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[Revolutionary History] [Civil Liberties] [Political Repression] [National Oppression] [Security] [Attica Correctional Facility] [New York] [ULK Issue 84]
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Book Review: Tip of the Spear

Tip of the Spear book cover
Tip of the Spear Black Radicalism, Prison Repression, and the Long Attica Revolt
Orisanmi Burton (Author)
University of California Press
October 2023

“without understanding carceral spaces as zones of undeclared domestic war, zones that are inextricably linked to imperial and officially acknowledged wars abroad, we cannot fully understand how and why the U.S. became the global leader of incarceration that it is today.” (1)

Tip of the Spear is the story of the organization and flourishing of resistance to American imperialism as it developed in the New York state prison system in the 1960s and 1970s, including the time well before the four days of Attica in 1971. Professor of anthropology Orisanmi Burton does many things in this book, a lot of which we’ll only be able to mention briefly or not at all, but MIM(Prisons) has already sent out many copies of this book and is prepared to send out many more to enable further study and discussion of Burton’s very worthy research and ideas.

We are asking our readers to send their own feedback on this book, to write up their own local histories or stories applying the framework below, and to popularize this understanding of U.$. prisons as part of the imperialist war on the oppressed peoples of the world that we must unite against.

Prisons are War

Burton begins his investigation with George Jackson’s observation that Black people “were defeated in a war and are now captives, slaves or actually that we inherited a neoslave existence.” (2) Prison conditions don’t originate in the law or in ideas but in the historical fact of defeat in a war that still continues.

But what kind of war is it? One side surrounds the other and forces it to submit daily, the way that an army laying siege to a city tries to wear down the resistance of the population. These sieges include not just starving prisoners of food but of social life, education, and culture. In maintaining its rule the state uses the tools of counterinsurgency to split the revolutionary ranks, co-opt the cause and re-establish its rule on a more secure level. On the other side, the prisoners have themselves, their ability to unite and organize in secret, and their willingness to sacrifice for the cause – the attributes of a guerrilla army. (3)

prisons are war

Burton spends an entire chapter, “Hidden War,” laying out the strategies the state pursued when its naked brutality failed to prevent prisoner organization and rebellion. After the smoke cleared at Attica and wardens, politicians and prison academics had a chance to catch their breath, they settled on four strategies to prevent another Attica from happening: (4)

One, prisons were expanded across the state, so that density was reduced and prisoner organizing could be more effectively disrupted. If a prisoner emerged as a leader, they could be sent to any number of hellholes upstate surrounded by new people and have to start the process all over again. The longer and more intense the game of Solitaire the state played with them, the better. We see this strategy being applied to USW comrades across the country to this day.

Prisons were also superficially humanized, the introduction of small, contingent privileges to encourage division and hierarchy among prisoners, dull the painful edge of incarceration somewhat, and dangle hope. Many prisoners saw through it, and Burton makes the point that the brief periods of rebellion had provided the only real human moments most prisoners had experienced during their time inside. For example, Attica survivor, John “Dacajeweiah” Hill described meeting a weeping prisoner in D yard during the rebellion who was looking up at the stars for the first time in 23 years. (5) Burton sums this up: “the autonomous zones created by militant action… had thus far proven the only means by which Attica’s oppressive atmosphere was substantially ameliorated.”

Diversification went hand in hand with expansion, where a wide range of prison experiences were created across the system. Prisons like Green Haven allowed prisoners to smoke weed and bring food back to their cells, and permitted activities like radical lectures from outsiders. At the same time, other prisons were going on permanent lockdowns and control units were in development.

And finally, programmification presented a way for prisoners to be kept busy, for outsiders (maybe even former critics of the prison system) to be co-opted and brought into agreement with prison officials, and provide free labor to keep the system stable by giving prisoners another small privilege to look forward to. To this day, New York, as well as California and other states, require prisoners who are not in a control unit to program.

All of this was occurring in the shadow of the fact that the state had demonstrated it would deploy indiscriminate violence, even sacrificing its own employees as it had at Attica, to restore order. The classic carrot-and-stick dynamic of counterinsurgency was operating at full force.

Before Attica: Tombs, Branch Queens, Auburn

Burton discusses Attica, but doesn’t make it the exclusive focus of his book, as it has already been written about and discussed elsewhere. He brings into the discussion prison rebellions prior to Attica that laid the groundwork, involved many of the same people, and demonstrated the character of the rebellions overall.

The first was at Tombs, or the Manhattan House of Detention, where prisoners took hostages and issued demands in the New York Times, denouncing pretrial detention that kept men in limbo for months or years, overcrowding, and racist brutality from guards. Once the demands were published, the hostages were released. Eighty corrections officers stormed the facility with blunt weapons and body armor and restored order, and after the rebellion two thirds of the prisoners were transferred elsewhere to break up organizations, like the Inmate Liberation Front, that had grown out of Tombs and supported its resistance. (6) Afterwards, the warden made improvements and took credit for them. This combination of furious outburst, violent response and conciliatory reform would repeat itself.

