There are very few labels more stigmatizing than "sex offender" in prison. While sex crime encompasses a wide variety of "criminal" behavior ranging from urinating in public to actual sexual depredation, once labeled a sex offender (SO) any individual is automatically persona non grata; black-listed.
Many, myself included, view SOs as the scourge of society, far below cowards, and even below informants (snitches). As such prisoners generally do not debate SOs other than in a negative light. For the prisoner-activist/revolutionary, who is politically aware and class conscious, the SO debate takes on an interesting color. In particular, when we contemplate how a movement can best confront the problem of real sexual depredations. What possible solutions can be put into practice? Isolation? Ostracization? Extermination? Or is there some way in which the democratic method — unity/criticism/unity — can make a difference?
Excluding all non-sexual depredations (public urination and such), SOs constitute a dangerous element; more so than murderers because SOs often have more victims, and many of those victims later become sexual predators, creating one long line of victimization. What is a revolutionary movement to do to stop this terrible cycle? In prisons, at present, the only resolutions being practiced are ostracization and further exploitation. SOs are deliberately excluded from most, if not all, social interactions outside of being extorted, coerced, threatened and or beaten. While prisoners may find approval for these actions of victimization, these actions do nothing at all to solve the problem.
In a discussion with participants in an extension study group (debating topics from MIM(Prisons) study group) it was advanced that all SOs should be put on an island away from society or summarily executed. First, such drastic measures ignore the problem just as current solutions do. In the former (an SO's island) case it creates a subsociety, a subculture, dominated by sexual depredation and its approval. As a member of our group quickly concluded "this would definitely be a bad thing." In the latter case all you do is commit senseless murders.
Any possible solution with the real probability of success must be found in the democratic method. In order to eradicate the senseless cycle of sexual victimization revolutionaries must engage in a re-education campaign. Beginning in unity of purpose: a society based on equality without exploitation, class struggle and antagonism. To achieve this all elements in society must work in concert and be healthy. Following this is the critique phase, where the process of re-education becomes important. Interacting with SOs, demonstrating why, how and where they went wrong. From there one would begin inculcating an SO with proper respect for their fellow humyn and all the rights of individuals, along with a new comprehension of acceptable behavior. For the imprisoned revolutionary the most important aspect is their role in engaging the SO and initiating the re-education. This in itself is a revolutionary step requiring fortitude and stoicism considering current prison norms and expectations.
At any rate, assuming an SO can be brought to understand the incorrectness of their thought and action, they will cease to be a detriment to society. As revolutionaries, of course, this opportunity would extend to a political education as well. In the end one can reasonably hope to not only have reformed an SO, but to have built a new, dedicated revolutionary. The hardest step toward any goal is always the first one, but it must always be made.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Certainly it is correct to oppose sexually violent behavior. But we're still not entirely sure why "sex offenders" are more pariahs than murderers in the prison environment. We lay out a theory for why prisoners are so obsessed with vilifying "sex offenders" in our article Sex Offenders vs. Anti-People Sex Crimes, and we welcome others introspection on the topic.
This author presents an interesting argument, although we're not sure the logic is sound. When someone is murdered in lumpen-criminal violence, often there is retaliatory murder, and subsequent prison time. Lumpen-criminal violence (created and encouraged by selective intervention and neglect by the state) is one of the reasons why 1 in 3 New Afrikan men will go to prison at some point in their lifetime. That represents a long line of victimization.
Rates of sexual assault and intimate partner violence are also staggering. We are not trying to weigh sexual violence against murder and try to determine which is worse. Instead we highlight these arguments made by our contributors to question why they hold the perspectives that they hold, to encourage more scientific thinking.
We disagree this contributor where ey says that revolutionaries in prison should make it a priority to try to rehabilitate people who have committed sex-crimes. As we've explained elsewhere in this issue, we have a limited ability to do that, and this challenge is exacerbated by the fact that we still live in a capitalist patriarchal society. It would make more sense to focus this rehabilitation effort on people who are otherwise contributing to building toward socialist revolution and an end to capitalism. But reforming people who have committed sex-crimes for its own sake is putting the carriage before the horse. At this time, our first priority is to kill capitalism and the patriarchy.
by a Virginia prisoner April 2018 permalink[This writer enclosed a People Magazine article: Sexually Harassed by Prison Inmates, January 1, 2018. About two female COs who work at Florida's Coleman prison. They won a class action lawsuit regarding sexual harassment on the job, against the Department of Justice last February, with a $20 million settlement.]
I have an article that I got from somebody that I would like to share about a six-year battle against sexually-harassed women staff at FCC Coleman outside Orlando, Florida. For me, women that work in correctional centers should know what they're getting themselves into working in all-male facilities.
I know that some guys can't control themselves when they see women COs. Some do perverted shit that I can't even approve of because that's not who I am as a brother who is trying to end my criminal way of thinking. But I can say that women who sign up for the job know that they did not apply at Disney World or Six Flags, so they should be prepared for the torment that they know this job is capable of doing.
Even though I don't agree with some prisoners who pull out on the women COs, I just feel bad for what this system of injustice has done to my fellow brother's mental state. Because there are some brothers who are never going home at all and some who got a significant sentence, and they feel like they're a long way from home. So this situation is a double-edge sword because you have to look at some of these guys' mental state and situation, because some are not going home at all, which can influence other brothers' behaviors.
