"What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences... We have a common oppressor, a common exploiter, and a common discriminator... Once we all realize that we have a common enemy, then we unite on the basis of what we have in common." - Malcolm X
It is a historical truth that repression breeds resistance, which is why we prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison's (PBSP) Security Housing Units (SHUs) and Communications Management Units (CMUs) took the initiative to come together, and go on a hunger strike in order to say to our oppressors that "20-plus years of state-sponsored torture and persecution in which our human rights have been routinely violated, for no other reason than to keep us prisoners confined in their mad scientist-like torture chambers as alleged prison gang members is enough!!!"
But as we all know, repression evolves and develops in cycles. So on 2 August 2011 PBSP and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials threatened all hunger strike participants with punitive retaliatory measures, for the sole act of our hunger strike participation. This happened in spite of the fact that we have a human right to peacefully protest any unjust laws, as warranted to us in the First Amendment of the U.$. Constitution. An unjust law is no law at all! The unjust laws in this case are the ones legalizing the indefinite housing of us prisoners in solitary confinement (SHU/CMU).
We prisoners were issued the following CDC 128-B Chrono that states:
The California Code of Regulations, Title 15, identifies that leading and/or participating in a strike, disturbance, or work stoppage is a violation of the Director's rules. On or about July 1, 2011 you were identified as having participated in a statewide hunger strike event along with in excess of 6000 other CDCR inmates in support of perceived overly harsh SHU housing issues originating from within the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. This activity created a non-violent significant disruption to institutional healthcare services and Department of Corrections programming and operations throughout the state, which included Pelican Bay State Prison, where you were assigned during your participation in this event. Your behavior and actions were out of compliance with the Director's rules, and this documentation is intended to record your actions; and advise that progressive discipline will be taken in the future for any reoccurrence of this type of behavior. Date: 08/02/11. From: K. Welch, Correctional Officer.
However, this CDC 128-B Chrono is contradicted by an article that appeared in The Daily Triplicate newspaper during the month of June 2011, that was entitled "Pelican Bay Hunger Strike in the Offing. Some Inmates May Stop Eating Friday" by Anthony Skeens. Within the article, CDCR Spokeswoman Terry Thorton stated, "There are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat."(1) The struggle continues!
To update you on the hunger strike issue, the progress of negotiations are not complete as far as what we hope in regards to the prisoncrats demonstrating a sense of humanity. The struggle is never about seeking more than necessary. It's bad enough as it is that, for the most part, prisoners in the short corridor are already doing life sentences handed down by the courts. The opportunity to change this depressive life style will afford us the means and the will to reach out to the prison populace and help channel backwards thinking into more progressive and firm social-consciousness and to establish MIM study groups with the sole intent of elevating the level of consciousness.
The California prison system in many ways is behind the times in relation to other prison systems in this country. Being concerned about the materialistic aspects of life, subordinated to sub-survival rather than political consciousness. The coming together of the most oppressed, repressed and suppressed klass of prisoners has established a progressive precedent in hopes of changing the dynamics of the prison klass and all its ills. This is the real fear of the prisoncrats: social and political conscious! We cannot afford complacency, militants wither away like the wind. The struggle is a long haul and having the equipment is about fortitude.
The SHU is specifically assigned to minimize our effectiveness in reaching the bulk of the prison klass, no one should fear genuine and proper education, like Malcolm said: "it's the passport to the future."
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade that the Pelican Bay Food Strike was a good step forward in establishing unity in struggle for the common goal of raising conditions of prisoners. We need to take advantage of this opening and stand firm in demands for change. The other vital piece to advancing unity among the oppressed imprisoned population is through ongoing education and political struggle. For it is through struggle and study that greater unity is reached. We need to be honest about where we agree and where we disagree, while focusing on how we can work together when we agree on important things. Then future actions will be even stronger and inspire the masses even more through unity in action. These are the two aspects of developing point 2 of the United Front for Peace in Prisons Statement of Principles.
