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[Black Panther Party] [Drugs] [Organizing] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [ULK Issue 59]
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Drugs, Money and Individualism in U.$. Prison Movement

For this issue of Under Lock & Key we took on the task of investigating the impacts of drugs and the drug trade on the prison movement. We ran a survey in the Jan/Feb 2017 and March/April 2017 issues of Under Lock & Key. We received 62 completed surveys from our readers in U.$. prisons. We have incorporated the more interesting results in a series of articles in this issue. This article looks at the central question of the role of the drug trade inside and outside prisons and how to effectively organize among the lumpen in that context. In other articles we look more closely at the recent plague of K2 in U.$. prisons, and the latest rise in opioid addiction and what socialism and capitalism have to offer us as solutions.

survey respondents map
Distribution of survey respondents by state

Bourgeois society blames the individual

Bourgeois society takes an individualistic view of the world. When it comes to drugs, the focus is on the individual: we talk about how they failed and succumbed to drugs because of their weakness or mistakes as an individual. While individuals must ultimately take responsibility for their actions, it is only by understanding society at a group level, using dialectical materialism to study the political economy of our world, that we can address problems on a scale that will make a real impact. Even at the individual level, it's more effective to help people make connections to the root causes of their problems (not supposed persynality flaws) and empower them to fight those causes if we want lasting change.

Much of our criminal injustice system is built on punishment and shaming of those who have been convicted. A proletarian approach to justice uses self-criticism to take accountability for one's actions, while studying political economy to understand why that path was even an option in the first place, and an attractive one at that.

In the essay "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", Cetewayo, a Black Panther leader, provides a good example of overcoming the conditions one is born into. Ey was addicted to heroin from age 13 to 18, before joining the Black Panther Party. Eir example stresses the importance of providing alternative outlets for oppressed nation youth. In some cases the mere existence of that alternative can change lives.

Drugs and the Principal Contradiction in Prison

MIM(Prisons) and leaders in the Countrywide Council of United Struggle from Within (Double C) have had many conversations about what the principal contradiction is within the prison population. MIM(Prisons) has put forth that the parasitic/individualistic versus self-sufficient/collective material interests of the lumpen class is the principal contradiction within the prison movement in the United $tates today. The drug problem in prisons relates directly to this contradiction. Those pursuing drugs and/or dealing are focused on their persynal interests, at the expense of others. The drug trade is inherently parasitic as it requires an addicted population to be profitable, and users are escaping the world for an individual high, rather than working to make the world better for themselves and others.

A Double C comrade from Arkansas explains this contradiction:

"Things have been slow motion here due to lockdown. Reason being too much violence across the prison. Some of this violence is due to the underground economy. Being submerged in a culture of consumerism which is not only an obstacle to our emancipation (mentally and physically) this self-destructive method of oppression is a big problem consuming the population. I've been in prisons where the market is not packed or heavily packed with drugz. It is in those yards that unity and productive lines are greatly practiced. The minute drugz become the leading item of consumption, shit breaks down, individualism sets in and all of the fucked up tendencies follow suit.

"I say 75% of the population in this yard is a consumer. About 5% have no self control, it's usually this percentage that ends up a 'debt' victim (since you owe $ you owe a clean up). Aggressor or not, consumerism is a plague that victimizes everyone one way or another. This consumerism only aids the pigz, rats, infiltrators, and oppressors in continuing with a banking concept of 'education/rehabilitation' and therefore domesticating the population.

"I mean the consequences and outcomes are not hidden, it is a constant display of what it is when you can't pay the IRS, so it is not as if people don't know. I've seen people slow down or stopped some old habits after experiencing/witnessing these beheadings. Shit, I just hit the yard because pigz were all inside the block searching and homeboy's puddles of blood were still on the yard."

High Drug Prices in Prison

drug prices in prison

We looked at the minimum and maximum prices each prisoner mentioned (which probably correspond to a "dose", depending on the drug). The minimum had a median of $10 and the maximum had a median of $80.

Some respondents mentioned the amount drugs cost compared to outside. The median markup was 800% (so, drugs cost eight times as much in prisons, on average). The min was 200% and the max was 3000%, with an interquartile range of 375%-1167%. So, prisoners are highly likely to pay a hefty markup. The economics of the black market create strong interests of keeping it intact.

Drugs and Violence

It is no secret that drugs and violence often go hand-in-hand. As the above comrade alludes to, this is often related to debts. But one of the things we learned from our recent survey of ULK readers is that in most prisons there is an inherent threat of violence towards people who might take up effective organizing against drugs.

dangerous
organizing against drugs in prison
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A California comrade wrote,

"No one in prison is going to put their safety and security on the line over drugs. You have to understand that life has little value in prison. If you do anything to jeopardize an individual's ability to earn a living, it will cost you your life."

Another California comrade was more explicit,

"If you say anything about the drugs, cell phones, extortions, etc., whether if you're in the general population, or now, worse yet in 2017, SNY/Level IV, the correctional officers inform the key gang members that you're running your mouth. You either get hit immediately, or at the next prison. Although my safety is now at stake, by prisoners, it's being orchestrated by corrections higher-ups concocting the story."

This was in response to our survey question "Have you seen effective efforts by prisoners to organize against drug use and its effects? If so, please describe them." Not only were the responses largely adamant "no"s, the vast majority said it would be dangerous to do so. This was despite the fact that we did not ask whether it would be dangerous to do so. Therefore, we assume that more than 73% might say so if asked.

Some readers questioned what to do about staff involvement bringing drugs into the prisons. One writer from Pennsylvania said:

"It's hardly ever dry in Fayette and this institution is a big problem why. A lot of the staff bring it in. Then when someone goes in debt or does something they wouldn't normally do, they don't want to help you, if you ask for help. There's no unity anymore. Nobody fights or stands up for nothing. Everybody rather fight each other than the pigs. It would take a lot to make a change in the drug situation. Is it wrong to put the pigs out there for what they're doing? Would I be considered a snitch? I know there would be retaliation on me, maybe even a ass whoopin. I'm curious on your input on this."

