake up to what's really going on, don't be deceived by the integrationist song; In a white capitalist democracy, A Black minority will never be accepted or treated equal by a white majority. _______Every Black person ain't Black, _______Black is where the heart is at. Black unity, Black pride and Black power is what our ancestors loudly proclaimed, Let us uphold this legacy and proclaim today the same darn thing; This is what we owe our ancestors, future generations, ourselves and each other. True commitment to the Black liberation struggle will allow us to do nothing other; _______Every Black person ain't Black, _______Black is where the heart is at. Divided we fall, together we stand, Black power and Black nationalism is our true call and demand; And keep world liberation as our primary goal. Let those present convey the message to those who are absent, _______Every Black person ain't Black, _______Black is where the heart is at.
I am at DCSO in Tennessee. One of my pod-mates receives your publication, Under Lock & Key, and it has attracted a lot of attention. The line to read it has become so long and complex, I decided to write to you and request my own personal subscription. I've always been interested in subversive politics and your newsletter gives me a lot to think about. Also I am willing to write articles for future publications in exchange for a chance to take part in your free book program.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Don't get stuck waiting in a long line for Under Lock & Key. Or worse yet, get moved to a new prison where you can't get at ULK at all. Write to us today to get your own subscription!
Forcing humans to work for free - a term better known as slavery - was abolished in America almost 150 years ago. Most know slavery still exists in 'less civilized' parts of the world, but to consider this abominable treatment of people to be ongoing in our country is unheard of. Perhaps it's because few know. Well down in Texas, the business of slavery is brisk. When told of this fact, the average American is certain to express shock and demand to know the details. Upon being informed that prisoners in Texas work for free, most are happy to let out a sigh of relief and lose interest in the subject. So, in essence, forced labor for no pay is tolerated. Because the ones involved are convicted criminals seems to make this practice okay.
But is this really okay? Shouldn't prisoners be compensated for their labor like everyone else is? Prisoners in other states are, so why not Texas? Shouldn't they be able to provide for themselves while in prison and their families on the outside? As a prisoner(or "offender" as we're called) in a Texas prison, I well know that if you're not fortunate enough to have someone sending you money to purchase items from commissary, you're SOL, as the state only provides the bare essentials. Concerning hygiene, once a week (if you're lucky), you get one roll of toilet paper, a disposable razor, tooth powder and soap. Maybe four times a year toothbrushes are issued. That's it! Deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, t-shirts, shower sandals, writing paper, etc., you gotta buy. Even a personal cup to drink out of and a bowl and spoon to eat with are not free. But how can you buy something if you don't have the money? For those who pay child support the fees don't stop when they become incarcerated. But how do you pay when you work for free? Something to think about.
In addition to maintaining the prisons themselves, offenders toil long hours in TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) sweatshops under the guise of TCI (Texas Correctional Industries), which manufactures everything from furniture to mattresses to cleaning supplies. Many of these products are sold to outside agencies and the private sector at a profit, not to mention the t-shirts, shorts, socks, thermals, shampoo and liquid detergent offenders make, that TDCJ turns around and sells to us through the prison commissaries. Considering their labor is free, it's safe to assume the state's profit margins are great. What Wal-Mart, or say, IBM, wouldn't give to have a complimentary workforce.
TDCJ officials will be quick to say that offenders may not receive actual money to work, but are paid with good time and work time. Not entirely true. Those serving sentences for aggravated crimes are not eligible for good time and work time (even though they work like everyone else). Nonviolent criminals such as myself do earn these time credits, but they are often not honored. So what's the point in even allowing them to be earned in the first place?
It's like working for someone who says they're going to pay you so much for your labor at the first of every month. You work all month for this employer and fulfill your end of the agreement. At this time, your boss says "Oh, I decided not to pay you. But keep working for free, maybe I'll pay you next month." For the most part, that is what's happening to prisoners in Texas. What a shame it is. With my earned time credits, I have five and a half years done on a three year sentence, yet I'm still in prison. My projected release date was February 1st of last year (when my total time credits equaled a hundred percent of my sentence), but it was still denied by the parole board - despite being a model prisoner. Rumor has it, the parole board often denies prisoners who stay out of trouble and demonstrate reform. Why? For "manipulating the system." So I guess those who act up have a better chance of getting out early. Perhaps I should start being a troublemaker, might help me make parole the next time I come up.
