[This article was added to and facts were corrected by the Under Lock & Key Editor]
Recently, Chicago rapper Lil Reese signed a $30 million contract with Def Jam to make music. A day or two later he brutally beat down a woman for verbally disrespecting him. Lil Reese is an affiliate of another Chicago rapper, Chief Keef, who has also been making a name for himself for being at the center of controversy around violence in hip hop. A recent episode of Nightline addressed the fact that at least 419 people have been killed in a dozen neighborhoods in Chicago in 2012, more than the number of U.$. troops killed in Afghanistan where resistance to the occupation continues to grow. The program centered around a sit-down of 38 members of lumpen organizations in Chicago organized by Cease Fire, a group discussed in ULK 25. It also featured a Chief Keef and Lil Reese video to criticize Keef's anti-snitching stance. MTV.com reports that the participants almost unanimously agreed that it would practically take a miracle to stop the violence.
The misogynistic nature of rap music has been analyzed and explored thoroughly. This article is not meant to downplay the senseless violence against a humyn being, but the "powers that be" are using the incident with Lil Reese and programs like Nightline to formulate another sinister plot to target the oppressed nations in Amerika.
Chicago has had one of its most deadly years in terms of urban gun violence, and this has been attributed to Chicago street tribes and lumpen organizations. The Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre perpetrated by a man who claimed to be "The Joker" does not generate the same fear or threat that young Blacks and Latinos in the hood with guns do. Why is that?
Imperialists are not worried about white males in Amerikkka with guns. It is the oppressed nations that pose the most realistic threat to the oppressive imperialistic regime. We have seen the toll that the so-called "war on drugs" has had on our Black and Latino nations. Genocide, social control, and mass incarceration of the lumpen underclass; it's the Amerikan way! During the presidential debates both candidates agreed on keeping gun laws the same.
One of the most brutal social control programs is being formulated as we speak and it will be cloaked in a "war on gun violence." In truth it will be a death blow to urban street tribes and lumpen organizations. President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder have pushed for one of the highest budgets for federal prisons and detention facilities that we have seen in years. The states are actually reducing their prison budgets because of the dismal economic conditions, but the feds are pumping up the volume! A whopping $9 billion dollars has been allocated for the U.$. Department of Injustice in 2013 for corrections, jails, and detention facilities. Of that, $6.9 billion has been allocated to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2013, an increase of about 4% in tight fiscal times.
There is a prison in Thomson, Illinois that had been tagged as the location where Guantanamo Bay detainees were supposed to be housed after President Obama closed the barbaric torture chamber in Cuba. However the Amerikan public balked! They said they did not want these "dangerous terrorists" housed on Amerikan soil. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder still wants to purchase the prison in Thomson, Illinois and change it into a Super-Max just like the one in Florence, Colorado. 1,400 Ad-Seg/solitary confinement beds for "the worst of the worst" in Amerikkka. These beds will be for oppressed nations, just like the solitary confinement cells in prisons across the country.
MIM(Prisons) has reported extensively on the use of control units as a tool of social control. These torture units are used to target political organizers and leaders of oppressed nations who are seen as a particular threat to the imperialist system. We have been collecting statistics on these control units for years, because the isolation cells are often hidden within other prisons and no consistent information is kept on this pervasive torture within Amerika. We invite prisoners to write to us for a survey about control units in their state to contribute to this important documentation project.
For those facing violent conditions in Chicago or elsewhere who turn to despair, remember that there are many who come from the streets of that very city, from the Black Panthers to lumpen organizations, who have taken positive paths. If it weren't for the interference of white media and the police, things would be different now. Ultimately solutions to those problems must come from the people involved who don't want to be living like that, no matter how they brag about being tough in a rap. The way out may not be obvious, but things are always in a state of change. And when it comes to humyn society, it is up to humyns what that change looks like. Struggle ain't easy, but it is the only way if you have ideals that contradict with the current society under imperialism.
It seems I have become a target of the oppressors and their trained pigs. On Tuesday, October 2, 2012 the SouthEast Corruption Center, located in Charleston Missouri, conducted a mass lock-up where 72 people (including myself) were locked up for nothing at all. Prior to this, the SouthEast Corruption Center was already on lockdown due to pigs being assaulted. Sadly, there was also a prisoner-on-prisoner assault. All this took place in a two week time frame.
So on the above date, while still on lockdown, around 1pm E-squad went throughout the KKKamp with a list of 72 people's names. These pigs came to my assigned cell, told me to pack my property, then stripped me out, placed me in handcuffs and escorted me to the hole. When I arrived in the segregation unit, I was placed on a bench with another brother who was part of this massive lockup. I was then informed by a pig that they were clearing out the bedspace wing that they have here due to overcrowding and making room for us.
After they cleared out the bedspace wing, me and the other brother on the bench were taken to housing unit two D, the bedspace wing now converted to an Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) wing. And this is when I realized the seriousness of the situation. They locked up 72 people from all walks of life; I do not say this to create barriers or separation. We are all oppressed and victims of this system. So we all have a common enemy.
But out of the 72 people locked up, there were 10 caucasians, one Arab and 61 New Afrikans. The 72 was a variety of Crips, Bloods, GDs, Five Percenters, homosexuals, Moslems, Christians, white pride gangs and revolutionaries. Again, I do not say this to show separation, only to point out those targeted on this massive lock up. We were told we were the shot callers on the yard and had the power and influence. I can assure you I am not a shot caller and have no power and influence on the yard, because if I did, there would never be a prisoner-on-prisoner assault, that's a promise.