And I cannot put all the blame on my fellow prisoners, because I have seen for myself women COs let prisoners whip out on them and they wait or show some skin till that brother has finished. And there has been COs, men and women, turning tricks with prisoners. So I've seen both parties at fault in these circumstances.
That is why I said this is a double-edge sword situation, but the sword is sharper on our side because of lawsuits like this, which open the doors for more corporal punishment and stricter rules in a place where we barely have any say so. This case has showed me the oppressor is coming up with new ways to keep my fellow prisoners in solitary confinement, and to take advantage of some brothers' fragile mind state. Because to me these women knew when they applied for this kind of job, being so-called law enforcers of the worst humans in confinement, that we are labeled as what should they expect. So that is how I feel about this article.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We share this writer's view that prisoners are put in shitty situations that can lead them to mental health problems and behavior that they would not have considered on the streets. It's also unacceptable that people working in prisons toy with prisoners, using their position for their own sexual pleasure.
We have little sympathy for people who choose to take jobs in prisons, as these institutions are just tools of oppression. We do recognize that many prisons are deliberately located in destitute rural white areas, and so many times job options are slim. But we do still have free will, and a lack of available does not excuse people from taking jobs that pay them to carry out oppression and abuse daily.
That said, we don't think there is any situation in which anyone should just expect to be sexually harassed. Even in prisons or the military, institutions that are fundamentally corrupt and serving imperialism, there is no need for wimmin to suffer sexual harassment. This is the same argument made of actresses in Harvey Weinstein movies, beauty pageant contestants, and people wearing short skirts: "you know the consequences and you're choosing to get sexually harassed." No, these people are choosing what clothes to wear and what careers to pursue, and those choices shouldn't include sexual harassment.
The degradation of wimmin is a part of the system of patriarchal oppression that is intimately tied up with capitalism. As is the degradation of prisoners who are acting out against these COs due to their damaged mental state. These are things we won't be able to eliminate while capitalism exists, but that doesn't mean we should pretend people just need to accept it. We are building towards a society where all people are equal and no group of people has power over another group. This includes eliminating all forms of harassment and oppression.
The U$A uses the sex offender label to put folks in certain stages, legally. So the KKK uses that against you to not give you a job. So your life will be messed up. Being a captive we get hit with it every day. If you look at the United $tates of Amerika, some of everybody is a sex offender. Our own president is 1 of the biggest sex offenders of all. Once that label be upon you everything is hard. You can't be around your kids or some jobs. They use this control to keep the oppressed in line. You can get locked up, catch a charge. Then the next thing you know you are a sex offender. I hate to see somebody else's life messed up.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The ability to buy and sell people and sex, inherent in a capitalist economic system, leads many to behave in ways that are extremely anti-social. Those who have been subjected to the worst of the gender conditioning our society has to offer are much more likely to commit sex-crimes which perpetuate the harm caused by male chauvinism and capitalism.
It really says something that the best response the state has for dealing with the people who have submitted to its patriarchal conditioning is to slap a label on them and just ruin their lives. It's the same with the "felon" label, and even more extreme.
We need to address the root causes of anti-social behavior (which stem from society itself), as well as rehabilitate those who have committed anti-people crimes. Without state power, both of these tasks are extremely difficult if not impossible. For our perspective on how to address this problem in the immediate term, see our article [LEAD ARTICLE FOR 61].
I am listed as a sex offender,
a few friends and I caught a charge in ninety six.
We did time and got released,
but can a sex offender be fixed?
Currently I'm doing life for a 2006 armed robbery
I have never violated any disciplinary measure for masturbation
on female prison staff or any sexually related issues
but I'm still listed as a sex offender
Can a sex offender become a revolutionary?
Can a sex offender become a genuine feminist?
Or an anti-patriarch misogynist?
Can a sex offender have been a victim of misogyny?
Or sexism like his victim?
For a sex offender, where does the healing and fixing begin?
Can a sex offender be considered or seen as equal?
Can he ever be considered or seen as a member of the people?
Does a sex offender still have human rights?
Is he even still human?
Can he ever be forgiven or forgotten for his crime against the people?
Aren't almost all crimes against the people?
Can a sex offender be genuinely healed or rehabilitated?
Do we throw away the key and keep all sex offenders gated?
Is the justice system just or genuine?
We all agree that poverty is the mother of crime,
So then affluence must be its father by grand design.
Can a sex offender be a victim of sexual double standard
Can a rich sex offender be subject to the same prosecution,
incarceration, condemnation or even oppression as a
poor sex offender in this nation?
Do poor sex offenders receive systematic indulgence?
How long has the #MeToo movement been in existence?
Suddenly, the #MeToo movement has after so long, gained overdue prominence.
Will the real sex offender please stand up?
Let your money do your talking, prove the law is corrupt.
Rich sex offenders versus poor sex offenders?
White sex offenders versus Black, Brown, Yellow
and Red sex offenders?
Ghetto, hood sex offenders versus hillbilly sex offenders.
President sex offenders, PIG (pro imperial goon) sex offenders,
evangelical sex offenders, papacy sex offenders?
Thomas Jefferson was a sex offender? Still your hero and founding father?
Because his victim was a wombman of color?
Sally Hemmings, daughter of momma Afrika
Columbus was a sex offender,
still got his own day, for us to remember
"Grab them by their pussy" that's what Trump say.
I don't see anybody throwing their keys away.
A poor sex offender can't point the finger, can't scream "foul play?"
rich sex offenders could be healed, poor ones can't?