If we look at the involvement of staff in bringing drugs into prisons, and the violence associated with the drug trade, we have to call bullshit when these very same institutions censor Under Lock & Key on the claim that it might incite violence. The system is complicit, and many staff actively participate, in the plague of drugs that is destroying the minds and bodies of the oppressed nation men and wimmin, while promoting individualistic money-seeking behavior that leads to brutal violence between the oppressed themselves.

Organizing in Prisons

While the reports responding to that question were mostly negative, and the situation seems dire, we do want to report on the positive things we heard. We heard about successful efforts by New Afrikans getting out of the SHU in California, some Muslim communities and the Nation of Gods and Earths. Some have been at this for over a decade. All of these programs seemed to be of limited scope, but it is good to know there are organizations providing an alternative.

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anti-drug organizing in prisons

In Arkansas, a comrade reports,

"For the mass majority of drug users and prisoners I have not seen any positive efforts to stop drug use and its effects. But for my affiliation, the ALKN, we have put the product of K2/deuce in law with heroin and its byproducts where no member should be in use of or make attempts to sell for profit or gain. If you do you will receive the consequences of the body who governs this affiliation and organization for lack of discipline and obedience to pollute your self/body and those around you who are the future and leaders of tomorrow's nations."

While practice varies among the many individuals at different stages in the organization, the Latin Kings/ALKQN has historically opposed the use of hard drugs amongst its members. Many in New York in the 1990s attributed their recovery from drug addiction to their participation in the organization.(1)

There are some good examples of lumpen organizations engaging in what we might call policies of harm reduction. One comrade mentioned the 16 Laws and Policies of Chairman Larry Hoover as an example of effective organizing against drugs in eir prison. Lumpen leaders like Jeff Fort and Larry Hoover are where we see a national bourgeoisie with independent power in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates. The proletarian organizations of the oppressed nations should work to unite with such forces before the imperialists corrupt them or force them into submission. In fact, the Black Panthers did just that, but failed to build long-term unity with the Black P. Stone Rangers largely due to state interference and repression.

On the other hand, in some states comrades reported that lumpen organizations are among the biggest benefactors from the drug trade. Some of the same names that are mentioned doing positive work are mentioned as being the problem elsewhere. This is partly explained by the largely unaffiliated franchise system that some of these names operate under. But it is also a demonstration of the principal contradiction mentioned above, which is present in the First World lumpen outside of prisons, too. There is a strong individualist/parasitic tendency combating with the reality that self-sufficiency and collective action best serve the oppressed nations. Too often these organizations are doing significant harm to individuals and the broader movement against the criminal injustice system, and can not be part of any progressive united front until they pull out of these anti-people activities.

The more economically entrenched an organization is in the drug trade, the more they are siding with the imperialists and against the people. But on the whole, the First World lumpen, particularly oppressed nation youth, have the self-interest and therefore the potential to side with their people and with the proletariat of the world.

As one Texas comrade commented:

"I must say that the survey opened a door on the issue about drugs within prison. After doing the survey I brought this up with a couple of people to see if we could organize a program to help people with a drug habit. I'm an ex-drug dealer with a life sentence. I can admit I was caught up with the corruption of the U.S. chasing the almighty dollar, not caring about anyone not even family. Coming to prison made me open my eyes. With the help of MIM and Under Lock & Key I've been learning the principles of the United Front and put them in my everyday speech and walk within this prison. The enemy understands that the pen is a powerful tool. Comrades don't trip on me like other organizations done when I let them know I'm a black Muslim who studied a lot of Mao Zedong.

Building Independent Institutions of the Oppressed

At least one respondent mentioned "prisoners giving up sources" (to the pigs to shut down people who are dealing) in response to the question about effective anti-drug organizing. From the responses shown below, it is clear that the state is not interested in effective anti-drug programming in prisons. This is an example of why we need independent institutions of the oppressed. We cannot expect the existing power structure to meet the health needs of the oppressed nation people suffering from an epidemic of drug abuse in U.$. prisons.

staff bringing drugs into prisons

The Black Panthers faced similar conditions in the 1960s in the Black ghettos of the United $tates. As they wrote in Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide,
"It is also the practice of pig-police, especially narcotics agents, to seize a quantity of drugs from one dealer, arrest him, but only turn in a portion of the confiscated drugs for evidence. The rest is given to another dealer who sells it and gives a percentage of the profits to the narcotics agents. The pig-police also utilize informers who are dealers. In return for information, they receive immunity from arrest. The police cannot solve the problem, for they are a part of the problem."

Our survey showed significant abuse of Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. In the 1970s Methadone clinics, backed by the Rockefeller Program, became big in New York. The state even linked welfare benefits to these services. Yet, Mutulu Shakur says, "In New York City, 60 percent of the illegal drugs on the street during the early '70s was methadone. So we could not blame drug addiction at that time on Turkey or Afghanistan or the rest of that triangle."(2) Revolutionaries began to see this drug that was being used as treatment as breaking up the revolutionary movement and the community. Mitulu Shakur and others in the Lincoln Detox Center used acupuncture as a treatment for drug addiction. Lincoln Detox is an example of an independent institution developed by communists to combat drug addiction in the United $tates.