We were placed on Ad-Seg, locked down and treated as if we were on disciplinary action. We were denied showers for almost a week, denied recreation for two weeks, denied phone calls for a month and denied medical sick call. When a nurse came in the wing to give people their daily medication, she told us that they were told not to do sick call for that wing.
When our TASC property was brought to us, nobody had paper, envelopes or stamps which was previously in our property. They deliberately made sure we could not reach out to anyone outside. But brothers from the other wings helped out a whole lot and for that, I am forever grateful.
Not one brother out the 72 had broken any rules, or had any violations. So they did not have probable cause to lock us up. Our temporary Ad-Seg confinement form stated: confinement is ordered on the basis of the following criteria: "There is an immediate security risk involved. For the security and good order of the institution." Statement of facts in support of TASC/comments: "inmate represents a threat to institutional safety and security." And then it states why they are a threat. Which were are all things people did in the past, from years ago. This included things like drugs, assaults on pigs, assaults on prisoners, and gang activity.
We saw the Ad-Seg committee on October 9th, 2012 and everybody was given a 30 day review; even though nobody had any violations and they had no rights to lock us up. Half were scheduled to see them on November the 6th and the other half on November the 8th. On Nov 6, 36 people went up to see them, 8 were let go and everyone else received anywhere from a 30 to 90 day review.
But on Nov 7 the Southeast Corruption Center did another mass movement where 50 people were transferred, and it was not even a transfer day. Transfers are done on Tuesdays and Thursdays, this was a Wednesday. Out of the 72 brothers locked up for being a threat to the safety and security of the institution, only 10 were transferred. You would think, if 72 shot callers in one prison (with all the power and influence on the yard) were that much of a threat to the institution, the institution would break them up and spread them out by sending them to different prisons, but this was not the case.
The other 36 brothers (including myself) went up and saw them on Nov 8 and 9 more brothers were released back to the yard. The rest received anywhere from 30 to 90 days review. I myself received 90 days.
They thoroughly inventoried our property. They inventoried it so thoroughly we did not get a copy of the inventory form for 2-3 weeks. Then we were informed that they had confiscated some of our belongings. I myself was missing all my revolutionary material (literature, artwork, books), hot pot, extension cord for my TV, and a lot of my pictures.
This is not their first time attacking me for my political beliefs, and I'm 100% sure it is not their last time. But they cannot break what was not built to be broken.
All the other 72 brothers were placed under Security Threat Group (STG) for their past history in prison. The TASC form says they pose a threat to the institution, gang group activities, drugs, assaults on pigs or assaults on inmates. All mine says is "Inmate represents a threat to institutional safety and security due to creating disturbance." I am the only one down here for representing a threat to the institution due to creating a disturbance. I have not broken any rules, I have not caught any violations and they cannot produce any evidence to show that I need to be in the hole because I'm a threat to the safety and security of the institution.
We've had our family call here and they get the run around and lies. They were told that we were involved in an incident, and even said we all requested PC on the same day.
We have filed Informal Resolution Request Forms (IRA) and some have come up missing, including my celly's and mine. So we have asked for another which we are in the process of filing.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This common story of targeting politically active prisoners for repression is a demonstration of what the injustice system really sees as a threat. Prisoner's with an ability to organize and educate others are the foundation of a successful unity among the lumpen behind bars. These comrades will be the backbone building the United Front for Peace in Prisons.
by a North Carolina prisoner November 2012 permalink
In late September of this year, in a fight between a few prisoners, a prisoner was killed and another prisoner was seriously wounded and is still in critical condition. The incident happened at Lanesboro Correctional Institution and we have been on lockdown since it occurred. The administration discontinued visitation for regular population and segregated inmates, cut telephone privileges for everyone, and regular population was limited to ordering only five items, three times a week, and three showers a week. Recreation was taken from regular population indefinitely, which caused them to remain in their rooms for 24 hours a day for days at a time.
The strange thing about this entire event is when Superintendent Parsons was questioned on the Channel 9 news based in Charlotte, North Carolina, about what exactly happened, he responded by saying 148 prisoners had a "brawl" in which a prisoner was killed. The media then debased the prisoner who was killed and devoted the entire segment to discussing how he was shot by police in 1999 in an attempted escape. Nothing was said about why this prisoner-on-prisoner stabbing occurred, or about the dozens of other stabbings that happened throughout this year. Nor did they mention the illegal and inhumane "dry cells" that were mandated by the administration, leaving almost 100 prisoners in rooms with feces covering the entire dorm.
As of now, all of the questionable events are being investigated by the State Bureau Investigation Unit and Laneseboro Correctional Institution may be looking at grave consequences. But why did these events end so brutally? Why did it take a prisoner losing his life for the administration, the Governor, and law enforcement to get involved? First let's take a look at what led up to these times we are in.
At the start of the year, the prison administration promoted the idea that gang violence was the cause of dozens of stabbings occurring statewide which put several close custody camps on lockdown for weeks and even months. Here at Lanesboro, that soon subsided and things were back to "normal." Then early June, the Prison Emergency Response Team (PERT) raided the prison, where nearly 100 prisoners were placed in "dry cells" where we were in our cells 24 hours a day for a week. PERT officers weren't allowing us to flush our toilets, which caused them to become clogged. aIn protest we threw our feces out into the dayroom, leaving the entire dorm in a heap of feces. Prisoners were forced to eat, clean our bodies, and sleep in this stench. Also prisoners were forced to have x-rays to find drugs, cell phones or weapons. This led to many lawsuits being filed.