Next Branch Queens erupted, where the Panther 21 had recently been incarcerated. Prisoners freed them, hung a Pan-Afrikan flag out of a window, took hostages and demanded fair bail hearings be held in the prison yard or the hostages would be executed. The bail hearing actually happened and some of the prisoners who had been in prison for a year for possibly stealing something were able to walk out. The state won the battle here by promising clemency if the hostages were released, which split the prisoners and led to the end of the rebellion. Kuwasi Balagoon, who would later join the Black Liberation Army, was active in the organization of the rebellion and learned a lot from his experiences seeing the rebellion and the repression that followed after the state promised clemency. (7)

At Auburn Correctional Facility on November 4th, Black prisoners rebelled and seized hostages for eight hours. Earlier, fifteen Black prisoners had been punished and moved to solitary for calling for a day off work to celebrate Black Solidarity Day. After the restoration of order, more prisoners were shipped away and the remainder were subject to reprisals from the guards.

In each case, prisoners formed their own organizations, took control, made demands and also started building new structures to run the prison for their own benefit – even in rebellions that lasted only a few hours. After order was restored, the state took every opportunity to crush the spirits and bodies of those who had participated. All of this would repeat on a much larger scale at Attica.

Attica and Paris: Two Communes

Burton acknowledges throughout the book a tension that is familiar to many of ULK’s readers: reform versus revolution. He sees both in the prison movement of the 1960s and 1970s in New York, with some prisoners demanding bail reform and better food and others demanding an end to the system that creates prisons in the first place. But in telling the story of Attica and the revolts that preceded it he emphasizes two things: the ways reforms were demanded (not by petitions but by organized force) and the existence of demands that would have led to the end of prisons as we know them. On Attica itself, he writes that the rebellion demanded not just better food and less crowded cells but the “emergence of new modes of social life not predicated on enclosure, extraction, domination or dehumanization.” (8) In these new modes of social life, Burton identifies sexual freedom and care among prisoners emerging as a nascent challenge to traditional prison masculinity.

Attica began as a spontaneous attack on a particularly racist and brutal guard, and led to a riot all over the facility that led to the state completely losing control for four days starting on September 9th, 1971. Hostages were again taken, and demands ranging from better food to the right to learn a trade and join a union issued to the press. Prisoners began self-organizing rapidly, based on the past experiences of many Attica prisoners in previous rebellions. Roger Champen, who reluctantly became one of the rebellion’s organizers, got up on a picnic table with a seized megaphone and said “the wall surrounds us all.” Following this, the prisoners turned D Yard into an impromptu city and organized their own care and self-defense. A N.Y. State trooper watching the yard through binoculars said in disbelief “they seem to be building as much as they’re destroying.” I think we’d agree with the state trooper, at least on this. (9)

Burton’s point in this chapter is that the rebellion wasn’t an attempt (or wasn’t only an attempt) to get the state to reform itself, to grant rights to its pleading subjects, but an attempt, however short-lived, to turn the prisons into something that would be useful for human liberation: a self-governing commune built on principles of democracy and solidarity. Some of the rebels demanded transport to Africa to fight the Portuguese in the then-raging colonial wars in Mozambique and Angola, decisions were made by votes and consensus, and the social life of the commune was self-regulated without beatings, gassings and starvation.

Abolition and the Concentric Prison

Burton is a prison abolitionist, and he sees the aspirations of the Attica rebels at their best as abolitionist well before the term became popular. But he doesn’t ignore the contradictions that Attica and other prison rebellions had to work through, and acknowledges the diverse opinions of prisoners at the time, some of whom wanted to abolish prisons and some of whom wanted to see the Nixons and Rockefellers thrown into them instead. (10)

The Attica Commune of D Yard had to defend itself, and when the rebelling prisoners suspected that some prisoners were secretly working for the state, they were confined in a prison within a commune within a prison, and later killed as the state came in shooting on the 13th. There was fighting and instances of rape among the prisoners that freed themselves, and there were prisoners who didn’t want to be a part of the rebellion who were forced to. And the initial taking of the guards constitutes a use of violence and imprisonment in itself, even if the guards were treated better than they’d ever treated the prisoners.

Burton acknowledges this but doesn’t offer a tidy answer. He sees the use of violence in gaining freedom, like Fanon, to be a necessary evil which is essential to begin the process but unable to come close to finishing it. Attica, even though it barely began, provides an example of this. While violence is a necessary tool in war, it is the people organized behind the correct political line in the form of a vanguard party that ultimately is necessary to complete the transformation of class society to one without oppression.