Can't compare apples with grapes? Naw.
Aren't they all fruits? Yes, but naw.
Ain't we all been living the misogynist culture?
Won't we still keep doing it till so-called society
fixes its mental stature and structure?
Separate the sex poorfenders from the sex richfenders
Can a sex offender practice genuine self criticism?
Can a sex offender be a guerilla for egalitarianism?
I would like to address the Delaware comrade who wrote "Maintain the Trust in the United Front" article in ULK issue #55. I'm currently housed at High Desert State Prison in Nevada. I'm in my 20s and I'm in a level 1 PC unit. I'm not a snitch, a drop out or a sex offender. I was arrested and convicted of pandering, 2nd degree kidnapping, and felony possession of marijuana. I was basically forced to "PC up" because one of the original charges included sex trafficking.
I agree that snitches can't necessarily be trusted on a scale where you'd conduct normal operations with them, but I believe those who snitch are uneducated and most of the time made the choice because they were young and afraid. If you're too closed-minded to educate these young comrades and reform the way they conduct themselves when dealing with the bourgeoisie then how can you consider yourself a revolutionary? You should judge a person by their behavior and not their past. If "dry snitching" or hanging around the swine is a habit of theirs then most likely they can't be trusted. Just remember not all of us were raised in an environment where "the code" was instilled in us at a young age.
As for sex offenders, why would you judge a man by a label given to them by the bourgeoisie? Often I find that these men labeled "SO" are well-educated, intellectual and humble characters who could be considered dangerous to the government! If these comrades can be educated in revolutionary theory they can be helping hands in the progression of the united front's movement. We will find our strength in numbers, intellect and unity under a mutual interest. Don't allow the oppressors to further divide our class and turn us against each other. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
I also agree that the bourgeoisie perceives our class as ignorant and frowns upon any comrade labeled "criminal", but in their eyes it doesn't matter if it's a sex offense or a theft-related charge. The only thing we can do is prove them wrong by striving for perfection, self-discipline, cleanliness, and physically and mentally training on a daily basis.
Steadfast Revolutionary Salutations! I received ULK 58 and found it to be the gasoline which the machine required to continue to stride forward. Kan't Stop Won't Stop!
The piece "We Can't Write Off Whole Groups from the UFPP" truly hit home for me as I've been vigorously debating this very topic with my comrade in arms over the last couple of years! I am a Muslim of New Afrikan DNA/background, virtually raised in fedz system ('92-'09). My comrade in arms is a Cali native, steeped in typical fratricidal mores, yet striving to be catalyst for structural growth! We've had some quite spirited dialogue on SNY politics.
Over my recent prison sojourn, I have been forced to re-examine previously-held views and/or biases toward others, based solely upon convictions. As I've told many cats here: if we believe the U.$. system to be unjust, then how can we accept convictions in their corrupt kourts of injustice at face value, and call ourselves revolutionaries or progressives?
By the same token, there must be a "People's Tribunal" in place which properly investigates the background(s) of those claiming revolutionary authenticity! A "mistake" in judgment whilst under influence, a statement given under duress, or as a juvenile, a case put forth by suspect persons, etc., etc. could be examples of "how"/"why" a cat has a particular conviction or jacket and must be analyzed accordingly.
We also ask, how can anyone claim to be "People's Vanguard" yet not stand for the most vulnerable of our oppressed nation citizenry? I.e. children and elders! How can the People's trust be earned and their support given if we do not, at minimum, give justice to the molesters of children, or abusers of our Grandmamas? As a Muslim, I find peace of mind and yet, I am under NO illusions that simply donning a kufi, making Salat, or fasting shall make U$ klansmen stop killing my kind in particular, poor folk in general! I realize that I must organize, myself and others around our klass commonalities and the politics of oppression! Need to stand up!
It is becoming quite clear that the enemy has used his misinformation/disinformation campaigns, along with his "tools" (those who serve pig-interests and destroy OUR klass unity in the process) to where we no longer have basic codes of morality!! We of the revolutionary/progressive ilk are very few and far between here in Oregon. However! We are steadfast in our devotion to struggle in unity, as it relates to resisting ALL oppression and/or racist violence directed toward us! However, the molesters of a child! or elder can never be our komrade(s)! Nor any that fraternize with them... Did "Che" not hold tribunals for the vermin/anti-revolutionaries?
In closing, we ask, if a former criminal tells pigs (snitch) on his confederates, then years later embraces revolutionary ideology and identity, is his/her past to be held against revolutionary authenticity today?
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises some very good points about dealing with crimes against the people. First, the point about not trusting the government labels of people is key. We know the pigs don't hesitate to create divisions among the oppressed through any means at their disposal. Labeling a revolutionary as a child molester is well within their tactics. So we can't just let the state tell us what to think about people.
On the other hand, this comrade is also correct that we can't just let it slide when people do commit crimes against the people. For this we need a people's tribunal that can independently judge what really happened, and then we need a real system of people's justice that can both punish and rehabilitate folks. Of course these things are much harder to set up when we don't hold state power. But we can implement some good practices in our local circles. We can create internal structures to fairly investigate charges against people claiming to be our comrades, so that at least our organizations address these issues when they arise.
