As previously predicted by myself and various others within the prison movement, the trend around the nation’s prisons towards intrusive digital mail policies, has now officially made its way to Texas state prisons, the biggest prison system in the country.
According to a public service announcement released by TDCJ on 7 July 2023, beginning on 17 Jul 2023, units will no longer accept general correspondence. Instead general mail must be sent to the digital processing plant at:
TDCJ [inmates full first and last name] + number P.O. Box 660400 Dallas, TX 75266-0400
The public and official justification for this move towards more intense surveillance of the mail is the current drug epidemic within TDCJ. Each incarcerated persyn reading this and many out in the public have direct experience with the effects of this sad daily occurrence of overdoses, drug induced suicides, the drama daily instigating violence and intimidation amongst people in prison, the walking zombies, the toon attacks. the loss of morals and character to drug addiction. We can not act as if this isn’t occurring, and it is not my intent to justify these occurrences within this writing. However, my intention is to state that the states’ official justification (the drug epidemic) isn’t sincere.
The new policy doesn’t come as a shock to many of us. Frankly, for most of this decade prison departments across the United $tates have been doing the same thing utilizing the same justification (inmates getting drugs through the mail). The courts for their part have upheld these intrusive policies, under the pretext that departments provide alternatives for receiving mail, books, and other functions of prison life.
The sincerity of the state’s justification must be questioned due to their own actions. The daily inattentiveness regarding drug culture exhibited by the staff allows the epidemic to function. Daily, every staff member from wardens to the lowest officer on the totem pole can see, smell, or otherwise experience the elements of the drug epidemic within each TDCJ unit.(1) Most times, officers and staff look the other way for various reasons. For their own safety and security while doing a potentially dangerous job certainly is one of them, and another is certainly that officers and staff, to a very large degree prefer an intoxicated prison population. I’m not speaking about the executive branch of the agency. The people in business suits are not in tune with the attitudes and mindsets of the employees on the ground. If they were, they would know what each inmate does through observation. Prison officials choose the lesser of two evils, feeling that the drugs act as sedatives and will calm tensions within the prison which is somewhat true.(2) They opt for this instead of the contrary largely sober-minded prisoner which is more often than not harder to control.
The policy will allow legal, media, and subscription mails to still come to the unit. All other mails will be received at the warehouse or will be returned to sender. This policy extends the distance between families and their imprisoned love ones, straining relationships on top of the genocidal sentences a lot of us are serving in TDCJ and around the country. These police-state policies are helping to destroy our families.
And for those of us within the prison movement, how does this policy affect us and those on the outside who support us? I propose that organizations develop communication funds which will go to alternative communication lines. These funds would be invested towards proven cadres who can make their individual work spread amongst the people. These new communication lines would be autonomous and clandestinely utilized to forward serious organizing work.
As the state continues to clamp down on illusionary elements of democracy, we must organize ways around their various intrusive sanctions while developing the capacity to reconstruct the power relations of this society.
The time has come to liberate Our political prisoners. There have been decades of conversation, of litigation, and other passive acts of resistance with little to no results.
GENOCIDE! This policy perfectly depicts how the health and future of Our families and as a result Our peoples is at stake, under attack and reeling.
Courts have thus far upheld similar policies elsewhere. Saying that realistic penological interests are being met, as prisons use the pretext of the current drug epidemic as the reason for this policy, and the courts further assert that prisons are offering a viable alternative (the tablets).
The first units that will experience this policy are: Allred, Coffield, Polunsky, Powledge, Plane, Garza West, Clements, Halbert, Robertson, and East Texas ISF, with more to follow in the following weeks, according to the public service announcement.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As soon as this policy was implemented, the attacks on prisoner communication have started. A prisoner in Stiles Unit in Texas reported on 25 July 2023:
“We were recently given tablets and our e-messaging, phone through the tablet. I’m on Ad-Seg, in Restrictive Housing (RHU). On 10 July 2023, my wifi and e-messaging, as well as my phone were taken from me for no reason. According to TDCJ, all mail will be digital now, since 17 July 2023. But certain people were taken by surprise to wake up with none of our mail or phone. Without any explanation. We have been asking and sending I-60’s grievances about this, but still no one will give us an explanation. What can I do?”
The comrade asks if the censorship rules mentioned on the first page of ULK would apply to this situation. And it’s a good question. These prisoners mail is effectively being censored, so it would seem so. But we are not lawyers. And it is likely that this would need to be tested via the courts.
Another problem comrades are facing is when we send them forms in the mail, they cannot print them or fill them out, because they are only given to them in a tablet.
“This U.S. Supreme Court ruling and prison policies of surveillance and censorship listed above reveals that the fascist and repressive nature of prisons extend beyond these prison walls and adversely impacts those of you in the community. This should give human and civil rights activists, including our loved ones, additional motivation to work in solidarity with incarcerated freedom fighters to challenge these Constitutional violations via civil litigation.”(4)
Notes: 1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2017, “Epidemic of K2 Overdoses at Estelle, Throughout Texas”, Under Lock & Key 59. 2. A Texas Prisoner, March 2021, “TDCJ: Your Staff are Bringing in the Drugs, and it Must Stop”, Under Lock & Key 73. 3. MIM(Prisons), June 2022, “FL, TX Censor Revolutionary 12 Steps Program”, Under Lock & Key 78. 4. A Virginia Prisoner, January 2022, “A Strategic Objective to Disrupt and Surveil the Communication Between Prisoners and Our Loved Ones”, Under Lock & Key 76.
A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated.
Part One: What Happened?
It is imperative to recount the details of an event that happened many years ago here at USP Tucson. At about 2:15pm, Thursday, July 21 st, an incident happened which begs this question: Did an officer here at USP Tucson use excessive force against a prisoner?
First, the details At about 2:15-2:30pm: a friend and I were sitting against the fence on the soccer field yard, near the corner of the yard. From where we sat, it was close to the sidewalk, which led into the hallway that was close to Education. We were the closest prisoners to the vantage point.
About that time, it was the Northside Program move, when the prisoners here can leave the dorm and go outside, or go back inside, or go to the Library, Indoor Recreation or other places, so there was movement of the prisoners, but also of staff as well, since it was also shift-change. As my friend and Isat in the shade, we saw volunteers from religious service leaving the building from the door closest to Education. They were coming from the Chapel, which was in the same building as Education. There were also two officers, one being the officer in question. Let’s call him Officer Burt, although Officer Coward could be a better name. The other officer I do not know.
At the same time, there was an elderly prisoner, Mr. Montgomery (his name I would learn later) who came down the walkway and headed towards Education - or that area. Normally prisoners don’t use the sidewalk to go to Education, they are supposed to go through the prison yard; but for whatever reason, he did not.
My friend and I saw Montgomery go in, just as the volunteers were leaving, through the same door. He went in, then we heard some exchange of words: someone was asking Montgomery why he didn’t go through the yard as he was supposed to. He was then told to leave; and as he came out, Officer “Burt” first told him to leave. Then he changed his mind, telling Montgomery to put his hands up, because Burt was going to put cuffs on him.
Montgomery… a 60+ year old man, turned to Officer Burt, and put his hands in front of him. I saw very clearly this action, and perhaps it might took like Montgomery was being aggressive; but he did EXACTLY what Officer Burt told him to do. Montgomery thrusted his two hands up in front of him, much like one would after running their hands through a bowl of water, pulling the hands upwards. But Officer Burt paused for a split second, then immediately went and grabbed Montgomery and slammed him into the fence.
Among the endless profanities Burt spoke - while the volunteers of the religious service looked on - Burt proceeded to roughly put Montgomery on the cement, breaking his glasses and drawing blood from his nose or lips. It was very clear that Montgomery wasn’t resisting, yet Burt roughly forced the prisoner face down on the cement… on a 105+ degree day, while the volunteers looked on.’