Many prisoners in the Lone Star State put in years, and decades even, of thankless free labor for the state. Upon release from prison they are rewarded with a bus ticket and one hundred dollars. Some of these ex-cons have no family and no place to go. How far can one get towards rebuilding a new life on a C-Note? In this year of 2011 I wouldn't say very far. A one night's stay in a cheap motel, set of thrift store clothes and a few fast food meals at the most. I suppose us in the big house can consider ourselves lucky. Those serving state jail time in such TDCJ facilities, must work for free also, and all serve their sentences day for day; but when released, they get not a dime. If they have no one to pick them up, they are dropped off at the nearest homeless shelter. Broke, unemployed, and with nothing but the clothes on their back, they're basically being set up for failure. What are the odds of them returning to crime? Great I'd say.
There's the saying, "Texas is like a whole other country." I agree completely when it comes to criminal justice. Not only do other states pay their prisoners to work, good time and work time is guaranteed. Is there a correlation between the Texas prison mass slavery operation and its high recidivism rate? Highly likely. This too is something to think about.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner points out some important facts about the labor situation in Texas. As we've reported elsewhere the labor situation in prisons throughout this country is similar to what's described here. But the prison system in this country is not the same as the economic system of slavery. Prisons are a tool of social control rather than a way of exploiting labor.
Class hatred's what i'm spewing, because class hatred's what they're doing "The beginning of all wisdom," that's what Lenin said The beginning of the end, that's what i say.
Take a look around and realize your role Take a look around and put the shit on hold Become the vehicle of expression and make your weight felt Too much practical knowledge to practically ignore.
Fuck a cop in killa Cali! Is that all you saying? Fuck that! Our histories got much more weight than that!
Power to the People! And all that good shit Fair distribution & fuck the land sent! From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs For a world without oppression, this is what we should strive for, this is what we need This is what we should fight for, not against each other.
Putting it down on the underground, above ground United in a Movement, a United Front.
Black & Brown, and white too, if you're progressive, for that matter, Black & Brown if you're progressive.
Because we can never go nowhere if we don't get together United in a front; hence progressive.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
We have to give props to a kids' movie that can portray an anti-fascist struggle, while downplaying the glamor of war. Soren is a young owl who dreams of meeting his heroes, the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, who are legendary for defending the owls against evil forces. He and his brother Kludd are kidnapped by the fascist owls, "The Pure Ones", who recruit a select few from their species of owls to join their army and enslave all other species of owls. Soren escapes and flees to find the Guardians for help while his brother joins the Nazi owls.
Soren's journey to the Guardians requires him to learn to fly and take a difficult trip with a few fellow travelers who believe in the mission. As the Guardians gather information and prepare for battle with the fascists they learn that one of their leaders is working for the enemy and has betrayed them. This is a good lesson in the need for vigilance against spies and turncoats in the anti-fascist struggle.
Kludd's decision to join the fascists is played as a simplistic need for recognition after a childhood of struggling to achieve next to his brother. But this is not so far off. Fascism appeals to people who are easily convinced that their lack of success can be overcome at the expense of others. In Amerika we have a large labor aristocracy who are paid more than the value of their labor with profits brought home from exploitation of Third World workers; these workers have a material interest in imperialism. Those who are in the lowest stratum of the labor aristocracy look around and see that they are not achieving the same wealth as their peers. This group of people are the most likely to go for fascist rhetoric that blames their failures on immigrants and Third World workers with promises of greater wealth for those who deserve it (i.e. the white nation). There was no labor aristocracy in The Owls of Ga'Hoole but the oppressed nations were represented by the different species of owls who, just by nature of birth, were considered inferior to "The Pure Ones."
When Soren meets the Guardians he gets to know one who is somewhat crazy and a bit of an outcast, only to learn that he was the heroic leader in previous battles. From this owl Soren learns that war is not all glamor and has real consequences. The decision to fight the fascists was taken seriously with this in mind.
For a kids' movie, Legend of the Guardians has a lot to offer, but we'd rather see the oppressed nations (or species in this case), organize to rise up and fight for themselves. The movie makes that impossible by drugging all the slaves and implying that the rest of the owls from other species were completely in the dark about the fascist plot to take over the world. This plot twist might have been possible if they had gone further and The Pure Ones struck out in battle so that other species realized what was happening.
That a group of heroic owls had to save the world and defeat the fascists was made somewhat better by their failure due to turncoat betrayal requiring Soren and his fellow travelers to join the battle and save the day. At least this reinforced that anyone could be a heroic part of the anti-fascist struggle, not just the special heroes of Ga'Hoole.
