by a Pennsylvania prisoner September 2010 permalink
Greetings brothers and sisters bound by the chains of injustice. I speak today about the urgent need as prisoners to unite to stand against prisoner abuse. Too many of my fellow prisoners become caught up in gang-warring, belittling each others' character to become the block's best gang-warring machine. Rather than us fighting against prison oppression, we engage in battles amongst each other. If the majority of prisoners confined in these special housing units (SSNU, SMU, RHU, etc.) come together to stand as one against staff on prisoner abuse, we could stop the abuse and place a halt on the unconstitutional actions by prison officials.
When we fight amongst ourselves we allow the prison officials to get away with their actions of brutality and mistreatment. The DOC was meant to break the strong-willed and to demolish the fighting mainframes of prisoners. Some of us do break and some of us can withstand the difference. Rather than attempt to break each other, we should be attempting to break the chains of injustice.
When we see one of our fellow prisoners stuck in a situation where he's trapped fighting these prison officials alone, let's stand with him and fight by his side to curb what they are doing to him. There are many outside agencies that we can contact to help stop prisoner abuse. It's not hard to write a letter to these agencies exposing prison officials' abuse. The more that the names of these oppressive people becomes public, the more society becomes aware of the abuse we go through each day.
The special management units of SCI-Fayette and SCI-Camp Hill are breeding grounds for abuse, neglect and high forms of oppression. In these units it is hard to organize a solid front to stand against the abuse. However, educating each other should open each others' eyes to the need to fight against oppression. Some of us are stuck in our cells each day pondering what we can do next to get back at these prison officials. Let's use our thoughts, ideas and possibilities to make a successful attempt at forcing these prison officials to think twice about abusing and mistreating us prisoners.
Another thing I see happening in these control units is prisoners co-signing the irresponsible acts of prison officials towards their fellow prisoners. This happens because someone is upset with the next man locked in his cell so he decides to applaud the abuse they receive. Because you had an argument with your fellow prisoners doesn't make it right for you to support abuse towards them by prison officials. Gang-warring behind a steel door each day should be against the prison administration that carries out these racist, oppressive and hostile actions, not against another prisoner.
This is where unity has failed and this is the place where it could start. One group of prisoners can make a difference. They can only separate so many prisoners until they get sick and tired of moving them all the time.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this prisoner's call for unity, especially among those prisoners in lumpen organizations (LOs) fighting each other rather than the oppressive system. And we offer prisoners an avenue to join this unity through the MIM(Prisons)-led group United Struggle from Within (USW) - an anti-imperialist organization for prisoners. We are also working on a project for peace among lumpen organizations and encourage all representatives of LOs truly interested in fighting imperialism to get in touch to help us move this forward.
As is typical, I have ruffled some feathers on the SNY yard when I pointed out my personal sentiments regarding the SNY/general population issue. I criticized both SNY/GP as a matter of fact and the SNY cat asked what have I personally done. He would have to look up this history of John Q. Convict, an aka I have written under in various publications and prison news letters. I have blisters on my fingers from doing others' legal work and appeals as well as writing about what I experience and see. I am again on my way back to the SHU till I am paroled since I am not nor have I ever been one to be a passive submissive sheep nor am I in competition with anyone, I just keep it real.
It's ironic but I have had five CDCR numbers and I have experienced a lot. Maybe I am crazy to rather go to the SHU than exist on an SNY yard but I started doing time in the 70s and prisoners were a lot different then. The misconception I see in the term "active" as that is a prisoncrat designation of gang members (prison/street). Read the regulations of the CDCR and you know. I have never been one to tell on myself yet I see prisoners do it all the time enhancing CDCR/California Department of Justice investigatorial files that exist, yet we will never access, as one can other confidential files via court order.
Do not get me mixed up, I am not "active," I am "General Population" and I have seen how the California prisoner culture has succumbed to the tyranny of the prisoncrats with a whisper. Yes some get frightened and are keen to become SNY and bow to a perceived necessity in what I believe to be a misguided belief that such necessity forces conformity and that conformity allows for stability in which some can enjoy the "privileges" of visiting, canteen, telephones, packages. They are not rights that are guaranteed by the constitution. I elect to not conform in this prison environment.
I am a dissident who stands out and I am easily branded and locked back down but they always got to let me back out. I do not get visits or have money sent to me by choice, it's so I do not subject my family to the harassment that visiting presents, and the CDCR does not collect 55% of every dollar my family sends to me. I tried to point out that we prisoners are all victims of picklesuit tyranny, and yes I feel like those who volunteer to go to SNY have abandoned the struggle to a certain extent. I see the victims of the picklesuits assume the face of the tyrants, be they GP/SNY self-righteous and intransigent, while assisting the picklesuits instigate conflicts.
There is not a lockdown situation in the state of California that I have not experienced, and I do not confuse unity with conformity. I have always believed that prisoners should unite around principals. I have recently been labeled a "terrorist" I am an activist and it is frustrating as hell to try and pull the coats of those in these prisons who have submitted knowingly and unknowingly.
I see that there is the need for the mending of broken spirits on both sides of the California prison divide which is no easy task since it will require the prison population to reshape itself and refuse the gratuitous gifts and reject the privileges used to co-op prisoners as well as the elimination of it being all about self. Prisons use prisoners working in the kitchen or selling out for a fix/hit of dope, utilizing that instinctual will to survive. I do not believe in leaders as they become the focus of compulsive collaboration with the opposition once they are identified, and they are not infallible and such leads to eventual disaster. Yet I have known that principled individuals avoid the natural vices such as greed, betrayal, and the misguided notion that one has to compete without exception as if it's a healthy attribute. Such is and always has been, in my mind, a sad path to self-esteem, an illusion built upon putting ones foot on the neck of another which is what the pickesuits do, and it's not lasting since when they fail to physically and emotionally break my will they become fearful and envious because I have endured what they themselves know they could not. Yes I have on several occasions learned to make due with nothing, making myself mentally and emotionally strong and I survive.