Montgomery showed no reasonable signs of resisting; an elderly man (or any man) slammed on the fence, then on a hot cement sidewalk while profanities are spewed over him, while forcing his arms to his back, will naturally resist a LITTLE: it’s a “fight or flight” reaction.
The second officer helped Burt subdue him, as help was called. It was shortly canceled, as Burt told them it was under control. The volunteers were held away by another officer, while Burt and the officer pinned Montgomery down, and put cuffs on him, as a bleeding Montgomery cried.
I then heard Officer Burt say, “He lunged at me”, to which I felt immediate contempt. He told the officers arriving on the scene that Montgomery LUNGED at him, which justified his actions. After cufﬁng him, they picked Montgomery up off the cement, and took him inside, Burt cursing continually.
Later, my friend and I sat there, furious at what Burt did to that old man. From the same doors to Education, a couple of staff members came out, looking at the small area of blood left by Montgomery. My friend and l were still there, in fact moved closer to see the blood spot. I overheard the two staff members talk about the incident, but tried not to be too nosy. One said, “i can’t believe he did that in front of those people”.
Who was he talking about? Montgomery… or Officer Burt?
So, I saw what happened, and was sickened by Officer Burt’s response to the situation. Naturally, when the other prisoners on the yard saw what happened, they came over to see the situation. They asked us what was going on, and I was adamant in saying that Montgomery did NOT lunge at the officer. One of the other prisoners said that the officers told Montgomery to go through the yard, and he refused. He was stubborn about it, and decided to take his own route to Education or Psychology. I heard he was trying to go to Psychology, so he could get his medication.
So—excessive force? Was Officer Burt’s actions necessary, or was this based on a man with a quick—temper? Consider the factors: USP Tucson — although a penitentiary, is almost non-violent. One case manager once said, “this is the softest penitentiary in the country.” Most prisoners are non—violent (at that time, because MUCH has changed in the last few years), or ex gang members trying to leave that life behind. So relaxed is this prison, that during rec move, the softball field, the middle yard, and the soccer field can be full of prisoners, with ZERO guards, because it is not needed. This was not an “active” yard, so aggressive confrontations with officers are minimal; hardly existent at all.
So was this exessive force? We’ll explore that in the second part.
Part Two: So Was it Exessive Force?
So, what are we looking at? A situation where an elderly man, in his 60s, is taken down by an officer when he “went the wrong way” here at USP Tucson. The officer (let’s call him Officer Burt) told the old prisoner to put his hands up because he was going to cuff him.
The prisoner, named Montgomery, did as he was told, and in the action, he put his hands up straight in the air. Officer Burt paused, then roughly pinned Montgomery to the fence, then took him down to the hot cement… all this while visitors to the prison for the religious service stood mere feet away.
Is this “Rodney King 101”, where an officer can justify rough and excessive treatment of an elderly prisoner, who happens to be on psyche medication? How will the prison justify this action? Normally this is a simple task for the prison to do; they’d just ignore the prisoner complaint and discredit anything we say. After all, nobody believes prisoners: that’s the running theory.
But there’s a problem with that this time: there were witnesses from outside the prison. Those volunteers for religious service came from ministries outside the prison, right here in Tucson. Will the prison say that those people didn’t see what they saw? Or, will those visitors believe Officer Burt’s story, and make Montgomery the villain? I might wager the latter, but it depends on what those people from religious service is willing to believe. I mean, I know what I saw; they saw the same thing.
So now the problems in society; the abuse of authority by officers, now reflects in this prison (which has always been an issue). This isn’t new: officers have been roughing up prisoners for the longest time, but the prison never took accountability, because it’s always our word (the prisoner) vs their word (the prison). But now with about 5—6 visitors from a ministry, looking on while Officer Burt virtually assaults a 60+ year old man, breaking his glasses and drawing blood, the prison has to find a way to spin this.
It was also interesting to note: I saw officers running to the scene when the “deuces” were hit (a call on the hand unit for help). I could be wrong, but when some of them arrived, they were hesitant to physically get involved because they saw the visitors. Had they NOT been there, would they have been more aggressive? Even the second officer with Burt seemed hesitant to assist Burt, possibly having a moral check; was he thinking, “is this the right way to go about this?”
So, what happens now? If I know this prison, they’ll defend the shield and do the wrong thing. An officer with a quick-temper showed poor judgment and excessive force on an elderly man on medication in front of a group of volunteers from outside the prison: witnesses. There is no question that in my eyes, my friend’s eyes, the prison surveillance and the volunteers who saw the incident that all the facts were congruent. It all matches.
So, IF the prison chooses to side with Officer Burt, they are wrong, and no different than abusive police officers who beat people or kill them, then justify it to the victim. Something has to be done to restore respect to these officers, and I fear that this prison may not be capable of doing that.
Proverbs 17:15 says:
“He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord”.
I don’t expect the prison to do the “right thing”, because it would be an admission that they make mistakes. And they’d never admit that to prisoners. They’d rather cover it up, discredit or forget the valid points of view we give. Yet in doing this, prison abuse flourishes. Just two weeks prior to this incident, a man was murdered in the SHU (Specials Housing Unit) based squarely on prison ignorance and neglect. Officers have been accused of discrimination, yet the prison has been slow to act, if at all.
Bad behavior by officers is ignored, or even rewarded, since many get promotions; but half questionable behavior by prisoners have been met with full frontal condemnation.
Where does it end? Sadly, at this rate, it won’t. Prisons don’t learn from their mistakes, even if it is shown on television shows a hundred times. Prisons believe they can do what they want to prisoners because it’s some given right; and if (when) they do abuse people, it’s like Las Vegas: “What happens in [prison] stays in [prison].” Besides, who believes prisoners anyway?
But I didn’t lose my humanity when I got locked up. I still have values, so I will stand strong on this, regardless of what people say or think. Prisoner or not, people should be treated with a level of respect until something critical changes the situation. Officer Burt is known for having a temper; I had a run in with him before, and I am not a fan of his tactics at all. That doesn’t make me prejudiced against him (from one black prisoner to a black officer). I think he’s a bad officer, and persecutes prisoners because he can get away with it; and nobody working at USP Tucson has the intestinal fortitude to hold him accountable. Lots of officers here are like that: not ALL, because there are a couple of “good” officers here, but people like Officer Burt make prison so much harder than it needs to be.
The punishment is to BE in prison, not the abuse done by any officer. So, this incident which happened several years ago, as I look back at it. Montgomery got his family to sue the prison for abuse, which I helped by documenting what I saw. I hope it got Burt fired. But, years later, not much has changed. Bad officers get promoted, while the good ones leave, going elsewhere.
USP Tucson has gotten worse since then, so, I have to keep writing.
I have written and spoken extensively over the last couple years about the impact recent heat waves have had on incarcerated people housed in non-air-conditioned prisons in Virginia and in the Prison Industrial Complex in general. I even drafted and disseminated a proposal for the creation of a state-wide, coalition-based movement to shut these prisons down. As of the date of this writing, none of the so-called prison justice and prison abolitionist organizations I sent it to in Virginia responded or expressed interest in it.
A comrade of mine then created an online petition in 2022 to raise public awareness about this issue and build momentum for shutting these prisons (i.e., death traps) down. Last checked, the petition had 560 signatures. Buckingham Correctional Center alone houses 1,091 people, so there should be more signatures on this petition.
Since I began writing/speaking about this issue, the dissemination of my proposal and the creation of the online petition, historic heat waves have increased exponentially, both in frequency and in record high temperatures. And with these increases must be increased pressure and organizing to shut these non-air-conditioned prisons down.
Since the beginning of summer, the U.$. and most of the rest of the world have been gripped by deadly and historic heat waves. Science and medical experts the world over have warned that deaths caused by extreme heat will only increase each summer without some sort of action to mitigate climate change. They say that elderly people, obese people, and those with diabetes, heart disease and other serious health related issues are the ones most at risk. Time and time again, people confined to prisons, jails and detention centers with poor ventilation, substandard medical care and partial or no air conditioning are left out of the category of those most at risk during these record heat waves.