Counter-intelligence, Reform, and Control

The final part of the book, “The War on Black Revolutionary Minds,” chronicles the attempts by the state to destroy prison revolutionaries by a variety of methods, some more successful than others, all deeply disturbing and immoral.

Some of the early methods involved direct psychological experimentation, the use of drugs, and calibrated isolation. These fell flat, because the attempts were based on “the flawed theory that people could be disassembled, tinkered with, and reprogrammed like computers.” (11) Eventually the state gave up trying to engineer radical ideas out of individual minds and settled for the solution many of our readers are familiar with: long-term isolation in control units, and a dramatically expanding prison population.

There is a lot else in this book, including many moving stories from Attica and other prison rebellion veterans that Burton interviewed, and who he openly acknowledges as the pioneering theorists and equal collaborators in his writing. Burton engages in lengthy investigations of prisoner correspondence, outside solidarity groups, twisted psychological experiments, and many other things I haven’t had the space to mention. We have received a couple responses to the book from some of you already, which the author appreciates greatly, and we’d like to facilitate more.

^Notes: 1. Burton, Orisanmi Tip of the Spear: Black Radicalism, Prison Repression, and the Long Attica Revolt p. 19 All citations will be of this book unless otherwise specified.
2. Jackson, Soledad Brother, 111–12 cited in Burton p. 10
3. p. 3
4. pp. 152-180
5. Hill and Ekanawetak, Splitting the Sky, p. 20. cited in Burton, p. 107
6. p. 29
7. p. 48
8. p. 5
9. pp. 88-91
10. p. 95
11. p. 205
^

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[Gender] [United Front] [ULK Issue 84]
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Some Thoughts on S.O.'s and Sexual Orientation

I wanna add my voice to the ongoing conversation on Sex Offenders (S.O.’s) and LGBTQ people from a revolutionary perspective.

One key hurdle I think has to be constantly attacked and can only be attacked through criticism and self-criticism: so-called revolutionaries, activists, and political prisoners self-identifying as these things but still holding to the vestiges of their gangster, reactionary world views that make them comfortable.

A political activist analyzes people, places, and things from a political perspective. What is this person, place, or thing’s worth, or lack thereof, to the political programs that political group/individual is striving for? The military activist analyzes people, places, and things from a military perspective, analyzing what will be most advantageous to the military goals of their army, militia, unit, etc.

Because of this, morals and standards in political and military groups, among such people are constantly shifting. When one is on the battlefield, even the most avowed racist, sexist, homo-transphobe, sex offender bigot, will not allow their hate or disdain for the “other” to cost them their lives. The primary concern for the soldier or military commander would be can this person maintain discipline in battle, can they perform under pressure, will they desert their comrades in battle or go AWOL, are they reliable. If the S.O. or non-heterosexual was saving your life on a battlefield, no one would say “let me die I don’t like your kind” or “you’re irredeemable.” At that moment, the equality of humankind will shine bright and true and all the self-gratifying lies we tell each other will shrink in comparison with the truth.

I am not saying you should have no concern about the moral fabric of comrades. Usually morality and politics overlap. What I am saying is that a person/group’s political line and commitment should be of deciding and primary concern if you yourself are indeed a political activist or military activist.

How many times in prison have we seen the “rules” of organizations bent for certain “stomp down” individuals. How many times have we seen people look the other way when a member of their org partakes in sexual gratification that the org prohibits or has a case that’s frowned upon by the org? When this occurs it is usually because those in the org recognize the person in question is a practitioner of violence and that violent aggression is better with you than against you. So people make a tactical or strategic decision to condone, accept what they would otherwise attack or shun. For better or worse, this is political maneuvering at its core and it’s done every day in every prison. I am not promoting it, simply stating truths. The purpose of pointing these truths is to say that if the apolitical populace can discern these nuances then why can’t the politically do so when our causes are so much more noble and worthy of forgiving of one another’s trespasses (real & perceived).

Try a new way of relating to the people on the compound with you. If we’re revolutionaries then we should be revolutionizing the social relations and castes in prison. The prison culture fosters a caste system based on criminal history, skin color, material wealth, propensity for violence, and sexual orientation. As revolutionaries we must check ourselves if we’re not actively establishing a new prison culture and eliminating the hard-line caste structure. How? It starts with building and maintaining relations based on ones level of revolutionary ideology and practice.

Instead of greeting people with “Where you from, what you in for?” or being concerned about who they’re attracted to or intimate with, your greetings, concerns, and inquiries should be, “What are your politics? What do you think about capitalism? How do you think we could organize against the issues we face? Check out this political program, and tell me what if anything you’d be willing to contribute to advancing it.” If you aren’t doing that in some form or fashion you need to engage in self-criticism, are you a revolutionary or a convict bound by the rules and ideas of prison culture?