Kudos to any successful SNY litigator. I read Prison Legal News (PLN) each month for the past six years, noting all the successes published there, rarely seeing an instance in which a California prisoner received millions. Even though the state has deep pockets, that 12.2 million eludes my perusal. You should send the decision to PLN so they can publish it as your work.
I also want to point out a simple truth even though our comrades at MIM(Prisons) disagree. In my years of doing time, always General Population, I have learned to read people and I am rarely in error. I can and do note agent provocateurs and quislings as well as those who think they are well hidden and can not be spotted. It's the nature of such individuals to expose themselves. I have never gone to the hole for harming another prisoner over the years I have served. It has always been an issue with the real enemy who has hoodwinked and bamboozled, coerced, pressured or otherwise manipulated the greedy and the weak; of which I am neither.
My view is that SNY prisoners who volunteered to go that route are their own worst enemy and the stigma attached is something that they will have to deal with, as those who dropped out, originally dropped in, when it was fashionable for you, and you were on the hooligan end claiming to be a gang member, telling the pig that you are a gang member, proud to be a gang member till the pack turns on you and then you don't want to be a member any more or you find yourself in a position in which you are facing time and you choose to purchase leniency by telling on your sworn homeboys. But wait, not all SNYs have been snitches, but many have "debriefed" so I must say that the percentages speak for themselves in terms of those who allowed themselves to be used and manipulated to self-detriment. There are still some in GP hiding in the wings.
I was brought up believing that it takes a lot of balls to stand up to adversity and not compromise one's principals. I am constantly educating myself in a variety of subjects. Yet I do not tell others who, what or how they should believe, we all make choices and some ultimately lead to some becoming SNY. I want to be quite clear that I am not any better or worse than any other human being on this earth. We all have faults yet the struggle has never died, it has been altered and manipulated towards personal gain. I am presenting my personal perspective from my years of experience. Though it is true I've never lived on an SNY/PC yard, they do put SNYs on the tier with GP in the ASU/SHU, to my dismay. I am an equal opportunity criticizer since while some focused on SNY, I spoke of both sides of the fence.
I noted years ago that the most illuminating and dangerous place in the prison was the law library as knowledge was power. Yet the time of spending 8 hours a day in the law library has been effectively reduced to one hour and thirty minutes a week if you are lucky and are PLU. I am not here to brag on myself but there are people on the streets thanks to me and new life was breathed into others whose cases were on the ropes.
So since I was asked what I have done, well helping others and standing up to abusive prison staff and officials has resulted in my doing 100% of my term due to my concern for the similarly situated prisoner. Ethnicity never mattered, all came to me. Yet when I think about it I wonder if my sacrifices have been all for naught, as those who instilled the fortitude, stubborn tenacity, and courage to fight back in the 60s and 70s are flip-flopping in their graves about the conditions and backwards steps in California prisons. The ladies put up better fights and they as a result still get stuff that we don't. Some of the prison population put privileges before rights so you enjoy your privileges while they keep chipping away your rights.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is part of an ongoing discussion, started in ULK13, of the controversial issue of the potential for prisoners in Special Needs Yards (SNY) to participate in the anti-imperialist struggle. It is MIM(Prisons)' position that prisoners in all situations can be induced to sell out and serve the needs of the system. And while we recognize the harm done by prisoners debriefing, going to SNY can sometimes involve less cooperation with the pigs than staying in an LO. We can't condemn people for mistakes they made as youth trying to find a place. We need to unite with all who demonstrate, in practice, that they are on the side of the anti-imperialist struggle.
This comrade says he can read people, and is rarely in error. And to an extent we agree. We "read" people by applying work and line standards to our potential comrades. By judging how one completes their work and upholds their line we can judge them as a comrade. The error comes in when you think you know when someone is a cop or snitch or not. You trust people you shouldn't and attack your friends. Even if these errors are rare, they tend to be the most serious. This is why general policies are superior ways to "read" people than looking at individual cases.
This comrade comments that s/he does not "believe in leaders." We agree that security and hero worship are weaknesses of having leaders, and we should work to minimize both of them. However, we also must be materialists and recognize that leaders, including the writer, exist and that leadership is important. A leaderless movement ends up without clear direction and can waste the resources and energy of the masses. Leaderless movements (also known as anarchist) generally end up with de facto leaders - people who are not formally put in positions of leadership but who just take up the lead because of experience or line or a desire for power. These de facto leaders are far more dangerous than elected leaders because there is no mechanism to remove them from power. And this also limits the people's input into the direction of a movement. For these reasons we affirm the communist principle of clear and formal leadership of the revolutionary movement and its organizations, while we work towards a society where no groups of people have power over others.
[img="https://www.prisoncensorship.info/art/quick/singlespark.jpg" alt=A Single Spark]I'm writing from the plantation state of Texas, although I'm currently confined in Texas I've never lived here. I was sent to Texas from the Maryland Division of Corrections, under Maryland's Interstate Corrections Compact Agreement. I was transferred to Texas in part due to my prison politics, and because I wouldn't become a passive and willing participant of my own oppression. I was not alone, there were many like minded comrades who have been exiled to other states because of our dedication and loyalty to the struggle, in our pursuit of freedom, justice and equality. The revolution has never started amongst the masses, it's always been the flame of a few, to spark the righteous indignation of the many! The revolution has always been bloody, in the pursuit of freedom, justice and equality there's always going to be bloodshed because these imperialist, capitalistic pigs will never voluntarily relinquish control of the commodity of the prison industrial complex.