"[O]n November 10, 1970, a group of the Young Lords, a South Bronx anti-drug coalition, and members of the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (a mass organization of health workers) with the support of the Lincoln Collective took over the Nurses' Residence building of Lincoln Hospital and established a drug treatment program called The People's Drug Program, which became known as Lincoln Detox Center."(3) Lincoln Detox was a program that was subsequently run by the Young Lords Party, Black Panthers that had survived the Panther 21 raid, the Republic of New Afrika, and White Lightning, a radical organization of white former drug addicts, until 1979 when a police raid forced the communists out of the hospital, removing the political content of the program.(4)

Young Lord Vicente "Panama" Alba was there from day one, and tells eir story of breaking free of addiction cold turkey to take up the call of the revolution. After sitting on the stoop watching NYPD officers selling heroin in eir neighborhood, and a few days after attending a Young Lords demonstration, Panama said, "Because of the way I felt that day, I told myself I couldn't continue to be a drug user. I couldn't be a heroin addict and a revolutionary, and I wanted to be a revolutionary. I made a decision to kick a dope habit."(3) This experience echoes that of millions of addicted Chinese who went cold turkey to take up building socialism in their country after 1949.

Mutulu Shakur describes how the Lincoln Detox Center took a political approach similar to the Chinese in combatting addiction, "This became a center for revolutionary, political change in the methodology and treatment modality of drug addiction because the method was not only medical but it was also political." Shakur was one of the clinic's members who visited socialist China in the 1970s to learn acupuncture techniques for treating addiction. He goes on to describe the program:

"So the Lincoln Detox became not only recognized by the community as a political formation but its work in developing and saving men and women of the third world inside of the oppressed communities, resuscitating these brothers and sisters and putting them into some form of healing process within the community we became a threat to the city of New York and consequently with the development of the barefoot doctor acupuncture cadre, we began to move around the country and educate various other communities instead of schools and orientations around acupuncture drug withdrawal and the strategy of methadone and the teaching the brothers and sisters the fundamentals of acupuncture to serious acupuncture, how it was used in the revolutionary context in China and in Vietnam and how we were able to use it in the South Bronx and our success."(2)

Dealing with the Dealers

Panther 21

Though the Black Panthers had organized the workers at Lincoln Hospital leading up to the takeover, by that time the New York chapter was already in decline due to repression and legal battles. While many BPP branches had to engage with drug cartels, the New York chapter stood out in their launching of heavily-armed raids on local dealers and dumping all of their heroin into the gutters. The New York Panthers faced unique circumstances in a city that contained half of the heroin addicts in the country, which was being supplied by la Cosa Nostra with help from the CIA. While there was mass support for the actions of the Panthers at first, state repression pushed the New York Panthers down an ultra-left path. The Panther 21 trial was a huge setback to their mass organizing, with 21 prominent Panthers being jailed and tried on trumped up terrorism charges. After they were all exonerated, the New York Panthers, siding ideologically with Eldridge Cleaver who was pushing an ultra-left line from exile in Algeria, made the transition to the underground. If they were going to be accused of bombings and shootings anyway, then they might as well actually do some, right?

These were the conditions under which the Black Liberation Army was formed. Though there was overlap between the BLA and those who led community projects like Lincoln Detox, the path of the underground guerrillas generally meant giving up the mass organizing in the community. Instead, raiding local drug dealers became a staple of theirs as a means of obtaining money. Money that essentially belonged to the NYPD, which was enabling those dealers and benefiting them financially. The former-Panthers-turned-BLA continued to destroy the dope they found, and punished the dealers they raided.

Again, we are confronted with this dual nature of the lumpen class. It would certainly be ultra-left to view all drug dealers as enemies to be attacked. It is also certainly clear that the CIA/Mafia/NYPD heroin trade in New York was an enemy that needed to be addressed. But how does the revolutionary movement interact with the criminal-minded LOs today? In its revolutionary transformation, China also had to deal with powerful criminal organizations. The Green Gang, which united the Shanghai Triads, significantly funded the Guomindang's rise to power, primarily through profits from opium sales. In the late 1940s they opened up negotiations with the Communist Party as the fate of China was becoming obvious. However, no agreement was reached, and the criminal organizations were quickly eliminated in mainland China after 1949. They took refuge in capitalist outposts like Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Chinatowns elsewhere in Asia and Europe. While heroin has returned to China, the gangs have not yet.(5)

While the contradiction between the communists and the drug gangs did come to a head, it was after defeating Japanese imperialism and after defeating the reactionary Guomindang government. And even then, most drug dealers were reformed and joined the building of a socialist society.

In eir article, Pilli clearly explains why slangin' can't be revolutionary. And a comrade from West Virginia gives an example where the shot-callers are explicitly working against the interest of the prison movement to further their economic goals. We must address the question of how the prison movement should engage with those who are slangin'. The answer to that is beyond the scope of our drug survey, and needs to be found in practice by the revolutionary cells within prisons taking up this organizing work.

Building Socialism to Serve the People

Many respondents to our survey sounded almost hopeless when it came to imagining a prison system without rampant drug addiction. But this hopelessness is not completely unfounded. As "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", reads:

"The government is totally incapable of addressing itself to the true causes of drug addiction, for to do so would necessitate effecting a radical transformation of this society. The social consciousness of this society, the values, mores and traditions would have to be altered. And this would be impossible without totally changing the way in which the means of producing social wealth is owned and distributed. Only a revolution can eliminate the plague."

To back up what the Panthers were saying here, we can look at socialist China and how they eliminated opium addiction in a few years, while heroin spread in the capitalist United $tates. The Chinese proved that this is a social issue and not primarily a biological/medical one. The communist approach differed greatly from the Guomindang in that addicts were not blamed or punished for their addiction. They were considered victims of foreign governments and other enemies of the people. Even many former dealers were reformed.(6) Although we don't have the state power now to implement broad policies like the Chinese Communist Party, we can help drug users focus on understanding the cause and consequences of their use in a social context. We need people to see how dope is harming not only themselves, but more generally their people, both inside and outside of prison. People start doing drugs because of problems in their lives that come from problems in capitalist society. Being in prison sucks, and dope helps people escape, even if it's fleeting. But this escape is counter productive. As so many writers in this issue of ULK have explained, it just serves the interests of the criminal injustice system. We can help people overcome addictions by giving them something else to focus on: the fight against the system that wants to keep them passive and addicted.