As a followup to R7's July 2011 article Assassination Nation, I note the international practices of Amerika in extra judicial killing. But the reality of the matter is that we do not have to even look internationally in that I recall the assassination of Oscar Grant by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) pig Johannes Mehserle who only received a two year sentence that did not even include actually seeing the inside of a California Department of Corrections prison. Too many times right here in the so-called land of the free, people from oppressed nations are assassinated by the agents of law enforcement as was the case of the July 10 2011 assassination of former professional football player David "Deacon" Turner who resided in Kern County, California.
On July 10 2011 Turner, a 56-year-old Black man, went to a mini-mart gas station to purchase himself a couple cans of beer, which is not a crime. However, upon exiting the mini-mart he found himself accosted by Kern County's finest sheriff's deputies who claimed as their justification for the harassment that they allegedly received a report that an adult was purchasing alcohol for minors.
Turner was subjected to search, to which he voluntarily submitted, and after which he asked if he was under arrest. The deputy stated he was not, so Turner exercised his supposed right to leave and picked up his bag and turned to leave. However the pig was upset that Turner chose to exercise his right to leave and not partake in any non-custodial interrogation so the sheriff deputy struck Turner from behind with his baton and the second sheriff's deputy drew his pistol and shot Turner in his abdomen. Turner died at the scene.
The mini-mart has surveillance equipment with multiple camera feeds which were seized by the Kern County sheriff's department. Then Kern County sheriff Donnie Youngblood released to the local news media a segment of video feed that shows Turner exiting the mini mart and initially being accosted and searched by the Kern County sheriff deputy. It includes the search and subsequent brief verbal exchange, which lines up with the witness statement that Turner asked if he was under arrest and the deputy told him he was not. The video also shows that Turner exercised his right to be on his way and the sheriff deputy running up and striking Turner multiple times with his baton. However, all of a sudden five seconds of the video is missing during which David Turner is assassinated. The sheriffs department claimed that the camera feed malfunctioned!
Sheriff Donnie Youngblood claimed that David Turner attempted to hit the sheriff's deputy in the head with the bag that contained two cans of beer, yet the video feed does not show Turner do anything that could be construed as aggressive and the non-law-enforcement witnesses stated to reporters that they did not see Turner do anything aggressive towards the deputy. Yet the sheriff's department ruled the assassination to be within departmental guidelines.
What further raises concern about the assassination is the fact that when the sheriff's department was compelled to release video feed from another camera, it also was missing a five second feed that matched the initial video feed released, yet each camera had independent motion sensors. I just wanted to point out that assassinations by the U.$. government and their lackeys are not just happening in other countries, they are also happening in California and beyond with impunity.
Just as the U.$. government issues its spin, Donnie Youngblood is also issuing the tried, tested and patently untrue spin. It includes the official alteration of video evidence so as to minimize and cover up another assassination matching that of Oscar Grant, many others across the state of California, and beyond.
Since official assassination is tolerated by the local, county, state and national citizenry such will continue to take place. As with every practice perfected on citizens here, it is exported to the rest of the world. As R7 points out, the inner city campaign of control through terror occurred in the so-called city of brotherly love.
It is said that Amerika is the land of the free but I see it as the land of the lost souls that tolerate state-sponsored terrorism and deception.
MIM(Prisons) adds: A closer study of the history of Amerikans in relation to oppressed nations in North America and around the world reveals that they actively support and participate in the Assassination Nation that they are (see J. Sakai's Settlers for an excellent history proving this very point).
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the second remake of the original Planet of the Apes movie series. It is an origins story, replacing the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes story which was fourth in the original five part series. Conquest was released in 1972 and depicted a storyline clearly intended to parallel the Black liberation movement that had just peaked in the United $tates at that time, but with an actual successful revolution. Conquest and the final part of the original series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, presented clearly revolutionary themes. Even the first couple movies of the original series did more to challenge white nationalism than this recent remake. This difference is due to the stage of struggle in the United $tates at the time.