I quickly came to realize that the Texas correctional philosophy is deeply rooted in an overt racist sentiment that's too casually expressed. The very colors of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's officer's uniforms are a symbol of oppression and hatred, confederate blue and gray. These are the very same color uniforms of the confederacy, that the confederate soldiers wore during the civil war, when they were fighting to uphold the institution of slavery. Unfortunately the Willy Lynch theory is prevalent here in Texas. The penitentiary politics that these pigs employ are reminiscent of the gestapo tactics of the Third Reich.
I quickly found myself entrenched in the struggle here in Texas as a righteous member of the Nations of Gods and Earths, I manifest a peace mentality that's deeply rooted in a position of strength. Here in Texas, the penitentiary politics involved with the different prison organizations goes contrary to the very foundation on which they were built, which was the struggle. The devils here in Texas use our cultural differences against us, to keep us divided, employing the age old tactic of divide and conquer. Our struggles have always been intertwined, from Che Guevara fighting in Angola and Mozambique to General Toussaint of Haiti leading the revolution to free the island of Hispanola. The Black and Brown struggle has always been one and the same. Why do so many of your forsake the struggle and identify with the oppressor? Stop allowing these devils to exploit our differences to keep us divided, the more divided we stand, the more they'll continue to conquer us. It's time for us to unite.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's article about Texas is appropriately timed for our Under Lock and Key theme of United Front. The importance of oppressed nation groups coming together to fight the oppressors rather than fighting each other is no more clearly seen in Amerika than in the prisons. As this comrade points out, the criminal injustice system plays oppressed groups against each other to keep them divided. We are working to bring together lumpen organizations for peace as a part of the anti-imperialist United Front. Representatives of groups, who are authorized to speak for them, or who want to help build support within their group, should contact MIM(Prisons) for a copy of the draft statement of unity.
To kill the individual is the first objective of the potential revolutionary. To become a revolutionary one must first become human. When we become revolutionized we step into the conscious of our/all humanity. Once we become conscious of our/all humanity we see that it is a struggle to liberate all oppressed people (free & caged) of the atrocities of the capitalist imperialist system. The revolutionary makes the mental adjustments that must take place to evolve from LO member to revolutionary socialist/communist and takes up the fight to liberate all of humanity.
In laymens terms a revolutionary is a "force" for change. So to become a revolutionary simply means "we must change". Change the way we think and change the way we treat each other. As a revolutionary political force we must recognize and understand that individualism means death. The "I just do me" mentality must be defeated for a revolutionary to come into full consciousness. I read somewhere once that "a revolutionary like a snake sheds his old skin and regrows the new skin of the people." We have to start living in accordance with the laws of humanity with a socialist politic. As we learn through study, through observation, through actual experience and as we live dialectic materialism we strengthen our commitment to the socialist/communist cause/struggle.
Revolutionaries realize the reality of the U.S. is one of historic and continued exploitation, injustice and racism. It is our obligation to end forever this fascism, because that is what we're currently liven under here! Individualism must disappear, want for the apolitical brotha what you want for your/our comrade. The ability to determine the world we inhabit is just a world where grown ass racist pigs in Seattle can punch out a young black teenage girl and get away with it, a world where racist trigger happy pigs in Detroit can murder a little black girl and get away with it, a world where a capitalist system allows oil to just continue to spew into the ocean destroying the ecological system. All this shit can be stopped if we kill the individual and step into consciousness.
The people can't wait they need the enforcers of change to lead them to freedom and justice, to a world where we all work and live according to our principles of socialist humanity. Revolutionaries adhere to a cause/struggle greater than themselves, humanity needs those who are ready and willing to fight for the liberation of the oppressed, those who are ready and willing to, if necessary, sacrifice the individual for the many. Franz Fanon said "where individuals are concerned, a positive negation of common sense is evident. While the settler or the policeman has the right the livelong day to strike the native, to insult him and to make him crawl to him, you will see the native reaching for his knife at the slightest hostile or aggressive glance cast on him by another native; for the last resort of the native is to defend his personality vis-a-vis his brother." Obviously the "native" is us "the convict" and the "settler" is "the oppressor pigs". When we become revolutionized we no longer accept the oppressors not respecting our humanity.
There is no such thing as an unconscious revolutionary. A revolutionary sees the plight of the masses and seeks through armed struggle and resistance to relieve the masses of their injustice. The question is how does the revolutionary socialist/communist navigate the individualistic attitudes of the typical convict? How does a conscious revolutionary convict reach the potential revolutionary in this cesspool of apolitical, self-hating individualistic brothers? As a revolutionary socialist who is quite limited in his movement due to 6 years in the hellish existence of the California SHU at Corcoran how do we get them to realize, recognize and understand as individuals we are lost and conquered but as a force of united revolutionaries under one politic, one ideology, one banner and one color?! Long live the revolutionary. Power to the people who don't fear freedom. As long as we continue to think in terms of "me & I" we will never unite and amass the power to defeat capitalist imperialism and fascism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade makes a strong point about the need to fight individualism as a part of the revolutionary struggle. This is a particularly big challenge in the belly of the beast, where it is all about doin' me and mines, even among those who face extreme repression under imperialism. On that note, we agree with the MIM line on fascism: "even though the imperialists have not implemented fascist measures against the exploiter majority in First World countries, the imperialists are the principal prop of fascism in the oppressed nations." Within U$ prisons there is an argument to be made that fascist conditions exist, just as they do in many parts of the Third World, funded by the United $tates. But internally, Amerikan imperialism remains a bourgeois democracy.
MIM(Prisons) held our first official congress in July of 2010 to clarify our priorities, renew our common commitment, and push our work forward. We reviewed work in key areas, discussed successes and failures and debated resolutions on new directions for the coming year. For the most part this congress focused on strategic and tactical priorities and the best way to advance our work. But these priorities are based in political line, and discussions of that line and the priorities it requires were a key component of the congress. Proposals related to new political line were also raised and those that were controversial were put on the table for study and debate in future discussions.
