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Under Lock & Key

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[Elections] [ULK Issue 64]
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Mid-Term Elections, Do we need to vote?

Some of our fellow comrades remain skeptical or indifferent about our engagement in the political process. Don't be foolish! We have to act while we can to fortify our freedoms and ensure that government does not try to quarantine our communist ideology. Too long have we been unrepresented at the polls for elections.

The fact that we have been unrepresented only condones and promotes the inundated lies that sound convincing and are spread through education, through the media and through entertainment. "In January 2010, a conservative minority on the Supreme Court radically rewrote Ameri[k]a's campaign-finance laws to allow mega-donors and corporations to contribute unlimited sums, often in secret, to political action committees. The Citizens United v. FEC decision gave wealthy donors unprecedented influence to buy elections, which Republicans quickly used to their political advantage" (Rolling Stone, Ari Berman, February 8-22, 2018, p.30). I do not believe there is any difference from today's political culture and the one of the late 1780s "Three-Fifths Compromise" which treated each slave as three-fifths of a person for tax and representation purposes. It has always been about which political party is going to get the vote.

These mid-term elections elect a body of electors who elect the president and vice president. Under the Trump administration we have watched numerous offices filled and seats to our judicial branch, two of which after the next Supreme Court justice seat, will be for the life of that persyn. How does that weigh on us? I do not know, so the advancement of "why the need to vote?" is a relevant topic for discussion amongst us comrades.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is right that we should be talking about elections in ULK because so many people are focused on this topic in the United $tates right now. On the "left" we regularly hear about the critical need to get Democrats elected in mid-terms to limit President Trump's power. But we come at this topic from a different perspective.

To determine what is the most effective actions we can take today we need to first identify our principal enemy. For revolutionaries this enemy is imperialism, the global system which keeps many nations poor and oppressed in order to provide wealth for a few nations. We happen to live within one of the imperialist powers: the United $tates. Here still imperialism is our principal enemy. And the President is certainly the leader of this imperialist country. But congress is just as much a part of that leadership structure. And whether members of congress are Democrats or Republicans matters not one little bit to which side they are on; being in the Amerikan government requires supporting imperialism.

So when this writer points out that revolutionaries are dramatically underrepresented in the government, we think that's to be expected. The system is not set up to allow for a peaceful revolution through elections. And in fact, when we look closely at the interests of the vast majority of people who could legally vote in elections, we see that their material interests are aligned with imperialism. So of course they are electing these imperialists! The capitalist system has advanced to the point where people living within imperialist countries can be bought off with the vast wealth plundered from the Third World. And buying people off includes buying their voting allegiance since they want to help perpetuate this system that is giving them a comfortable life.

Within imperialist countries we can't expect to have a majority on the side of the oppressed, fighting for revolution, until conditions change dramatically. At this point we're not even close. Trump's reactionary policies and rhetoric may be angering some self-described leftists, but only to the extent that they want to get a more soft-spoken imperialist into the White House. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama are friends of the oppressed. They just peddle a different flavor of imperialism.

It's a mistake for revolutionaries to focus on getting Trump out of office. And when we tell people to vote in mid-term elections we are telling them to vote for the imperialists. There are no revolutionary candidates for high office. And with the implication that we oppose Trump, we're telling people that we support the Democrats. This is not only misleading but also will soon be demoralizing. What happens if the Democrats win big? And at the next presidential election a Democrat comes into office. When we still have imperialism, and the Democratic President is funding more prisons, more police, and more invasions of other countries, what are people going to think of the revolutionaries who campaigned for the Democrats?

This writer raises the question of the Supreme Court. Presidents have the power to fill seats in the court with someone who will serve for life. And these individuals have a big impact on laws in the United $tates. The right to legal abortions, for instance, is a decision many fear could be overturned with a more conservative court. This is an example of a law that has a real impact on people's lives, especially hurting those without the resources to buy access to safe abortions. Just as we fight for legal victories to gain more organizing space and less abuse within prisons, we would oppose outlawing abortion. But these laws and legal precedents are no different than variances in how a city deploys its police force: more trigger happy cops in the projects means more dead oppressed nation youth. There are so many laws and policies within imperialism that are harmful to the oppressed.

Focusing on the Supreme Court again keeps us from seeing the big picture: it's all still a part of imperialism. We will have variations in legal rights and in modes of repression, but imperialism is still the same system of exploitation and oppression. And many of the Supreme Court decisions that Amerikans worry about are only possible due to the luxury of living in this wealthy country. Of course we support affirmative action, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access. But these are things aren't even considered in many Third World countries where the masses are barely surviving in the wake of imperialist wars, direct and by proxy, to secure cheap resources and labor, with puppet dictators in power. The United $tates has not become less imperialist by implementing more rights for more people within U.$. borders.