Today, the first movie (released in 1968) is easily dismissed by the oppressor nation as a commentary on the "distant" past of slavery, rather than what were modern social injustices. When that film was redone in 2001, it did not live up to its predecessor's social relevance. Based on that disappointment, we expected a stronger effort to dilute the origins story for another hollywood blockbuster. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Rise actually maintained the revolutionary origins story, and even linked it to the modern prison struggle in relevant ways.
This movie probably won't be making the rounds in too many prisons due to the blatant themes of prisoners educating themselves and building unity to escape their abusive conditions. But there's nothing to learn from this movie that one couldn't get easily, and of course more usefully, from picking up any issue of Under Lock & Key.
Rise was pretty formulaic in story and form. It contains lots of fast battle scenes and loud music, and followed the predictable story line with flat characters. There were plenty of quotes from the original movie series thrown in as well as recognizable character names.
The good aspects of Rise were also simple, but surprisingly relevant. The strongest positive message we saw in this film was the need for self-determination and the struggle against integrationism. Caesar, a chimpanzee, and the hero of the story, refuses an opportunity given by his former benefactor to leave prison and return to the humyn world. In a few days or weeks Caesar develops an affinity for his fellow imprisoned apes, which trumps his many years living with humyns. He turns his back to Dr. Rodman and stays in prison to continue building and organizing with fellow apes. This is a very relevant point to the imprisoned population, especially in a day when the oppressed nations have reached high levels of integration into Amerika. With people shuffling in and out of prison and jail, it is easy to choose an Amerikan identity over that of the oppressed. We also see many who work tirelessly to get themselves out of prison, without ever joining the larger prison movement. Caesar is clear that alone apes are weak, but together they can be strong. This is a very simple yet relevant refrain to our current situation in the prison movement today.
An orangutan responds to Caesar's comments on unity by saying that apes are dumb, not unlike what many prisoners who write MIM(Prisons) say about their peers. The solution to this in the film, and the material origin of apes taking over humyn society, is in a virus produced by a bioengineering project. This allows ape brains to develop intelligence that they never could before. In real life, the imprisoned and oppressed do not face a material disadvantage in intelligence, but are set back by the oppressor's conditioning through both the carrot and the stick. In real life the ALZ 112 and ALZ 113 viruses from the film are instead Marxism-Leninism-Maoism: the tool that can give the oppressed the intellectual material they need to organize effectively.
As part of his organizing efforts, Caesar allies with a silverback (dominant) chimpanzee and puts him in a position of leading the group in sharing and developing a group consciousness, without the silverback really understanding at first. It was a good lesson in leadership within a United Front and how we might work with those who are recognized as leaders for their dominant roles within the group, but don't yet possess the leadership skills and revolutionary understanding to lead the oppressed down the road of liberation.
Just like in U.$. prisons, the apes educate each other in secret because they know that they will be targeted for special repression if seen. The interactions between the imprisoned apes and humyn captors is crude, accurately reflecting the basic relations in U.$. prisons for humyns today. In this way, Rise could play a small role in building consciousness among viewers that would make them more likely to be sympathetic of prison resistances such as those organized across California and Georgia in recent months. While the majority of the audience will find itself rooting for the apes while watching this film, in real life most will follow their own self-interests in the situation and root for the state in repressing any group that challenges the status quo.
The role of Buck the gorilla gives us an important lesson in revolutionary suicide. In the final battle scene that takes place on the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, he takes a bullet for Caesar just before taking down the last humyns left standing who threatened the lives of other apes in the battle. He recognizes the unique capabilities of both himself and of Caesar and puts the interests of the ape liberation struggle above his own life to guide his actions. At this stage in the struggle we are not engaged in protracted war, but revolutionary sacrifice is still relevant to how we decide to spend our time and organize our lives, and even in peaceful struggles lives are sometimes taken by the oppressor. Buck's revolutionary suicide is an example of a sacrifice that had to be made in order for the ape struggle to continue.