I just read that in Texas, which incarcerates more people than any other state in the country, the temperature inside its prisons regularly exceeds 120 degrees during the summer and as result, hundreds of incarcerated people have died there from extreme heat exposure in the last few years. Predictably, Texas prison officials have denied the number of deaths and the deaths they have acknowledged they falsely claimed were not caused by extreme heat but by other causes. So, on July 8, loved ones of incarcerated people and other community members attended a rally inside the Texas state capital demanding an emergency session be held to address the issue and for funding to be allocated to install AC units inside all Texas’ prisons. We need similar rallies to take place here in Virginia every summer when it is the hottest and not later in the year or the beginning of the year when the temperature and the issue of extreme heat inside non-air-conditioned prisons both starts to cool down.
SOME ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW:
Sign and share the following petition to close three main non-air-conditioned prisons in Virginia at: https://chng.it/T5hzhPsJXM
Call/email Virginia’s Governor, Secretary of Public Safety, and Director of the Department of Correction at the contact information below demanding these prisons be shut down due to the extreme heat suffered by the people incarcerated there and that housing people at the named facilities under those conditions constitutes torture and cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Glenn Youngkin, Governor of Virginia Tel: 804-786-2211 Email: governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office
Robert “Bob” Mosie, Secretary of Public Safety of Virginia Tel: 804-786-5351 Email: [email protected]
Harold Clarke, Director of Virginia Department of Corrections Tel: 804-674-3000 Email: [email protected]
Help build a statewide, coalition-based movement specifically to shut these non-air-conditioned prisons down. The proposal for the creation of such a movement can be found on my blog at https://consciousprisoner.wordpress.com/2022/10/01/preliminary-proposal-for-a-statewide-campaign-to-close-shut-down-non-air-conditioned-prisons-in-virginia/.
Please reach out, get involved and help build this movement before incarcerated people in Virginia start dying on a level like they are in prisons in Texas.
We thank Comrade Slaughter for bringing forth these questions, and as Maoist revolutionaries MIM(Prisons) as a cell has the duty to coordinate this line struggle within the United Struggle Within through unity-criticism-unity. One divides into two: a thing that was in a state of unity will have its contradictions and arrive at a point where the two are split. And through criticism and self-criticism and ridding metaphysics and idealism, the two aspects of the contradiction will find unity where one side will overtake the other.
Before we begin with the following quotes of the responders to Comrade Slaughter, we raise the question Mao Zedong asked when ey and eir comrades were beginning a revolutionary people’s war in semi-colonial and semi-feudal China: who are our friends? who are our enemies?
Comrade Jade responds: In regards to Slaughter’s response I would like to point out a few things you may overlook in regards to sex offenders in general.
First, not everyone convicted of a sex crime is a child molester. Are all white males Aryans? Are all Hispanics Cartel? Are all Black males gang bangers? There will always be diversity in all groups we attempt to label or create. It is a proven fact. We all are individuals who are slightly different even under the exact same conditions.
Next, I believe that you need to truly look at what they did or did not do before ostracizing or mistreating them. Do not just judge them by the label corrupt politics fostered on them.
I agree that those who truly rape/molest and prey on underage children are not likely to be rehabilitated or to further the cause. But, how many of the people convicted of sex crimes are the true predators?
I know from personal experience, as a former psychiatric nurse, that females tend to mature sooner and seek out sex earlier. As puberty shifts from the old 12-15 to 8-11 now due to steroids and worse it makes them even more likely to become sexually active by 14. They will seek out partners where they will, including older more experienced men, who in their opinion can please them or teach them. While I do not advocate for them to be sexually active, especially not with grown men, due to early menstruation and physical development some females 14-17 look like grown adults. Then add to that the over-sexualization of our society, they tend to become aggressive in a sexual nature. As a result, some men may not realize their partner is underage. While this is not an excuse, it does happen.
Then you have men whose adult female partner falsely accuses them in revenge to a variety of things. It is not uncommon in a situation like this for the man to be convicted or pressured into a deal.
This does not mean all sex offenders are able to be rehabilitated, though the ones convicted rarely re-offend according to statistical evidence.
To this end we need a viable alternative to prisons and/or death for all offenders who truly cannot be rehabilitated. None of the current approaches are going to work. It will have to be a new idea.
We also must address the over-sexualization of our society. By making sex less of a pass time, less appealing, less mainstream, we can reduce many sex offenses as well.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Comrade Jade reveals an important aspect of the registered sex offenders status – the moral panic and the scapegoat aspect it represents. How many non-registered sex offenders and non-confirmed sex offenders in prisons (who might perhaps gotten in prison for non-sex related crimes such as murder or drugs) will partake in the ultra-leftist crusade against the confirmed ones? For the readers on the outside, that sentence alone might carry a reactionary and apologist undertones, but that is because petty-bourgeois justice oriented revenge killings is a material reality in prison and much less often outside. The life of a lumpen organization member for example is an oppressive and gritty one, and sexual crimes or sexual relations where consent isn’t prioritized aren’t uncommon; yet most lumpen organization members won’t come to prison on sex related crimes but on drug and homicide related crimes.
Subjectivism, ultra-leftism, and individualist oriented justice is another form of opiate of the masses in prison: take that anger out on the confirmed sex offenders says the pig, but us at MIM(Prisons) know that the pigs are laughing all along as this happens because it’s just that much easier to control a violent lumpen class than a cool and collected one – a class in itself vs a class for itself. Drugs aren’t the only form of individualism that is used to placate the imprisoned lumpen, the imprisoned lumpen’s penchent for ultra-leftist violence will also come in handy as a governing tool.
In a socialist society we will ban things like pornography for profit and misogynistic media and media that is predatory towards children. These things are so common under imperialism and reinforce and encourage sexual abuse.
A Colorado Prisoner Responds: I agree with Wiawimawo. I disagree with Slaughter.
A “sex offense” is whatever a legislature defines as one. It can be anything like actual physical rape to someone who is caught peeing on a dumpster in an alley. In my 14 years in a Corruptarado (as we call this state) prison I have met only a couple of people who were actual “rapists.” The vast majority of sex offenders were people who had younger lovers who chose to be with them. But someone, often a jealous want-to-be lover, found out, ratted the two out, and the older partner was arrested and charged.
Now prosecutors adore sex charges. They require no physical evidence, no witnesses. Only an allegation and a “victim” coached by D.A. investigators to say how they were fooled, manipulated, led astray, by that evil older man (almost always a man). And in states like this one without a time limit for filing, a “victim” can say, “20 years ago he took advantage of me” and the D.A. can file a charge and get a conviction.
Slaughter talks about “children.” A child is whatever the legislator says he is. Anyone under 18 is defined a child. Right now it is 18, which is the “age of consent.” Back in 2009, in Colorado, it was 15. And a female of 12, with parental permission, could marry (official papers) anyone.
In Texas, as in most of the South, the legal age for marriage was 12 when I was there. I don’t know what it is now.
The fact is, the religious right bible-wavers do not like sex, and they do not want these pesky kids having any of it. Thus the law, and the pigs (Amerikkka’s version of the Nazi SA) are used to stop it.
The conclusion of this religious fear will be what was done in the Salem-Keizer school district in Oregon. Reported on broadly, on vice.com, “Teachers Forced to Report All Teens Having Sex in Oregon School District.”
At those schools, since Oregon law only allows sex for those 18 or older, anyone under 18 doing the dirty is a criminal. So any school personnel discovering an under 18 having sex is required to report him or her to the police for prosecution.
Hey, if enough “children under law” would be arrested and thrown into prison then unapproved sex could be stopped. Of course, putting older partners in prison is already being done and that does not stop them from re-offending. So it should work with the children also.