There are battles that can be fought in these non-revolutionary times that do contribute to weakening imperialism, such as ending torture and political repression within the injustice system. And so we say: keep your eyes on the principal enemy. That enemy is imperialism. Fight that enemy for rights for those living within U.$. borders, but never sacrifice or lose sight of the bigger picture. An imperialist who supports legal abortion for Amerikan wimmin is still an imperialist.

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[Campaigns] [Download and Print] [United Struggle from Within] [New York]
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Downloadable Grievance Petition, New York

NYgrievepet.png
Click here to download a PDF of the New York grievance petition

Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with their grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here.

Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses listed on the petition, and below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.

Acting Commissioner, Anthony J. Annucci
The Harriman State Campus
1220 Washington Ave
Albany, NY 12226-2050

New York State Commission of Corrections
80 Wolf Rd, 4th Floor
Albany, NY 12205

United States Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
Special Litigation Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Office of Inspector General
HOTLINE
P.O. Box 9778
Arlington, Virginia 22219

And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!

MIM(Prisons), USW
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140
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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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Use Your Observation

A revolution
Our only solution
Of freeing us of
Media's pollution

From teachers
To preachers
To what's taught
In classes
Are intended
To neutralize the masses

We must be open minded
And not be blinded
By believing
Everything we're told

Evaluate the situation
Do not rely
On your education
Instead use your observation
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[Economics] [Prison Labor] [Organizing] [Texas] [ULK Issue 64]
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Debating the Prison Labor Movement

incarcerated workers organizing committee

I am approaching from a background of having been held captive in general prison population where I am aware that at least a few of us subscribe to The BayView and Under Lock & Key and agreed the latter's issue No. 62 is controversial in criticizing a certain labor union.

One reason for focusing on this outstanding view(s) is because some of us are unionized with this entity which is the only one of its class that waves membership dues for prisoners and is also actively involved in the prison abolition movement. Specifically you allude in your article to, "Those organizations don't want low paid prisoners to replace high paid petty bourgeois workers."

Further what I think was more shocking is you attributed to outside support low, selfish motive by claiming, "They would be happy to see prisoners rot in their cells... it's higher pay for their class that the labor aristocracy wants." Indisputably your position is informative and generally supported by historical patterns, including Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow which illustrated how Capitalists successfully divided White and New Afrikan working class through granting pay raises and white skin privileges who in turn collectively advocated us decaying in segregation.

I would like to remain on Under Lock & Key subscription list because by far, it's more advanced than a number of other non-mainstream publications, in that yours boldly challenges general thought trends. One case-in-point is an Elder had cautioned us to be vigilant on what Under Lock & Key also affirmed about those who share sentiments identified as "the mass base behind the prison craze." We see clear signs they are present, active and have self-centered agendas.

But in contrast to what you promoted, I don't think our struggle has yet nor is on the verge of being co-opted by selfish motives — though potentially via "Incarcerated Organizing Committees" — provided our focus don't prioritize amending the 13th Amendment over acquiring human rights and Independence, attacking deceptive parole mechanisms. In this regard, MIM(Prisons) provides a vital source exhorting the prison movement to re-evaluate the ramification of amending the 13th Amendment. Perhaps the pendulum will sway away from giving successive energy to the 13th Amendment when factoring that many prison systems already pay money of account for prisoner labor; but yet, both sides of the spectrum agree mass incarceration is the core problem.

In ULK 62, among other issue numbers, you criticize massive prison work strikes. The perspective MIM(Prisons) is herein asked to ponder upon is the impact of "sustained" general work strikes will have on the bottom lines of private sectors; namely, commissary stork, telephone companies, choicey livestock parts that never reaches our food supply, etc.


MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we must make a disclaimer related to this discussion. We've learned of a recent article in Turning the Tide by a couple of United Struggle from Within comrades that calls out IWOC, among other organizations, as "ghost organizations." This is NOT the position of MIM(Prisons) or ULK. We will likely address this in more detail soon. However, we hope our readers can distinguish our approach here in criticizing the political line of other organizations and the effects of that line, rather than disparaging them for not doing anything just because they aren't working with us. No one can deny that the IWOC has done a lot to successfully publicize recent prison struggles and actions.

Overall it seems we have a lot of agreement with the writer above, but areas of debate are well worth addressing. The main point raised here is whether labor unions are selfishly pushing their own agenda for higher wages for the Amerikan labor aristocracy, or if these labor unions can really be putting the interests of prisoners first in prison labor struggles.