And we can study the history of revolutionary societies that implemented real systems of peoples' justice. The best example we have of this is communist China under Mao. Under the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat in China prisons really were focused on rehabilitating those who had committed crimes against the people. Thorough investigation was conducted of these crimes, and a lengthy process of criticism and self-criticism was implemented in the prisons. There is an excellent autobiography about the prisons, written by two Amerikans who were caught spying for the Amerikan government and locked up for years. They came away with praise for both the prison system and the revolution in China.(1)
This issue of ULK is refocusing on an ongoing debate we've held in these pages of the role "sex offenders" can, or can't, play in our revolutionary organizing. Many of our subscribers see "sex offenders" as pariahs just by definition of their conviction, yet we also receive letters from "sex offenders" with plenty of interest in revolutionary organizing. How/can we reconcile this contradiction? This is what this issue of ULK explores.
As you read through subscribers' article submissions and our responses on this topic, you'll see some common themes, some of which have been summarized below. This article also is an attempt to provide a snapshot of where we are now on this question, and suggest some aspects of our organizing that need to be developed more deeply.
The "Sex Offender" Label
There are three groups that are discussed throughout this issue that need to be distinguished.
People who have committed crimes by proletarian standards, but have not been convicted of them (i.e. Donald Trump, people whose sexual assaults go unreported, prisoner bullies, etc.). These people are not called "sex offenders" according to the state's definition.
People convicted of being "sex offenders" who didn't commit a crime by proletarian standards (i.e. people labeled as "sex offenders" for pissing in public).
People who are convicted as "sex offenders" by the state, for behaviors that would also be considered crimes by proletarian standards (i.e. physical assault, pimping, etc.).
Throughout this issue the term "sex offender" is used to mean any one of those categories, or all three. It's muddled, and we should be more clear on our terminology moving forward. By the state's definition, the term does include some benign behaviors such as pissing in public (group 2); crimes which are convicted in a targeted manner disproportionately against members of oppressed nations. So we put the term "sex offender" in quotes because it is the official term that the state uses, and it includes people who have not committed anti-people (anti-proletarian) sex-crimes. Under a system of revolutionary justice, people in group 2 would need no more rehabilitation than your average persyn on the street.
We cannot trust the state to tell us what "crimes" someone has committed, and this is true for sex offenses as much as anything else. This country has a long history of locking up oppressed-nation men on the false accusation of raping white wimmin, generally to put these men "in their place." We have printed many letters from people locked up for "sex offenses" but who have not committed terrible acts against people.
Interestingly, most of our subscribers know there are many falsely-convicted prisoners in all other categories of crime, and they readily believe that many are innocent. But when the state labels someone a "sex offender" that persyn becomes a pariah without question. This is an important thing for us to challenge as it represents, to us, a patriarchal way of thinking in prison culture. Usually it is paired with rhetoric about the need to protect helpless wimmin and children and is just a different expression of patriarchal norms: in this case the non-"sex offender" playing protector-man by attacking anyone labeled "sex offender."
Why don't we see this with people with murder convictions? Isn't killing someone also a horrifying act that should not be tolerated? And why is sexual physical assault in prison allowed to proliferate? In the 1970s, Men Against Sexism was a group organizing in Washington state against prison rape, and they effectively ended prison rape in that state.(1) Statistics show that people "convicted of a sexual offense against a minor"(2) are more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison. Are the people who are "delivering justice" to these "sex offenders" then cast out as pariahs? Why is the state's label, and not people's actual behavior, given so much validity? These are questions United Struggle from Within comrades need to dig into much deeper.
Anti-people crimes include many different behaviors, from complacency with capitalism and imperialism, to extreme and deliberate acts of reactionary violence. Anti-people crimes include manufacturing and selling pornography, illegal drugs, and even alcohol and cigarettes, much of which is legal or at least permissible in our Liberal capitalist society. And it includes all sadistic physical assault, which would include all forms of sexual assault.
From our perspective, this discussion has raised more clearly for us the importance of not glorifying or fostering positive images of any types of anti-people violence among prisoners. Sometimes folks from lumpen organizations hold up their history of reactionary violence as a badge of honor and we need to criticize that, just like we need to be critical of any positive or even neutral discussion of sexual violence. But we still can't take the labels from the criminal injustice system as the reason for this criticism. Those locked up on protective custody yards for sexual assault convictions don't merit this criticism merely for their PC status. That gets into the realm of "no investigation, no right to speak" because we can't take the injustice system's labels as sufficient evidence.
Anti-people behavior of all kinds is unacceptable both within and around the revolutionary movement. Our challenge is in the fact that we are not currently in a position to investigate individuals' crimes. In truth the change needed from all of us is impossibly difficult without a revolutionary government and culture to back it up. As revolutionaries, we all do the best we can to fight external influences and keep our lives on a positive track so we can be contributing revolutionaries. But there is a difference between people with class/nation/gender backgrounds that will lead to counter-revolutionary thoughts and actions, and those who commit anti-people crimes. Where to draw the line between what we can deal with today and what we put off until after we have a revolutionary government in power is not a clear and easy question to answer.
In our current conditions, we have to ask ourselves, for instance, what about the persyn who commits violence as a part of eir job (say selling drugs) but then spends eir spare time building the revolutionary movement? There's a clear contradiction between these two practices. Do we dismiss eir revolutionary work entirely as a result, or do we consider em an ally while we struggle against eir reactionary violence? The answer to this will come from the masses, and not from abstract revolutionary principle.