In the end of the film, Dr. Rodman again plays the role of liberal integrationist asking Caesar to come back and live with him, saying "this is not the way." Caesar speaks a full phrase for the first time and says "Caesar is home" referring to the population of just-liberated apes taking up residence in the forest. Of course, in real life the consciousness of the oppressed internal semi-colonies leans much more heavily in the direction of integration than Caesar, who has actual biological differences from the humyn species. In the movie, differences between apes and humyns had just begun to weaken, whereas the socially imposed differences between the oppressed and oppressor nations inside the United $tates have eroded over many decades. Even if Caesar tried to integrate, he could never live the lifestyle of a humyn, in contrast to the large proportion of the internal semi-colonies that enjoy the comforts of imperialist exploitation.
In mid June of this year my cell block (unit 7) at TRCI conducted a food strike and a canteen strike. We agreed that we would not come out of our cells during meal times for 4 days. Also we agreed not to purchase canteen for one month since they use the profits for themselves in a lot of ways and as you know, the best way to slay Goliath is to hit their pockets. We were contesting a few different things. For one, this is the only prison in Oregon that will not allow group photos and we have to wear jeans, long sleeve blue shirt (no sunglasses or hats!) All of the other joints you can have 4 people in the photo, shirts off, in shorts, with sunglasses and a hat on if you so desire! For two, they were trying to change our TV program package to very basic cable. There was a couple other reasons we decided to demonstrate also, but I'll pass on that for now.
Anyway, the food strike went on for 4 days and the whole unit minus some old 72 year old guy participated.
The authorities were pissed! Almost one month later they came and snatched me and 5 other guys off the unit and threw us in the dungeon under the guise of being "key" shot callers in the food strike.
Here I sit with the max sanctions, 180 days in the hole, 24 days loss of privileges upon release from seg and a $200 disciplinary fine. All of their "evidence" results from confidential informants. Of course I am appealing, but their appeal process is a joke. However, I aim to take it to court as soon as my appeal is denied.
I have spread and continue to the word about your publication/organization and my comrades and I are always spreading information to help hinder the very ones who oppress us.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are pleased to hear reports like this one about prisoners coming together to fight for common goals. And we do not know the full story of the demands these protesters put forward, but we will point out that the photo and TV situation described above is not high on the list of demands from the anti-imperialist movement. These problems are neither torture nor repressive towards political organizing and education, and those are the primary areas of our focus for protests. While it is important to develop demands that will unite a broad group of prisoners, we do not want to water down the goals of our movement to the extent that these demands lose their value. We work towards this unity of goals and prisoners through the United Front for Peace in Prisons and we look forward to working with these comrades in Oregon on future protests.
Tres semanas dentro de la huelga, CDCR ha dado su repuesta oficial lo que se puede resumir, "La vamos a investigar." El 15 de Julio CDCR les hace una propuesta a los huelguistas de Pelican Bay que termine la huelga sin prometer cambios. Los presos rechazaron la oferta y continuaron con el hambre, que calificaron de "humo y espejos" y de "insultar". (1) Estas personas están dispuestos a morir por los derechos fundamentales que ha sido negado durante años, décadas, para muchos, y CDCR llega a la mesa con nada
Nuestras preguntas han recibido las mismas repuesta del Director sobre, "Operando en acuerdo completo de la ley . . . mientras proveyendo por el tratamiento humano y ético de todos los prisioneros." Aun más indignante, el Director afirma que CDCR proveen, "la capacidad de hacer programas con todo seguridad y participar en su rehabilitación." ¡La huelga está ocurriendo porque no hay programas ni rehabilitación!