As this writer notes, we have plenty of historical evidence of labor unions in the United $tates promoting the interests of the Amerikkkan nation at the expense of oppressed nations.(1) And this promotion of national oppression includes support for the expansion of prisons to lock up oppressed nations. In fact, those prisons provide well-paying jobs for many labor aristocracy workers. So the contradiction between prison employees and prisoners is amplified, as this incarceration is essential to their livelihood.

Many corporations can't take advantage of cheap prison labor because labor unions have put provisions in their contracts and state laws to force consultation with labor leaders before establishing a contract for prisoner labor. It is clear the cheaper labor available in prisons is a direct threat to the high wages paid to people outside of prisons for work that could be done by prisoners. Many labor unions are quite clear about their position on this point.

But the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is different from other labor unions in that it claims to be international and anti-capitalist. The IWW is the labor union offering free membership to prisoners and actively campaigning on behalf of prisoners. The IWW also actively campaigns for higher wages for Amerikan workers. So they are walking a fine line between progressive work supporting prisoners' struggles, and reactionary pro-labor-aristocracy politics. The history of the IWW includes some clear examples benefiting white workers at the expense of colonial labor, as is documented in J. Sakai's book Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat.(2)

This doesn't mean the IWW is always working against the interests of prisoners. In fact they have waged some progressive battles. But their goal of raising wages for Amerikan workers is still fundamentally reactionary. The Amerikan labor aristocracy is the mass base for fascism, not a base for revolutionary organizing. They continue to come down on the side of imperialism, and are well bought off with the spoils of conquest and exploitation of oppressed nations around the globe.

In all of our prison struggles we need to keep the contradiction between internal oppressed nations (locked up, killed by police, flooded with drugs, denied economic, educational, and work opportunities, etc.) and the oppressor nation at the forefront. Why do we have such a huge prison population in the United $tates? It comes back to national oppression.

Battles around prisoners getting access to education, or getting paid for their labor, can be progressive parts of the struggle against the criminal injustice system. As long as they are framed in the context of the battle for liberation of oppressed nations. Opportunistically tying the prison labor battle to the broader Amerikan labor union struggles will only drag us down into reactionary oppressor-nation politics which builds up the labor aristocracy at the expense of the world's oppressed.(3) The oppressed, around the world and within U.$. borders, are always the losers in Amerikan labor union wage struggles.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 64]
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The Power of Sound

The days: they pass without a sound
The guards: they come to make their rounds
The food: it comes, but no one eats
The prisoners: they stay within their seats

The warden: he wonders what went wrong
Yet still he thinks "they won't last long"
They guards still come to make their rounds
But still we wait without a sound

The halls are quiet, the cell doors closed
The corruption conspired is surely exposed
The enemy soon gone to be tried and convicted
The power of sound, with not one finger lifted
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[Organizing] [California Correctional Institution] [California]
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California Correctional Institution September 9th Solidarity

For this September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity, I personally will fast, exercise, read and hold a study group, which will consist of 8 committed and conscious-minded individuals, who hold fast to the philosophy of peace and unity amongst prisoners. This day there will be no strife, conflict nor division amongst the prisoners here. It's not conducive to a healthy environment. Nor will it promote growth and development.

So, the study group's theme will be peace and unity and how we can best promote these themes within these prison confines. I will start it off by giving my interpretation on what peace and unity means to me. And then i will ask the eight comrades what does peace and unity mean to them individually.

And this will start the deep discussion about the continued peace and unity amongst the prisoners here. And at that, we can come together in solidarity to rid ourselves of the internal oppression that exists amongst us. And only then can we conquer and vanquish imperialism in all its forms. This is our object. We'll make this a successful effort by all means necessary.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 63]
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Mobilize Raza for Independence

by the AV Brown Berets

All matter is in motion and so with this motion we will continue to find new ways to apply the proper response to new ideas, and of course new actions will create new reaction. Each of us has to find the strength and opportunity into any area in our life. In this development we become more capable of helping others with the same issues. Today's Chicano nation is at a crossroad. The Raza population is growing faster than any other. In a couple of decades we will be the largest population in the United $tates. We have to understand, whatever changes we experience holds opportunity. In other words, external events often happen as means to facilitate internal change and consciousness. Once the inner connection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions break down before the collapse in practice.

I believe that in the independence of each nation is a unity that will help mobilize broader masses, then we begin to understand the importance of windows of opportunity. Chicano power is not simply being in charge. We don't want to mimic capitalism, but merely exercise socio-political, economic power where socialist relations of production replace capitalism. Without the influence of imperialism, we know that imperialism defines crimes and pushes oppressed nations into committing the crimes. Knowing most minority already have nothing to lose, and are well armed, when revolutionized can serve as the fiercest fighters.