Slaughter (what is in a name) wants those sex offenders (ey calls them pedophiles – a term created by prosecutors to inflame) to be punished, and people protected from them. In Colorado there are about 4000 sex offenders in prison (CDOC). The vast majority have indeterminate sentences, which means most will die in prison. That number is a full 25% of the CDOC population. And as you probably know, the giving of indeterminate sentences is an easy way for prosecutors to get a life sentence for defendants that did not kill anyone. Great for the D.A.’s stats when a performance review comes around.
The issue is of life sentences in Amerikkka. Get the article, “The Only Way We Get Out of There is in a Pine Box” in the April 2022 issue of News Inside published by The Marshall Project. It tells of elderly prisoners, convicted of murder or other violent crimes who will die in prison. At great expense to tax payers for all their medical care.
…Make no mistake about it, if the Christians like Pence, DeSantis, etc. take over, a new inquisition, just like the Spanish one in the 18th Century will be instituted. And right at the top of the list, below LGBTQ people, will be the communists. Off to the concentration camps for all.
MIM(Prisons) Responds: A recent report by the Prison Policy Initiative exposes the arbitrary repression of so-called “civil commitments.” In cases where someone is not given a life sentence, they can be civily committed after fulfilling the sentence given by the courts. Most who go to civil commitment will never see the outside world again. At least 6,000 people, mostly men, across the country are in civil commitment after serving their time for sex offenses. Unlike court, the process to be sentenced to civil commitment is largely arbitrary. The following will make you much more likely to be civilly committed: being gay, being transgender, being Black, being disabled.(3)
Under imperialism, well-meaning laws that sound good on paper such as ones surrounding the age of consent (or the anti-mask laws first intended against the Klan protesting while cowardly hiding eir identities, but now used against progressives and oppressed nation youth protesting against police violence) will be abused for the interests of the imperialist-patriarchy. The truth is, law in itself for any given class society has been simply state enforced rules to govern the overall humyn society in accordance with the respective class dictatorships. This is why legalism (in this case referring to the idea that good laws will create good society and bad laws will create bad society) is in no way shape or form a scientific solution against the tragic cases such as rape, molestation, and grooming of children.
Under the imperialist patriarchy that we live in, children have no rights or agency to consent and the rape culture of our world will always harm the most vulnerable. “Good” laws under an imperialist patriarchy will be designed and used for the purposes of maintaining it (the nuclear family, heteronormitivity, youth oppression, etc.) that has children raped in the first place while a socialist society/proletarian dictatorship will give power to the youth to properly protect themselves and prioritize abolishing oppression above all else and especially against prioritizing profits and maintaining a patriarchal culture.
A California Prisoner Responds: I can see this comrade has done a significant amount of revolutionary education. However to truly be a communist means one has to recognize the humanity of others. It is here this comrade’s own hate is still an obstacle in the way. The ONLY path forward for this comrade is to forgive his abuser. This comrade must also recognize that the Known Sex Offenders (KSO’s) on the yard are NOT his abuser, meaning this comrade does NOT know their circumstance.
This comrade separates sex crimes from all other crimes by stating that “all other crimes are political crimes,” as a result of capitalism I presume. Sex crimes are an “illness.” This comrade (let me say comrades) states he is in for murder and that murder is somehow NOT an anti-human crime but only a “political crime.” Furthermore, Comrade Slaughter states that he is rehabilitated by saying he has “learned to be objective towards KSO’s.” He also states it is only possible for all other criminals to rehabilitate by saying “unification with the KSOs is futile because after the revolution the KSO will still need to be dealt with” meaning presumably rehabilitation for sex addiction is somehow not possible for the KSO.
I would like to start with the motion this murderer is not as rehabilitated as ey claim. The statement “after the revolution the KSO will still need to be dealt with” proves Comrade S. is not as rehabilitated as ey thinks. It also proves that Comrade S endorses the puniluation method used by the Nazis to “deal with” 6 million Jews. Comrade S. is obviously proposing the genocide of a whole group of people (KSOs). I think a lot of Jews, Armenians, and Africans would tell Comrade S. that his crime of murder is not political as he claims, but in fact is an anti-people crime. Moreover, most KSOs are more rehabilitated than this murderer.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We would say that the comparison of Slaughter’s comments to the holocaust of Jewish, Gay, Romani, and politically subversive revolutionaries under Nazi Germany to be a bit of an exaggeration. Yet it is true that the fascists will mobilize people around persecuting scapegoats, and currently it is this fanatical connection between pedophilia, transgender people and gender non-conforming people in general that is mobilizing the reactionary forces in the streets.
As we assemble this issue of ULK, a news story dropped about Larry Nassar being stabbed in prison. Nassar was convicted of molesting hundreds of young girls over decades while serving as the doctor for the U.$. Olympic team. Whether it’s to make themselves feel better about themselves, as the California prisoner above proposed, or to take out some anger, or to earn some stripes, the collaborative effort to punish people like Nassar undermines the principal contradiction in prisons. These attacks are generally a collaborative effort between prisoners and staff. Staff who may overlap with the fascist movements on the streets threatening drag story times. And while we would not argue there is never a time to ally with staff, it is a rare occasion, when they actually side with prisoners against the system. In contrast, this type of “outlaw justice” is really state-sanctioned. And it does reinforce the idea that there is some common interest between the oppressed and the oppressor in punishing these crimes considered most heinous.
If we aren’t organizing collectively to transform systems and transform ourselves, then we aren’t working towards justice. Triumphant mentions an example on the streets of FPC addressing open air sex markets in the community. Without knowing the details, this seems like an approach that could actually mobilize the people in a way that reduces sexual abuse of children and teenagers. Within prisons we can point to the example of Men Against Sexism, which successfully eradicated rape in Washington State Prison.(1) So if people are serious about taking action against sexual assault, there are actual effective ways to do this.
The ability to truly rehabilitate people will increase as communists increase their power and influence over society. We agree with this comrade that the current system can’t properly address those who aren’t being rehabilitated. And we look to socialist China’s model for how they rehabilitated people who committed crimes against the people.
Comrade Slaughter is right to bring up the question of how and what the morality of a revolutionary should be implemented and look like. To that we answer that proletarian morality must be based on whatever is best for the whole of society to be rid of oppression in contrast to bourgeois morality which is based on individualism, Liberalism, and profit. We tell Comrade Slaughter, and to all comrades in the revolutionary struggle (especially the imprisoned lumpen) to protect themselves as revolutionaries from individuals with bad intentions, but also to push themselves beyond the subjective trauma that ey has faced as oppressed people. Use mindfulness and other resources made available by this imperialist system and use it to better oneself as a revolutionary to heal the persynal scars to better transform the world around us. Don’t let the imperialists weaponize mindfulness or therapy to numb and placate one’s self.
All crimes are political. Post-modernism (the narrative of non-narrative) recognizes phenomena such as this and says that the persynal is the political. Maoism goes beyond this to say that the narrative of the oppressed must replace the narrative of the oppressor with revolutionary violence (rhetoric alone will solve nothing). Persynal scars are political scars, and recognizing the contradiction between the individual and the oppressive system is recognizing that one must recognize eir own lived experiences isn’t all there is to the world and is an unscientific way for the oppressed nations/internal semi-colonies of the United $tates to understand the material reality around them.
After printing our long discussion of sex offenders in ULK 81 we thought we might have spent a bit too much space on the topic. But as all the responses came in, we were reminded why we did a whole issue focused on this topic 5 years ago. It is a topic of great interest to the prison masses. It is important for building the United Front for Peace in Prisons. And we learned some stats on the large percentages of prisoners who are convicted of some kind of “sex offense” across the country (25% in Colorado, 21% in California).
Many of our readers feel they have been wronged or mistreated by other prisoners because they are labelled a sex offender. Others who are not convicted of any sex-related crime spoke up on behalf of those who are. And we know there are many with such charges who are reading ULK, reaching out to MIM(Prisons), who want to be part of the anti-imperialist prison movement. And so the question is, should we be excluding 1/5 to 1/4 of the population in any given prison system from the movement based on this label?
