I'm once again checking in from California Correctional Institution (CCI). In 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale planted the seeds of the Black Liberation movement in Oakland. The seeds they planted rapidly spread to the rest of the United States and now years later we're fighting for the same things as the Panthers.
We still follow the same theme of Black nationalism, armed militancy, intercommunalism, and answering the call to join the revolutionary struggle. Even today, I can still see and hear the voices of comrades such as Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Gwen Fontaine, Fredrika Newton and Lil Bobby Hutton; their teachings, thoughts, practices. And they still resonate with significance and power through the pages of books.
The spirit of the Panthers have been spread so deep into the roots of Black life and into the fabric of every African Community in America, that it's just natural for us to want to stand up and fight when we hear the call. In our homes, schools, hoods, jails, and prisons. That's the revolutionary legacy, and the spirit these comrades planted in us.
This yard we're on is considered an Ad-Seg kick out yard. But in our efforts to educate the people we've begun to create something better. This yard is becoming a place where cadres are born. We have created programmes that serve the people: we have political study groups, we have a GED study group, in which we are helping comrades get their GEDs, and we are helping individuals with their college classes as well.
I am very proud of the comrades on this facility of all nationalities. Because we're not just talking we're doing, pushing hard for a truly united front and serving the people. We have just submitted the paperwork for a banquet. That will be used as a Unity Celebration, where we will all meet and share our thoughts on the issues of today, and share a little political knowledge with each other.
The only issue I see is that the room only holds fifty people, so not all of the groups can fit in this room, so we're planning to have another on the yard the next day. We don't want anyone left out. We are here to serve the people, educate the people, and to help liberate the people, all the people. My rules are if we focus on what we have in common and less on our differences we'll be able to learn better, who we are, and what we're about.
We all want the same things. We all have the same goals, and we all want to create positive change in our world, and in our communities. A community by way of definitions is a comprehensive collection of institutions that serve the people who live there. CCI C-Facility is where we are living right now. So this is the community we're serving.
It is the duty of all revolutionaries to make the revolution. This is obviously rule one. But this is a way of denouncing, in the context, all the so-called revolutionaries who not only did not seek to make the revolution, who managed secure income, talk the revolutionary shit, but who torpedoed the efforts of the people to liberate themselves and that must not be. As Huey said, revolutionary theory without practice ain't shit.
I randomly bumped into a homie who I had previously met a few years back. We got to conversating and eventually got to swapping materials (books, magazines) and we each offered to exchange a "political newsletter." It turned out that we were both referring to ULK; each of us not knowing at the time that we were both corresponding with MIM(Prisons) and we were talking about the exact same newsletter (ULK 52).
An interesting fact to note is that we were both able to overcome past "beef" that we had against one another. Beef that had manifested in an administrative segregation barracks during 2015 as a result of our poor/squalid isolated living conditions. Our beef was evidence of the negative side-effects that ramify into violence and verbal insolence/disrespect/threats between captives, all being things consequential of our long-term solitary confinement that is deliberately facilitated by the pigs.
We both (me and this said comrade) peeped game and realized that the police want us to have discord sown between us (captives in general, but also specifically between me and this comrade) and I immediately took personal measures to end the pettiness and hostilities –- for unity's sake. By squashing the trivial/frivolous "childsplay," and setting aside our pride (which has always been a real challenge for me), we wound up developing a very strong unified bond and comradeship that is likely going to carry on into the free world. We passed knowledge back and forth, to fortify one another. I was stoked to be able to aid and assist this comrade as much as possible.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Often Under Lock & Key is censored by prison administrators for encouraging violence. We hope the administrators are paying attention to this letter as it clearly demonstrates what we've been saying all along: ULK actually encourages peace!
Tania La Guerrillera Y La Epopeya Suramericana Del Che
("Tania: Undercover with Che Guevara in Bolivia" is the title of the English translation)
Ocean Press 2005
Mention the name Che Guevara virtually anywhere in the world and images of Cuba, Fidel Castro and armed struggle come to mind. Travel to places like Cuba, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay and say the name Che and another image comes to mind; that of Haydée Tamaia Bunke Bider, better known as "Tania the guerrilla", the only womyn to live, fight and die as part of Che Guevara's Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), National Liberation Army.
The first time i came across the figure of Tania the guerrilla was in reading the book Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson, which documents Che's extraordinary political life from childhood to his death. And while Jon Lee Anderson's book is unrivaled as far as political biographies goes, his emphasis was on Guevara, so his writing on Tania left much to be desired. In stark contrast, Ulises Estrada's present work casts much needed light on this figure little known here in the U.$.