We were not created by the same social and material forces which govern Mexican life, but by the imperialist venture of the annexation of the Americas. Our existence is therefore not defined by the reality of the border, but by social and material forces that have influenced the way we develop since before and after its imposition. Aztlan represents the land which was invaded, occupied and stolen from the Mexican nation. The southwest is home to many Chicanos, and non-Mexican indigenous nations each with the universal right to govern themselves and exist as a sovereign and autonomous people. Thus the era of imperialism is the era of New Democracy where a democratic struggle must be led and waged by the masses of the popular class in a united front where the primary goal is national liberation.

This August we commemorate the Plan de San Diego, which was a plan for New Democracy for the internal semi-colonies of occupied Turtle Island. It is a time to study [email protected] history, and apply internationalism. Write MIM(Prisons) for informational fliers on the campaign and submit your own essays and art.

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[Education] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 63]
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Revolutionaries Making a Big Impact with Education

It was 1995. I was in my late 20s and totally caught up in the tribal death style! For the first year or so, I spent much of my time learning who was who, and how to navigate the very dangerous and reactionary gen pop yards. It should be noted that in the beginning, we rec-ed together in GP yards. (This changed in 2004/05.)

At any rate, when I got to the next unit I met conscious men. Two in particular still stand out in my mind: Kareem and Ray Luc. The former was a student of the Party and member of prominent militant entity created by them, in the Bay Area! The latter was a staunch revolutionary, who walked it like he talked it, to the fullest.

Kareem used his extensive knowledge (learned in CDC) to teach us. We had mandatory "machines" (i.e. collective exercises with cadences) each day! Mandatory study of all progressive literature and mandatory Kiswahili lessons weekly. Kareem was a taskmaster who used his position (within so-called "Calicar") to subtly coerce us towards a souljah's identity.

Ray Luc was our source of revolutionary literature. It was through this brother that we learned of Marx, Lenin, Mao, Fidel, Che, MIM, and other groups and newspapers. Ray Luc used to give us revolutionary education on a daily. Him being Euro-Amerikan and being such a firm revolutionary! And in ADX, where 99% of the European captives aligned with the "Aryan" identity speaks volumes about his strength of character and total commitment to struggle.

Between the two of these brothas, many ADX reactionaries were forever transformed by their revolutionary organizing efforts. Many street tribal members became nationalists. Others (like myself) went on to then embrace New Afrikan Revolutionary ideology. Whatever we each went on to do, it was a direct result of the organizing techniques of comrades like Kareem and Ray Luc. Strategies that I utilize to this day actually.

Kan't stop, won't stop. Will not be stopped. Machine! Power to the people.

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[Black Panther Party] [New Afrika]
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Learn from the Revolutionary Legacy of the Black Panther Party

As I first stumbled out of the haze of unconsciousness and began to see the true structure of society and the world, as I began to understand what drove and supported the political socio-economic forces, it was inevitable that I would be influenced by the Black Panther Party. As with many urban youth who lived rough, experiencing ghetto life with its grinding poverty and internecine violence, with the police sweeps and sanctioned violence, along with the general spirit of hopelessness that pervaded the community, the appeal of the party was at first superficial. I was drawn to the audacity in the stories of those so very young women and men who were seeming facing off with the state in the form of the state's protector — the police. Although I didn't understand, I was only seeing the surface of what the party was about.

I was aware of some of the survival programs that the party had organized and their provocative slogans. As I read more to get an understanding of the party's actual ideology, my reading expanded and my own ideas took shape. I became aware of the class struggles in addition to the racial struggles — I had assumed that the condition of minority groups in this country was primarily race based. Now I became aware of the guiding hand of economics in the affairs and destiny of peoples and nations in conjunction with the politics of race.

Through the books and speeches of the BPP, I became familiar with Marx, Lenin, Fanon, Sartre, Che and so many others through whose analysis and actions revealed a different way of considering human events and condition. They also revealed to me the value of setting examples to motivate and consciousness-raise. At first I made what I've now come to see as an error in my attempts to bring myself to socialist though, at the expense of free thought. But I realized that dialectical materialism does not bring everyone to the same conclusions, certainly not always at the same time.

Our cultural perspectives are not illegitimate, nor should they be denied in order to fit into any ideological category. A people's history will inform their view and approach to the issues that have bearing on them, on their condition. Their specific needs may require addressing in ways that are unique to those people, and may not be suitable for other peoples' circumstances. If people deny that then they are denying themselves the flexibility and effectiveness to meet their needs, solve their problems and advance a common good. This is one of the reasons for the importance of the BPP.