As we already know, control units are torture chambers where prisoners spend from 22 to 24 hours a day locked up in a tiny cell for long periods of time with a blinding light burning all day, with no educational or other kinds of programs and without proper medical and mental health attention. We are forced to live in here with the pigs oppressing us every day. These conditions are meant to break prisoners' mental states and spirit. They are oppression tools. Here I've seen prisoners give up and lose all hope, lose their mental states, harm, and even kill themselves. There's no doubt that these horrifying places affect the majority of prisoner's mental health. However, we can and should turn these torture chambers into our universities, for the betterment of ourselves and our oppressed comrades.
The first time I was placed in a control unit (here in Florida they are called close management units or CM) I did 2 years locked up in a tiny cell 24 hours a day. In my first few months I was wasting my time bullshitting, fighting and reading mind-killing fiction books. I was blind about the struggle - our struggle, oppressed against oppressor. Then, one day, a comrade handed me a book called "Last Man Standing" by Geronimo Pratt, a top member of the Black Panther Party. That book alone sparked the revolutionary in me and since then I haven't looked back. Then I met George Jackson, Mao, Lenin and Che among others. That's when I started shaping and organizing my ideals. When my family asked me if I needed money for canteen, I told them no. Instead I asked them to send me books on or by the above-mentioned comrades and I started studying full time.
Along the line a comrade gave me a copy of Under Lock & Key and I loved it. That boosted me up on the prison struggle. I started corresponding with MIM and after a while I began writing articles for them. The comrades at MIM(Prisons) supplied me with good and much needed studying material and I kept working hard on behalf of the struggle - our struggle. I've learned to discipline and organize myself in a way that I never thought possible. As I grew mentally and expanded my knowledge of the struggle, I shared it with others and helped awaken their consciousness.
I had access to nothing except what MIM(Prisons) sent me and my only opportunities to get out of my cell were when I had to see medical or mental health personnel and when we had recreation in a tiny dog pen and showers 3 times a week. Nevertheless, I refused all these. I thought - and still think - that by going to these I was throwing away time that I could use to study and put in work for the cause. I exercised and took bird baths in my cell. I studied even when the lights went out. I used a little bit of light that came in through the back window from a light pole that stood outside the building.
The pigs were used to going around doing their checks and seeing prisoners cuddled up in their beds doing nothing or just staring into space while talking to themselves. In fact, they like to see this because they know that they are breaking the prisoners' minds and fighting spirit. But they hated it when they walked by my cell and saw me sitting on the floor with all kinds of books, dictionaries, papers and pens scattered around me. They couldn't crack me, let alone break me, and that chewed at their insides. I wouldn't give them a chance. I was, and still am, going to fight them until the very end. If I can't fight them physically I will fight them with pen and paper by spreading the word of struggle and helping other oppressed people wake up consciously.
When I was close to being released to open population I told myself that if I started getting off track and losing my discipline I would return to CM on purpose to start disciplining myself all over again. When I was finally released in late 2009 people who knew me before wouldn't associate with me much because they couldn't relate to my new mindset. Fortunately I was able to wake some of them up and have them join forces in the struggle.
In my first prison, after my release from CM, I quickly formed a study group of nine comrades, of which the comrade who first introduced me to MIM(Prisons) was a part. However, the prison in which we were was extremely racist and oppressive and the pigs started targeting us. For being the group's spokesperson they considered me the leader and for that alone they ransacked and destroyed my personal property every time they got a chance, threatened me, then placed me in solitary confinement on false charges. Finally they transferred me to another prison.
At my next prison the pigs already knew about me, so as soon as I got there the searches and property destruction continued, but that didn't discourage me nor did it put a dent in my confidence. In a matter of weeks I had another study group going. But then, not even a year after my release from CM, I had an altercation with another prisoner who was a snitch for the pigs and was returned to CM where I currently find myself.
I have come to the conclusion that open population is not for me. It only takes too much of my study time. Study time that I need for when I get released back into society. Besides, in CM I don't have the pigs in my face all day. In open population there's a great chance that I harm one of them badly and catch more prison time. So I've decided to do my remaining 14 years in a solitary cell. This might be helpful for me, but it is not for everyone because not everyone understands and appreciates it like I do.