As scientists, we must think in terms of percentages. If 25% of people in a given prison system are sex offenders, that means in a wing of 100 people, 25 of them are convicted of some kind of sex crime. Are 100% of these 25 prisoners enemies of the people who cannot be redeemed? Even those who wrote to say that some cannot be reformed, did not include all “sex offenders” in that category. Yet, often, the way it plays out is 100% of those with known sex crime convictions are treated as outcasts. This is dividing the prison population. This is just one of many things dividing prisoners in the United $tates today. But it is one that affects a lot of people.
The possibility that we’ve been working to create since before the founding of the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) in 2012, is a united prison movement that acts in the interests of all oppressed people. People in U.$. prisons are being tortured, starved, denied medical care, denied educations, imposed with mental suffering and being repressed for political activity. A strong, united prison movement is the only way we can overcome these conditions.
The divisions preventing this level of unity is the old way, the way of imperialism. We are fighting for a new way, a revolutionary socialist way. This new way requires changes in how we live and interact. On the level of the individual this means applying the Maoist method of criticism/self-criticism. This is something we all must participate in to be part of the movement to overcome imperialism. It’s not just sex offenders, or drug addicts, or murderers who need to self-criticize and reform ourselves, it’s all of us. All of us have ways of thinking and behaving that are based in the values of imperialism.
We are calling on comrades to lead criticism/self-criticism sessions with the goal of building unity to build for the UFPP’s annual Day of Peace & Solidarity, this September 9th. For years we’ve been promoting the Day of Peace and sharing report backs on events organized by prisoners across the country. What we want to focus on this September 9th is the importance of criticism/self-criticism in the building of unity. We challenge USW leaders to take on the following plan of action:
Every day, ask yourself what is an interaction you could have handled differently to better promote unity among prisoners? This could be a daily meditation question you take on for Black August.
Every week, meet with like-minded people and discuss ways you are working to change yourselves to be better leaders at building unity. Give each other feedback on your shortcomings and progress.
On September 9th, organize others to take the day off from work and school, to fast, and to focus on this question of building unity for common interests on a facility-wide level.
Use the article Criticism & Self-Criticism as a guide and in your discussions in the coming weeks. In addition, last year we released our Revolutionary 12 Step Program. This pamphlet is a guide to self-assessment and self-criticism. It is a framework for transforming yourself along the guidelines of proletarian morality. Get a copy via our Free Political Books to Prisoners Program to help you with the above tasks.
Then send us a report on your successes and failures this September 9th so we can all learn, grow and share in the next issue of Under Lock & Key. Issue 83 will be focused on the theme of “Prisons are War.” We will be printing stories that highlight the political war being waged against oppressed people and politically active people by the U.$. criminal injustice system.
1. PTT, November 2012, Review: The Anti-Exploits of Men Against Sexism, Under Lock & Key 29.
First allow me to say that I am in no way homophobic and hold no bias nor any prejudice toward gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, or queer people. However, I find it inhumane that, while men can flaunt themselves around in thongs, booty shorts, leggings, mascara, eyeliner, makeup, and sports bras, I am being denied pictures of my fiance because she is wearing those exact same things. The woman who has dedicated her life to me, stands by my side through the trials and tribulations, who has weathered the storm, someone who I am going to wed.
I have been denied pictures of my fiance on vacation in a bathing suit because they were “sexually explicit” but in turn a gay man can receive pictures of another man in boxers? I am restricted from receiving pictures of my fiance in boy shorts or leggings while men walk freely past the guards and Warden wearing those and everything is fine.
The Kentucky Department of Corrections Penitentiary System encourages homosexuality while banning intimacy with your loved one. Your visitor is not permitted to wear a dress, shorts, leggings, or tight jeans on a visit, meanwhile transgender people are encouraged to receive hormone shots to grow breasts, walking hand-in-hand around the loop with another man. In the Kentucky Department of Corrections Penitentiary System homosexuality is forced upon the heterosexual inmates where men can lay in a cell with another man in their arms, but magazines such as “Idore”, “Spicy”, “Straight Stuntin”, “King”, “Phat Puffs”, or “Sultry” are not available or restricted to purchase. Magazines with women in clothes like two piece swim suits are restricted. But why? Because they are women, or because they are what, real women?
How do you combat a whole state, let alone a prison, where the Warden is promoting homosexuality? (Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex, Warden J. David Green).
I am not concerned as to what other inmates choose to indulge in, I just want to be able to receive pictures of my future wife in her boyshorts, leggings, in her intimate state, to help with my sexual release and soothe my mind, to escape, but instead I am subjected to cruel and unusual punishment and the promotion of homosexuality within the Kentucky Department of Corrections Penitentiary System.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree that the Kentucky DOC is being intentionally cruel in its biased enforcement of rules around sexually explicit materials. This is happening in a number of states, including Texas where at the same time some prisoners are being forced to watch porn. And as we know corrections officials communicate with each other, it is likely no coincidence.
It’s a tactic the police have used forever; treat certain people differently from others in an arbitrary way and watch them turn on each other. They’ve used this against political prisoners, granting one prisoner more freedoms than eir comrades to promote suspicions that the privileged comrade snitched when in reality ey had not.
Administrators know how important pictures of loved ones, including “sexy” pictures of partners, are to prisoners. Just as the comrade we addressed in a longer piece on the nature of sex and sexuality, this Kentucky prisoner says ey has no issues with LBGTQ people. Yet, we sense the resentment here in what ey wrote. We call on our readers not to let that resentment cause you to turn on others who are not your enemy.
There is a right-wing talking point these days that the woke government is trying to turn people, especially children, transgender or gay. These identity politics are being used to manipulate people, and to get votes. If comrades are serious about fighting the “enforcement” of homosexuality in prisons, we suggest allying with gay prisoners who will likely be strong allies in a campaign to allow all prisoners to have equal rights to express their sexuality. Meanwhile, the fight against censorship of photos should connect to the fight against political censorship of mail. It should be illegal for the state to stop any mail that is not a direct threat to safety. If you are organizing around these issues we want to hear from you.
The quote below is from a new reader of Under Lock & Key in a discussion with MIM(Prisons). We will note that this comrade advocated for closing down “pig stations (pig pens)” to build community centers and sees Black people as one with North Korea as both face the imperialists as their enemy. With that we seem to have strong unity on the principal contradiction in this country and internationally.
And we are printing this comrade’s words not to pick on em, but on the contrary because we see em as a comrade and ally in the struggle that we want to build unity with. And we are printing them in ULK because these ideas are not unique to this one persyn, we hear similar things all the time, and too often the correct line is just assumed, but the incorrect lines are never addressed.
"Now as to your question of how I see LGBTQ people. No, I don’t see them as a problem for the oppressed. I see them with love and respect. However, I must be definitive of myself, I choose a female as my mate. That is the natural order of existence, respectfully, the opposite does not hold the continuation of life. The demands of nature are written in the libido, the libido is the driving force of procreation.
“One’s body does not belong to the individual, it is on loan from the ancestors. I will not deny the call of the ancestors. Yet, who am I to judge. I’m just expressing myself as every person should have the right to express themselves fully without contempt. I do believe that the LGBTQ movement is a faction that has a driving force behind it that is bigger than the movement itself. I believe that the imperialists are the driving force behind that movement, just as much as they are the driving force behind militarism, desensitizing, hypersexualism, hate, division. They have controlled the narrative of these characters, they have broadcast, advertised, marketed these characters and now they are doing the same with the LGBTQ community.”
Already on this topic of LGBTQ we see this comrade respects all people and is not approaching this with hatred or desire to oppress others. Again, more basis for unity.
In our response we want to address: 1. the natural order; and, 2. imperialism using LGBTQ movement to forward its own ends.