What happened next indicates how much the Lanesboro administration cares about prison life. A stabbing had occurred in which one prisoner's neck was cut. A prisoner involved was placed in segregation along with the prisoner who had his throat cut. The administration then released the assaulted prisoner into regular population after one week and placed him in the same pod as his enemies. This set off four consecutive stabbings in less than two hours around the prison.
They momentarily locked us down. When we came off, two days later a prisoner was killed. Another strange thing is the prisoners who did the killing didn't live in the dorm where the killing occurred, and neither did the prisoner who was killed. This means the officers had to let these prisoners into a dorm where they didn't live.
So we see the perpetuation of violence by the Lanesboro administration who place known enemies in the same dorm. Obviously they're not trying to stop the violence. This perpetuation of violence results in lockdowns where they take all of the prisoners "privileges" in an attempt to further control us. It's obvious these lockdowns did not halt the violence. In fact, evidence shows that violence in prisons across the country increases after a lock down (see the documentary Unlock the Box). But the puzzling part is when they take away our "privileges," we gladly accept it instead of resisting. There were only a few people filing grievances, filing lawsuits, taking progressive actions against the beast, but there were many complaining.
Why do these violent acts continue to occur? To understand the simple answer you just have to look at conditions here. We have to wait 90 days to receive a job, even unit jobs. They're denying some of us from even enrolling in school or extra-curricular activities. They barely even offer any extra-curricular activities. All we have to occupy our time is TV, yard and gym. Prisoners have no activities to engage in, and so just hang around the dorms. With the state building medium custody facilities right beside the close custody facilities, the administration says all "good" jobs (kitchen workers and other important jobs) will be taken by medium custody prisoners. This will ultimately have more of us in our dorms unable to work, and so prevented from getting gain time and being shipped to a "better" facility. It will destroy morale and cause some to lash out and perpetuate the prisoner-on-prisoner violence.
So why do these events continue to happen? Because the administration wants it to! They perpetuate violence. They don't care about prisoners' lives, and they are never going to solve the true problems. Therefore, it is up to us to remedy our own situations by uniting and never splitting. We need to take the rebellious actions against these oppressors and force them to recognize their policies aren't working. We must come together and get an understanding and peace with one another so they won't have to enforce any policies anyway.
We don't want them to do their jobs because their jobs are to repress, suppress and oppress us, to hinder us from uniting and fighting the true injustice. As superintendent Parsons lied to the public media, they lie to us as well. And we have to show them we won't tolerate it any longer. Unite and resist and our conditions will get better because "We" will make them better!
I am writing to follow up on the problems we've been experiencing with our appeals system as it relates to the mass complaint form that at least 85 of us sent to Sacramento. I went a step further and had my sister draft a "citizen's complaint letter" to the Warden of RJ Donvan. He's required by law to investigate and respond to this letter within 30 days. This puts more pressure on the Warden's office due to the time and resources involved to send out responses. So, if your readers have friends and family who can draft and submit the citizen's complaint en masse, I believe it can have a greater impact.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As previously reported, this comrade is making good use of the grievance petition and taking on this battle creatively through the legal and administrative system. Write to us to get involved in this campaign. We can send you a copy of the grievance petition for your state, or a generic version you can customize to create one for states that do not yet have one.
For the past few decades California has been increasingly using control units in the form of security housing units (SHUs) as a method of control. These deprivation chambers are a major part of the state's war on the Chicano nation. Where prisons are used to enforce a slow genocide on La Raza, to disrupt the family unit and implement an internment camp by "legal" means, within prisons also lies the SHU which is equivalent to the chopping block where rebellious slaves who resisted or escaped would get limbs amputated as 1) punishment for resisting the oppressor nation, 2) preventing the slave from making future attempts, and 3) to inflict a psychological blow terrorizing the larger population to what will happen to them should they choose the same path of resistance. So too are the SHUs used in this manner on revolutionary or rebellious prisoner who resist the state, for this opposition to the state we are met with SHU which restricts our ability to resist and punishes us for our refusal to obey our oppressor thus instilling a grave warning to the prison masses of what will happen to them should they take the path of resistance. This oppression has gone on for decades and has grown to horrific proportions in recent years. Here in Pelican Bay SHU over a thousand are tortured with solitary confinement alone. The living conditions here have gone past punishment to the most vile cruelty depriving us of the most basic human rights, it is a place where sunlight is denied and health care is often used to extort incriminating information from those being tortured in this house of horrors. It is a place where prisoners have faced the most horrendous abuses like being boiled in tubs of scalding water to being stripped down in underwear and locked in an iron cage outside in the freezing raining winter morning. These stories would be unbelievable had they not been documented in court transcripts for all to see.
Chicanos are overwhelmingly the majority of those sent to SHU, it is the identification of this war on Aztlán, this silent offensive that you won't read about in the bourgeois press or see on the corporate news outlets but which we see, live and have analyzed for all to understand.
These developments led to the formation of the Chicano Prisoners Revolutionary Committee (CPRC) in late 2011 here in Pelican Bay SHU. The CPRC was created initially for the efforts taking place surrounding the hunger strikes that swept U.$. prisons in 2011. It was within this effort to analyze and lend a revolutionary perspective to the developments surrounding human rights in prisons that CPRC gave birth to the Brown Berets - prison chapter (BB-PC) on June 1, 2012.