The production and distribution of revolutionary materials to a potentially revolutionary class that is systematically denied educational materials is central to our work as a cell. Keeping Under Lock & Key as a regular publication reaching U.$. prisoners and maintaining other correspondence with prisoners topped our list of priorities. We also gave relatively high priority to our website, the second major leg of our distribution work.
Despite a number of small improvements and a consistent publication schedule, our distribution of Under Lock & Key slightly declined over the last year and a half. While the production and quality of ULK falls in our lap, we see its expansion as a responsibility falling largely on United Struggle from Within (USW). We encourage other comrades to make pledges to increase our subscribers behind bars as our comrade in the Black Order Revolutionary Organization has.
In order to reduce costs we have changed our policies so that new subscribers only get our introductory letter and one issue of ULK. To get more than that you must write us again confirming receipt or censorship of those items. Similarly, we are requiring our regular subscribers to tell us exactly what mail they have received, and when, each time they write us. If we can't confirm you are receiving our mail we will stop sending it. By saving costs where we cannot confirm our effectiveness we will be able to expand our distribution to a larger subscriber base.
Over the last couple years we have seen a steady increase in the number of letters we have sent to prisoners. This is indicative of the expansion of our various smaller projects (other than ULK) with prisoners who are active participants in the movement. While readership online may be comparable (based on our limited statistics), the amount of work we see being done per reader from our paper literature is far greater.
Adding the etext.org MIM archive to our website greatly increased our content and eventually led to serious increases in readers. Yet we are still only getting around a sixth as many page views as they were getting in 2002. MIM had the most widely read Amerikan, self-described communist website at that time. This goes to show the damage done by political repression and privatization of the worldwide web.
Original content that MIM(Prisons) has added to the web that attracts the most attention is our censorship work and other services we provide to prisoners and their supporters. Many of our readers are utilizing our information to maintain better communication with their loved ones and to try to get information on what's going on behind closed doors and barbed wire fences.
Items that are in demand that we need to improve are Spanish language material, artwork and cutting edge cultural reviews. We are dedicated to making all three more prominent on our website, but we need help from our comrades to keep producing great anti-imperialist art, to provide insightful reviews of movies and music that our readers might be interested in and to translate and edit materials into Spanish. Online readers will see improvements to the site in coming months.
While many are following the corporate bandwagons of Facebook and Twitter, we are interested in recent battles over net neutrality (the premise that the interests of the powerful can't allow certain online content to get priority access to the public). Some have a theory of putting technology in command and worshipping the oppressors' institutions and petty bourgeois trends, rather than building independent institutions of the oppressed with politics in command. As examples, Facebook, Twitter and Google all have direct relationships with the state department. How could these ever become serious tools for revolution? The real question is, how can we build serious tools for revolution in cyberspace?
Distribution of literature to prisoners comes with the ongoing problem of censorship faced by MIM(Prisons) and our comrades behind bars. Our annual censorship report details the changes and accomplishments of the past year.
Most of the prisoners on the ULK mailing list are not letting us know what mail they receive from us, making censorship very difficult to track. It's possible the mail is not getting through but it's just as likely that these subscribers are just not telling us about what they got. We also have a lot of prisoners write once and then never write again. To better focus where we spend money, and to improve our tracking of censorship, we are changing our policies as described above.
In the first six months of 2010 about a third of our mail came from repeat writers - prisoners who are in relatively regular contact. This is an increase from 2009, and we should push to continue to increase this percentage. While it is great that we get so much interest from new comrades, it is important that we engage our regular contacts in study and work. We recognize that as long as our materials are being read and, even better, shared then we are accomplishing our goal of building public opinion. Yet, while most subscribers may be passive learners at this stage, we see our task as a cell as facilitating the organization of prisoners, including the development of cadre level skills. Several specific congress proposals related to this work were passed and we hope to see increased engagement from our newer comrades behind bars in the coming year.
A key element of raising the level of political understanding and providing study opportunities to our comrades behind bars is the MIM(Prisons)-led introductory study group. This study group gains a lot of interest but for both logistical difficulties (censorship, moving, lack of stamps) as well as loss of political interest, we see a steep decline in participants over the course of each study session. To provide more frequent opportunities for study to new folks, and as a pre-requisite to the more serious introductory study group, MIM(Prisons) will start all new comrades in a shorter introduction study group (Intro Level 1) which will last two sessions and run approximately every 3 months. Successful completion of this study group will be required for admission into the more comprehensive, year-long Intro Level 2 class.
United Struggle from Within (USW)
United Struggle from Within (USW) is a MIM(Prisons)-led mass organization for U.$. prisoners. USW is explicitly anti-imperialist in leading campaigns on behalf of U.$. prisoners in alliance with national liberation struggles in North America and around the world.
This year, MIM(Prisons) opened a separate forum for USW leaders to develop the organization and strategize on campaigns. This was a step forward in the re-establishment of USW as an independent organization (following the dissolution of the Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika). The campaigns leaders develop will be advertised in each issue of ULK for rank-and-file USW comrades to keep abreast of progress and how to get involved. If necessary, MIM(Prisons) will send out notices to affected comrades regarding campaigns that are moving at a pace that is too fast for ULK. Comrades who want to receive such notices need to write to MIM(Prisons) to join USW.
The campaign to get grievances heard in California is one campaign that is resonating loudly, both there and in other states that have adopted similar campaigns. This is a great example of a campaign that was initiated by USW and promoted through regular articles in ULK. We believe that those in charge of prisoners should be held to the highest standards of conduct, as was done in socialist China, because of the extreme amount of power they have over other people. In contrast to socialist prisons and work camps in China, abuse is a daily occurrence in U.$. prisons. Therefore the grievance struggle is strategically correct in that it gives the state a chance to clearly take a position for or against this rampant abuse, which informs the prison masses as to what forms of struggle are necessary to achieve humane conditions.