If you have no choice but to be in a control unit, don't waste your time bullshitting. Don't let these damn pigs break you. Turn the torture chamber in which you find yourself into your university. Read, study, and educate yourself. Subscribe to Under Lock & Key and other MIM(Prisons) material. If you don't have much material to study, whatever you do have study it over and over. You will be surprised by how much you can learn from reading the same thing over and over. I still have the first Under Lock & Key I ever read, which was given to me by that good comrade 3 years ago, and I still read it every once in a while. And every time I read it, I learn something new.
So comrades, wake up and get to studying. Show the pigs that you won't allow them to break you and that you are willing to fight, learn, struggle, and turn their torture chambers into your university. Just don't turn it into your mental and physical graveyard.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We're glad to see our work having such an impact on comrades in prison and we agree with the recommendations given for those in isolation. But keep in mind that control units exist in order to keep those who study away from the masses. A one-man university is nothing compared to running study groups and organizing sessions with a group of people. For those who are forced into isolation, Under Lock & Key is your connection to dialogue with the larger prison movement.
On November 28, WikiLeaks began releasing U.$. diplomatic cables that have been extremely embarrassing to the U.$. government and its allies. This resulted in increased persecution of the WikiLeaks site and staff, and an international debate about the role of websites like WikiLeaks. This story underscores the failure of mainstream media to do more than serve as a mouthpiece for the imperialists. But it also reveals the lengths to which imperialist governments will go to persecute activists and those causing damage to imperialism.
Humynity benefits from more availability of information about imperialism. As revolutionaries, we welcome the opportunity to expose U.$.-backed atrocities and the imperialists' back room deals. Meanwhile, the attacks on WikiLeaks and its staff present the opportunity to further expose the myth that capitalism = democracy. The basic premises of democracy include transparency of government and freedom of speech. While the communist government in China under Mao encouraged the people to criticize their leaders during the Cultural Revolution and went so far as to provide free paper and space to post big character posters to propagate free speech, the Amerikan government is doing all it can (in collaboration with other governments and capitalist corporations) to shut down the speech of those who are merely exposing facts.
WikiLeaks launched in 2007 to publish documents from anonymous sources that generally expose the actions of imperialist governments and their lackeys. WikiLeaks states that "One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth." On their website WikiLeaks summarizes the major stories they have broken; an impressive list of government and corporate corruption, brutality and war.(1) It has been particularly valuable in exposing U.$. atrocities in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As a result of their work exposing governments, corporations, and churches around the world, Wikileaks has faced significant persecution. According to their website, “Since formation in 2007, WikiLeaks has been victorious over every legal (and illegal) attack, including those from the Pentagon, the Chinese Public Security Bureau, the Former President of Kenya, the Premier of Bermuda, Scientology, the Catholic & Mormon Church, the largest Swiss private bank, and Russian companies.“(1) Julian Assange has taken the role of public spokespersyn and as such has faced dramatic persynal persecution, particularly after the release of the U.$. diplomatic cables.
What's the big deal about the U.$. diplomatic cables?
Before we get into the issues of censorship and political persecution, let's take a look at what these diplomatic cables really contain. The U.$. government employs thousands of foreign service staff posted in embassies and consulates around the world. According to the U.$ Department of State website, these people work in one of 5 general jobs:
Consular: Consular Officers protect Americans abroad and strengthen U.S. border security.
Economic: Economic Officers work on economic partnerships and development, support U.S. businesses abroad, and cover environmental, science, technology, and health issues.
Management: Management Officers run our embassies and make American diplomacy work.
Political: Political Officers analyze political events.
Public Diplomacy: Public Diplomacy Officers explain American values and policies.
In other words, many of these people work in foreign countries acting as spies. But not spies who are working in secret; they are overt spies whose job is to meet with people at various levels in other governments and then write up reports about their meetings and the situation in those countries. This is how the U.$. government collects a lot of its information about what's going on around the world. The foreign service staff don't try to hide what they are doing. It's a political game which foreign diplomats sometimes use to get messages through to the U.$. government without having to make public statements. There is a lot of backroom deal making done this way, without having to make information public.
So when people say that the diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks released are embarrassing, what they really mean is that imperialist governments and their lackeys don't want the truth to be known publicly. As WikiLeaks summarizes, “the cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in 'client states'; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.”(1) So the U.$. government doesn't want people to know these things. They are probably not so much worried about the Amerikan public whose response to this story has been split with many taking the side of their imperialist government, but rather concerned about what people in other countries are going to learn, especially those in the Third World being screwed by the imperialists and the deals they make with their own lackey governments.