The Natural Order
We’ve all heard countless times that anything other than straight procreative sex is unnatural because it does not reproduce the species. We’ll put aside for now the fact that most of the sex these people have is not procreative either (presumably these people never even masturbate). There is a certain logic to this thinking from the framework of the individualist culture of the nuclear family.
One thing that is characteristic of humyns is the long period it takes for a newborn humyn to become self-sufficient. The patriarchal family structure in this country was established around the system of slavery, where New Afrikan slaves provided much of the childcare and food for the table for the white settler family. In other nations the grandparents and extended family help fill similar needs.
There are indigenous cultures where it has been documented that people we would call LGBTQ today existed. This counters the argument that such people are a modern invention. And these people had particular roles in the community that were important to sustaining that community even if they did not participate in sexual reproduction. It is our atomized society today that makes it seem natural, or necessary, for everyone to be a sexual reproducing member of society.
The comrade here states that eir body is a gift from the ancestors, but we would add that the African ancestors of New Afrikans (like many pre-colonial cultures) did not adhere to our modern capitalist patriarchy. European colonizers in Africa were troubled when people they perceived as male did not perform the role of a man, and in turn punished such people to impose their gender roles in the name of Christianity. Female to female marriage has been documented in over 40 pre-colonial African societies.(1)
In closely related species, social structures are built around one male who does most of the sexual reproduction for the whole group. Other species mate for life. And many species have sexual activity between animals of the same sex, etc. Certainly, the sex between males and females are crucial for the continuation of species like ours before the development of medical methods of fertilization. But it is not true that non-procreative sexual behavior doesn’t occur in other species, in previous humyn societies, or that it is somehow detrimental to our species.
Another example that adds to this point is that oftentimes the political-economic decadence of oppressor nations (predominantly petty-bourgeois societies such as Japan, $outh Korea, and even modern day Settler-Amerika) sees declining birthrates. The petty-bourgeoisie often point to non-heterosexual romance or miscegenation as the cause of low birth-rate for oppressor nations, but the materialist truth points to decadence and capitalist alienation which is the true detriment to the reproduction of humynity.
Despite our current individualistic society, we remain social creatures. Our behaviors are largely influenced by our society. Sexual behavior has evolved and changed as society has changed. While various parallels of LGBTQ people existed prior to patriarchy, there is also no doubt that the patriarchy impacts peoples’ sexuality. For example, under patriarchy wimmin can become afraid to date men and men can become afraid to express affection towards men. It is also true that national oppression and imprisonment impact peoples’ sexuality.
What we do know is: 1) that gender, and even the sex binary as we recognized in our 2018 congress resolution, are not biological facts, but rather social constructs. 2) to the extent that biology does determine things we call gender and sexuality, that there is always variation in nature.
To be a scientific thinker one must be able to think in terms of probabilities and percentages. Male and female, black and white, good and evil are ways we categorize things. The idealist believes these are pre-existing truths, while the scientist recognizes them as humyn-made categories. For the scientific thinker, what is unnatural is for everything and everyone to fit into two neat little categories.
A more objective view of the world will also recognize that it is myopic to see humyn society as separate from the “natural.” To put it another way, there will never be a humyn society where humyn beings behave by some pre-ordained natural way determined by our biology, where no social factors determine our behavior. On the contrary, it is our aim to revolutionize our society to revolutionize how we interact with each other into ways that have never been done before. There is no “natural” way we are trying to return to as the conservatives imagine. We want to create new and better futures, based on humyn relations without oppression and exploitation. That is the radical, and the only, answer to the “ills” of our society today.
LGBTQ and Imperialism
The comrade quoted above said ey loves and respects LGBTQ people but has issues with their movement being used towards imperialist ends. If the latter is true, then this could be the correct position for revolutionaries to take. So is the LGBTQ movement a weapon of the imperialists?
We have certainly noticed the LGBTQ cause being weaponized against the oppressed nations both inside and outside United $tates borders. One big example of this was during the Bush administration’s imperialist crusade against the Middle East and Central Asia where semi-feudal patriarchal practices of the masses in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq were put in the spotlight as justification for genocidal war. This was a big rallying cry for the “feminist” argument that U.$. invasion of Afghanistan meant freedom and liberation of Afghan womyn and LGBTQ. When the Taliban kicked out the U.$. imperialists in 2021, the fact that public education for Afghan womyn were taken away by the Taliban was put in the spotlight again alongside news of anti-LGBTQ lynchings, etc. So in cases such as these, we can see how even progressive causes such as the freedom for wimmin to have education and for LGBTQ people to express their love can be weaponized by the imperialists whose bombs will murder Afghan womyn and LGBTQ people and take away their freedom to be alive.
On a side note, looking at things in a historical materialist perspective, the brief experience of bourgeois democracy for middle class womyn to gain education and for LGBTQ people to exist without the immediate threat of death has been tasted by the broad Afghan masses (or at least the Afghan petty-bourgeoisie who could have afforded to experience it under the reactionary comprador U.$.-backed warlord regime). This gives the historical duty of the petty-bourgeoisie in Afghanistan to partake in a new democratic revolution alongside the proletariat, the peasantry, and the national bourgeoisie to overthrow the semi-feudal and semi-colonial state and implement those said freedoms under a proletarian dictatorship
But for us inside U.$. borders, what is the significance of this? Anti-imperialists should confront rallies to “defend Afghan wimmin” through U.$. bombs with anti-war, anti-militarist messages. But this has nothing to do with the realities of homosexual romance or people adopting gendered appearances that the patriarchy did not assign to them. More homosexual romance does not inherently bring more bombs dropped on the Third World. As pointed out, these bombs are killing LGTBQ people indiscriminately as well.
For all it’s self-proclaimed enlightened ways, U.$. imperialism continues to uphold the myth of race in everything it does. Enter the Supreme Court with their historic decision to end affirmative action in higher education. While the “race-conscious” policy did benefit (some in the) oppressed nations, the framework of race, created by the oppressor, continues to setback the progress of the oppressed.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority position, “Many universities have for too long… concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin… Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
We are not in the game of integrating oppressed people into the oppressor nation, but affirmative action based on “race” did prove an effective way to do that. Ending it will mean less oppressed nation people in higher education as recent history in California has shown.(1)
However, the racial statistics used to tout the success of affirmative action can be misleading. Because “race” and not income, or zip code, or cultural background are used in many of these statistics, what looks like perfect representation by skin color may be doing nothing to benefit the New Afrikan masses. Extrapolating from some broad statistics, one author estimates that maybe 7 or 8 of 154 “Black” freshman (5%) at Harvard in 2020 were from families defined in the U.$. as impoverished. Whereas, in the general population, 30% of New Afrikan youth are from impoverished households. This article also cites anecdotes saying the vast majority of black faces at Harvard are from bourgeois African families or had one Euro-Amerikan parent. Again, indicating affirmative action was not really benefiting the New Afrikan nation at Harvard anyway.(2)
The passage of the U.$. Civil Rights Act in 1964, which preceded the “affirmative action” practices we know today, was a comprehensive act to outlaw discrimination in what had been a segregated country. This was not just a result of the organizing of the oppressed within U.$. borders, but the pressure from the Soviet Union (though at that time they’d taken up the capitalist road) and China and the broader national liberation movement taking place across Africa, Asia and Latin America. And while progressive changes took place in the United $tates in the 1960s it did not quell the upsurge of national liberation struggles within U.$. borders because it never addressed the national question like the Soviet Union and China did. Rather it continued to institutionalize the concept of race through the new civil rights laws being passed.
By never addressing the national question, things like affirmative action, or Under Lock & Key can be attacked by the imperialist state as “racist.” To the imperialists the oppressed nations don’t exist, so when we talk about New Afrikans or Chican@s or Euro-Amerikans, they censor our literature for “racism.”
We must identify the principal contradiction to keep our eyes on the prize and not get distracted into dead-end politics. The principal contradiction we see under imperialism is nation, as well within the United $tates we say it is nation. This does not mean everyone from an oppressed nation is an ally. We must think in terms of percentages, not in black and white.