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[Organizing] [Abuse] [ULK Issue 59]
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Wake Up

I got a message to all the tweakers, tecatos, potheads and boozers. Wake Up! Can't you see you're doing exactly what the oppressors wants you to do? So why are you giving them the satisfaction? With all the cameras rolling 24-7, you think they don't know what you're doing? Newsflash: You ain't that slick, buddy.

"All I had to do is drink a lot of water to flush out my system." I overheard one drug addict say when he came back from medical, for a drug test. "My piss came back clean even though I just used in the morning."

It's a miracle! We must run and tell the others! Now it's safe to puff puff, cough cough, & slam slam! As long as you hydrate and drink drink (a lotta water), you could pass pass (the 'drug test'), no problem. Your passing grade might be a D- but at least you didn't fail, right? Wrong!

Let's face it, water or no water, your urine is dirty. I know it, you know it, and the porkchop-patrol most definitely knows it. They just don't care. Besides, lucky for you, there's never enough room in the "hole." Five segregation singleman cells for a facility that houses 650 prisoners equals "no vacancy".

It's like you have to schedule an appointment, make it onto a guest list, then wait for about a month, in order to make it into the hole. But if the COs really did their job this whole place would be empty. Literally, there would only be about 20 people left in each dorm. That's how bad this epidemic is. But fear not my drug-addicted friend, the pigs have bigger fish to fry. Or at least that's what they want us to think.

Extremely violent prisoners get top priority over minor drug offenders. But if you've been locked up as long as I have, then you'd know that extreme acts of violence are mostly over a minor drug debt. Common sense tells me, "get rid of the drugs and the violence shall cease." I have a hunch that the "system" could stop the drug flow at any time. But, looking at it through their eyes, why ruin a good thing?

Figuratively speaking, drugs are the oil that keep the oppression machine running. Sobriety is the monkey-wrench that'll break this bitch down. So put the word out, we need more wrenches. Staying clean is the worst thing we could do to these puercos.

Think about it for a second. Imagine if we obliterate the drug trade in prison. Most of these facilities would go out of business. Half the staff would start filling out applications at Mickey D'z, and Walmart, at the end of their shifts. But instead, most of us wanna keep on getting shit-faced; letting the enemy win with its foot on our necks. Wake up!

The enemy loves getting us high. Because it leads to a lot of drama, and drama is the safety blanket that keeps the oppressors warm at night. It gives them job security and a fat bank account. Meanwhile, all the users and dealers turn against each other while the pigs kick back and laugh. Don't worry, though. They're gonna let you keep using and selling on one condition; as long as y'all keep fighting and snitching, stabbing and pinching.

Don't get my words twisted. I'm not implying that you could keep on using, and abusing, and not get caught. Because every now and then, like once in a blue moon, they make an example out of somebody. But from what I've seen, their victim is usually the most humble junkie on the block. Yeah, this dude gets high but he's cool. He pays his debts, and doesn't bother nobody. But for some reason, the puercos got it in for him. He already got a few "dirties," and has an appointment at the "hole."

"But what about that trouble-making tweaker?" There's 1 in every block. "How come he doesn't ever get called for a random drug test, and go away?" I ask myself.

Lord knows this trouble-making tweaker is not low key. He's a dead beat and proud of it. His drug debts are stacking up, and on top of that, he's starting fights in the open; all in front of the cameras. And still, the hooras act like they don't see him. They treat him like a model inmate.

It's like the pigs are watching in the wings, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Instead of nipping the problem in the bud, they wait for the problem to get smashed out, stabbed, or removed from the yard. Only then they jump into action.

But don't think they're gonna swoop in like some superheroes. No. They take their sweet time, sometimes just stand there looking; waiting for the "victim" to get nicely bruised up. Only then, they bust out the cuffs and add charges.

"Come on, you guys are not even doing nothing!" I once heard a pig say to a boo bop squad while they beat a tweaker. "You gotta hit 'em harder if you want me to stop it!" Then he laughed, I laughed, and half the yard laughed. But it wasn't funny. And his sick sense of humor cost him his job, cause I didn't see him after that.

But that's what he gets for letting things get out of hand. And all that - the beating and the firing - could've been avoided if his co-workers would've done their job properly in the first place. But why ruin a good thing?

Wake up amigos! It's time to stop entertaining these hooras. It's time to put down the needles, and the pookies, and get our minds back.

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[Organizing] [National Oppression] [ULK Issue 59]
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Notes on Advancing the Struggle: Outside - Drugs

Whether in prison or out in society, drugs constitute a major problem. In particular, for our Latino and Black communities, drugs represent a deceiving allure for youth. Power, status, authority, advancement, the all-mighty dollar - the "American Dream." In reality, drugs are just another trap to maintain our communities in an oppressed state unable to progress.

For us, drugs generally lead to a ruined life, prison, or death. There aren't many other avenues available. For those who've fallen into the drug illusion and find themselves in prison, the question is how can we help them escape drug's allure and stop the oppression of our nations?

Obviously, the system (controlled by capitalists and their contributors) has no inclination to help oppressed nations. Having to chase the American Dream through illicit methods or escaping our harrowing reality by using drugs is far more conducive to continuing a capitalistic state than providing viable means of community improvement. So we have to first recognize that no help will come from the top. Where does that leave us?