In the real world, perhaps we don't need to make this comparison. If someone in a revolutionary organization engaged in some sort of non-sexual extreme anti-people violence the organization would need to address this directly. The intervention would at least include independent investigation and calls for self-criticism, and if an individual doesn't recognize their error and take serious steps to correct their line and practice they could be ejected from the organization. It could also include other interventions, based on the organization's needs, skills, and resources.
Any anti-people violence is going to harm the movement, and of course the people it is directed against, and so perpetrators of these actions should not be a part of our revolutionary organizations. We will still struggle with those who have class and/or national interests aligned with the revolutionary movement but who are acting out extreme anti-people violence. But until they understand why what they did/do is wrong and demonstrate change in their practice, they should not be admitted into revolutionary organizations.
Sex-Crimes vs. Other Crimes
One argument for why sexual violence should be distinguished from non-sexual violence could be that gender is the principal contradiction within any revolutionary movement that admits people of all genders, and we need to deal with it differently within our organizations. For example, we have contemplated the value of separate-gender organizations because of this contradiction, though to date we have not advocated this solution.
Another argument could be that victims of sexual violence in imperialist countries are more likely to take up revolutionary politics, fueled by their experience of gender oppression. And because of the pervasiveness of sexual assault in imperialist countries, we will end up with a lot of
revolutionaries, mostly bio-females, who have experienced sexual violence.
This could again raise gender to a principal contradiction within imperialist-country movements because of the traumatic background of so many members. It becomes a contradiction the movement has to deal with (when any patriarchal violence arises within the movement), and one of the greatest propellants forward on gender questions.
Neither of these principal contradiction arguments make a case for a significant distinction between sexual and non-sexual anti-people violence in the abstract. Rather they are relevant in terms of of how our organizations need to deal with the problems. And in both cases it has to do with the people within the movement's perception of these types of violence.
Applying this same concept to organizing in the hyper-masculine prison environment, it may make sense to exclude "sex offenders" from our projects because of the pervasive anti-"sex offender" attitude among prisoners. However, we already discussed above that we're not using the state's definitions of crime. If revolutionary prisoners determine a need to exclude people who have specifically committed sexually violent anti-people crimes from their organization, to maintain organizational strength, they should do this. But of course this is different from excluding "sex offenders." (group 2)
In dealing with sex-crimes accusations, the primary difference between organizing people on the streets and organizing in prisons is the presence of an accuser. With prisoners, we don’t generally interact with an accuser, we just have a label from the criminal injustice system. Though certainly prison-based organizations will have to deal with accusers in the case of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults. This prison-based situation is more similar to the situation in organizations on the streets where a member brings up an accusation against another member.
And in the case of prisoners, like the Central Park 5, some "sex offenders" did not even have an accuser on the street. The survivor of the assault had no recollection of the event. The state picked out these 5 young New Afrikan men to target, to set an example and vilify New Afrikans in the media. They were later all acquitted.
Whereas on the streets, or when organizing inside with non-"sex offender" prisoners who have survived sexual violence, we are almost always going to be directly interfacing with the survivors.
While we are here minimizing the state's definition of "sex offender," we in no way mean to minimize the accusations of victims of sexual violence. In general society, false accusations are statistically rare, and the best practice is to put substantial weight on the validity of accusations of sex-crimes.(3)
Anecdotally, we've seen a high prevalence of sexual violence survivors attracted to revolutionary work. It's easy to see why people who have experienced the ugliest gender oppression in our society would be drawn to revolutionary organizing. Suffering often breeds resistance.
Within revolutionary movements, the rate of false accusations is in all likelihood more common than in the general population. This is because the state will use any method imaginable to tear us down, especially from the inside out. Many comrades have been taken down from false sex-crime accusations from the state or agent provocateurs. We need to build structures in to our organizations that protect against state attacks, and simultaneously hold the claims of victims in high regard, not just of sex-crimes but of any anti-people behavior that could come up internally. This process will vary organization-to-organization, but our internal strength comes in preparation. Not only by creating a process to follow in case something does come up, but also in creating a culture, and even including membership policies, that prevent it from even happening in the first place.
These principles and processes need development and input from organizations that already have them in place and have used them. This is definitely not a new concept to revolutionary organizations and radical circles, and even with all that practice under our belt there are still many unanswered questions. Some basic practices might include: un-muddling the relationships between comrades (i.e. no dating within the org) and establishing and practicing communication methods and skills to create cultural norms for preventing chauvinistic behaviors and addressing these behaviors when they do arise.
How we handle this process now in our cell structure will be different if a cell has 2 members versus 2,000 members. The process will need to be adapted for different stages of the struggle as well, such as when we have dual power, and then again when the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations has power. And on and on, adapting our methods into a stateless communism.
Even with policies in place, we have limited means of combating chauvinism, assault allegations and other unforeseen organizational problems endemic to the left. Rather than wave off these contradictions, or put them out of sight (or cover them up, like so many First World-based parties and organizations have done), we need to build institutions that protect those who are oppressed by gender violence.
Potential for Punishment
We do not yet have the means at our disposal to deal with crimes against the people as thoroughly as we would like. To do that, we would indeed need institutions tantamount to state power. If found guilty, the most we can do is issue expulsions, orders of isolation, and disseminate warnings privately to anyone in the movement who might be endangered by the offender. The principle of these measures is the isolation and (hopefully) separation from the anti-imperialist movement of personalities that not only put comrades in physical danger, but through their violent and narcissistic habits (seeking validation, circumventing investigations, denying rectification) leave the movement open to plants and pigs who have never passed up the opportunity to use such unstable personalities as entry points. The individuals we are most interested in excluding are those who have not only committed anti-people acts, but who continue to pose active physical risks to the movement and individual comrades. In all cases which can be addressed without expulsion, we certainly encourage thorough and continual self-criticism and rectification.