In discussing racism in political repression, Triumphant talks about the neo-colonial era. And we echo this sentiment that “skinfolk ain’t necessarily kinfolk.” That Black bourgeoisie are often playing significant enemy roles, in defense of U.$. imperialism.
However, just because neo-colonialism exists, it does not mean that nation is erased and class is all that matters. Neo-colonialism is still national oppression, it’s just a smarter form.
In reality, not seeing race at all is impossible for us in this racist society. Even when speaking of nations, we use phenotypes to classify people; we are still stuck in this model handed down by the European settlers who created “whiteness.” We must develop a political analysis to guide us that is beyond the myth of race and bloodlines, that instead operates in the material reality of nation, which J.V. Stalin defined as " a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make up manifested in a community of culture."
Comrade USW36 wrote on this topic:
i too, no longer use “Black” and “White” to define people. i’m a “New Afrikan”, Black is “created” by European settlers to enforce their new “white” identity rule. i hope all Rev Nats study Fanon (and Yaki’s “Meditations”), New Afrika, Native Amerika, and New Aztlan can be freed. We can be united and create a true North Amerikan Revolutionary Nationalist United Front to decolonize and delink from this imperialist juggernaut. Black and White identities won’t help us free any of the NA nations (i’d like also to salute New Asian Pacific Islanders).
If Amerika is the “prison house of nations”, if our aim is to weaken it from the inside, if revolutionary nationalism is viable then this isn’t just a path for New Afrikans it’s for us all, even European-settlers if they commit class-suicide. New Afrika isn’t just descendants of Afrika. It’s a scattered and potentially solidified nation with all sorts of “ethnicities”, and too, anyone can be a New Afrikan; shaming people ’cause they’re not “Black” enough or not at all is bourgeois bullshit. Someone like the Euro-Amerikan teacher Rachel Dolezal shouldn’t have been discarded like trash if she lied about her ethnicity; that could be corrected by self-criticism but if she consciously was willing to fight for the liberation of “New Afrika” then she’s a “New Afrikan” it’s that fucken simple. But we all need to wrestle with these contradictions here in the heart of empire.
A better example than Rachel Dolezal is Yuri Kochiyama, who was actually a citizen of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), joining at its founding in 1968 along with a 17 year-old Mutulu Shakur. Kochiyama was a close comrade of el Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X when they met). As a child of Japanese descent she spent years in a U.$. concentration camp during WWII. The RNA continues to serve as a model for how to address oppression from within the empire. Armed with Maoism, revolutionary nationalism within the belly of the beast can lead us to a world with out racism.
The Supreme Court of the United $tates (SCOTU$) has been busy this past year. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade still fresh in the public consciousness, the last month has seen the demise of student loan relief and affirmative action.
None of these rulings are of grave interest to Maoists on Occupied Turtle Island. College is seldom in reach for the lumpen and proletariat of this continent, and affirmative action in universities (especially Harvard, the topic of this case) concerns the comprador classes of the oppressed nations more than it does the masses. Despite its faux celebration of diversity, the 15% “African-American” portion of Harvard’s student population is anything but representational. The interesting aspect of these rulings, insofar as they exist, is how the rulings relate to the broader Amerikan assimilation strategy of the oppressed nations. The rulings may indicate a more general wavering of assimilation as a strategy for semi-colonial management or that the strategy has been sufficiently completed such that it may begin gradual discontinuation. There is also the strong possibility that we are witnessing the legal expression of the reactionary wing of social-fascist hegemony overpowering its liberal elements.
Though the material impact of these rulings on Maoist organizing are not terribly significant (especially within prisons), the spree of rulings serve as an opportunity to reflect on the nature and purpose of law in bourgeois society. We’ll take the time here to briefly glance over the persynal ideologies and behaviors of two of the more noteworthy SCOTU$ members, use these to reflect on the liberal worldview of law more generally, then transition to a materialist explanation of law and justice. Let’s begin with some words from Chief Justice Roberts.
In a September interview with Colorado Springs 10th Circuit judges, 2022, Roberts described the “gut wrenching” experience of his daily commute to the Supreme Court. Following a draft opinion leak that revealed the Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade, the building had been surrounded by a staff of guards and newly-erected barricades. This change was to the discomfort of Roberts and his colleagues, who shared stake in the tale that their careers were in justice, and not law. After lamenting the oppressive arm of the state’s failure to keep an appropriate distance from him, Roberts spent the majority of the remaining interview pearl-clutching over the public’s lack of faith in the Court’s independence from politics. He painted a troubling tale of what Amerika would look like if the courts were just a piece of political machinery like Congress of the Presidency. His persistence in the apolitical nature of SCOTU$ was unwavering.
Since then, details have come to light concerning the life of another member of the Court, longest-serving Judge Clarence Thomas, a man who shares in Roberts’ conviction of the apolitical nature of the Courts. To describe the findings of investigators who began breaking stories in April of this year as aspects of Thomas’ persynal life is misleading. We don’t believe there’s anything persynal about them. Of particular note in the latest news splash was Thomas’ close relationship with prominent Republican financier Harlan Crow, a collector of Nazi memorabilia and real-estate mogul of $29 billion in assets. Though Thomas forgot to put them on his financial records, flight records reveal he has enjoyed over two decades of apolitical weekly summer visits to Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks, vacations on Crow’s superyacht, and flights on Global 5000 jets. Thomas’ grandnephew also enjoyed the generous patronage of Crow, who had paid his way through private boarding school. In 2005, a case involving Trammell Crow Residential Co. found itself before the Supreme Court. The company was being sued $25 million for (allegedly) using copywritten building designs. The order by the court denying the petition to hear the case consisted of a single sentence. Thomas did not recuse himself from the ruling.
This brings us to the fable we are told of the nature of law in the liberal world order. When we think of law, we are often brought to conjure images of court debates, evidence inquiry, or statuettes of scale-holding, blindfolded wimmin dressed in Graeco-Roman garb. These images are designed to have us associate law with the long history of philosophic investigation into the matter, of which there are over two millennia of content. More specifically, we are meant to sympathize with the enlightenment-era revival of these ideas, lest we think in units of cities and societies, as Socrates or Plato would have us do, rather than individuals, like Kant and the liberal framework he filtered these discussions through. But any talk of justice or morality is incomplete without discussing how these ideas change (or, much more likely, reinforce) the way humyn beings relate to each other in society. Indeed, it should tell us something that Amerikan conventions of justice derive from the social traditions of ancient Greek Hoplite classes. That is to say, the quarter of Greek society (in the case of Athens, the most “equalitarian” example one could choose from) that sat atop a social pyramid of slaves. Though the law did not extend agency to these lower classes, it was very concerned with them.
Only the wretchedly naive buy into the Court’s mythos of impartiality. In part, this is due simply to how unsubtle they are about this reality. The Supreme Court, for instance, is known for its habit of pre-planning sessions to throw a few bones to liberalism before saving the announcement of profoundly reactionary rulings for the end (this particular session was no exception: loan relief and affirmative action were taken to roost only after the entre of indigenous adoption and limitations on gerrymandering). Though intentions don’t matter in politics as they are speculative and unknowable to anyone but the subject, the behavior of the Court in these matters is apparent; they are deeply concerned with their relation to partisan politics and structure their role in the state apparatus around this reality.
But all this is to miss the main essence of the bourgeois fiction about legal justice. The ideology of Roberts, and bourgeois dictatorship in general, insists on an illusion that neither the Greeks nor Kant were ever under the spell of. We find justice and law proposed to us as a single concept, yet the two are barely related. The illusion of the synonymity of justice and law depends on the thinker approaching law from an individualist perspective. It may, for instance, feel like justice when someone who starts a petty fight on the street gets charged, but law is not manufactured on the individual level; as policy, it is a society-wide institution and serves a society-wide function. Law serves a far more critical function than social conventions of justice. When you think of Lady Justice, do you recall that she carries a sword in her right hand?