Los que están en contacto con los huelguistas nos informan que algunos en Pelican Bay quien habían dejado el ayuno han regresado a la huelga en repuesta a la negligencia de CDCR. También hemos recibido palabra de 4 camaradas que están en el Instituto para Hombres de California en Chino que ellos acaban de comenzar una huelga de hambre en solidaridad después de recibir noticias desde MIM(Prisons).
Otros reportes recibidos recientemente incluyen uno en lo que United Struggle from Within organizó camaradas en Kern Valley State Prison por una huelga de hambre de 24 horas en solidaridad. En High Desert State Prison, donde los marranos servían doble porciones de comida para impedir una huelga, unos cuantos camaradas rehusaron la comida desde el primer de julio hasta el tercero. Secciones enteros de California State Prison - Corcoran todavía están de huelga y los médicos están viniendo regularmente para pesar los prisioneros.
I am a prisoner currently incarcerated in the Florida department of corrections. At this time I'm being held at Dade Correctional Institution, in the mental health dorm transitional care unit.
This unit is for prisoners who have had, or who have developed serious mental health problems. This place is supposed to provide treatment such as counseling, one-on-one therapy, groups, etc. And it does that, but only to a bare minimum.
I am writing this because the prisoners here are being neglected. Not so much the ones who have good sense left, such as myself, but the severe cases of the prisoners who are so far gone they've lost touch with reality; the ones who are truly mentally disabled.
I've been writing grievances about this neglect, but the FL DOC has this rule that if the incident does not affect you personally then you cannot grieve the issue. This makes no sense to me at all. Some of these inmates are gone, and cannot grieve when they are done wrong.
There's an incident here that I continue to grieve of a prisoner who sleeps in the cell across from mine. This comrade has nothing in his cell except his being and a set of blues. He has no mattress, blanket, sheets, nothing. This guy doesn't talk at all. He makes noises sometimes that have no reasonable meaning but that's about it. He's lost to the world and he is mentally unstable. He cannot ask for these things, and he definitely cannot file a grievance. So this prisoner must continue to live like this because of some stupid rule that the DOC made up about this not affecting me directly.
There are a lot of prisoners here who are being literally warehoused. There are guys here who haven't taken a shower for months. They don't ask so it's not offered.
This is a mental health dorm. The staff are suppose to be helping these prisoners who cannot help themselves, and instead they are ignoring them.
I, fortunately, cannot be ignored. My mental health issues developed from doing long periods of time in close management settings (control units). I admit I became weak in a way. I picked up a bad habit that eventually turned into an addiction: self mutilation — I'm a cutter. But I am not beyond bouncing back. I do time how I want to do time. And that's the way I'm comfortable right now so it is what it is. I've got good sense though, trust that!
I'm going to continue to write up everything that I see these pigs here do, and I'm writing everything they're not doing up too. Someone will eventually listen. They cannot run a mental health unit like this. I'm going to keep on fighting for our rights until something is done.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Health care in prisons across the U.$. is terrible so it's no surprise to hear about the lack of even basic care in these Florida Mental Health units. We are also not surprised to hear the effect that long term incarceration has had on this comrade, leading to self mutilation. This is a good example of capitalism causing so-called mental illnesses. In reality, we should call these torture illnesses, as they are a direct result of torture in prisons. For more information about imperialism and psychology request a copy of MIM Theory 9: Psychology and Revolution.
I am currently at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) and I was involved in the recent hunger strike. We stayed on strike until July 5th, not just the 24 hour strike that your article stated we did at KVSP. It would have gone on longer until ISU and IGI started pulling out certain individuals and demanded we get off the hunger strike! As you know, validations are very easy to come by nowadays. So the hunger strike ended.