The BB-PC was inspired by the original Brown Berets that arose in the 1960s and led the Chicano movement in harnessing the people in the barrios with their many independent institutions from free health clinics, child care, free food programs, schools, newspapers etc. We draw from this legacy of serving the people and dig deeper in the theoretical realm.
We do not answer to any other chapter nor does any other existing chapter answer to us, we are an autonomous chapter which due to the extreme repression in Amerikkka's history operates underground within U.$. prisons. Currently we are the first and only prison chapter in Amerika but we expect many more chapters to develop in many other prisons and states as Chican@s develop politically. We do not publish the names of the BB-PC cadre; our chapter resides in Pelican Bay State Prison.
The BB-PC is the Chicano cadre in U.$. prisons that works to transform these pintas and our nation from our vantage point. We are taking the concepts of community organizing and applying them to the pinta, thus these concrete conditions we experience are very different than they are for a chapter out in society and although our efforts are mostly prison based and revolve around contradictions prisoners face on a daily basis our main thrust of course lies in the Aztlán liberation movement. Our ten point program guides us in that direction and allows us to remain in active service of Chicano independence.
We welcome all imprisoned Latinos to partake in the Chicano struggle as a liberated Aztlán will be a place where all Latinos are welcome to be free from oppression.
The following is the BB-PC Ten Point Program:
We are Maoists We believe as Mao taught that class struggle continues even under socialism, as a new bourgeoisie develops as happened in the USSR after the death of Stalin in 1953 and after Mao's death in 1976. Mao advanced communism the furthest thus far in world history and it will be through a Maoist program that we liberate Aztlán.
We are an autonomous chapter We are a self governing chapter that practices democratic centralism. We understand that because of state repression we are more efficient as an autonomous chapter and that as new chapters arise in other prisons across Amerika that they too will be autonomous in each individual prison.
We want to build public opinion in prisons At this stage the only struggle in Amerika is in the realm of ideas, we seek to politicize the imprisoned Chicano nation through educating our gente on all aspects of la lucha.
We want Raza unity As the largest Raza population in Amerikan prisons the Chicano nation understands its responsibility to maintain Pan-Latino unity and to educate all Raza on the current repression we face. In the prisons within Aztlán, Raza endure institutional oppression where Raza are overwhelmingly held in SHUs and control units far more than any other of the oppressed. This offensive is meant to neutralize us physically but particularly mentally. We will stand with imprisoned Latinos and resist the oppressor nation as we have done for 500 years and support the Boricua in their march toward independence free from neocolonialism.
We stand in solidarity with all oppressed and Third World prisoners. Today's prisons are meant to dehumanize the people and break our will to resist. The internal semi-colonies that are captured and held in these concentration camps face much of the same repression from the state, we understand that to better our living conditions as prisoners it will depend on a united front of oppressed prisoners for legal battles and other effort to obtain human rights in prisons and we will cultivate this collaboration.
We are revolutionary nationalists We understand that true internationalism is only possible when each nation is fully liberated. We identify oppression in Amerika revolving around nation, class and gender which enables imperialism to uphold power and we combat these forms of oppression in our long march to national liberation.
Close the control units The SHUs and similar models are designed to unleash population regroupment on the imprisoned Chicano nation. It is well known that the most revolutionary elements of the Chicano prison population are plucked from general population prisons and sent to the SHU or other control units in an effort to isolate the revolutionary vanguard from the prison masses, this isolation is then used to torture Chicanos en masse through solitary confinement and other psychological methods for years and decades.
We understand that this is done primarily to prevent the captive Chicano revolutionaries from mobilizing our mass prison base. We see the control units in Amerika as modern day concentration camps as we are sent to those camps not for physical acts but for thought crimes, beliefs or supposed beliefs that oppose the state. We work to overturn the use of control units in every prison in Amerika.
Stop prisoner abuse. We are against oppression in all it's forms within prisons. This includes prisoners preying on prisoners, abuse from the hands of guards, patriarchy or any abuse physically or psychologically. In Amerika prisons are tools of imperialism used to inflict terror on the internal semi-colonies out in society and stifle any resistance to their war on poor people, having experienced and identified the full onslaught of this offensive we take it head on to combat all forms of abuse from the state or otherwise and this includes combatting the state propaganda and tactics of pitting prisoner against prisoner by political education so that prisoners understand who the oppressor is.
Free all political prisoners. We not only see political prisoners as those who were politically conscious out in society and came to prison for acts of the movement, we go past that in our analysis and also see SHU prisoners as overwhelmingly political prisoners who are systematically tortured for their ideas or alleged thoughts. We also see most prisoners in U.$. prisons as political prisoners because living in imperialist amerika many of the "Crimes" and criminal injustice system that we face is nothing more than national oppression that is exercised in order to uphold the capitalist relations of production and we work toward freeing the people.
We want a liberated socialist Aztlán. Our aim is communism but we understand it will take many years for this to become reality. At this stage we are working for Aztlán independence which will only occur after the defeat of imperialism. We work toward a socialist Aztlán where the peoples' needs are met; things like land, bread, education, health care and many more needs will be met and peoples' power will be exercised in order to transform not just society but prisons as well, to a more vibrant and just environment where all will have an opportunity to grasp revolution and promote production. We will transform these prisons ideologically in order to prepare the ground for these developments as we serve the people.