Also related to USW, there is a ULK writing group, which is open to comrades who have completed the introductory study courses and are involved in writing projects with MIM(Prisons). At the congress we affirmed our commitment that USW should be producing short summary articles for Under Lock & Key reflecting struggles within the ULK writing group. Comrades have already seen the ideas from the study group reflected in the pages of ULK over the last year.
Prisoner Legal Clinic
MIM(Prisons) rarely has access to legal advice from experienced lawyers on the outside. In 2009 the Prisoner Legal Clinic (PLC) was formalized as another facet of USW for prisoners interested or experienced in legal issues. The basic goals of the PLC are to push our anti-censorship and anti-repression work forward, while also offering members a space to discuss specifics of their legal work. Members of the PLC write legal articles for ULK and contributed greatly to the legal strategy issue of ULK, issue 13.
If you are an active member of the PLC, you should expect an updated letter from us two or three times per year detailing our current projects and comrades' questions/suggestions. Members of the PLC should also be contributing legal articles for ULK.
At our congress, MIM(Prisons) reaffirmed our commitment to the Prisoner Re-Lease on Life Program. We recognize that our resources to advance this program are limited, and we have learned some valuable lessons over the past year through our work with released prisoners. We need to work more aggressively with prisoners scheduled to get out within a year, making it clear what resources are available and helping them do the research necessary to hit the streets as safely as possible. Prisoners with upcoming releases should contact our newly appointed release coordinator for more info.
United Front for Peace in Prisons
MIM(Prisons) is working on a United Front for Peace in Prisons with leaders of a number of progressive-minded organizations behind bars. The principal contradiction facing the imprisoned lumpen today is the prisoner-on-prisoner violence and conflicts that prevent any progressive work from happening. The United Front project is developing a statement of unity that groups and individuals can sign to join. This statement has been in progress for a long time, partly because we are trying to develop unity with a number of groups before we finalize it. If you are involved in any kind of peace or unity project where you are, please get in touch so that you can have input on this very important project.
Related work with a number of more advanced organizations will also result in the production of a book on the lumpen within the United $tates. Over the next year MIM(Prisons) will be printing draft chapters of this book to be distributed as pamphlets for comment from lumpen organizations and fraternal groups. The feedback will be incorporated into the final printing of the book which is targeted for 2011.
This book will advance our analysis of the class and national contradictions in the belly of the beast and how we can best utilize them in the interests of the oppressed masses of the world. It will serve as a survival guide for the lumpen, recognizing the necessity of internationalism to overcome the number one enemy of humynity: imperialism.
MIM(Prisons) plans to hold congress annually and we welcome submissions of proposals for new areas of priority as well as new political line from our comrades in United Struggle from Within and other United Front organizations. We also look forward to feedback on our work over the coming year so that we can continually improve and advance the struggle.
January 2011 will be a legislature year in Texas. A petition has been put on the internet to ask our state leaders to reform the Texas parole board system, a tyranny agency ruining thousands of lives, in prison and in our own society. For some years now, since the mysterious death of David Ruiz (a Brown brother who achieved federal action to demand prison reform in Texas) we continue to raise awareness of the new and old injustices of the "justice" system as it pertains to parole.
Texas prisoners are not granted parole, even though they have done everything possible to be eligible for parole as required by their Inmate Treatment Plan (ITP). When the judge, the lawyers for both sides, and the offender all agree to a sentence, why does the parole board have the right to deny the parole because they decide the prisoner hasn't served enough time? Doesn't make sense or seem fair, does it? Prisoners have a time calculated date which is the parole eligibility date and those having met their ITP requirements should automatically make parole on that date. As the system works now, prisoners can not know whether they can exercise their special review rights, effectively ask for a review, or even know why or if they have been turned down, because they do not have access to their files. It is impossible for anyone to know if they have been falsely or wrongly accused of a transgression while incarcerated. If information has been erroneously placed in the file that may actually belong to another prisoner, or if their parole is being thwarted by a campaign by others they won't know. They can not know if rules have been violated or if evidences that would prove their worthiness for the privilege of parole is actually in their file.
Good time is currently not calculated or used to achieve parole or financial compensation for prisoner labor. At present it is awarded but discounted as part of the parole process (ignored and not honored), meaning modern day slavery is going on. The system currently continues to vindictively punish even the "ideal" prisoners who have been rehabilitated (which supposedly is the goal of the incarceration) making them wonder why they keep trying and causing them to lose all capacity for hope as the promised parole is disregarded and becomes one setback after another. In addition it callously wrecks the lives of families and children of prisoners who suffer needlessly while trying to find some reason for the parole board's coldness and tyrannical practices acting above the laws of the land.
Taxpayers are being robbed of funds by the corrupt parole practices. Prisoners in Texas seem to be the exception to the 13th amendment of the U$ constitution abolishing slavery as a large amount of capital is raised by the prison work generated by the incarcerated people now in prison. However, in the united states of america we should not allow slavery for state and corporate profit. It is criminal in itself to keep prisoners incarcerated for financial benefit by enslaving inmates past their parole eligibility date when they prove that they have gotten rehabilitated and qualify for parole release.
If you want to help change these parole injustices, please have your families and friends go to the following website and sign the petition: www.petitiononline.com/tcb123/petition.html Also please have them write each one of their representatives.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this prisoner that the parole system in Texas, and throughout the criminal injustice system in the U$, does not work, not even by the laws of this illegal government. We find the demands in the petition agreeable in that they would lead to a general reduction in imprisonment in Texas.