We have first-hand knowledge of drugs and an in-depth comprehension of our communities and cultures. What must happen is that those on the outside reach into the prisons and pull our people out from beneath the crushing weight of drugs. Building grassroots organizations focused on supporting those in the gulags overcome addiction. Not only addiction to using but to selling drugs as well. Connecting prisoners with outside sources for support, employment (once released), and most important of all, guidance. Many stuck in the gulags feel capitalism's oppression but have no idea how to combat it. Feeling hopeless to progress legally, many are seduced by drugs. Any guidance should be aimed at building consciousness, alternative avenues, and awakening a revolutionary spirit to pull people out from under the gulags.

The most important aspect of such grassroots organizations is that they're from among our own barrios. Their members live or lived where the struggle is deepest. They're connected in a way no outsider organization can ever be. All of this is good in theory, but does it actually work?

The BPP (Black Panther Party) gave us a perfect example when they educated their barrios while feeding their gente. From outside we must educate those inside, feeding them and providing alternative means of overcoming oppression. It must become clear that chasing the American Dream — a piece of the capitalist pie — isn't to our benefit. Our people are oppressed and gaining part of the pie does nothing to bring us closer to equality.

When capitalism is finally supplanted, revolutionary organizations with this kind of focus will provide the infrastructure for our new society. For the capitalists, you selling drugs is preferable to you fighting the system's oppression. You consuming drugs is more desired because you're escaping reality. Whether you sell or do drugs, you remove yourself from the necessary revolution and only contribute to the oppression visited upon our communities. And, if drugs don't ruin your life or kill you, there's another place for you. Capitalists call it the Department of Corrections, we call it the Dungeons.

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[Organizing]
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Notes on Advancing the Struggle: Inside - Drugs

Drugs are a powerful temptation. Not just for those who become addicted to using them, but also for those selling them. Many overdose or die due to drugs. Besides death and ruining your health and life, often drugs lead to prison. Once in the dungeons, drugs become an even larger problem. Although drugs represent a bigger problem behind bars, they also mean the potential for a more substantial revolutionary impact.

Drugs are taken and sold in abundance behind bars. Prescription medication, street drugs, homemade wine and beer are present in almost every gulag (varying in quantities and qualities). Drugs are sold for the same reasons in the dungeons as out in society. They're taken for many of the same reasons, but predominantly for escape. Whether aware of this or not, most, if not all to some degree, in prison turn to drugs to make being a prisoner a little easier to live with.

Drugs contribute to many conflicts. Yet, their real impact is on prisoner resistance. Instead of analyzing the system, debating theories and strategems, building awareness and a united front, most are content to accept what is given and whatever is ordered; so long as they can shoot up, snort, pop a pill, or drink reality away.

They're a part of prisons, just as they're a part of our barrios, and for the same reasons drugs pull us from our communities and land us in prisons. It's when we find ourselves in the dungeons, when reality hits us between the eyes, that we hold the greatest potential to help ourselves, our communities and defeat capitalism. Behind bars there's a choice to be made: continue to be a puppet, or become self-determinant.

If you're addicted to using drugs, become addicted to something useful: exercising, studying, teaching, etc. If you're addicted to selling, talk to other revolutionaries who understand the larger picture of the wider struggle oppressed nations face. Through study, research, inside and outside guidance (see, Notes on Advancing the Struggle: Outside), one can go from capitalist contributor to self-determinant.

A main problem or obstacle is prison culture. As I stated earlier, many are willing to be content as long as they have their distractions. This escapism is one of the main causes of the lack of resistance to jailer domination. Most feel hopeless to effectively resist or lack any idea of how to begin. They feel that without other remedies, they might as well enjoy a little drink or high. Their lack of political consciousness is to blame, because they play unwittingly into the puppeteer's game. Once confronted with the reality of drugs and that you're nothing more than a pawn for capitalism, you've got to ask yourself at what price do you value your life? Are you without self-respect? Is it more important to escape reality or to make efforts to stop the oppression in our barrios, which continues in the dungeons? Is your dignity that cheap that capitalists can buy it for an hour or two of good feelings?

The dungeons can be the fire that burns you or that strengthens you. But, it's a choice that must be made and revolutionaries must be active in guiding others towards this decision, towards answering these questions. For me and other revolutionaries the answer is simple: my dignity is worth more than their security.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 60]
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Aztlán Realism Book Release

Aztlán Realism:
Revolutionary Art from Pelican Bay S.H.U.
Jose Villarreal
Aztlán Press
PO Box 4186
San Jose, CA 95150
2017, 214 pgs., soft cover, $50
Cover

Aztlán Realism is over 200 pages of revolutionary [email protected] artwork, straight from the hole. The pages are in black and white, and select pieces are shown in color in the front and back. It is easy to get lost in the pages of this book, imagining a different world, and clearly envisioning what it will be like to fight to get there.

The line in the artwork is on point. Lumpen (prisoners and gangsters) and peasants are shown working in unity to smash capitalism and national oppression. The Third Worldist line is prominent throughout: Aztlán is depicted in unity with oppressed nations globally, against Amerikkka and imperialism in general.

Inside
There is very strong revolutionary feminism in Aztlán Realism. Wimmin are shown on the front lines, and as the backbone, of [email protected] liberation. While the drawings containing wimmin in a revolutionary context far outnumber the scantily-clad and coy-faced Chicanas, we would choose to omit the sexy drawings altogether if we had the option. They're a direct reflection of the gendered culture we currently live in, and glorification of brown rather than white wimmin should not require objectification of bodies.

The only other thing we would change about this book would be to see the whole book printed in color. Villarreal's use of color adds vibrancy to the artwork which is very compelling.

We strongly recommend getting your hands on this book, or just reaching out to Aztlán Press to show some love. Aztlán Press aims to publish the works of imprisoned [email protected] writers, and we look forward to watching them develop over the years to come.