Tania the guerrilla was born Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider on 19 November 1937 in Buenos Aires, Argentina to Erich Bider, a German communist, and Nadia Bunke Bider, a Russian Jew (pg 157). The Bider's fled Nazi Germany in 1935 and settled in Buenos Aires, promptly joining the banned Argentine Communist Party (ACP) (pg 143). Nadia Bider recounts how Haydée was exposed to politics early on as the Biders hosted ACP meetings, hid weapons, stashed communist literature in their home and helped Jewish refugees (pg 162). Besides joining the ACP, Nadia and Erich also belonged to various anti-fascist organizations (pg 144).
The Biders were to remain in Argentina for most of Haydée's young life and would not return to Germany until well after the Soviet Red Army smashed fascism there. Then in 1951, when Haydée was fourteen and after having spent two years in Uruguay, the Biders moved to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), also known as East Germany, part of the old Soviet bloc (pg 145). Haydée, having lived all her life in South America, did not want to leave her home and made her parents promise to let her return when she was older (pg 145).
After arriving in the GDR, Haydée felt as if she'd experienced a "revelation" (pg 145). She immediately incorporated herself into political life. Having attended her first Free German Youth meeting, Haydée returned home with "great enthusiasm." According to Nadia, Haydée confirmed that the socialist system was superior to capitalism, because, among other things, she was allowed to speak freely and express herself politically (pg 145). No doubt that having lived in Argentina, a "democracy" where the communist party was banned and poverty and exploitation were rampant helped her make this materialist comparison.
Apparently Haydée never forgot her beloved Argentina and, after having settled into German life, couldn't help but share with her new friends her preference for Argentinian folkloric music (pg 145). Like most girls raised in a capitalist democracy (Argentina, Uruguay), Haydée was socialized into dreaming of marriage and children. When she got older, however, even in adolescence, her priority was to one day join the revolutionary struggle in Latin America — this was to remain a focal point for Haydée (pg 145).
At age 18, Haydée was admitted into the United German Socialist Party in the city of Stalinstadt. Due to Haydée's high level of political education and commitment, she was admitted into the UGSP after only a one-year waiting period instead of the mandatory two. This would be the only time in its hystory that this exception would be made (pg 258). Haydée first became familiar with Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and the struggle in the Sierra Maestra while attending the 5th annual World Youth Festival in the Soviet Union in 1957 (pg 145). Shortly thereafter, she decided she had to go to Cuba and the next two years in Germany were spent organizing for the trip (pg 146). Haydée was confident that in Cuba she'd learn the revolutionary methods with which to liberate Argentina from the imperialist stranglehold (pg 146).
Haydée's participation in Che Guevara's ELN started sometime after arriving in Cuba. She was chosen from among two other Argentinian wimmin living on the island to take part in "Operation Fantasm", which was the code name given to the mission to infiltrate the Bolivian government at the highest levels, as well as to initiate a guerrilla insurgency there (pg 20). At the time Haydée was interviewed for this position, she was working as a German translator for the Cuban Ministry of Education (pg 22). She was also involved with the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the World and the steering committee for the Woman's Federation (pg 22). In addition, Haydée also worked with the Rebel Youth Association, the Young Communist Union, she volunteered in various other serve-the-people type programs and was a member of Cuban Popular Defense Militia (pg 25). The author of this book, who was working in Cuba's Ministry of the Interior at the time and was vice-minister of "political intelligence" as well as one of the people to recruit Haydée for Operation Fantasm after Che himself recommended her, remembers how she swelled with pride whenever she wore her olive green uniform and service weapon (pg 25). Among other useful academic accomplishments of Haydée was her fluency in Spanish, English, German and French (pg 145). She'd also just received a Journalism Degree from Havan University and, at the time of her departure from the GDR, she'd just completed her first year as a philosophy major at Humboldt University in East Berlin (pg 25). It was also around this time Haydée met Carlos Fonseca, the founder and leader of the Nicaraguan Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), to whom she'd confessed her wish to one day participate in the guerrilla struggle there (pg 25).