In the shadow of the recent presidential election, MIM(Prisons) takes this opportunity to explain some of the many reasons we don't participate in elections under capitalism. We reiterate the MIM slogan: Don't Vote, Organize!
Granted, communists might participate in local elections when they find an opportunity to make change that will better facilitate their organizing work and goals, but these instances are few and far between. Consider someone running for City Council proposing to facilitate the distribution of free literature and posters in a city, while their opponent wants to outlaw the distribution of communist literature. We might join this battle on the side of the free speech advocate because it is very important that we have the opportunity to organize and educate people. Because the legal power of a City Council is pretty limited, these battles tend to be clear cut and we can support one candidate without jumping on the imperialist bandwagon.
In contrast, Congress and the President are fundamentally reactionary just by nature of their role in the capitalist system. It is their job to support and promote imperialist policies of global aggression.
Sure, there may be surface differences between imperialist candidates. One might deny the existence of global warming while the other offers platitudes about how we need to help the environment, but neither can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions because doing so threatens the profit system. Or one might advocate shipping all migrants back home, while the other wants to grant green cards to people already in the United $tates. That's something with a real immediate impact on the lives of the oppressed. But the U.$. has a long history of bringing in migrant labor and the kicking them out, particularly from Mexico. And ultimately, both of these candidates will have to support enforcing the imperialist borders, and exploiting cheap Mexican labor.
Even if we try to explain that we are only picking a candidate based on their position on one question, how do we justify giving support to someone who backs the existence of the prison system that locks up the most people per capita in the world? Or someone who supports invading Third World countries to ensure their puppet regimes are friendly to Amerikan capitalist interests?
There is no real choice under imperialism. The majority of the world's people suffer under the rule of Amerikan imperialism, but they don't get a vote in the elections. Amerika has streamlined the elections to just two parties, with very minimal differences between them. And the majority of the Amerikan people, bought off with imperialist superprofits given to them as a birthright, are perfectly fine with these "choices." Both candidates represent the material interests of Amerikan citizens. It is the imperialist system that ensures sufficient superprofits from exploitation of Third World people to keep the First World citizens so well off.
The election of President Obama four years ago should have been the best possible lesson for "anti-war" Amerikans. Many so-called progressives got behind the Obama campaign, excited to finally have a Black man in power, and believing the minimally progressive rhetoric they heard from Obama. But putting a Black face on imperialism didn't change imperialism. Before Obama was elected we wrote about his campaign as a good representative of imperialism in ULK 3. Under Obama, Amerika has continued its role as global oppressor, invading Third World countries to install or support U.$.-friendly governments, enforcing strict imperialist borders at home to keep out the oppressed, and maintaining the largest per capita prison population in the world.
The State of Puerto Rico
While we didn't campaign around any electoral politics this year, nor vote, the results can be interesting to us as the largest scale polling of the Amerikan population and its internal semi-colonies. While the exploited people of the world did not get to vote for the President of the Empire, historically oppressed nations with U.$. citizenship did. As we work to expand our analysis of the internal semi-colonies' relationships to imperialism, we can look at elections as a relative, if not absolute, measure of assimilation. The most explicit example of this came in the 2012 plebiscite on the status of Puerto Rico among Boricua voters.
While inconsistencies in the format of previous plebiscites make it hard to decipher trends with a cursory assessment, it does appear that a majority rejected the current commonwealth status of Puerto Rico for the first time. The government is counting the statehood option as the victor with a 61% majority of those choosing an alternative to the commonwealth status. But really, only 48% of those who voted chose statehood, with 26% of voters choosing sovereign free association and 4% choosing independence.(1) About 22% didn't select a new status. Since 46% voted to remain a commonwealth, it seems that many of them chose a new status as their second choice. Originally the two votes were to occur separately, which would make interpretation of the results easier.
The option of "sovereign free association" was new in this plebiscite, and seems to reflect the more bourgeois nationalist among the neo-colonialists. They want to have their cake and eat it too. They want more freedom to act independent of the U.$. while keeping the financial benefits of U.$. social services that they receive today as a commonwealth.
The 2012 plebiscite did have the largest turnout yet, with 79% participation.(2) This adds a little more weight to the small shift from a plurality favoring commonwealth to a plurality (at least) favoring statehood. At the time of the last plebiscite, in 1998, MIM reported strong assimilationism among the Boricua population due to economic interests tied to accessing the superprofits obtained by the U.$. from the Third World.(3) While MIM never believed that the meager 2-5% vote for independence was genuinely representative of the Boricua people, neither is true self-determination on the immediate horizon despite nationalist rhetoric from many political parties. A survey of the desires of Boricuas for self-determination is not valid until real self-determination is actually an option on the table. Unfortunately real self-determination won't be possible until Boricuas are organized against Amerika and its lackey leadership in their homeland.
Some have hypothesized that the economic downturn helped increase the statehood vote as Boricuas felt the crunch and wanted closer economic integration into the United $tates. This makes economic sense. So it'll take much more extreme crisis before economic demands become revolutionary for the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates.