I write this to inform you that the COINTELPRO is still alive and active today under another name, and is used to continue their tactics of divide and conquer. If you are a Black Panther or have a tattoo of a panther, or if you are interested in the history of our beloved fallen comrades, you are now considered a security threat group (STG) [in Texas]. So now they are targeting the majority of Black prisoners as "gang members." After 14 years on the same unit under many different officers, now all of a sudden I'm labeled as an STG. This is based on books one reads and notation that one might write for a broader understanding. In other words our freedom of expression of political beliefs is now viewed as inflammatory and a security threat.
MIM(Prisons) held a congress in June where we addressed some important theoretical and practical questions for our organizing. We began congress with some study and discussion on the principal contradiction as applied to our work fighting the criminal injustice system. This discussion led to some clarifications and unity as well as an agreement to do more study to develop a position paper on this subject. The congress itself was left with the unifying understanding that the principal task overall is to create public opinion and independent institutions of the oppressed to seize power. All congress discussion strove to apply this principal task.
A discussion of finances and goals led to a re-affirmation that Under Lock & Key is our most important organizing tool. That thought informed discussions about potentially expanding the size and frequency of ULK and tradeoffs with producing and/or mailing other revolutionary literature in to prisoners. With limited time and money, it's important that we make the best use of our resources by carefully considering these decisions.
We changed the distribution policy for ULK this year, sending new people only one sample issue before removing them from the mailing list if we do not hear back from them saying that they want to stay on. This led to an artificial drop in people on our mailing list, and our theory at the time of developing this new policy was that these people were mostly not receiving ULK and/or not interested in it. However, we've had a decline in the rate of new subscribers in the past year that we think might be associated with this changed policy. To test out this theory, we will be re-instating the policy of allowing all people to stay on our mailing list for 6 months before they get cut off if we have not heard from them.
On the positive side, we have had a big increase in regular writers, and the folks contributing solid, high quality articles and art to Under Lock & Key has gone up. We have also become more selective about which articles/letters get typed for posting on the website and consideration for inclusion in ULK. With an excess of good potential articles, we are focusing on the best submissions and trying to work with writers to improve their articles and writing skills when we don't accept something for publication. We are not as strong in this second area as we would like; more should be done to send comrades responses to their article submissions when they are not making the cut for print. We also need to give people more guidance about what we are and are not looking for to print.
Although MIM(Prisons) focuses on work with prisoners, we know that in order to build public opinion we must also reach people on the outside. Our main tool for this work is our website www.prisoncensorship.info, which was relaunched in January 2011 with a new look and added features to bring in more readers. Our web traffic doubled in the past year and we are seeing a very strong growth in interest in our online work. To this end we are going to do some web-based outreach to continue to expand the voices of our comrades behind bars. This will include putting the many art submissions we receive but can't fit into ULK online for people to see.
Anti-Censorship and PLC
Since our winter congress, we have been focusing our anti-censorship efforts on trying to recruit lawyers on the outside to help us take some select prison administrations to court. This is a slow-going process, and we recently decided to refocus back on writing directly to administrators on behalf of prisoners who can't receive mail from us. This has proven to be a fruitful investment in the past, leading to both victories over censorship, and recruiting new comrades to work with MIM(Prisons) and the United Struggle from Within. For MIM(Prisons)'s 2011 annual censorship report, click here.
In other legal work, many of you know that MIM(Prisons) facilitates a Prisoners' Legal Clinic (PLC), picking up a project that MIM used to run. This incarnation has been going since November 2009 and has strayed from its original path of working on issues that are intimately related to our anti-imperialist struggle, and had degraded into a more broad legal strategy discussion group with contributors showing limited initiative to pick up tasks outlined by MIM(Prisons). In upcoming PLC mailings we will be refocusing on our goals and tasks, and referring comrades out for general legal discussion. A PLC mailing went out in June 2011, so PLC contributors should let us know if they haven't gotten theirs yet.