After being vetted and being given the role in Operation Fantasm, Haydée began training for her position, which included cryptography and learning how to use various types of communications equipment (pg 27). Haydée was not given any specifics as to her mission other than the fact that she'd be functioning mostly as a technician, but under no circumstances should she rule out the possibility of actively participating in armed struggle (pg 28). At this point, Haydée asked that she'd be allowed to choose her own pseudonym for her mission. She chose the name "Tania" in honor of Zoja Kosmodemjanskaja, a Soviet womyn guerrilla who was killed after being captured and tortured by the Nazis during the German invasion of the USSR (pg 28). Days after her training was complete, she was taken to the Ministry of Industry, where she was met, much to her surprise, by Che himself (pg 28)! After congratulating her on her decision to take up this task, Che informed her that it was not too late to back out, as he understood the gravity of what they were asking her to do. Without hesitation, Tania stated that as a communist, it was her revolutionary duty to carry out whatever task necessary to liberate Latin America from imperialist exploitation (pg 29). Che then gave her his assessment of the political, economic, social and military situation in South America. He condemned Amerikan imperialism for siphoning the region's wealth and for its subordination of Latin American governments who they bought off with only a pittance of what they themselves stole. He then concluded his assessment by telling Tania that you couldn't be a revolutionary unless you were an anti-imperialist (pg 30).
In preparing Tania for her mission, the author shared his views on guerrilla warfare with her. He said that according to his own experience in the Sierra Maestra, it would be very difficult for a guerrilla insurgency in the rural areas to maintain itself and succeed without the support of an organization in the city, especially during the insurgency's early states. Only after the revolutionary movement in the rural areas reached maturity could it then execute military and political operations with independence (pg 32). From a Maoist perspective, however, this political-military line is incorrect. Strategically speaking, it is completely backwards as the peasant masses make up the driving force of any revolutionary movement in agrarian societies. So before moving on with respect to this topic, let us be clear that as Maoists, we disagree with the Cuban political-military strategy known as Focoism. Focoism is defined as:
"The belief that small cells of armed revolutionaries can create the conditions for revolution through their actions. Demonstrated revolutionary victories, the success of the Foci, are supposed to lead the masses to revolution. Focoism often places great emphasis on armed struggle and the immediacy this brings to class warfare. Focoism is different from People's War in that it doesn't promote the mass line as part of guerrilla operations."
-From the MIM(Prisons) Glossary
So while as anti-imperialists we have great unity with the national liberation movement that booted U.$. imperialism from Cuba, we also have a variety of criticisms of Focoism, in particular the line being espoused in this book. The line that says only the "urban population" (industrial proletariat & left-wing sections of the petty-bourgeoisie) in a Third World country are advanced enough to lead the revolution is crypto-Trotskyist. The Focoists, while claiming to be communist and claiming to follow in the footsteps of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, in fact prove themselves to disagree with the philosophy of dialectical materialism in practice by attempting to prove external forces as principal both in general and in particular. By relegating the role of the masses as makers of hystory to mere spectators in hystory, the Focoists display a lack of faith in the masses and thereby uphold the bourgeoisie theory of hystory which they also claim to struggle against in their individualist attempts to bring about revolution. The Focoist political-military line upheld by the author is therefore anti-Marxist, anti-dialectical materialist, anti-communist and contradicts the entire hystorical process ever since the emergence of classes and class struggle. It is no wonder that Focoism has never succeeded in defeating imperialism anywhere in the world with the exception of Cuba. Indeed the Cuban example has been the exception and not the rule when it comes to the revolutionary transformation of society.
On the other hand, if we look at all three major stages of the Chinese Revolution: from the war of independence against Japan; to the revolutionary war that ousted the KMT from China, including Amerikan, British and French imperialism; to the struggle for New Democracy, we can see how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under the leadership of Mao Zedong struggled shoulder-to-shoulder with the masses in order to build dual power from inside the revolutionary base areas from which they were able to encroach upon, encircle and challenge the cities of China. This revolutionary war strategy is called People's War and it is the model for national liberation struggles all throughout the Third World in the era of dying imperialism.
Once her training was complete, Tania's handlers were confident she was more than prepared to fulfill her role. They believed that during the course of her training, she'd displayed many new character traits: hate for the enemy, firm ideological grasp of the revolutionary task at hand, discipline, vigilance, a disposition towards sacrifice in victory without any personal ambition or gain and satisfaction in completing her mission (pg 42). Tania soon departed for Prague under the alias "Maria Iriarte" from Argentina (pg 62).
Once in Prague, she was briefed on the next stage of her mission by Czech agents working in tandem with Cuban intelligence. Tania then travelled to Italy and then to the Federal Republic of Germany, also known as West Germany, which was split at the time between U.$., Briti$h and French imperialism. Tania's objective here was to deepen her cover as Maria Iriarte so that she may then establish herself as “Vittoria Pancini” of Italian origin (pg 62). It was in the course of these trips that Tania was finally confronted with the on-the-ground reality of capitalism and the class distinctions between the developed West and the under-developed Third World. Here Tania was able to witness the existence of poverty alongside the opulence that characterized the West; the egoism of western society and various other social ills she'd only learned about in school and her studies of Marxism. Whereas many people newly arrived in imperialist countries have swooned at the sight of such riches, Tania on the other hand found that her resolve was only strengthened (pg 63). After a few months in West Germany, Tania was sent to Italy to create another persona, that of "Laura Gutierrez Bauer", also from Argentina (pg 79).