Regardless of the crime though, there is almost no way MIM(Prisons) could investigate any of the crimes committed by people behind bars. We have had subscribers write to us to tell us another of our subscribers is a rat or sexual predator, and we've had people write to us who do say their conviction is true. One could make an argument that we need to ask prisoners to make a self-criticism that demonstrates that they now understand what they did was wrong, and we should do more to encourage this. But if someone doesn't admit to the crime ey is accused of, then we are at a loss.
In organizing through the mail, the most we can do is note an accusation as something to potentially be aware of for the future. If we saw this manifest in the accused subscriber's actions interacting with MIM(Prisons), or other prisoners, then we would consider cutting off contact or taking other measures to exclude em from our organizing work. The amount of resources required, and the risk of state meddling, to conduct an investigation on guilt and enforce punishment, brings us back to our line that practice must be principal in our recruiting. Comrades demonstrate in practice their commitment to the movement and their political line, and that is the best thing we have to judge them on from the outside.
Potential for Rehabilitation
How should we handle people who have committed sex-crimes by proletarian standards when they do want to continue to participate in revolutionary organizing? Should they be banned from organizing with us (which is basically how "sex offenders" are treated in prisons now)? Or relegated to the role of "supporter" only, and not member? Should we avoid organizing with them altogether, or can we work with them in united front work? Or are people who have committed sex-crimes an exception to our work building a United Front for Peace in Prisons?
Defining what we need to trust people to do (or not do) is a decent starting point. Assessing whether these tasks can be trusted to someone with a particular behavioral history is then possible. This would be true of any crime. For example, if someone had laundered money from a people's support organization in the past, it would be difficult to trust em as the treasurer of a revolutionary org. Many checks would need to be built into place in order for this persyn to be trusted to do bookkeeping, and probably it's a better use of our limited time and resources to just not have them doing the bookkeeping at all.
Whether we can actually build in these checks and balances for any crime will depend a lot on the crime itself. For example, we organize with a lot of former-gangbangers, who have a history of committing sexual violence in the context of their lumpen-criminal activities. If this was the only context in which someone engaged in sexual violence, and they have very thoroughly engaged in a self-criticism process about eir time banging, then it's reasonable to expect that if ey's not banging that ey is most likely not committing sexual violence. On the other hand, if someone committed sexual violence in the context of molesting people simply because they are weaker than em, for sadistic pleasure or eir twisted perspective of "love", we may not have resources or expertise at this time to reform these people before we destroy our current patriarchal capitalist society.
In discussing rehabilitation of people who have committed anti-people sex-crimes, we also find it useful to examine the social causes of why people commit sex-crimes in the first place. MIM(Prisons)'s analysis is that people commit these horrible acts because they are raised in our horrible patriarchal, militaristic, power-hungry, individualistic, capitalist society. Part of our challenge is we can't remove people from this society without first destroying the society. So can we expect someone who is so deeply affected by our fucked up society to also deeply heal to the point where we can trust em with whatever is needed for our struggle? Any sadistic anti-people activity will require extreme rehabilitation, which we may just not be in a position to assist with at this time. We can and should encourage self-criticism for past errors from those serious about revolution. But from a distance (through mail) our ability to help and foster this self-criticism is greatly limited.
U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revolution in China. There are a number of books available that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda. Here, free speech is reserved for those with money and power.
In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targeting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a battle that MIM(Prisons) and many of our subscribers waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire facilities (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in our newsletter, or study materials, or even a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.
Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.
We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.
Florida - Blackwater River Correctional Facility
ULK 56 was rejected because "It otherwise presents a threat to the security, good order, or discipline of the correctional system or the safety of any person."
Florida - New River Work Camp
ULK 59 was impounded because "It contains an advertisement promoting any of the following where the advertisement is the focus of, rather than being incidental to, the publication or the advertising is prominent or prevalent throughout the publication: (1) Three-way calling services; (2) Pen pal services; (3) The purchase of products or services with postage stamps; or (4) Conducting a business or profession while incarcerated.
"It otherwise presents a threat to the security, good order, or discipline of the correctional system or the safety of any person.
"PG2: stamp program advertisement"
Illinois - Pontiac Correctional Center
The publication review officer sent a long response to our appeal of censorship which noted that no reasons were given for the censorship:
Per the Publication Review Administrative Directive and the associated Department of Corrections Publication Review Determination and Course of Action form (DOC0212), any publication may be disapproved based on a number of criteria. In this case, the issue in question contains various articles that violate the following criteria:
- Advocate or encourage violence, hatred, or group disruption or it poses an intolerable risk of violence or disruption.
Below are specific articles and excerpts from those articles that are provided as evidence to the appropriateness of this determination. All examples are pulled from the above mention September/October 2017 issue 58 of Under Lock & Key.
1. Page 8 Article DPRK: White Supremacy's Global Agenda
- "The United States and all major countries of European descent have done everything in their collective power to keep these (nuclear) weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of nations, governments and people of color or hue."