MIM(Prisons)-led Study Groups
Last year we separated our introductory study course into two different levels. The first level is short (only two assignments) and studies two articles written by MIM(Prisons). The second level studies more advanced material and lasts much longer (about one year). We have recently recruited advanced USW members as study group responders, which helps relieve MIM(Prisons) to do other work that can only be done by someone on the outside, and is a great task for someone to do who can't run a study group where they're at due to isolation restrictions. We encourage all prisoners, advanced or beginner, to get together and study revolutionary material. You will get so much more out of it than if you just read something once by yourself!
More advanced study group participants have created a number of study guides over the last year, and comrades are actively working to build the MIM(Prisons) glossary, which should be available for distribution in the next year. Study group coordinators have worked to improve structure and set clear schedules and expectations at all levels over the last year.
United Struggle from Within
Of the hundreds of new people we've had requesting to be put on our mailing list in the last year, 50% of them were recruited by people with various levels of activity within United Struggle from Within (USW); 32% wrote in because they had seen some MIM or MIM(Prisons) literature, and 17% were referred by resource guides or non-prisoners, such as lawyers or family members on the outside. This shows that the USW is successfully completing the task of multiplying subscribers to Under Lock & Key as outlined in the USW Intro Letter and the Second Introductory Letter About MIM(Prisons).
Another USW task is to expand the grievance petition campaign that was initiated in California and spread to Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma. MIM(Prisons) was able to post these petitions online in February 2011 so family members and activists on the outside can print them and mail them to their people experiencing grievance issues. In California the campaign came to a head in February 2011, and the CDCR granted the prisoners a partial victory by slightly reforming their grievance process. Comrades in Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri are still requesting the grievance campaign from us and are submitting them to administrators. For more information on active USW campaigns, click here.
Several new policies were passed related to working with prison-based organizations and facilitating correspondence between imprisoned groups/individuals.
Policy on Prisoner-to-Prisoner Correspondence
MIM(Prisons) provides Under Lock & Key as a general forum for public discussion of developments within the prison movement.
MIM(Prisons) provides small group forums for specific projects, involving those prisoners who have done work on, or have a special interest in said project. The principle example of this is the ULK Writers group. But our ability to run such groups is limited.
We do not want to hold the key to all work being done in the anti-imperialist prison movement, because this is not good leadership. Good comrades are rare, so it is in our interest that prisoners develop independent networks of communication with those they want to build with. This is also a positive thing in the case that MIM(Prisons) may be repressed or somehow put to an end.
With this in mind, the following is our policy for facilitating such developments without violating the role and purpose of MIM(Prisons) or jeopardizing the greater movement:
If comrades have outside addresses or are allowed to correspond with other prisoners we will forward their info to another prisoner per request of the persyn whose info is being sent ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS. We will make the determination to do this based on the political value of aiding this connection, with careful consideration to the time and money this costs our very resource-limited program. Every piece of mail we send is less stamps and time we have available to send something else.
Comrades who have demonstrated a certain level of ideological unity with MIM(Prisons) may be assigned as theoretical corresponders. They will be sent correspondence from other comrades through us for response. The response will either be printed in ULK or sent privately to the original writer. In either case, neither persyn's identity is revealed to the other.
These assignments are to expand the work of MIM(Prisons), and primarily to improve the depth and breadth of our correspondence. Secondarily, this is an important way for our comrades in prison to develop their political line and debate skills, especially those who are in isolation.
We will not serve as a dropbox for third party correspondence. Not only does this set us up for censorship, it takes up limited resources. Theoretical struggle between those not upholding MIM line should be able to be conducted through ULK or within MIM(Prisons)-led study groups. When necessary, one-on-one correspondence with recruits will be assigned to a comrade in MIM(Prisons) or a theoretically advanced USW leader.
Building New Groups Vs. Working with USW and MIM(Prisons)
We only work to build two organizations at this time: MIM(Prisons) and USW. The only organizing group we run for prisoners is the USW leaders group, and even that is mostly done through Under Lock & Key for efficiency and to reach the masses with info on USW work.