Lastly, the notion that any group, or person is exempt from recovery, rehabilitation, or transformation is metaphysical, subjective, and thus incorrect. Despite the subject matter, the universe and everything in it, including one’s ideas and impulses, attractions, are in constant movement and development. Nothing remains stagnant. This universal truth is the only universal truth, that nothing remains the same. Therefore to predetermine that anyone or anything is irredeemable is out of compliance with reality and is therefore incorrect thinking, and merely a reflection of one’s biased and narrow analysis. Another small point I want to turn on from ULK #82, ‘Thugs Are Sex Offenders Too’, where the writer says:

“The problem is that most transgender men-women in prison are sex offenders, they are in for preying on children.”

This statement is obviously biased and subjective, and leads to flawed analysis. It is possibly true that the trans people that writer has encountered in prison are all S.O.’s, but it is the exact opposite for my own lived experience. No transgender person I’ve encountered has ever been locked up for a sexual offense, outside of soliciting prostitution. Here’s what I mean by a purely subjective analysis, one that is narrow and one sided relying on one’s own experience only. The truth is that trans people are most often victims of sexual predators in and out of prisons. Those who’ve become predators themselves, whether trans or not, are most often victims of prior sexual abuse. Though this may not align with the writers lived experience it is the majority experience in society as told by polls and statistics. Yet the metaphysical, subjective, nature of postmodernist philosophy has us giving more credence to our own individual lived experience than that of the society at large or a wide array of the population. If we’re in the business of transforming society at large that sort of analysis will not work well.

Dare to Invent the Future

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[Palestine] [Civil Liberties] [Elections] [ULK Issue 84]
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Lurch to the Right or Revolution

Seems clear that the United State’s lurch to the right is a done deal. On a quantitative scale, how much so is still an open question, but it is an astonishing thing to see and one we better get better at grappling with.

The Biden administration has recently vetoed a UAE brought emergency meeting to vote on a Gaza ceasefire in Israel’s “unceasing” assault on Gaza. Time magazine of 10 December 2023 and virtually all U.S. media describe it as a campaign to eliminate Hamas. Always the materialists, they never forget to remind that it is due to Hamas terrorist attack of October 7, its alleged sexual assault and taking of hostages etc. In fact, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Robert A. Woods states as his reasons for vetoing this emergency resolution that it was “an imbalanced resolution that was divorced from reality and would not move the needle on the ground in any concrete way.”

Woods goes on to state the U.S. couldn’t understand why the authors declined to include language condemning “Hamas’s horrific terrorist attack” and “the resolution failed to mention Israel’s right to defend itself.” Indeed the U.S. did propose adding language about its “role in diplomacy, increased opportunities for humanitarian aid, encouraging release of hostages, the resumption of pauses in fighting, and laying the foundation for peace” the Time article wrote. But Wood says the “recommendations for peace were ignored.”

The Time article was further confirmed by a clip of Wood’s speech aired on Democracy Now! (11 December 2023), which then went on to play a clip of Jamie Raskin’s outrage of U.S. society’s obvious lurch to the right in regards to the ousting of an MIT president for trying to defend bourgeois free speech. However, Democracy Now! makes no mention of Raskin’s earlier calls for the need of Israel to eliminate Hamas or his refusal to call for an immediate peace agreement or even his stance on the UN resolution for an immediate cease fire. All this clearly, even on the part of such petty bourgeois outfits as Democracy Now! to accept and adjust to this obvious social shift, but still find some space to claim to be left or progressive etc. It should be noted Amy Goodman often has Raskin on to help her with her Trump and MAGA bashing and to tell people to vote for their democracy.

Back to Woods, he states the U.S. wants a 2 state solution, but doesn’t support an immediate ceasefire as “this would only plant the seeds for the next war because Hamas has no desire to see a durable peace, to see a 2 state solution.” This stupid equivocation could only be logical to a bully on the verge of victory. Recall he told the same council it was due to the resolution not giving the U.S. its props for all the fine things, like 4 hour “humanitarian pauses” and the U.S. aid for Palestinians, not being in the resolution.

A “good thing” one could point to is how isolated the U.S. is on this and the exposure of its hypocrisy on a world scale. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated after the U.S. veto that the U.S. is “complicit in war crimes” and the vote was “aggressive and immoral.” China’s U.N. rep Zhang Jun accused the U.S. of “double standards”, “claiming to care about the lives and safety of people in Gaza.” Russian U.N. rep Dmitry Polyansky stated “our colleagues from the U.S. have literally before our eyes issued death sentences to thousands if not tens of thousands more civilians in Palestine and Israel.”