Encourage Racial Division
-"These global white supremacists have done everything they could to destabilize nation's governments that they could not control by creating borders on foreign continents, setting up puppet governments (often dictators like Saddam Hussein and Benjamin Netanyahu who use war as a distraction of their individual greed)..." Encourages Racial Division
-"Yet the media is far more dangerous than any of the ones before mentioned, due to its ability to influence the minds of those not fully conscious of the reality of being controlled by the designers of the Global White Supremacy Agenda." Encourage Racial Division
Page 10 Article Organizing Requires Organization: Proposed Structures for Success
- Political workers to inform and agitate within the state by promoting and organizing protest, phone calls and correspondence to state law makers, DOC commissioners and prison wardens and superintendents about complaints, proposed laws and policies to be adopted by the state officials."Promotes Unauthorized Protests
2. Page 11 Article: Arbitrary Group Punishment
- "MIM(Prisons) adds: In July 2013 prisoners at MDF staged a hunger strike from Ad-Seg. We support these comrades just demands, which ally with ongoing campaigns to end long-term isolation as well as to provide proper avenues for having grievances heard."Promotes Unauthorized Protests
3. Page 12 Article: Defend LGBTQ from CO Attacks
- "It's hard to get 10 comrades to stand together as a whole so when a member from the LGBTQ community got jumped on and 30 comrades refused to leave the classrooms I was shocked."
- "MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a great example of people coming together behind bars." Promotes Unauthorized Protests
4. Page 13 Article: September 9 - Day of Peace and Solidarity Initial Reports
- "9 September 2017 marked the sixth annual Day of Peace and Solidarity in prisons across the United States. On this day we commemorate the anniversary of the Attica uprising, drawing attention to abuse of prisoners across the country through peaceful protests, unity events, and educational work."
Article contains further examples from 5 prisons in Arkansas, Texas, California, Nevada, and Arizona where prisoners initiated hunger strikes and unauthorized protests. Promotes Unauthorized Protests
I believe the articles mentioned above provide enough evidence to show that Issue 58 of Under Lock & Key "contains various articles promoting racial division and unauthorized protest," and therefore met the criteria for being disapproved.
Additionally, after reviewing the issue a second time, I found this article:
Page 14 article: A Contribution to Thoughts on Unity and Alliance
- "MIM(Prisons) espouses a valid conviction that here and now is not the proper moment for a popular uprising (armed struggle."
- "How do we succeed in armed confrontation?"
- "MIM(Prisons) responds: Of course we know that ultimately to overthrow imperialism armed struggle is necessary." Promotes Violent Uprising
MIM(Prisons) provides on page 3 of Issue 58 that they believe in "Peace: We organize to end needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment." However, the implication of the page 14 article is that MIM(Prisons) believes that eventually an armed struggle must be initiated to overthrow what they perceive as the imperialist colonial government running the country and world. This is provided as evidence that MIM(Prisons) has an ulterior motive in promoting unrest and eventual violent protest within the prison system, which is another example as to why this issue was disapproved.
C/O David Meredith, Publication Review Officer
Washington - Clallam Bay Correctional Facility
MIM(prisons) was sent rejection notifications for two prisoners denying ULK 59 because it "Contains articles and information on drugs in prisons and the cost comparison of inside and outside of prison as well as movement of drugs."
Victory in Washington - Stafford Creek Corrections Center
In response to our protest of the prison's censorship of ULK 59 we received the following response from Roy Gonzalez, Correctional Manager:
I'm in receipt of your two correspondences appealing the rejection of the above two notices for inmates XXX and YYY dated January 21, 2018.
Per Washington State DOC policy 450.100 all publications rejected by any DOC correctional facility will be reviewed by the Publication Review Committee at DOC Headquarters. Mail Rejection Notice number 18346 was reviewed on January 8, 2018 and was overturned by the committee. The publication issue has since been forwarded to each offender. A copy of the final decision notice should be forthcoming to you from Stafford Creek Correctional Center (SCCC).
I wrote this piece because I was being irked by brothers talking to one another. I made a copy and posted it inside the dormitory as I always do. I also posted "Incarcerated Minds" by a California prisoner (March 2016).
Backbiting is a disease that is tearing the fabric of our brotherly threads of unity. Let's keep it all the way 100. When one possesses commissary, tennis shoes, cigarettes, drugs, cell phones or just a swagger that another desires and has no means to obtain it or lack a hustler's ambition to go and get it, one will begin to spread a venom in the community. This venom begins to seep into the heart and mind of the speaker until he becomes tainted, corrupted and eventually a hater. He hates himself foremost but will try to contaminate thy neighbor as though you are the culprit in his wicked heart.
He will attempt to turn people against you! He will "shake salt" on your name. He will snitch on you, do anything within his will power to aid in the destruction of you. One must be mindful of their thoughts, because they will become your words and eventually your actions! Get up off your punk ass and be your own man! Do for yourself and just maybe that fortunate comrade will aid you in your journey to become successful. A grown man talking about another man is weak! And the one who listens to and condones this trash talk is no better for not operating on the heart of that brother and extracting this cancer out of him.
You are fake if you smile in a man's face and then when he leaves you call him lame or a pussy or whatever terminology used to describe your emotional hatred. This is the William Lynch theory in full effect 300 years later, just as he predicted. Planting dissent within our brotherhood. Our duty is to contradict that theory by uniting amongst one another and doing the total opposite.
I know that it is an extremely arduous task because I'm a proactive man of unity in peace, but when all of us are dead or in jail from this contagious disease that will cause us to rob, kill and destroy one another.