However, disagree with the common misperception that the U$ prison monstrosity is driven by a desire to exploit prison labor. Certainly the workers benefiting from their well paid jobs running the prisons have an interest in denying parole, and the politicians who want the votes of the workers and their families, share this interest. But as we explained in an article on the U.$. prison economy, prison labor can offset some of the costs of imprisonment, but prisons are not profitable. They are a tool of the government that both provide jobs for the mostly oppressor-nation labor aristocracy workers while providing social control of the mostly oppressed nation population that is incarcerated. The U$ prison system is a massive suck on superprofits extracted from the Third World to pay staff and provide basic needs for those imprisoned. This is one of the costs of operation the imperialists are willing to pay, not something they are making money off of. That an industry has developed around this massive project is only a product of this reality that helps tie labor aristocracy interests to the imperialist state.
United Front is the theory of uniting different groups across class lines for a common goal or interest, while maintaining independence where those groups disagree. The application of united front theory is about recognizing different contradictions in society and utilizing them in the interests of the international proletariat. The primary united front is the Anti-Imperialist United Front, which is made up of the majority of the world's people whose material interests lie in defeating imperialism. This is a strategic united front based on the principal contradiction.
In this article we will address a couple of contemporary issues in the United $tates and analyze their potential for united front work. We'll see that many of the big conflicts in a First World country are between the enemy classes, but that does not always mean we sit on the sidelines. Some forms of united front are tactical and require fast action based on thorough knowledge. To successfully navigate the potential for united front in the First World that serves the interests of the Third World proletariat we must first have a correct analysis of our conditions. The first section of this article provides a quick background to get us started.
Land, Housing and the Settler Nation
One of the arguments made against the labor aristocracy thesis is that corporations have no interest in sacrificing profit to pay First World workers more, and there is no corporate conspiracy to enforce such a policy. This is based in the theory of free market capitalism, or only reading the beginning chapters of Marx's Capital and treating that as an accurate model of reality in all places for all time. As a class, capitalists do depend on the labor aristocracy, not just politically, but economically as consumers and cogs in their growing pyramid scheme of finance capital. And there is at least one place where the U.$. imperialists can exert their will as a class (more and more these days) - it's called the U.$. government. The promotion of home ownership by the feds is one of the biggest examples of the imperialists consciously building a labor aristocracy within the heart of the empire.
Home ownership has been a staple of Amerikan wealth since the settlers stole this land from the First Nations and built their homesteads on it. The net worth of Amerikan families compared to First Nations and those descended from slaves in the U.$. is one legacy of this form of primitive accumulation. While land ownership among the earliest European invaders was 100% (that's why they came to the Americas), by the 1775 War of Independence, land ownership was still at 70% for the Euro-Amerikan nation.(1) Arghiri Emmanuel pointed out that Amerikan wages were able to stay so high in this early period of capitalist development, even as land ownership ceased to be universal, because the abundant "free" land stolen from the First Nations provided a fallback plan for European settlers.(2) This primitive accumulation through genocide was the basis for wealth that the Amerikan labor aristocracy enjoyed as industrialization transformed more of the settlers into wage laborers.
Following the inter-imperialist struggles of WWI, the United $tates became the dominant imperialist power. The influx of wealth that came with this allowed for the integration of southern and eastern European immigrants into the white nation leading up to the Great Depression.(1) From 1900 to 1950, home ownership rates in the United $tates averaged about 45%, with the lowest rates in the Black Belt South and the highest in European dominated northwest states.(3) After the economic recovery that came with the spoils of WWII, the United $tates embarked on the suburbanization of Amerika with numerous incentives from the federal government to bring home ownership above 60% again.
Since 1960, home ownership has stayed above 60% for U.$. citizens as a whole.(4) This rate was above 70% for white Amerikans in recent years, but the census does not have comparable statistics by race going back very far. Blacks and Latinos are just under 50% for rates of home ownership, even though national oppression has ensured that they currently face foreclosure disproportionately.
Emmanuel's theories in Unequal Exchange demonstrate how the significantly higher incomes of people in the First World actually transfer wealth to the imperialist countries from the Third World, reinforcing their economic advantage. Similarly, the oppressor nation has equity and is able to increase wealth in ways that the internal semi-colonies have not been able to do despite access to exploiter level jobs. All of this fits with the general trend of capitalism, which is the accumulation of capital. The more you have, the more you tend to get.
Collapse of the U.$. Housing Market
The left wing of white nationalism (whether self-described anarchists, socialists, Maoists or Democrats) has been saying that the increase in home foreclosures is an indication of the heightening contradictions between the Amerikan proletariat and the capitalists. These people defend the stolen land that was the foundation of wealth for settler Amerika, and the modern home ownership pyramid scheme that is the foundation of the Amerikan dream today.
Not only have millions of people lost their homes to foreclosure in recent years, but fear-mongers point out that the “2008 sub-prime mortgage market resulted in the disappearance of $13 trillion in American household wealth between mid-2007 and March 2009... on average, U.S. households lost one quarter of their wealth in that period."(5) Such alarmists ignore that Amerikans gained $10 trillion from 2006 to 2007 to reach an all-time high, and that net worth of the country's citizens has generally gone up at increasing rates since WWII.(6) The bigger ups and downs in all financial markets are certainly signs of crisis, but to act like Amerikans are being sunk to Third World conditions in 2010 is ludicrous. If only these activists would cry so loud for those who really have had to live in Third World conditions for their whole lives and for generations!
Most, if not all, of the loss in Amerikans' net worth is accounted for by stock portfolios and values of homes (which are bought and sold like stocks these days); in other words losses in finance capital. Traditionally, the petty bourgeoisie in Marxism was not exploited, nor did it significantly exploit others. To claim that those who reap profits from investments of finance capital are anything less than petty bourgeoisie is a rejection of Marxist definitions. With home ownership around 68% in recent years, that is a solid two thirds of people in the United $tates who fall squarely into the category of petty bourgeoisie or higher, including 50% of Blacks and Latinos (minimum). This group is 210 million people, or only 3% of the world's population in 2010, yet they hold more net wealth than the total market capitalization of all publicly traded companies in the world.(7)
Our critics point to the great wealth inequalities within the United $tates as reason to organize Amerikans for revolution. So let's just look at the bottom 80% of Amerikans, who owned 15% (a mere scrap from the table if you will) of the net wealth in the United $tates in 2007 (and this was a 15-year low for them).(8) While their share has decreased a few percentage points since 1983, total net worth in the United $tates has increased by almost 5 times. Therefore the lowest 80% of Amerikans went from about $2.2 trillion in net worth in 1983 to almost $10 trillion in 2007. (Two trillion dollars could eliminate world hunger for the next 66 years, until 2076.(9)) "Middle class" Amerika has assets that are greater than the GDP of China,(10) the world's industrial powerhouse representing about 20% of the world's population. That's comparing just the Amerikan "middle class" and "poor" to the whole nation of China, including its well-developed capitalist class.