Even domestically, social democrat Bernie Sanders, who has consistently (see below) refused to call for a ceasefire up to now, now states the “U.S. should not be vetoing a U.N. (ceasefire) resolution.” He goes on to his usual duplicitous doublespeak stating “children need food” and “it’s imperative - it remains imperative that Israel puts a premium on civilian protection.” Social democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (A.O.C.) went even farther: “Shameful. The Biden Administration can no longer reconcile their professed concern for Palestinians and their human rights while also single-handedly vetoing the U.N.’s call for ceasefire and sidestepping the entire U.S. Congress to unconditionally back the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza” (Newsweek, 9 December 23)

As for the above comment of “sidestepping” Congress, she is referring to the 13,000 plus, worth $106 million, of tank ammo sold to Israel that Secretary of State Blinken et. al managed to get to Israel in an emergency sale. The Biden administration additionally has a $100 billion package in aid for Israel, Ukraine, and “other national security priorities.” So A.O.C. is likely to get her wish. As to why this sale required “sidestepping” Congress, Blinken stated, “The needs of Israel’s military operation in Gaza justifies the rare decision to bypass Congress.” He goes on, “Israel is in combat right now with Hamas and we want to make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Hamas,” hence the $106 million sale of 13,000 plus ammo (shells) to Israel.

And in case anyone missed it the larger bill which needs Congressional approval is tied to the U.S. immigration issue and its border, “National Security”.

On 10 December 2023, Mitt Romney stated on Meet The Press that Biden didn’t have to tie the border policy issue to the Ukraine issue. But he did so now the Republicans will be holding him to it. Biden, obviously acknowledging he must move to the right, has recently hinted he is willing to make significant compromises on the border. He seems to be saying he needs to be able to say he had no choice. J.D. Vance has stated, “What will $60 billion (going to Ukraine alone) more do that $100 billion hasn’t done?”

In both of the last 2 presidential candidate debates, Vivek has stated he will be smoking the terrorists on the southern border and “Bibi” has to do the same.

Something we can’t go into here but worth mentioning is the conservative Center for Renewing America’s Project 2025 handbook, which is a 1,000 page “Let’s finish what we started” playbook, which is part of the Heritage Foundation’s think tank. This involves many “right flank” organizations, many new to mainstream bourgeois politics. This is to do away with the “deep-state” and in doing so avoid Trump’s 1st term pitfalls of being thwarted by those not willing to go as far as he wished. The point made here is that all Democrats and ol’ fogey Republicans realize this shift is very real and it seems a little conscious compromise is a tactic the bourgeois left is making for its own reasons. Late capitalism is not running on fumes though pixie dust no longer seems to suffice. Now the machine requires the flesh and blood of little boys and girls.

Recently heard our old friend Bill Fletcher on KPFA’s Sunday Show (10 December 2023) saying, like always, 3rd parties are a waste of time, must vote for the Democrat even though he agrees it is genocide in Gaza and Biden administration was wrong for their U.N. veto. Again, according to Fletcher, we must do as he suggested the first time and push Biden to the left.

If only Mao was here and could fight our battles for us. Obviously no real revolutionary is saying this but in practice we are saying these are not revolutionary times and I contend this is why we’re in this situation. Yes these are revolutionary times. We simply must learn and apply the stages of revolution. We may be limited by majority having no current interests in revolution. But we are in no position to be talking about a majority any way. We clearly accept objective factors. Even MIM’s 3 dividing line principles.

But contradictions (all) carry within them their very opposite. It’s a unity of opposites, mere “identity”, not absolute of contradictions. We indeed should be pushing some to the left but not bourgeois politicians who would have no interest in social change in any situation but our own nations, prison class, musicians. And we definitely should be serious about drawing clear distinctions between ourselves and the bourgeoisie with its values and world outlook. This is simply accepting the phase of revolution we’re in. Too many fear armed struggle and fear its adventurist aspects. I contend this means to fear the people or at the very least fear they are unable to grasp revolutionary theory or its requirements.

We’re in the middle of it. This rightward shift is but a shift no more to my mind than a deeper neo-Liberal shift. Only by relying on the bourgeoisie and the fakes should we care if its a rightward shift or leftward shift. Especially if out of our control.

From the outset of this flareup and resulting genocide of Palestine the pretensions of the left media and settler nations obvious new center of gravity has led it to pretend the U.S. is at least grappling with the moral consequences of innocent civilians. Yet Blinken, Biden, and Sanders as well as virtually all bourgeois outlets and mouthpieces have stated “Israel has an obligation to defend itself” Blinken 13 October 2023, Biden “Israel has the right to respond, indeed has a duty to respond” 10 October 2023, and 300 former staffers of Sanders asked Sanders (very nicely) to support a ceasefire saying “We believe in you.” In mid October, Jamaal Bowman was roundly condemned for going to Israel, to see the apartheid for himself, by A.O.C.’s and Sander’s Democratic Socialist of America (DSA). Even MSNBC’s Al Sharpton states “Gaza is not occupied.” We could literally go on and on about how this lurch is not only acknowledged but immediately dressed up and condoned by all progressives, leftists, moderate Republicans, and a great majority of this settler nation.