Chicanos and New Afrikans Vote
Trends in Black voter participation in the last two presidential elections indicate that the neo-colonial effect is real as Blacks have come out at higher rates, with Black youth being the most active voter participants. While Latinos were also brought out by Obama in the last two elections, Latino youth voting and "civic engagement" has lagged behind Black and white youth, yet they were twice as likely to participate in a protest than their counterparts of other nations according to a 2008 report.(4) In 2008, Black voters closed the gap with white voter participation, which averaged around 10% in the previous five presidential elections. This year, Obama brought similar rates of Blacks to the polls. In the same period, Latinos and Asians have diverged from Blacks in their voter participation, who they have historically lagged behind already.(5) For Latinos this divergence corresponds to an increase in the percentage of people who are not citizens, and therefore can't vote. We do not have data showing whether the same is true for Asians. While the non-participation may be enforced, rather than by choice, the Pew Hispanic Center also found in a recent survey that most Latinos identify with their family's country of origin and not as Amerikans.(6) There is little doubt that the vast majority of Blacks identify as Amerikan. The connections that Latinos and Asians have to the Third World are a significant factor in their political consciousness and how they perceive the United $tates, their relationship to it, and their participation in it.
Similar to supporting someone for City Council, discussed above, propositions are another relatively clear-cut realm of elections where we may organize around a particular issue. To look at more concrete examples of how this usually plays out, we turn to two propositions this year that addressed California's prison population: Propositions 34 and 36. Proposition 34 was presented to abolish the death penalty, which sounds great at first. But in this case, death row prisoners actually recognized that the law was opposed to their interests in that it would prevent them from proving their innocence in court. They launched an active campaign to oppose Prop. 34 and it did fail. The weakness of the proposition was inherent to the limitations in the system to address justice in a real way.
Proposition 36 is a reform to the Three Strikes law, and it passed. MIM(Prisons) welcomes the prospect of less people going to prison in California, and supposedly even current prisoners being released earlier. Yet, Three Strikes itself still exists. The reform will right a few egregious wrongs, but leaves Three Strikes, not to mention the whole criminal injustice system, in place. Even abolishing Three Strikes altogether would be merely a quantitative change in the oppression meted out by the injustice system, without changing the substance of it at all. Prop. 36 was promoted by those who want to reduce state spending on prisons, and clearly promoted the use of Three Strikes for the majority of prisoners it has been applied to. To campaign for Prop. 36 was to promote this position or to say that this is the best we can hope for. It did not serve the interests of the prisoner class as a whole, but threw some carrots to a few.
Since there are only so many hours in the day, to spend them on organizing around these small changes means slightly less suffering in the short term, and much more suffering in the long term as imperialism marches on unchallenged. Reforms do play an important role while organizing in our current conditions, but we choose which reforms to support very carefully, weighing how they impact our organizing efforts against imperialism, what class interests they serve, and how they relate to real conditions on the ground.
Electoral Politics and Strategy
Our line is that imperialism cannot be reformed. Our strategy is to build institutions of the oppressed which are separate from imperialism in order to build up our own power, while agitating around issues that highlight the horrors of the imperialist system that exists. At times campaigning around an electoral campaign could be a useful tactic in that strategy. But strategically we are not trying to get elected in a popularity contest, or be on the winning team. We are struggling for liberation and an end to all oppression!
As M-1 of dead prez put it on Block Report Radio the morning after the recent "presidential selection": "I'm not thinking about today. And I'm not thinking about four years from now. And I'm not thinking about smoking marijuana. I'm thinking about 50 years from now being able to be the self-determining people who are raising a nation that's based in stability." Spoken like a true revolutionary, this is the type of thinking that we promote to develop an anti-imperialist political pole within the belly of the beast.
Telling people to vote for one imperialist candidate over another is suggesting that we can make significant change by working within the system. As we already explained, the scale of the election and the scale of the change is key: for a local city election the impact is much lower and our opportunity to actually explain to people why a particular local law is important to communist goals is much greater. But in a national election, telling people to support a candidate who is fundamentally pro-imperialist, both in words and deeds, is misleading.
by a North Carolina prisoner November 2012 permalink
In May of 2012, when I was at my previous prison, the "Prison Emergency Response Team" (PERT team) did a full facility shake down. These are regular corrections officers who have been certified to be a member of this "special" group. They wear black t-shirts with "PERT" spelled on the front breast and upper back, with camouflage pants that are tucked into black military boots. They have no name tags, so there is absolutely no way of identifying any officer.
They make you strip naked, squat and cough. Then, in nothing but your white boxers, they handcuff you, and escort you through a metal detector, while other officer tears your cell apart looking for any form of "contraband." If you return to your cell before the search is complete they make you stand facing your cell door. You cannot watch them search your cell! If you try to watch, your get verbally assaulted and/or sometimes physically man handled to the position they want you in.
During the search of my cell a personal property item of mine (electric shaver with trimmers) was broken into 3 pieces. When I asked for the names of the officers involved in the cell search, I was told it was "none of you fucking business." So, I filed a grievance. The first response was that I did not list the names of the officers involved, and there was no proof of the condition of my shaver. (Though they had current paperwork of the personal property that I had and what condition it was in.)
I appealed this response. The second response said that the first response answered my grievance. I had no names of officers, and no proof of the condition of my property before the search. "No further action is needed." I once again appealed the response. The last and final response I received was: "This examiner has reviewed this grievance and the response given by staff in the DC-410A response. My review of this grievance reveals no violation of applicable division of prisons policy nor does it show any evidence of disrespect or abuse of authority by staff. Therefore, this grievance is dismissed for lack of supporting evidence." So my grievance was turned down because I had no names of the officials that changed my property. But there is no way that I could have gotten their names in the first place!