We represent Gangsters, Bloods, Crips, Lords, Pirus, Aryans, Goodfellas, Muslim, Brown pride, even Christians, but everyone of us suffer from the same struggles: incarceration, homelessness, poverty, police brutality, poor education, addiction, etc. Before we can come against each other we need to come together and overcome these struggles of capitalistic imperialism.
Peace to the revolutionary voices of insight. We will combat this capitalist devil through peace and unity. Through camaraderie and communism. The power is vested in the people; We are the people.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This essay really highlights one of the five points of the United Front for Peace in Prisons: Unity. And the writer is not only criticizing those who backbite and gossip, but ey is also doing something about it. Posting articles is a great way to try to get people thinking about something new. It can be less confrontational than attacking these folks directly to their faces. Though sometimes calling out behavior when it happens is also very effective. We want to hear more about the things people are doing like this to build peace and unity behind bars. Follow this comrade's example and send in your reports for the next issue of ULK.
On 15 March 2018, MIM(Prisons) received dozens of emails from corrlinks.com, a website used by some U.$. prison systems to provide email access to prisoners. All were from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and read in part:
"This message informs you that you have been blocked from communicating with the above-named federal prisoner because the Bureau has determined that such communication is detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the facility, or might facilitate criminal activity."
It has long been established that it is legal for staff to open and read mail sent into prisons, and to not allow such mail that might pose a threat to safety like communicating information on plans to hurt someone or commit a crime. Quite frequently, publications and even letters from MIM(Prisons) are censored by prison staff for being a threat to security. Legally, this must be based on the content of that mail or publication containing information that poses a direct threat. In practice it often is not, and sometimes we can fight those battles and win.
What the Federal Bureau of Prisons is trying to say here is that members of MIM(Prisons) are not allowed to communicate or associate with prisoners they hold captive, regardless of the content of those communications. This is of course a violation of U.$. law and founding principles. (for more background on related laws and court rulings see our censorship guide)
Such blanket bans have been attempted in the past. Sometimes openly like this one, or like the ban in California, which ended after an out-of-court settlement with Prison Legal News because, well, the CDCR knew what they were doing was illegal. MIM(Prisons) is submitting appeals to this and will update our readers. In the meantime our comrades in federal prisons should continue to contact us via postal mail and keep us updated on censorship on their end.
There have been some recent discussions around the use of electronic communications and devices within U.$. prisons and how comrades should approach them. While CorrLinks has been around for some time, more recently prisoners in many prisons can purchase tablet computers for persynal use. Just as we warn people in general about how they use these technologies, those warnings apply even more to prisoners. While the internet provides opportunities for anonymity and free flow of information, this is not really true for the services provided by the state to prisoners. So there is little benefit, and much risk in terms of surveillance and control over a persyn's communications from within prison when using these tools. Thanks to profiteering, we are not even aware of any email services for prisoners that don't charge ridiculous rates.
In general, technology does offer solutions, that are at times better than what we can achieve in real life interactions in terms of both security and thinking more scientifically. To look at some principles of communication that we can apply both online and off, we will look at Briar (briarproject.org). Briar is still in Alpha, and only currently available for Android OS, but has received promising security reviews so far. Briar is an interesting example, because it addresses decentralization, cryptography and anonymity.
One of the biggest problems with the internet today is the centralization that a handful of multinational corporations have made of the traffic on the internet by locking people into certain services. When it comes to email, prisoners have little choice but to use the CorrLinks, centralized service, and face potential bans like this one. On the internet, centralization of activity on certain platforms allows the corporations on those platforms to decide what a majority of the population is seeing, who they are communicating with and when they are no longer allowed to communicate. With Briar, in contrast, one does not even need an internet connection to set up a network of communication with your associates. And even with the internet, each client serves as a node on a decentralized network, so that there is no one powerful persyn who can decide to shut it down. This same principle is applied in real world organizing, where an organization is decentralized to avoid being paralyzed if an individual is removed or repressed.
On the internet, we also have a problem of information being available everywhere to almost anyone. It is only recently, with many hacks and data breeches, that people are beginning to realize that encryption is necessary to protect even peoples' basic information. Such information has been used to falsely imprison people, to steal identities, and to just target and harass people. In the real world, people know to talk quietly about certain things, or talk about plans for building peace when that C.O. who is always instigating fights isn't around, etc. On the internet there is the potential for all information to be available for an indefinite period of time, to potentially anyone. So suddenly everything needs to be said in a whisper, or in encrypted form as Briar and other software does.
Related to encryption is anonymity. Whenever one goes online, one must have an IP Address that tells the other machines on the network where you are so they can send you responses. This IP address (typically) is linked to a real world location and often to a specific machine. Previously we have talked about The Onion Router(Tor), which works to hide your IP Address. When on the internet, Briar operates through Tor, when connecting to others on the network. This provides for anonymity. Anonymity does not have as strong parallels in the real world, but might be like putting up fliers in the middle of the night or marching in a protest with a mask on. This is an advantage of the internet. If done properly, we can spread information anonymously, and without fear of reprisal. In addition, anonymity on the internet allows us to share information without the biases that we come across in real world interactions. The internet can be a tool for people to think more scientifically and judge ideas for their merit and not for who is saying them.
As the above example shows, we cannot trust the U.$. government to just obey its own laws and not repress people for their political beliefs. We must continue to stand up to such political repression, while building independent institutions of the oppressed that allow us to continue to organize for a better tomorrow.