We do not think that we, or any other group, serves as the end-all-be-all vanguard organization for North America at this time. There are many roles to be played and more groups to be built. But for security reasons, and this is doubly true in prisons, organizational cells should be primarily location-based. Mass organizations like USW are countrywide because of coordination work through the vanguard organization MIM(Prisons).
Because of security concerns in prisons, and the very stringent restrictions on contact between prisoners, even within the same cell block, MIM(Prisons) encourages those who have unity with our cardinal principles to become USW leaders. We do not recruit prisoners directly into MIM(Prisons) because of the restrictions of the prison system, but we afford these comrades the opportunity to contribute and participate at the level of full comrade in every aspect of organizing work feasible, including encouraging them to help us develop new political line and move forward our organizing strategies.
There are only a few conditions that would merit launching a new prison-based organization:
Comrades launching the organization disagree with MIM(Prisons)'s cardinal principles. If you agree with our cardinal principles, why not work with the established group led by MIM(Prisons): USW? If you think you disagree, it is important to clearly articulate the cardinal principles of your new organization if you hope to organize people around common goals.
A disagreement with MIM(Prisons)'s policy of not recruiting prisoners into MIM(Prisons) while they are behind bars. These comrades may wish to establish a vanguard organization in their location, whose members are subject to democratic centralism and can focus on cell-based organizing.
The case of an LO or other existing mass organization that develops into a revolutionary party and adopts cardinal principles affirming their communist ideology. While we would consider this a very positive development, we caution comrades that this has been tried more than once by the most advanced comrades in an LO, and the limitations of communication with a countrywide group from within prison have always led to insurmountable obstacles in attempts to bring the whole organization together behind communist principles. Further, we maintain that if the members of such a group are not overwhelmingly supporting a move to communist organizing, the advanced elements would be better to leave the group and join or form another, rather than wrecking the existing group from within. The reason we talk about vanguards versus mass organizations is that there are too many contradictions among the masses for everyone to take the leap of forming a scientific communist organization all at once. Existing groups that take up anti-imperialism play a very valuable role in the United Front without becoming communist organizations, often accomplishing things the communists could not.
Comrades who wish to build a new nation-based vanguard. MIM(Prisons) is not a single-nation organization, but we affirm the value of such groups to the revolutionary movement within U.$. borders. However, we caution prisoners looking to form these organizations from scratch that the difficulties in organizing outside of your own prison (or even within your prison when your group is targeted for lock-up in control units, or transfers, and other repression) are significant.
Revolutionary organizations representing different nations, lumpen groups, or regions require self-sufficiency. If comrades trying to launch such organizations continue to fail for lack of resources and support they should be working within USW and MIM(Prisons) on other projects until their conditions change.
USW is a mass organization, and therefore comrades can join USW while maintaining membership in another organization if that organization allows dual membership and that organization does not openly disagree with MIM(Prisons)'s cardinal principles.
On Relations with Prison-Based Organizations
MIM(Prisons) frequently receives statements of support and principles, as well as other contributions of work, from representatives of LOs and other groups that span states. Many of these individuals want their organization name printed with their article. We will always do our best to confirm that those submitting statements can speak for their organizations before we print them in Under Lock & Key or on the web. Part of this process involves observing good consistent work from that organization over a period of time. But we know that there are often organizations that span multiple locations where different political lines arise in different sections of that group. MIM(Prisons) cannot pick representatives for an organization or help with correspondence to get these groups better aligned (beyond what we already do via ULK). Due to the limitations of organizing from behind-bars, we encourage political LOs to consider dividing into location-based cells to ensure each group correctly represents the political line of its members.
For those groups whose material we do print or review, contact info will be printed in ULK when available. The only organizations you can contact via our address are MIM(Prisons) and USW. You may also send United Front for Peace related correspondence to MIM(Prisons). Mail addressed to other organizations but sent to MIM(Prisons) will not be forwarded or returned.