In the backdrop is always Trump, the MAGA movement, and settler nation chauvinism. Beside Project 2025 mentioned above, recently Trump announced the need for “ideological screening” to “bar Christian hating communists and Marxists” stating “those who come to our country must love our country.” Such is already the practice in Israel. Trump goes on to list things that would be grounds for disqualification: “If you want to abolish the state of Israel you’re disqualified”… Again we encourage all to check this out because this shift is now much bigger than any individuals or even movements. Trump was one of the first to congratulate the Congresswoman who held the 3 college presidents to these new standards.

As stated we are very much in “heightened contradictory times.” Not having the right line on the make up of the U.S. and world economy, nature of settler society, neo-Liberalism, following idiotic communists, and being afraid to rely on ourselves and our own nation has led to very bad practice for years and deprived our people of a prepared and organized fighting force. Lurch to the right or revolution.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 84]
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They Say

They Say:
They say they gone always be there
  but never there when you really need them there unless
                                              its self care.

They Say:
When you Fall down get back up, but don’t tell you
when you get back up its gone be Someone Hoping you
Turn the left cheek in knock you down in say it Fair.

They Say:
Love thy Neighbor as you love your Self but behind close doors Say Destroy they Neighbor in Conquer Wealth

They Say:
   We fight for justice but only by killing It was
   Justice For All.

They Say:
 Hey fellow you Committed a CRIME time to go to Jail,
 but don’t tell about the Greatest CRIME Committed here in there.

They Say:
    FORGET About them, but we say Forget the Fascist in
    Say high to this Guerilla warfair.

        They Say, They Say a lot of things
    But the “People” say All Power to the “People”
    Revolution is here in will always be the “People”
                      WAR FAIR
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[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 84]
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Revolutionary Triumph

To revolve is to change,

Transformation is what revolution brings, no face, no place, no name, all is suitable for guerilla tactics, so we study and we study so that we become self made autodidactics.

Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream, so we must put Theory into practice in order to manifest that thing.

It’s impossible for a persyn to be true to anyone else, without first being true to thyself!

If you should fail, go forth and try again. Mind, body, spirit must be imposed with discipline, with undaunting vigor we shall win.

Keep your mind focused, we shall not fold, nor shall we bend!

Triumph is ours!

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[Black Panther Party] [Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 84]
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Free Poem


The Black Liberation Armies Our Disciples Be
Our civilians in the streets be the BPP
We not white, not black, it’s you and me
Honor, Trust, Love, Respect, and Loyal-ty
We tie Family ties and combine our mind
Now we on our business shit, black-suits, Black-Ties
Building ties in the street and upgrading communities
An independent movement fuck police immunity
Liberating our people in a fight for equality
Internationally representing from Congo to Albany
Re-educating our people, treat them responsibly
Within the Black Liberation Movement to develop more harmony
Cause wit Black-ties Matter BLO Liberation Unit
And the Bld Brotherhood Revolutionary Army Headquarters, Allegiance of Improvement
We’ll be a professional militia till the day that we die.
Funeral of red white and blue collars, Black-Ties.
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[Palestine] [National Liberation] [U.S. Imperialism] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 84]
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The Significance of the Palestinian Liberation Struggle

In the United $tates, prisons mean war against the oppressed nations. In occupied Palestine, war means prison for the Palestinians. Two sides of the same blood-stained coin which built the richest empire in hystory. Imperialism considers war to be a legal method of resolving issues, in deeds if not in words.

The struggle for Palestine is a national liberation struggle. The only consistently revolutionary class that may overthrow the bourgeoisie is the proletariat, but imperial domination can unite a whole nation against their occupiers for the establishment of independence. If independence is a precondition for the dictatorship of the proletariat, then Palestine’s struggle is revolutionary and progressive. If I$rael is an arm of imperialism, then the Palestinian struggle against them is revolutionary and progressive. Leadership of the proletariat in that struggle would intensify its revolutionary character, but it is revolutionary even without the proletariat in the vanguard. When Palestinian communists align themselves with all revolutionary forces against I$rael in a united front, that is a correct policy. We have a clear hystory on this subject, and this practice is what led to the victory of the Chinese people in creating the most advanced socialism yet.

We in the United $tates face the strongest enemy in humyn hystory, and I$rael is an arm of the United $tates in the Middle East. Everything which weakens I$rael weakens the United $tates, which puts us in a stronger position. Our comrades fighting in Gaza today are putting us in a position of advantage for the final victory of the oppressed in Occupied Turtle Island. To oppose the struggle in Palestine is to oppose that which objectively weakens our enemy, to leave behind real friends who are fighting real enemies.