Imperialists and censorship on a global scale
There was a quick and coordinated attack against WikiLeaks by the U.$. government and their allies in the international and corporate community. This included a coordinated December 2 attack shutting down their domain via the New Hampshire-based company EveryDNS, and Amazon.com cutting off the infrastructure services they were providing to WikiLeaks. Forced to move to the French internet company OVH, WikiLeaks then faced attacks by the French government looking for ways to ban hosting of the site.
The finance capitalists got in on the game quickly too. On December 3 PayPal cut off the account that was collecting donations for WikiLeaks, claiming that the account violated its "Acceptable Use Policy" by engaging in "activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity." On December 6 MasterCard announced its plan to cut off WikiLeaks from accepting MasterCard payments because "MasterCard rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal." Visa took similar action on December 7. On December 8 WikiLeaks released diplomatic papers that revealed lobbying by the Obama administration on behalf of MasterCard and Visa.(2) And finally, the Swedish bank PostFinance froze Julian Assange's persynal bank account on December 6, using the flimsy excuse that he provided an incorrect address on his account.
On December 23 Apple dropped the WikiLeaks app (program for iPhones) from their app store, just 10 days after it was approved for sale. The app gave users access to the WikiLeaks Twitter feed and the ability to access leaked documents. An Apple spokespersyn gave the official excuse: "Apps must comply with all local laws and may not put an individual or group in harm's way."(3) These examples of corporate censorship help demonstrate the complicity between the imperialist government and big corporations. The imperialists make backroom diplomatic deals to give the capitalists financial advantages, and those same corporations look out for the government's interests by denying anti-imperialists access to resources to exercise their free speech.
While diverting resources from WikiLeaks' primary mission, these attacks have also served to expose the imperialists, who only give lip service to freedom of speech when it serves their interest. And this has galvanized a counter attack by defenders of WikiLeaks. This counter offensive includes hackers who have launched denial-of-service attacks to shut down web sites that have cut off WikiLeaks, targeting EveryDNS, Amazon, MasterCard and Visa among others.
In the United $tates, the imperialists are running around with their pants down, unsure how to control the information already released. On December 3 the White House issued a directive that forbids unauthorized Federal employees from accessing the classified documents that are now available on WikiLeaks. Carrying out this order, the Library of Congress blocked access to WikiLeaks from its computers. Government employees, military personnel and employees of some private corporations are prohibited from reading the documents, even from home. Meanwhile, college students are being threatened that if they post info about WikiLeaks online they will not be eligible for government jobs after graduation.(8)
Amerikan public opinion is split between those who think it's right to investigate those in power and those who want to see Assange prosecuted. It might be surprising that so many Amerikans care about freedom of speech when the imperialists so clearly oppose it. This is promising for activists looking for ways to win over people who have a material interest in imperialism, even if only for specific battles against the imperialists.
Political persecution of activists
Julian Assange and others have complained of surveillance and harassment in various countries in the past, but after the release of the diplomatic cables this has stepped up to a level that may lead to death or permanent imprisonment of those associated with the site. While throwing around baseless accusations of "terrorism" against Assange, North Amerikan politicians have openly called for him to be illegally assassinated - the definition of terrorism.(9)
The U.$. Justice Department has been scouring the books searching for something to prosecute Assange on, some way to punish him and stop his work, and they are negotiating with Sweden to get him extradited to the U.$. Assange was taken into custody in Britain after an arrest warrant was issued by Sweden to question him on allegations of sex crimes, and has since been released on bail.
In the United $tates, there has been a strong push to make it illegal to conduct investigative journalism that is not approved by the State. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, argues that Assange's actions violate the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law crafted to punish individuals who spy on the country during wartime. This is despite the fact that WikiLeaks has not released any Top Secret documents and even offered to work with the U.$. government to redact any facts that would endanger individuals in the field (which the U.$. turned down). An initial hearing on WikiLeaks and the Espionage Act was held on December 16 by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. So far no decisions about prosecution have been made. Senator Joseph Lieberman goes further and has urged the administration to consider charges against media outlets that produced news articles based on the leaked documents. These organizations, according to Lieberman, have "committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime - I think that bears a very intense inquiry by the Justice Department."(4)
In the 1970s a very similar attack against Daniel Ellsberg was carried out after he released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, exposing the Amerikan government's lies about the Vietnam War. The U.$. government attacked Ellsberg both covertly and overtly in court where they put him on trial for theft and conspiracy under the Espionage Act. Ellsberg explains, "The truth is that every attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time."(5)
If the outcome is more chilling this time around, it will be with the mainstream media cheering for the repression of their own rights to report on facts. They'd rather talk about sex and persynalities anyway.