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is yet another example of the failure of the prison grievance system to address abuses and legal violations by prison staff. Grievances are little more than a formality where the very people violating policies and laws are the same ones reviewing the complaints. They back each other up and dismiss grievances based on criteria that they know are impossible for prisoners to meet. This is why the grievance campaign is spreading across the country. North Carolina has a grievance petition customized for that state, as do many others. Write to us for a copy of the petition for your state, or for a generic petition that you can customize if we don't have one already.
Every four years Amerikans are given an opportunity to vote for a new representative to lead the country as president or re-elect the one who already holds office. This year Amerikans have two options on who to elect, either Obama or Mitt Romney. Weighing the options, who is it that will more likely bring change for the oppressed? In this case it's neither, both Obama and Romney are imperialist representatives and both share the primary concern of how to better serve the interests of capitalism/imperialism. So why should U.$. citizens vote for one oppressor over another? The answer is simple, they shouldn't!
The oppressor class will always sell high dreams and prospective futures to the oppressed to gain their vote. For instance Obama and the Democratic Party only recently proposed "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" (DACA). DACA pretends to offer non-citizens who arrived in the U.$. as children the opportunity for legal residence. But lets look at it for what it is. DACA is not actually a law but an executive order that can be revoked at any time by whoever is president. The qualifications for DACA are narrow and for those qualified they will only receive a temporary work permit. What about the others who applied and were rejected for one reason or another? Well they willingly gave up their information along with that of their families and will now be in the "ICE database" and could be rounded up and deported. It is a re-election tactic the Obama administration utilized as a ploy to get the Latino vote. But this is not in the interests of the undocumented.
"People always were and always will be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is maintained by the forces of some ruling class and there is only one way of smashing the resistance of these classes and that is to find, in the very society which surrounds us, and to enlighten and organize for the struggle the forces which can - and owing to their social positions must - constitute the power capable of sweeping away the old and creating the new." - VI Lenin On the Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism
The electoral system is not nor will it ever be the means to bringing real change, as long as there is an imperialist as president there will be no progress for the oppressed. There are those who say Obama is a better choice than Romney because Romney is a racist Mormon and his extreme conservative policies will bring further devastation to Amerika or wage more wars. But weren't these the sentiments towards the end of the Bush administration? People got fed up with Bush's deportation of immigrants and warmongering agenda. They had hope in the first Black president. But we have seen Obama has gone farther than Bush in violating people's fundamental rights in "the war on terrorism." His 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) law gives the president full authority to detain anyone who the government deems a terrorist indefinitely, without charges or a trial, and the terrorist label can be vague and will more than likely be thrown around like candy.
Obama has deported more immigrants than Bush, he also ordered more drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan than Bush. Obama's warmongering resulted in 284 drone strikes on Pakistan alone. And under Obama's leadership the United $tates., along with Israel, threatens imminent war on Iran. Let's face reality, Obama and Romney will only serve the interests of the big bourgeoisie and maintain the status quo.
As prisoners we need to consciously participate in politics that serve our interests. In ULK 28 someone mentioned the penal system in Nevada; a prisoner anticipated reprisals by fellow prisoners for exposing the warden for culinary and laundry violations to the health department. These prisoners acting on behalf of the prison administration to attack this prisoner is counter and reactionary to what he was trying to do by bettering the quality of food and laundry for the prison population. This goes to show what Mao Zedong once said about lumpen: "brave fighters but apt to be destructive. They can become a revolutionary force if given proper guidance." We all know doing favors for the pigs like that mentioned above is going a little too far and would merit a negative reaction from the prison population.
Looking at it from a bigger picture, under Obama/Romney mass incarcerations will continue. The U.$. has the highest incarceration rate in the world today and let's not forget the police brutality that has swelled across the country since Obama's been in the office.
Our action of not voting for one oppressor over another should be consciously voiced. When I explained this to a fellow prisoner he responded: "well who else is going to be your representative nationally?" My answer to that was simple: "we can represent ourselves, we don't need yankee representatives!" The oppressed nationalities need their own independent representatives who will serve their interests, not sell them out, and institutions that help them rather than strip them of their identity and culture. Reforms or amendments will never bring about genuine change for the oppressed nations, only communism will.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The author above originally quoted Karl Marx as saying:
"Every few years the oppressed are authorized to decide which members of the oppressor class will represent and crush them in parliament."
However, this does not accurately represent the conditions in the United $tates where the oppressor nation has the majority say in who represents the government that oppresses and kills more people worldwide than any other country [UPDATE: white Amerikans ended up being 72% of the voters in the 2012 national election]. The people most oppressed by U.$. imperialism have no say in these elections that affect them very deeply.
Rather than encouraging prisoners to organize in their own interests, we challenge them to think more broadly, in the interests of the oppressed people of the world. This is important because the imperialist system has stolen tremendous wealth and brought it home to Amerika where all the citizens share in the spoils. While prisoners are clearly oppressed, they share in the Amerikan mentality of looking out for their own wealth at the expense of the world's people.
This summer, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) released the fifth printing of their pamphlet "Survivors Manual: A manual written by and for people living in control units." There were some good additions to the pamphlet, such as an excerpt from Bonnie Kerness's presentation from the STOPMAX Conference, some of which is featured in the documentary "Unlock the Box"; and a summary written by Bonnie of her years of experience working with and witnessing prisoners in isolation.