Since the proletariat, by definition, has negligible net worth in the form of assets, let's look at their income.(11) Income generally increases proportionately with net worth across the globe.(12) Almost half of the world's population lives on less than $1000 per year. That is 3.14 billion people living on less than $3 trillion in a year.(13) Now before we condemn Amerikans' huge assets, let's make sure that they just aren't better at saving and investing their money than the proletariat. In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifty percent accounted for only 7.2% of consumption.(13) A conservative estimate leaves us with Amerikans, on average, consuming at least 27 times the average persyn in the poorest half of the world.(14) So money management skills cannot explain Amerika's huge net worth.
A just, sustainable humyn society requires the Amerikan labor aristocracy to be brought down to consumer levels much closer to the Third World. But this little exercise demonstrates that this is far from happening, despite the alarmists' cries.
Ultimately, the contradiction we're describing is between the labor aristocracy and the imperialists. The imperialists, in particular finance capital, are a dynamic, opportunist class. In contrast, the labor aristocracy benefits from stability of the status quo. The finance capitalists were able to make quick profits by selling the labor aristocracy short, so Amerikans are pissed. While perhaps pushing the labor aristocracy towards fascism, the finance capitalists are also undercutting the consumerism of Amerikans that their system depends on so much. What we are witnessing is an internal contradiction in the imperialist system playing out. Both groups control trillions of dollars in super-profits from the Third World, and the Anti-Imperialist United Front has no interest in one of them getting more than the other. We need to keep sitting this one out.
Migration to the United $tates
As discussed above, high wages and ballooning housing values reinforce themselves in our current economic system, making the rich richer. However, neither could be maintained without erecting a border outside of which these two things cannot flow. Therefore, keeping wages and housing values high is directly linked to the battle over increasing repression of migrant laborers within U.$. borders. The contradiction in this struggle is between oppressed nations who are trying to gain access to jobs in the United $tates and the oppressor nation that is trying to keep them out. This challenge to imperialist country privilege indicates that the battle for migrant rights is part of the anti-imperialist struggle.
While Third World people and some Amerikan youth faced Amerikan labor aristocrats on the streets, it was the U.$. District Court that put in place an injunction on most of the provisions of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 (SB1070), in light of a lawsuit filed by the U.$. Department of Justice (DOJ) against the state of Arizona. The DOJ held that immigration was under federal jurisdiction, and that they had a plan for the whole country to balance its various interests related to immigration that Arizona would not be allowed to mess up.
The interest of the bourgeois internationalists is in having free access to markets and labor, not to mention international relations. This camp includes the federal government and their finance capitalist backers as well as smaller businesses that only operate in the United $tates, but depend on migrant labor. Their conflict is with other bourgeois interests and the bourgeoisified majority of Amerikans whose position of privilege stems from the elitism of who is allowed to enter their fortress of jewels.
There is effectively a united front between the internationalism of the mass resistance to SB1070 on both sides of the Mexican border and the U.$. government acting on behalf of bourgeois internationalism. And for now, it is the imperialists who are really throwing a wrench in the works for Amerikans, even though the contradiction at its base is between oppressed nations and the oppressor nation.
A majority of Amerikans in a number of polls supported SB1070 or a similar law. The highest percentage listed in one article, 79%, did not agree that "illegal aliens are entitled to the same rights and basic freedoms as U.S. citizens."(15) This is the definition of Amerikan chauvinism. At best, one fifth of U.$. citizens don't think they deserve more than other humyn beings by virtue of being born in the United $tates. This is why we even keep an eye on the imperialists for glimmers of internationalism in the First World.
With Latinos, we can see how quickly this consciousness develops by tracking the percentage of coconuts in the population over time. A Latino Decisions poll found that 12% of second-generation Latino voters in Arizona supported SB1070. By the fourth generation it had increased to 30% supporting the coconut position.(16) Amerikanism is an insidious disease that has claimed significant portions of the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates.
Unite All Who Can Be United
While many dogmatists still criticize Mao for allying the Chinese Communists with the national bourgeoisie, we can take united front theory even further and come up with examples of progressive forces allying with the government of the imperialist superpower of the world against an oppressor nation. This goes to show that we cannot let ultra-left ideas of purity prevent us from allying with those who might help our cause.
The rightist errors in applying united front theory happen when we have incorrect lines elsewhere. Not recognizing a united front as working with an enemy class, or becoming convinced that other contradictions have been resolved, and not just pushed to a secondary position, are the main forms of rightism to guard against. Mao had to fight much rightism from other communists who thought the communists and national bourgeois forces should merge into one, where inevitably the reactionary bourgeoisie would lead because of their relative power. Rightism in the United $tates looks like people getting caught up with legislative battles over migrant rights. Without national liberation, there is no freedom for oppressed nations under imperialism. The imperialists will always oppose that, just as the Nationalists fought the Communists in civil war once the Japanese were forced out.