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[Organizing]
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Ghost Spells Destroy Revolutions

Drugs in prison is a very serious issue that we as comrades held captive must overstand. The title itself is unusual, unless you can see it in our everyday existence in the imperial prisons here in America and abroad. Drugs take many forms, whether its religion, gang affiliation, working with the pigs, sex, political or revolutionary line, or chemical substance, and last but not least big pharma, medication. I list all these to shine light on the entities in prison which keeps us in a state of sleep. A mindstate which controls us as a wholem unable to unify and come together to bring awareness to the struggle. I am going to break down each element and how it truly affects us and those who are being used by the system to make sure this spell is never lifted.

Religion

I am going to tackle the religious aspect first. This is not an aim at anyone's particular higher power, but how the prison system uses religion as a way to keep us divided. The division alone is a spell which keeps revolutionaries from different religious backgrounds from uniting. So as if to say "if you don't believe what I believe there's no reason for dialogue." We fight over disagreements in the form of belief, rather than find solutions to cripple mass incarceration.

Examples of such actions can be seen by muslims, christians, NOI, jews, catholics, and those who choose to not accept doctrine or belief in a higher power. Religion to me is used as a drug, to put us asleep in our revolutionary work, by not coming together. So we see how religion is being used as a tool to pacify the masses.

LO Affiliation

Gang affiliation, what set you claim, can be a divisive tool, creating chaos in revolutionary work. We have many gangs that want unity but prison administrators will use comrades with not enough knowledge of its tactics and strategies to have us go at each other. And this mindset is a drag, because we cannot get anything done.

The violence which comes from disunity allows the imperialist masterbastards to create policies which counter revolutionary cause. So the drug in this affiliation is the benefits that some gangs receive in institutions, whether it's by phone connections, drugs, or sexual favors with staff. These devices are counter-productive to the struggle.

Medication

Prison medication is another drug which is detrimental. Although most of society believes it is helping us, prison medical is really destroying us. It's used as a device or substance for controlling the mind of the masses. In prison, medication is a weapon used against revolutionaries who pose a threat by mobilizing the population of prisoners.

They, the administration and psychopath doctors, falsify medical records and diagnose you as paranoid and delusional and once you're thrown into observation cells, then the goon squad comes in with shock shields or drugs to pierce thru you, disturbing your chemical balance, making you disturbed and lethargic. But once these drugs are pumped into ya system, you're never the same. Seems as though the meds (drugs) take over and you don't have time to bounce back, cause once you decide to get off, then all types of side-effects come at you in a harmful way.

I've seen young brothas (comrades) come into the system hard, with that revolutionary mindset. And it seems as though now medication is the solution to stop the criminal mind. Now we have brothas in prison addicted to Haldol, Prozac, and all types of anti-depressants. Drugs are used in many ways to neutralize and create a zombie state of prisoners.

My conclusion is that drugs are what they are in prison destroying revolutions using ghost spells. Anything which takes you from reality and places you in a euphoric environment to control you. This is a serious epidemic. Wake up! Peace.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade brings up an important point in the discussion of drugs in prison by expanding the definition to the many ways that people's minds are controlled by institutions within the system. All of these structures can be a serious detriment to the revolution. Although we would argue that lumpen organizations don't have to be detrimental: they have the power to become revolutionary organizations and contribute significantly to the movement.

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[Economics] [ULK Issue 59]
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Book Review: Marx & Engels on Colonies

Marx & Engels on Colonies
Marx & Engels On Colonies, Industrial Monopoly, & The Working Class Movement
originally compiled by the Communist Working Circle, 1972
with a new introduction by Zak Cope & Torkil Lauesen
Kersplebedeb, 2016

Available for $10 + shipping/handling from:
kersplebedeb
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
Montreal, Quebec
Canada
H3W 3H8

This book is a reprint of a 1972 study pack by the Communist Working Circle, which contains quotes from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels on the question of the split between workers in the imperialist countries and the colonized nations. The book opens with a foreword by the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement and an extensive introduction by Zak Cope & Torkil Lauesen explaining transfer of wealth from colonies to Britain.

The introduction is really the heart of the small book. It takes the outline laid out by the Marx and Engels quotes and fills it out with a detailed historical treatment of the subject. The authors focus on the periods contemporary to and discussed by Marx and Engels. And they make some important conclusions, including that England was dominated by the labor aristocracy by the 1850s. This is a key point, when all too often the question of the labor aristocracy is treated as an open debate over 150 years later.

One topic that Marx and Engels touch on in many of the selections is England's relationship to Ireland. This was a factor for Marx in eir understanding of the English workers growing allegiance to capitalism. While we often treat settler nations like Amerika and Australia as distinct phenomenon, what we gather from Marx and Engels's descriptions is that the attitudes of the English were/are not very different. The English built a very similar consciousness in relation to Ireland, India and countless other colonized peoples.

MIM(Prisons) recommends this book as part of the still-growing cannon on this important topic. While we consider Zak Cope's Divided World, Divided Class a must-read, this may be a more digestible piece to start with for those shy about thick economic texts. This book is available to prisoners for $6 or work trade from MIM Distributors, and we plan to conduct a study group on it in the near future.

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[Militarism] [ULK Issue 59]
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Mass Shootings are Amerikan

When it comes to guns and gun violence, Amerikkka truly is #1. According to The Guardian: "No other developed nation comes close to the rate of gun violence in America. Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every adult." Further, there is a mass shooting nine out of every ten days in this country. That's 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days.(1) These statistics define mass shootings as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter. That's a broader definition than is used by the government and many other statisticians. But it's illustrative of the tremendous gun violence happening in the United $tates.