Because MIM(Prisons) stands for justice and equality for all humyn-kind, in direct opposition to the capitalist-imperialist power structure, many of our comrades are targeted for placement in control units. This greatly minimizes their ability to organize others, communicate with comrades on the outside, and maintain a healthy mind and body. Others are targeted for isolation simply for attempting to learn the history of their people or help others with their legal work. So clearly, much of the information contained in this pamphlet is invaluable to our readership who are constantly threatened with, or are currently facing, time in the hole.
The AFSC is a liberal progressive group, and there is some information in this pamphlet that we think is quite bad advice for our readers. At least one article says to avoid the prisoncrats if at all possible. The authors' purported goal is to get to general population or released, and to maintain some form of happiness. If the goal were to get to general population or released in order to be a more effective revolutionary organizer, of course we would agree.
We don't advocate people go out looking for trouble, and we need to choose our battles wisely. But for prisoner activists, filing grievances on staff misconduct and unhealthy conditions is a primary method we use to defend ourselves and our fellow prisoners. Unfortunately, oftentimes these grievances lead to repression from the pigs. But we would not advocate that people shy away from this important work for the sole individualistic reason of self-preservation and happiness. The individualist approach is the bourgeois approach; in other words it's the approach that allows the bourgeoisie to win. Only by coming together can we protect each other and ourselves with real certainty.
We are going to add this manual to our list of literature we distribute, but will only distribute a portion of it. We chose to not include the individualistic content above, and other content suffering from liberalism in one form or another: defeatist poetry; dating tips; and strategical advice that is in conflict with our lines on security. We left out other pieces due to redundancy. Of the content we did leave in, much of it we think is great advice that we would recommend everyone in isolation pick up for their own self-care. But do not take inclusion in this modified pamphlet as a 100% endorsement of each article; we did leave some content that we hold minor disagreement with.
We greatly appreciate Prison Watch Project of the American Friends Service Committee for compiling and distributing this guide to the wider prisoner audience. But in order to make it relevant to our work as revolutionary activists, we have selected the portions that we find useful. To contact the AFSC or Bonnie Kerness for the full version and other resources, write to:
Bonnie Kerness Coordinator, Prison Watch Project American Friends Service Committee 89 Market Street, 6th Floor Newark, NJ 07102 [email protected]
Two days ago I watched a white male sergeant named Curtis Jordan pull a Mexican male out of his cell violently and slam his head against a wall, and continue to smash his head against the wall and he looked up at my cell where I was watching and said "Tell that, Bitch!" I wrote a detailed affidavit to Senior Warden Cody Ginsel of Estelle Unit requesting that he review the video. This was an unprovoked use of force! Believe it or not, major David M. Forrest ordered the brutality against this innocent Mexican prisoner, who has some mental health issues. These racists target the weak, elderly, and mentally ill prisoners who can't fight back.
Comrades, I need your help in exposing these swine. Here is a list of the "Clique." My goal is to break this "good ole boy" clique up and possibly improve the living conditions in this slave pen of oppression for all.
Assistant Warden Steven T. Miller, in charge of the High Security Unit at Estelle — extremely vindictive, and promotes inhumane treatment of prisoners.
Major David M. Forrest — Eight years ago was a Senior Warden, was demoted to Lieutenant after being involved in the murder of a prisoner. This is our Chief KKK grand wizard! We must destroy him!
Lieutenant James H. Kent — His father is a Deputy Directory. In the past six months the prison watchdog service, con-care service, received 16 prisoner complaints from prisoners housed at this High Security Unit. Kent was a main actor in five of the 16 complaints. He is cocky, arrogant and believes he is invincible.
Lieutenant Deward Demoss — Big racist. Made a death threat against me in May 2012. I filed a complaint with DOJ.
Sergeant Curtis Jordan — An unapologetic racist. He will tell you to your face "I hate niggers and wetbacks. I'm a redneck." Too many wrongs to list.
We have two house negroes on the payroll. They are flunkies and dupes: A. Sergeant Terell Beverly — A sado-masochist with a history of abuse aimed at prisoners. B. Sergeant Brooks ("the snake") — A young Black man who is so wicked and brainwashed it sickens me.
I know that there is no specific race or ethnicity associated with oppressors, and it is a huge mistake to think if we traded all these white men in for "brothers" all problems would cease. That is idealistic bullshit.
Unit Grievance Investigator Allen Hartley is the Senior Grievance Investigator. He is super corrupt and in league with these racists. The grievance system is so broken. The main problem is the grievance staff do not practice objectivity or operate with any integrity. There just isn't any incentive for them to mete out justice and render fair decisions. People have been killed because they fail to do their job properly. Hartley's modus operandi is cronyism, nepotism, misplaced comradery, and obstruction of justice.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Exposing structural relationships like this highlights the continuing importance and need for national liberation of the internal semi-colonies. As this comrade points out, replacing all the white men with Black men (integrationism) would not change anything. Similarly, replacing them with more progressive-minded people in general would not lead to significant change because the fundamental problem is the criminal injustice system. It is set up so that police, courts, and prisons serve as tools of social control, and the individuals working within the system can do little to change that.
This is why we must put our battles against individual oppressors and policies in the context of the fight against imperialism as a system. Without liberating the oppressed nations from imperialist oppression we will never make fundamental change to the criminal injustice system that attacks us. So we must take up these smaller battles as agitational tools to mobilize the oppressed and as battles to exert the will of the oppressed in small ways that benefit our ability to educate and organize together.