We talk about sex to stop talking about sex
Pseudofeminists have lined up on two sides of the Julian Assange "rape" debate. One recognizes the obvious truth that this is a political ploy by the imperialists to distract from the facts and attack Wikileaks. The other side says we need to stand by all wimmin who claim that they are raped. The latter are a dream come true for the FBI. The former are on the right track, but falter in their attempts to define "real" rape. This situation was painfully obvious in a series of debates on Democracy Now! this week that degenerated into a pornographic discussion of the details of various sexual encounters.(6) To both defend Assange and uphold that some sex is not rape, Naomi Wolf ended up making some embarrassingly incorrect claims.
If we can just admit that all sex is rape, then we can get on with the original discussion of hundreds of thousands of wimmin (and men of course) dying at the hands of the U.$. military as exposed by WikiLeaks documents. The real feminist here is white male Julian Assange who responded to TV news host Larry King's inquiry about the sex charges with: "It is not right to bring in sensational and, in fact, false claims, a relatively trivial matter compared to the deaths of 109,000 people... CNN should be ashamed of doing that." Assange was referring to a death toll released on WikiLeaks that was recorded by the U.$. military in Iraq who previously claimed to not be tracking Iraqi deaths.
To assure readers that these tactics are nothing new, a parallel story played out within our own movement just 2 years ago. The decades old MIM website at etext.org was shut down by people outside of MIM on January 9, 2009. This occurred as the primary editor of the website was reporting death threats and the circulation of rape charges by multiple white wimmin. He has referred to this as a "lynching," as rape charges have always been a tool of social control of oppressed nation men under the rule of white power. While MIM(Prisons) and at least one other cell made efforts to restore the content of the site, the damage was done as all incoming links were defunct. Traffic to those documents remains at a fraction of what it used to be.
The editor of the etext.org MIM site later explained that he did not restore the site immediately as it could just as quickly be taken down again. WikiLeaks is unique in its resources and high profile status, so it has largely managed to remain online, with its mission receiving a net benefit from the press coverage. But when decades of material are separated from their domain name as happened to MIM, as well as many of the over 80 hip hop websites shut down by Homeland Security last month(7), their access to the rest of the world is seriously challenged. As we have mentioned in the past, independent institutions of the oppressed online are very fragile. Some combination of technology, security tactics and alliances with the national bourgeoisie in anti-imperialist nations will need to provide solutions to this problem as the imperialists increase their repression on the internet.
The need for anti-imperialist media sources
A University of Maryland study titled “Misinformation and the 2010 Election” found that people who are exposed to mainstream news sources are quite misinformed about the facts. For instance, 42% of people surveyed didn't know that Obama was born in the U.$. The survey looked at newspapers and news magazines, network TV news broadcasts, public broadcasting (NPR or PBS), Fox News, MSNBC and CNN. They found “Looking at the frequency of misinformation among the consumers of various news sources, one striking feature is that substantial levels of misinformation were present in the daily consumers of all news sources. Even the daily consumers of news sources with the lowest levels of misinformation still included substantial numbers with misinformation.”(10)
This doesn't mean we should all stop following the news; people with higher levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation. This last fact had a few striking exceptions, for instance, Fox News topped the misinformation list with the viewers with the most incorrect information and a trend showing that the more a persyn watches Fox the more misinformed they become. However, consumers of other mainstream media sources were also very mislead on key facts, including NPR and PBS consumers and viewers of other daily TV news.(10) Without a viable daily source of anti-imperialist news, revolutionaries still need to use mainstream media, but we need to look at it with a critical eye and use as many international sources as we can get our hands on.
The clear misinformation being spread by mainstream media, combined with the constant covering up of even the most mundane of facts by the imperialist governments and their allies, mean that the value of alternative media sources can not be overstated. WikiLeaks provides a clear service to anti-imperialists even without any significant political analysis on their website. The politics are clear in the context of the content that comes through WikiLeaks daily exposing imperialism as a system of corruption, brutality and exploitation. News sources like this are crucial to revolutionaries and we must defend their existence.
It is our task to go further and provide context for the facts and help people make connections between all the terrorist acts committed by the U.$. and other imperialist countries and the just revolutionary struggles of the oppressed peoples around the world.