“Leftist” support for I$rael in this war is often concealed by a position against Hamas. This anti-Hamas, but allegedly pro-Palestine, sentiment is often based on the supposedly inhuman crimes that have been committed. On top of this being a complete deflection from the primary question of imperialism, the claims surrounding such crimes as the decapitation of infants have zero evidence behind them. Even bourgeois press has shown that the claims are based on videos which show no beheadings, only IDF soldiers claiming that the events occurred.(1) Media campaigns in support of imperialist interventions can go much further and be many times more difficult to uncover than what we are dealing with here. This is a particularly obvious example of an imperialist lie, and the propaganda will not always be so easy to see through. Therefore, in addition to exposing blatant falsehoods, we also need to be able to separate what makes a movement an ally or enemy and what doesn’t, and be able to understand what line the media is attempting to push when they tell a particular story.

The media will tell us that Hamas is committing heinous crimes, killing babies and civilians. We need to ask why they are deflecting from the principal contradiction in the world today. We need to ask who weakens empire, and critically support those who do. We need to ask who strengthens empire, and make ourselves their enemy. That is what it means to understand what is principal and what is secondary. Contrary to popular belief, the moral position of communists is not to do with concepts like eternal justice and true liberty. Communists have one moral position: we are for those actions which strengthen the international proletariat. We understand that the work of Hamas as a whole strengthens the international proletariat. Therefore we understand that they are the allies of the oppressed and we align ourselves alongside them.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free

  1. https://www.snopes.com/news/2023/10/12/40-israeli-babies-beheaded-by-hamas/
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[Revolutionary History] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 84]
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Sekou Odinga Has Joined the Ancestors

[The following statement was circulated by email from spiritofmandela.org]

Sekou Odinga

Sekou Odinga is celebrated & admired by freedom & justice movements worldwide for his persistence, courage, & principled adherence to freedom struggle.

Baba Sekou Transitioned on January 12, 2024.

Sekou Odinga was a globally recognized Black liberation activist, member of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity, founding member of both the New York City chapter and the International Section of the Black Panther Party, and former US political prisoner who survived 33 years of state captivity before his release in 2014.

Prosecuted as one of the “Panther 21” in New York City, Odinga was a prominent historical figure, having been featured on Democracy Now! and in numerous documentaries, concerts, mass public events, and major news outlets.

In addition to being featured in the widely circulated social movement texts Can’t Jail the Spirit (2002) and Hauling Up the Morning: Writings & Art by Political Prisoners & Prisoners of War in the U.S. (1990), Odinga published his writing in Look for Me in the Whirlwind: From the Panther 21 to 21st-Century Revolutions (PM Press, 2017) and Black Power Afterlives: The Enduring Significance of the Black Panther Party (Haymarket Books, 2020).

A survivor of state torture and the FBI’s notorious Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), Sekou Odinga is both celebrated and admired by freedom and justice movements worldwide, exemplifying persistence, courage, and principled adherence to freedom struggle under the most repressive circumstances imaginable.

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[Drugs] [Afghanistan] [China] [Independent Institutions] [Iraq] [ULK Issue 84]
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If the Taliban Can Do It, So Can We

The Taliban retook power in Afghanistan after the U.$. retreat in August 2021.(1) In April 2022, the Taliban once again instituted a ban on poppy cultivation, and by December 2023 they had reduced production by 95%. Most global poppy cultivation now takes place in unstable regions of Myanmar.(2) The Taliban banned opium production with similar results in 2000, but when the United $tates invaded Afghanistan in 2001, they saw to it that opium production was restored and there were continued increases up until last year. As a very poor country, poppy production is a significant cash crop for Afghan farmers. Still the Taliban has been able to enforce the ban, while working with farmers to grow alternative crops. The United $tates says they spent $8 billion trying to eradicate poppy during their rule over the country from 2001 to 2018.(2)

opium production by year in afghanistan

Afghanistan has been negotiating agricultural deals with China since the Taliban regained power in 2021, and are scheduled to begin shipping large exports of produce to China this month [December 2023]. Afghanistan has attended China’s recent Belt and Road Forum, with China becoming Afghanistan’s second biggest trade partner after neighboring Pakistan.(3) This growing export of raw materials has come with far greater imports of products from social-imperialist China, that will feed a relationship of unequal exchange leading to wealth transfer out of Afghanistan. But in the short-term it is helping provide economic options other than exporting opium to Europe, where Afghanistan had provided 95% of the black market supply.(4)

While the United $tates invaded Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks, by 2003 they had begun a full-scale invasion of Iraq using 9/11 as a cover once again. Iraq had also had a culture and tradition that made drug use relatively uncommon. This began to change since the overthrow of the Ba’ath Party in 2003, with sharp increases in crystal meth and the stimulant Captagon documented since 2017.(5) It’s also interesting to note that besides U.$. oil interests, Amerikans were concerned with the ruling Ba’ath Party’s support of certain militant groups in Palestine.