We do not seek unity for the sake of unity. We seek unity that utilizes all the forces possible to tackle the principal contradiction, or battles that push the principal contradiction forward. When we find strategic unity with others, the united front also provides a basis for unity-criticism-unity, which advances the struggle and deepens the unity of revolutionaries and all oppressed people for a better future.
by a North Carolina prisoner August 2010 permalink
I am currently on I-Con [lockdown] for assault on staff, but the write up was false. In December 2009 an officer was told to write me up for assault because I refused to sit down in the day room. She called me out by name and then told me to go to my bunk. As I was going to pass her she stood in my way so that she was blocking my path, and she said I pushed her. Prisoners later told me that while I was in segregation she stated I never touched her, and that she wrote me up because she had the authority to do so.
In June 2010 my room got searched while I was still on I-Con for the assault charge, and I got written up for another assault on staff charge as well as destruction of state property and disrespect. They charged me with assault because the officer told me to drop my socks outside of my trap door. So I dropped them out my door because I was following a direct order. Now it's four officers standing outside my door and this particular officer is standing right in front of my door when the sock falls on his foot. So he says that I threw a sock at him. Officers claim I "assaulted" him but one of them told me that you can't assault anybody with a sock and she never saw me assault anyone but she wrote a statement claiming I did.
Even if I did what they claim, the charge A-3 assault on staff is for "throwing objects that are likely to produce injury or by any other means hitting, kicking and pushing." A sock doesn't produce injury and they claimed it hit him in the leg. I've never known a sock to injure anyone. The only reason I was found guilty is because it was the word of two officers and a sergeant and I had no witness. But the evidence that I asked to be submitted was never submitted in my case. I'm currently appealing the charge.
Greetings to everyone standing up for prisoners and human rights. My red fist goes to all MIM social or prison reformers who continue to carry truth, facts and hard struggles in their hearts against a democracy that does not serve all equally but serves the few rich imperialist greedy elites. MIM(Prisons) is speaking hardcore about a reality destroying many all over Amerika, especially those in prison of Black or Brown crimes, also known as the "War on Drugs." I am not trying to justify that smuggling or selling drugs should be permitted. Yet thousands now sit in prison with long harsh prison sentences that usually don't even balance out to such drug crimes. For example, in Texas the court judge gives you a certain prison sentence for drug crimes so that when you're up for parole the parole will be denied for reasons like "excessive amount." These reasons will be used each time you go for parole, not only violating Texas parole board policies but state law and U$ Constitution Amendments like the double jeopardy clause.
The Fifth Amendment of the U$ Constitution states, "…nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb…" This clause assures three basic protections: it protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal, it protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction, and finally it protects against multiple punishments for the same offense.
Violating the double jeopardy clause qualifies as a constitutional violation in satisfaction of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, Pub. L. No 104-134. 110 Stat. 1321. When evidence indicates the parole board has violated the U$ Constitution the matter may be reviewed by a Federal Court pursuant to §1983.
2011 will be a legislature year. Black, Brown and other brothers in prison in Texas should ask their family and friends to protest such failed parole policies, state laws or constitutional amendments, now broken by this war on drugs by homeland terrorists calling themselves our nation's leaders.
The War on Drugs is not only a failed war on drug dealers, but against our families and communities, especially the Brown barrios and Black ghettos which many have always called home. The war on drugs sole purpose was to be able to create a new home, called prison, now filled with prisoners for drug crimes under harsh laws of sentencing ruining thousands of lives. And even our nation seems to be under attack by a democracy that serves more the rich than the poor or needy ones. I encourage others to draft protest petitions or letters and have their loved ones send them to John Whitmore who is a Texas Senator in charge of The Sunset Commission looking into this kind of prison violation.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We condemn this practice of refusing prisoners parole based on their original sentence, but we can learn from history that elections are not the answer to the problems of the oppressed. The imperialists and their supporters will be elected, and candidates truly serving the people will never gain any real power in the United $tates through elections. However, we can exert pressure on the criminal injustice system through protest letters and actions. Sometimes we can win small gains for the people through these struggles. And there is nothing wrong with using election time to push a progressive cause, just keep in mind that many legislators get elected on a "get tough on crime" platform. All this rhetoric is bullshit that has nothing to do with the reality of crime and punishment in Amerikkka, but the publicity is important to politicians so they are probably less likely to take progressive action in an election year if it might make them look "soft on crime."
Brothers we got to correct our backward thinking. You call yourself OGs? Black gangsters got no lore for a Black-men, never have, but you play the script well? OG why blind our youths with lies, false hope, why give them guns to do your dirty work? OG you leave prison wrap up with the right knowledge, but jump right back in the life, and call yourself an OG, but in prison you was fumbata now you are Mac-G. This madness got to stop whatever street tribes you claim: South, East, West, North, and in between, we got to rise above stop lying to our youths, like this is the best of lives being in these concentration kamps, doing time have never been cool, now these kids think it's part of life in order to get OG status. This false status got to die.
This is a call to all older OGs to say stop this false status among our youths. Here in Tennessee we are reversing the old time order of things, we refuse to be followers of reactionary ideals. Our family falls in line with comrade brother George Jackson ideals, Mr. OG please kill that statue. The law of the land is very real. Mr OG you will be judged by your deeds. The klan loves your status, cause they know you will continue to let our youths kill one another. The STG also love your status. Tag by your name Mr OG-Gangster.
This war is real, as the blood that flows on the streets. Mr. OG our youths look up to us inside of these concentration kamps. The judicial system don't care about our youths, we got to save them from this madness. They listen to us and they want to be like us. I've spent half my life in prisons and saw these OGs play the role real good. This system has always been a sanctuary to preserve and proliferate the criminal mentality.
Mr OG, let's rise up, you are the shot caller. Want to kill someone? - hit that criminal mentality - kill it, and bring to life the revolutionary mentality. As comrade brother George Jackson said, we got to transform the criminal mentality into a revolutionary mentality. Let's save our kids. In doing so we also save ourselves. To deceive others is reprehensible, to deceive ourselves is a damn tragedy.