The articulation of the struggle could be — when it needed to be — sophisticated, with a higher level of vocabulary and Marxist-Leninst terminology. Then, when it needed to be — the articulation of the party could be iconoclastic, and even vulgar with the turn of a phrase more easily understood by the lumpen-proletariat, the streetcorner man. Huey Newton and George Jackson spoke to us in both ways. They knew when to because they were as we are. Same history. Same soul. There was no need to pretend in order to manipulate the people. The straight forward speech and fearless actions is what got my attention. Then Huey proceeded to expand my imagination with his own as he described intercommunalism. George served as an example, not only of what a person could survive, but also of how hope and purpose could be restored to a life that had be designated as a throwaway.

The Party existed in a different era than ours. Some things are better, some are worse. Yet what remains exactly the same is the need for people to be conscious of the forces that affect their lives and threaten to dictate their fact, along with the urgent need to seize those forces and address those needs.

The most effective organizers and motivators of people of the underclass are those who can speak the language of the underclass on the one hand, taking the frustrating and complex, making them plain. While on the other hand demonstrating what someone like themselves are capable of with the depths of their understanding and the heights of their courage — remaining unbroken where others have broken under less pressure.

In the present, criticism is leveled at those women and men who risked all of themselves, sacrificed so much — even their own lives. Their errors and excesses have been highlighted in history. Although we can recognize the accuracy of some of that criticism, it would be a grave error on our part to allow those things to prevent us from accepting the lessons in their analysis of the origins, significance and relevance of class and racial struggle, nor should we fail to acknowledge the dedication and examples of courage that were demonstrated by people so young.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides us with some important perspective on how we analyze the history of revolutionary activists. Some people are critical of revolutionaries, comparing them to some ideal that has never been achieved, as if these people were gods and should have been perfect. But doing this means we will only criticize everyone and learn nothing from history. Instead we need to measure people, and organizations, by their real world actions in comparison to other real world actions. No persyn or group is perfect. But we look at the impact of their work, and also how well they learned from their mistakes.

The Black Panther Party was the most advanced and effective revolutionary organization in U.$. history. The BPP correctly identified the contradiction of national oppression as principal within U.$. borders, and saw the need for a revolutionary party to organize the New Afrikan nation. They were way ahead of others in the 1960s with their analysis of the importance of Maoism, and their practice of building a strong disciplined organization. There is a lot to learn from the history of the BPP.

This doesn't mean we withhold all criticism of the BPP. But as this comrade notes, our criticisms, which with hindsight are always much easier to see than in the organizing moment, should not stop us from learning from the BPP and upholding their organization for its revolutionary leadership. For more on this topic read Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party, available from MIM(Prisons) for $6 or work trade.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 63]
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From Blind to Revolutionary to Educator

I was first introduced to revolutionary politics when I was 16 and from then on it has been a continuous evolutionary process that I have gone through. When first I was blessed to have the blinders lifted from my sleepy eyes, I was going through a battle with the revolutionary politics that I was engaged in. Those politics were reactionary because they were derailing the efforts of the people who sacrificed their minds, sweat, blood and even their bodies to ensure a better future for their posterity. I was going through this phase because I was just learning how to think.

I was born again through Allah’s mathematics and I also saw people such as comrade George as a source of inspiration. Being that in my past life I was a gang member, I encountered a lot of opposition from my once gang homies, but I was determined to follow in the way of Allah and to also become a part of the vanguard that does not fear the death of a thousand cuts. So a brother by the name of comrade Teddy helped to open the eyes of the once sleeping giant.

I had always had a rebellious streak but didn't know why. I now know that it was due to my innate ability to resist and never kowtow. In the wilderness of N. Amerika its hard to relate ideas and ideals of struggle for liberation to even lower disenfranchised segments of the population. It's hard because they have accepted their position as national (and international) scapegoats. So in the belly of the beast in KY where the intellectual level is relatively minute, it's even harder. The beast (pigs) have convinced the inmates against writing grievances! This is as absurd as the Vietnamese liberation fighters not shooting the soldiers who they must kill in order to survive.

But some guys are starting to stir. It can happen overnight, but then they have to learn the arsenal of anti-fascist responses. When I communicate with others I am doing so in hopes to affect change. I help them by getting them to see the reality of their positions and our position as a whole. Since materialism has altered my vocabulary, I come to them in a language that they can understand and try by first helping by bringing formations together. It is a hard job trying to organize a cadre however I am fully committed to the peoples' struggle.

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