Of course a better example of eliminating opium is China, where the masses were the victims of British Opium War. The Taliban isn’t fighting addiction so much as they are trying to shift agricultural production in a way that is challenging the incomes of poor farmers. The Chinese Communist Party (CPC) gives us a better model than the Taliban of how to fight addiction by empowering the masses through socialism from 1949-1976. We wrote about this in Issue 59 on drugs:

“Richard Fortmann did a direct comparison of the United $tates in 1952 (which had 60,000 opioid addicts) and revolutionary China (which started with millions in 1949).(9) Despite being the richest country in the world, unscathed by the war, with an unparalleled health-care system, addicts in the United $tates increased over the following two decades. Whereas China, a horribly poor country coming out of decades of civil war, with 100s of years of opium abuse plaguing its people, had eliminated the problem by 1953.(9) Fortmann pointed to the politics behind the Chinese success:

“If the average drug addiction expert in the United States were shown a description of the treatment modalities used by the Chinese after 1949 in their anti-opium campaign, his/her probable response would be to say that we are already doing these things in the United States, plus much more. And s/he would be right.”(9)

“About one third of addicts went cold turkey after the revolution, with the more standard detox treatment taking 12 days to complete. How could they be so successful so fast? What the above comparison is missing is what happened in China in the greater social context. The Chinese were a people in the process of liberating themselves, and becoming a new, socialist people. The struggle to give up opium was just one aspect of a nationwide movement to destroy remnants of the oppressive past. Meanwhile the people were being called on and challenged in all sorts of new ways to engage in building the new society.”(6)

Here we see the United $tates failing where socialist China succeeded, using the exact same tools! These historical examples demonstrate that the principal contradiction behind the drug epidemic is found within the structure of society and not with specific treatment techniques. China was also a divided, drug-ravaged population coming into the war of liberation, proving how a new culture can be built and a people can rise above addiction.

But wait, the Taliban and the CPC both had state power when they eliminated drugs. True. And the people in state power in the United $tates are not interested in empowering the people. Instead, they continue to allow the free flow of drugs into even the most controlled environments. On the road to state power, the CPC built dual power, by developing liberated zones in China where they could begin to experiment with the policies and practices of building socialism, including the elimination of drug use.

U.$. prisons are very different conditions than the Chinese countryside. And communists are far from state power in this country. But comrades must use the materialist method to develop strategies for building forms of dual power and transforming the culture of the oppressed to fight drug addiction. The Revolutionary 12 Steps that we published last year is one tool for that, but the real challenge is putting programs into practice. We must build independent institutions of the oppressed that combat addiction by empowering people in a greater liberation struggle. It is the plague of hopelessness that is truly killing us.

NOTES:
1. Plastick, October 2021, Whither Afghanistan?, Under Lock & Key Issue 75.
2. CBS News, 12 December 2023, Myanmar overtakes Afghanistan as the world’s biggest opium producer, U.N. says.
3. Ralph Jennings and Mandy Zuo, 7 November 2023, CIIE: China, Afghanistan cultivate deeper ties with agriculture deals, South China Morning Post.
4. BBC News, 25 August 2021, Afghanistan: How much opium is produced and what’s the Taliban’s record?
5. Jamal Muzil, May 2023, Substance abuse in Iraq, Quantifying the Picture, Journal of Population Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology 30(12):302-313.
6. Wiawimawo, November 2017, Opioids on the Rise Again Under Imperialism, Under Lock & Key Issue 59.

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[Drugs] [ULK Issue 84]
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Revolutionary Sobriety

What is the revolutionary response to addiction? I am an alcoholic who has been in recovery for two years. I sobered up in an anti-suicide cell after committing the crime that would send me to federal prison on a five-year bid. I have a complicated relationship with my crime. If my bomb had successfully blown up that natural gas pipeline, I would be dead. It was as much a suicide attempt as a strike against capitalism, both desperate and hopeful.

I consider the fact that I am still alive to be a responsibility to make reparations and amends to who I have harmed, to make a positive impact on the world, and to forgive myself for my mistakes.

Honesty is paramount to an alcoholic and addict. I tentatively practiced honesty, at first with a few, and then with wider and wider groups of people. I began to take a position of self-criticism and humility, yet also self-love and self-care. I was controlled by my shame and failures and giving into defeatism. No longer. I lied to my family and closest friends. No longer. I neglected myself and wished to kill myself. No longer.

My sobriety date is 26 January 2022. Shame has left me. I am free inside my head. I am an honest, motivated persyn who is trusted by my community on the basis of my vulnerability and actions. I have not yet had the opportunity to learn about the revolutionary 12 step program, but I know that my work is never finished and I would love to work those steps. I write this in the hope that it inspires a comrade in addiction to have the courage to stay sober for 24 hours. Just for today.

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