Recent mass shootings, including the Las Vegas country music festival massacre, the shooting in a Southerland, Texas Baptist church, and the Orlando Pulse nightclub killings have led to a lot of discussion about gun violence in the United $tates. While there is a long history of mass shootings in this country, various analyses confirm that incidents are on the rise.(2)

In reality mass shootings are just a small part of gun deaths in the United $tates. Over 400 thousand people died from gun violence between 2001 and 2013, the majority (over 200,000) were suicides. Mass shootings only made up about 3% of the homicides in 2017 so far.(3) But there is little discussion of all the other gun-related deaths.

Gun violence in general doesn't bother most Amerikans. It certainly doesn't make it into everyday conversation. The mass shootings are unique in that they appear random and unpredictable. They introduce an element of fear into everyday life for Amerikans who like to think their lives are charmed and protected by citizenship. Especially white Amerikans. And this is a uniquely white phenomenon. The vast majority of mass shootings in public places (71%) between 1982 and 2012 were perpetuated by white men.(2) That's quite a disproportionate representation as "non-Hispanic" white men make up about 1/3 of the general population.

An epidemic of mental illness?

When perpetrated by white people, politicians bend over backwards to explain that the shooter was mentally ill. Mental illness is a convenient cover story to dismiss all of these incidents as the fault of the individual. Something that couldn't have been prevented. And this mental illness is easy to "prove," since we generally define mental health to include not indiscriminately murdering people.

Rather that attribute all this violence to individual mental illness, communists look at society and social causes. If we believe that all these folks are mentally ill, shouldn't we be concerned that Amerikans are suffering from an epidemic of mental illness unseen in other nations? Even by the capitalists' own psychology argument about fault, there must be something systematically wrong in this country.

An analysis that looks beyond the individual will quickly conclude that there is something wrong with Amerikan society that it's producing all of these mass killers. But it's not that Amerika just has an over-abundance of crazy people who like to go on shooting sprees. These mass killings are a direct result of Amerikan capitalism, its culture, and its gun-mongering. People who are floundering for a purpose in their lives latch on to this culture.

Capitalism lacks the ability to provide most people with a meaningful purpose in life. The individualist focus of capitalism teaches Amerikans that they should make money, and then spend that money to enjoy life. Also maybe throw in some meaningless sex for fun. But this doesn't lead to a strong sense of purpose or self-worth. Especially for those who don't succeed at the money-making, or at the sex. So we end up with lots of people depressed, and without a way to address what is wrong with their lives. This is just one of many contradictions of capitalism. Even those benefiting financially from the system can end up feeling purposeless and depressed.

It should not be lost on readers of ULK that all this talk about mass shootings is explained away by mental illness but any individual of Arab descent who carries out an act of violence is labeled a terrorist. White men are not considered terrorists, they're just ill. Muslims (and non-Muslims who come from a predominantly Muslim region) resisting imperialist domination and violence are "terrorists."

Capitalism = violence

Another contradiction for capitalism is the promotion of violence. The imperialists raise up war and the killing of "enemies" as a heroic act. This is necessary because war for the imperialists is a critical part of conquering the land and people who supply natural resources and labor to create capitalist profits. And war is also important to keeping those people oppressed when they try to rise up and resist.

Capitalist culture glorifies this war and killing. The Vietnam War was the last truly messy war from the perspective of Amerikans. The draft forced men into the army who didn't want to go fight, and most people knew someone who died or was injured. That war was hard to glorify, especially when it involved massacring peasants who just wanted to control their land and their lives. But now, with an all-volunteer army, capitalism has grown more and more cavalier with its glorification of war. The imperialists have also worked hard at marketing these wars, stressing the danger (drugs, terrorism, or whatever is the latest war du jour) that threatens the Amerikan way of life.

With this glorification of war comes a cultural onslaught of violence. We have movies about war, and video games about war, and serialized TV shows about the government engaged in geo-political war games (not to mention cop shows). Violence is as Amerikan as apple pie. And guns are just the current device used in that violence.

All these Amerikan gun-related deaths reveal the moribund nature of capitalism. It can't even keep control of its own privileged citizens. This is not a stable system. There are some strong reasons why even privileged Amerikans should oppose capitalism.

What about gun control?

In the short term, restricting access to guns by Amerikans would probably lead to a reduction in random shooting events. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that for every 1 percent increase in gun ownership levels in a state, there was a corresponding 0.9 percent increase in the firearm homicide rate.(4)

But stricter laws like this always lead to greater restrictions on oppressed people and political activists first and foremost. So we should never suggest the government should increase its powers at the expense of the freedom of the people. Gun control laws were used against groups like the Black Panther Party, who carried guns in self-defense in response to police indiscriminately harassing and killing Black people. Theirs was a righteous protest against a murderous police force. And they acted within the law, carrying guns for protection. So the government, backed by white organizations like the National Rifle Association, changed the law, specifically so that the BPP could not display their guns in public. This display of guns by New Afrikan revolutionaries was terrifying to white Amerika. It's easy for Amerika to enact more restrictive gun control laws when threatened by oppressed nations.

What will stop the violence?

Until we put an end to the capitalist system that encourages violence we're not going to see an end to random gun violence in the United $tates. This is one example of the benefit people in imperialist countries will get from our revolutionary project. They will no longer be allowed to live high off the exploitation of Third World peoples, but they won't have to exist in a culture that promotes senseless violence.

Unfortunately, there isn't a magic bullet. Even after capitalism is overthrown by a communist party representing the oppressed and exploited, the capitalist culture won't just disappear overnight. Maoists in China determined that a series of cultural revolutions would be necessary as a part of the transition from socialism to communism. Those cultural revolutions will fight against the ills so ingrained in us from capitalist culture. They will mobilize people to create new culture that serves the interests of the people. And over time, possibly over several generations, we will get rid of the rotten old culture of individualism, decadence and violence.