Despite their ideological pretenses, the courts admit this distinction between law and justice in their united front of “originalist” interpretation. When interrogation of the practical effects of their decisions prevent the Justices from waxing over the moralist namesake of their title, the oft heard defense for their ultra-reaction is that their job is not to make ethical decisions, but to interpret the constitution as it was written. Even the antipode of this wing who believe the constitution is a “living document” work within the same framework: the text will give us the answers and it is therein that law will be made.
To posit legal interpretation as an objective endeavor (sometimes referred to as “textualist reading”) is a difficult argument to take seriously, despite two centuries of top Amerikan legal minds insisting that we do so. Indeed, “objective law” is an oxymoron. The Maoist understanding of legality is much less fanciful: law is the codification of social relations. Under capitalism, that means the writing down of acceptable parameters for ownership and exchange in such a way as to ensure the maintenance and expansion of current (capitalist) relations. This can be seen in the early history of law, which followed, in all its independent developments, agriculture – the great first-permitter of primitive accumulation.
The primary development that brings law into being is the social invention of the concept of ownership. This concept of ownership comes about necessarily in pairing with general law. Let’s look at law in its cell form to elaborate this point. Say I am a wheat farmer who labors to produce 20lb of grain. With bourgeois consciousness, I conceptualize this process as myself putting active labor into seed and soil, and seeing (throughout a growing season) that labor be embodied into a crop. Of note here is that I am not my labor. I made my labor, but it is not me. Instead, my labor has been embodied in the crop. This embodiment Marxists call value. However, at this stage, my labor embodied in the crop is only potential value. Value, for Marxists, is a social phenomenon. See, if I were the only person on Earth, objective determinations of value would be impossible as I could subjectively declare the worth of anything around me without challenge. As a farmer in a capitalist economy, however, I do not plant crops because I find wheat persynally valuable. No, I make it so I can sell it on the market. In this process of (market) exchange, the potential value of my product becomes realized value. For the value of my product to realize its value, it must be desired by another persyn who wants to impose their will on the product to the exclusion of others, including myself. This is a fancy way of saying that the buyer wants to be able to eat the grain or bake it into a cake without having to share it between now and then. Here enters the social concept of ownership. When I bring my wheat to market, I have a social right to it and become a social subject. When someone else wants to buy it, they are also a social subject, and if we agree to exchange, the social concept of ownership for the wheat transfers to them. In short: (i) I own the wheat, (ii) I sell them the wheat, (iii) now they own the wheat. When enough members of an ownership class get together and create a society-wide, binding contract to enforce their ownership over objects, that contract becomes law, and the apparatus that enforces this ownership code becomes the state. Wheat is an apt example because agricultural goods formed the foundations of the first states, ruled by land-owning classes.
In the second chapter of Volume 1 of Capital, Marx tells this very narrative (though in denser terminology),
“It is plain that commodities cannot go to market and make exchanges of their own account. We must, therefore, have recourse to their guardians, who are also their owners … In order that these objects may enter into relation with each other as commodities, their guardians must place themselves in relation to one another, as persons whose will resides in those objects, and must behave in such a way that each does not appropriate the commodity of the other, and part with his own, except by means of an act done by mutual consent. They must therefore, mutually recognize in each other the rights of private proprietors. This juridical relation, which thus expresses itself in a contract, whether such contract be part of a developed legal system or not, is a relation between two wills”.
From this humble origin, it may be seen that law is not derived from moral notions. The two are only related insofar as they are like products formed to justify the same class society. Worse, law in our time is inherently unjust, as it is no more than an appendage of the apparatus of the Amerikan state (or Amerikan imperialism when imposed on the world at large). Law is the codified will of a state, itself the guarantor of relations of production and exchange. As such, there are no prisoners who are not political prisoners. But law is not the frontline of class struggle.
Class domination, in both its organized and unorganized form, is much broader than what is officially enshrined by any wing of state power. Beyond mere law, the dominion of this regime is expressed in the dependence of the government on banks, capitalist, labor-aristocratic groupings, the persynal connections of state apparatchiks with the ruling class (a la Thomas), and the semi-colonial management of the oppressed nations. None of these relations have any official codification in law. Nevertheless, it is on legal grounds that bourgeois society protects itself in the continuation and expansion of these horrific realities. State authority, that special force separated from society we know all too well, may bridge the gaps on its own. Bourgeois law need not directly sanction bourgeois right, imperialism, and national supremacy. Indeed, it would be against ruling-class interest to be so explicit. Bourgeois law need only provide the framework to get these tasks done, the state will pick up the slack.
With this origin and purpose of law in mind, considering SCOTU$ as a non-ideological institution becomes as absurd as Justice Roberts’ faint of heart over what the outcome of his job looks like to the portions of humynity who live below the steps of the ornate buildings he spends his life sheltered within. For the masses, the juxtaposition of Hellenic architecture and barbed wire is so far from “gut wrenching” that it’s almost cliche. There is no more fitting a place for riot gear and sandbags than the courts, except perhaps Wall Street and Southern Manhattan.
For the past 30 years of my life I thought that I was somewhat assimilated into the urban culture simply because I vibe to rap music and grew up around Black folks.
But reality has hit me. I’m a racist white male. I’ve unconsciously struggled thru life with a white privilege card. And honestly, I’m disgusted with not only myself but also my white racist peers.
There is NO EXCUSE that it took me 30 years to realize the reality that I’m racist. But now that I have become conscious of my racist tendencies within me. I have reached out to multiple prison support groups/organizations (i.e. ATL/ABC,blackbird publishing, MIM, etc.) to educate myself and have been very fortunate to run into a revolutionary prisoner who makes it his duty to edify the ignorant racist white prisoners.
I know that right now a lot of people are scratching their head saying “is this dude serious”? But YES I’m serious and until we can admit our faults we cannot call ourselves revolutionaries. Just because you’re not screaming racist words or in some Aryan cult doesn’t mean you’re not racist. There are different kinds of racism.
You have AVERSIVE racism, which means that even though you might not ‘hate’ black folks you still have tendencies to avoid black folks due to your uneasiness, fear, and disgust of them.
You also have MODERN racism, that means you ignore that racism is even real. You’re so comfortable with the way the ‘ruling class’ wants to segregate us that you just go with the flow and became ignorant to the fact that humans just like us are being abused and oppressed just because of their skin color. I have to admit, this is what happened to me. Taking the easy way out in life.
Admitting to being racist is a bitter pill to swallow. Everything I thought I stood for stands on a shaky foundation. It’s hard to even look myself in the eye in my mirror now. I’ll break down knowing that I’ve allowed corruption and brainwashing to make me think I’m better than other humans just because of my skin color.
I speak to my fellow racist white peers, it dwells deep within you. It’s there. And embrace that. It’s time to start over and relearn the history you thought you knew, it’s artificial to hide the truth. That you’re not superior to NO ONE. It’s time to embrace the struggle. Because it’s time to truly struggle with ourselves.
Don’t just READ but STUDY revolutionary material and other books that have been written by people of color. Try to visualize the world as they see it and even though it is not humanly possible for a white person to feel the pain and the oppression that black folks have been subjected to for over 400 years. Try to feel their pain. I do it daily now. And one day I will not be racist. But it’s a hard road to travel. Trust me, cuz I’m on it. I won’t stop. I can’t stop. Too much blood has been shed due to this way of thinking. NO MORE EASY WAY OUT!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We welcome this self-criticism from a new subscriber. It is true that we must constantly be examining ourselves and how the oppressive system impacts the way we think and believe. As materialists, we understand we are products of our material conditions. As such, we should refrain from becoming self-flagellating in our examination of self (a religious approach to one’s faults that focuses on the self). It can be a painful and shocking experience as this comrade describes. But the resolution comes through better revolutionary practice in the anti-imperialist movement. We focus inward to better focus and act outward.