What I'd like to discuss is organizing the streets. Not directly about how to organize the uprising of the masses, but how prisoners can communicate about the necessary revolution within prisons. How can the public, organizations/organizers, and activists be encouraged to lend support (action) to the prison struggle? While these are important questions, they are only the second half of the equation. The first half is: what must be done by us behind bars before the public can be induced to struggle with us?
Let's be realistic – people are self-centered. Very few people put much, if any, effort into matters that don't directly affect them (or have a strong potential to do so). By effort I mean attention, thought, energy and so on. It's an habitual characteristic throughout capitalistic societies. So our first priority is to consider, how can we convey to them that the prison struggle affects them directly? This is best done by making the struggle personal to them. Once we personalize something it becomes important to us (my gang, my family, my favorite song or what not), and we place greater significance on it. Remember, you're in prison. Society's view, in general, is: you deserve whatever you get, at best, or you're worthless and don't merit any consideration, at worst. Society disdains "criminals" and we must overcome this obstacle. Our ideal way is to help them "see" the deprivation and cruelty from our position inside the beast.
After they've personalized our struggle, our first big obstacle is over, we can move on to encouraging their support. It can be easily accomplished in the same way lumpen organizations (LOs) recruit: conversations and written communications, conveying the idea, principle, reason, goal and our conviction (more important than the rest) of its (the struggle) rightness. You can explain until your tongue's swollen, but even the most logical or reasonable arguments will fail to penetrate anybody's heart without the flame of genuine conviction. As the proletariat must be taught their historical role, so do potential activists, organizers, and the public, in regards to the struggle.
After overcoming these inconveniences, it's time for us to work putting action behind our words: pursuing joint studies, research, collaborative analyses, letters to individuals or organizations, social (in the community or online community) initiatives and so on. Into the trenches we bring them, baptized by fire, and out of the trenches we come united. It isn't enough to simply point and shoot. It's more of a golf lesson, together we teach them to swing. With this understanding fully established in our minds, it's time for some practical concerns.
How or who do we contact in order to spread knowledge about the struggle? Start with people you know. I also suggest looking into the organizations that already exist: Critical Resistance, News & Letters, Solitary Watch, the Brown Berets, to name a few, but there's more. Since you're reading ULK, you should start there, but don't stop there. Contact the others (many are in the PARC directory, see page 3), contribute to them if you agree with their mission, because we're all more likely to help those who help us. Eventually, you'll expand from one or two contacts to three or more, finding people who will do the ground work you can't do physically.
Is it a waste of time, energy and resources? No, not at all, because no major struggle is won without wide mass support. This includes Latin America's freedom from España, slavery in the United $tates, wimmin's suffrage, UFW (United Farm Workers) or civil rights movements. As in those situations, in the prison struggle authorities will offer resistance (censorship, segregation, etc.) to prisoner activists' efforts, so don't get discouraged, and be prepared. Here, success is an eventuality, not just a possibility.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this author's outline of necessary steps to organizing people on the streets. We just want to comment on one point, regarding how to find people to work with through the mail. This writer suggests people look at organizations that already exist to find folks to do ground work and movement building with, and also to write to people you already know.
The benefit to reaching out to people you already know, who aren't yet involved in anti-imperialist or prison organizing, is that you can potentially bring new people into the movement. When doing this type of work, always keep security in mind and try to assess political agreement separate from disclosing the political work that you actually do. Tactics for assessing how open someone is to being recruited, and how to get them to actually take up work, belong to a different discussion.
A good thing about reaching out to organizations directly is that they are full of people who have already been turned on to politics. Organizations likely have a structure for handling incoming mail from prisoners. For better or worse, because it also may mean they already have a lofty workload.
But a primary consideration when reaching out to organizations is to think carefully about the political line of the organizations you are attempting to work with, and get with groups where you have political agreement. Overall, it is political line that determines our strategy, and correctness of this line and strategy will determine the success of our struggle in the long term. MIM(Prisons) has some significant disagreements with some of the groups mentioned above on very fundamental questions of political line. We encourage people to study their material and decide for yourself what is right and what's the best way forward for our movement. You can write to us for literature to study on the many political lines out there and why we think Maoism is the best way forward for the oppressed people of the world.