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[Gender] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 61]
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ULK Changing Minds on Sex Offenders

There are certain things that I have zero toleration for. But I still try to be an overall understanding and wise guy, especially towards those individuals who are younger than I, and who face/faced similar or identical struggles. I have MIM(Prisons) to thank for helping me to acquire knowledge and information, which I have used to overcome my lifelong resentment and fear of "sexual predators" and "sex offenders" (SOs).

I have faced sexual abuse as a young child, and throughout various points of my life, and have been forced to undergo all the intricate and complex issues ramifying from such things. Initially, these same SOs were the main individuals that I struggled against, held intense hatred for, and who I held zero toleration for and towards, without any question or afterthought involved into any types of factual, evidential or considerational circumstances of their cases/charges, etc. I agree entirely with the ULK 55 articles concerning "unity with sex offenders" and unifying with sex offenders. I have developed brand new beliefs about such things thanks to MIM(Prisons)'s ULKs.

I am in prison for selling drugs and armed robbery; but since I've been incarcerated I have stopped all stealing/thievery and I don't mess with any drugs. So I believe that even if a sex offender is guilty of their crimes, I think that it's actually possible for changes in these individuals to manifest, with sufficient circumstances. I did not believe that before reading ULK 55 and I loved the insight in this same issue addressing the issue involved with not being able to go off the state's/fed's jacketing alone.

For one thing, those same fed/state officials are often involved in fraudulent/fabricated bullshit/schemes, lying, conspiracies, etc. So their word alone is never to be trusted or relied upon. Their essential nature is to assume false masquerades undercover, utilize deceit/manipulation tactics, cheat, lie, rob, etc., so that they can win. During my lifetime they've hit me personally with all of those tricks, plus some, so I know firsthand how it goes. They're often all about setting people up and bending their own rules to get ahead, or to win, and so forth. There's no end to the madness.

Even so much as simple socializing with SOs has been alien to me, but I'm taking steps in the direction of overcoming old habits involved with interacting with these types of prisoners. Only through MIM(Prisons) has this been possible for me. The only catch is that I don't wish to live in a cell with one of these individuals; but I think that I could try to do so under certain circumstances. My main concern (if and when all of my previous inhibitions were/are done away with) is still present, which involves me being targeted by prisoners/staff for such an interaction with SOs. I'm not saying that I fear any adversity. They can't do anything to me that hasn't already been done to me, other than killing me. But, with the way that things already stand, as for my work and projects, I already face a substantial amount of retaliation and opposition coming from every possible angle.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is difficult for all of us to overcome our past and look at things objectively when we have intense subjective experiences that cloud our judgment. We know that sexual abuse is particularly traumatic and has a very strong impact on most people's perceptions. So it is no small thing that this comrade is working to overcome subjective fears and instead evaluate people objectively when they have been labeled as sex offenders.

We agree wholeheartedly with this comrade's analysis that people can change. It's not an easy process, but even those convicted of anti-people crimes that they really did commit can wake up to their mistakes, educate themselves in revolutionary politics, and take a stand on the side of the oppressed. It takes courage to admit to one's errors, as it isn't easy to overcome ego. But this is part of the process of criticism and self-criticism that is so vital to any revolutionary movement. We applaud this comrade for setting an example of pushing our struggle even further, after ey had already given up eir own anti-people and self-destructive acts.

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[Release] [California]
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Communication is Key

The challenges I faced upon release was money and housing. These two were primarily the most significant factors. I have a big family, so one may think that at least temporary housing wouldn't be a factor. Yet for me, and maybe for many others, it is. There's a family member that I have that loves me dearly, I believe, but just won't (or just can't) allow me to live with them, becuz of either past run-ins or past lifestyle choices I've made.

I mean let's face it — no matter what changes I've made recently (i.e. politically, morally), most of my family members just don't trust me to live with them or in their homes for more than a few days before they feel it's time for me to go. And it's not becuz, I feel, they believe I'm difficult to deal with, but becuz their not 100% faithful that I'll come thru on moral promises.

Then I find myself reaching out to parole to be placed in a program for parolees, but with programs comes parole restrictions. The only problem with this is the parolee begins to feel like he's been sent back to prison again. Upon arriving at the program, due to the CDCR regulations that most CDCR parolee programs operate under, this gives anyone thoughts of wanting to leave the program prematurely before securing a job or housing.

And even if one completes the program and/or secures job or housing or both, then there's the cost of living and spousal-family problems that comes into play. It did for me. These are some of the factors that makes it difficult for comrades to stay connected with our MIM homebase and involved in our political work.

There are also other factors that comes into play in addition to the above: Some of the biggest challenges are past gang ties and drugs. For me these are the most crucial and can greatly affect effective communication with the comrades.

I personally understand that communication is vital and efforts needs to be directed at communication, becuz had I stayed connected immediately upon release, my comrades could've walked me thru my obstacles by instruction. Without instruction, comrades being release may get lost. And without communication there can be no instruction.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer poses an important question, "What can MIM(Prisons) do to support our released comrades while they get their lives set up?" If you're reading this newsletter, you probably have already read our Release Letter and Release Challenges letters, both focused on the details of our Re-Lease on Live Program. In those letters we lay out the need for weekly communication with MIM(Prisons).

We advise that comrades write to us via snail mail at first, so we can set up secure communication lines. We can set up phone appointments and try to help you get e-mail running on a secure machine. Like our prisoner organizing, if we can't get on e-mail or phone, we are happy to support via snail mail indefinitely.

Our question to this writer, and everyone in a similar situation, is whether this system we've set up is viable. The writer above talks about the need for communication, instruction, support, between eirself and MIM(Prisons). With our current Re-Lease on Life structure, are we set up to be successful at this? What do we need to modify about it to be successful?

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