On 5 November 1964, after returning to Italy from West Germany, Tania arrived in Peru by way of Argentina on her next stop to La Paz, Bolivia (pg 82). This is where Tania really proved her powers as a Cuban spy. Through her connections she'd established with the Argentine embassy as "Laura", she was able to infiltrate the Bolivian dictator, General Ramon Barrientos's inner circle. Near the end of 1964, Tania managed to get herself invited to a special banquet breakfast for Gen. Barrientos, where she had a conversation with him and even had pictures taken together (pg 84). Following this event, Tania abandoned her residence at Hotel La Paz and moved into the guest house belonging to Alicia Dupley Zamara, the wife of an important cement factory administrator. From here, Tania was able to stockpile connections deep within the Bolivian bourgeoisie as well as with various right-wing leaders and organizations, reactionary Christian social-democrats and pro-fascist organizations (pg 35). Next, Tania began to embed herself into various government agencies, such as the Office of Criminal Investigations, where she was able to collect information on the extent of Amerikan imperialism's penetration into the Bolivian penal and judicial system. She also gathered intelligence on the local jail in La Paz known simply as "the Panopticon" (pg 89).
Afterwards, Tania left Bolivia for Mexico City, where she was to meet a member of Cuban intelligence who informed her of her next mission and congratulated her for a job well-done. Tania had accomplished far more than anyone expected. She was also informed that she'd been voted in absentia into the Cuban "Communist" Party* (pg 76).
The next stage of Tania's mission was to gain Bolivian citizenship so as to better facilitate her cover and role in the Bolivian urban insurgency. She was to be Che's eyes and ears in the Bolivian government. Tania gained citizenship by marriage to a Bolivian university student, Mario Martinez (pg 105). On 31 December 1966, Tania met with Che in the ELN's base camp in the Bolivian mountains for the first time since leaving Cuba. By all accounts it was a joyous reunion and Tania celebrated the 9th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution with the ELN guerrillas. Two days later, Tania left camp with explicit orders from Che not to return to the camp and to refrain from any illegal activities that might blow her cover. However, on 19 March 1967, Che was angered to receive news that Tania had returned to camp. In Tania's defense, she stated there was no other member of the incipient urban insurgency she yet trusted enough to deliver fresh soldiers to the ELN, which was the task Tania was carrying out at the time. The timing, however, could not have been worse as the ELN had just suffered the desertion of two volunteers (pg 113). Che immediately ordered Tania to return to the city. Before she could leave, however, they received information that the Bolivian Army was aware of the ELN's location and were on the hunt. On 23 March 1967 combat operations began when, during the course of an ambush initiated by the Bolivian military, seven government soldiers were killed and 14 were taken prisoner. Four days later, news reached the camp that Tania's cover might have been blown when government officials announced over the radio that they were looking for someone matching Tania's description with links to the ELN. Around this same time the Bolivian police found identification belonging to a "Laura Gutierrez" inside of a jeep of a home they'd raided in search of possible connections to the ELN (pg 118).
On 31 August 1967 "Tania the guerrilla" was killed by government soldiers during an ambush along the edges of the Rio Grande. According to the only surviving member of the ELN, the group were trying to march out of the zone known as the Bella Vista mountain range where the military was attempting to confine Tania's unit, which had split off from Che's. As Tania knelt down to touch the water a single shot rang out. Tania had been shot through the arm. She immediately lifted her arm over her head to reach for the M1 slung over her back, when she suddenly collapsed. The single bullet traversed her arm and hit one of her lungs. Tania fell into the Rio Grande and was swept away by the current as shots raced back and forth between the ELN and the Bolivian Army (pg 124). Tania's body was found three days later by government troops (pg 125). On 8 October 1967, Che Guevara was taken prisoner and summarily executed the following day (pg 126). The bodies of all 33 fallen ELN guerrillas would then be disappeared by government troops and would not be found for nearly 30 years, when retired Bolivian general Mario Vargas Salinas confessed to Jon Lee Anderson the true location of Che Guevara's remains (pg 132).
As late as 2005, the people of Vallegrande, near the site where Tania was killed and where her remains were last seen, still held a special Mass every Sunday for Tania the guerrilla (pg 138). Until the dissolution of the GDR in 1990, there existed more than 200 juvenile brigades and "feminist" groups with the name Haydée Tamar Bunke Bider. Day care centers and elementary schools also bore her name in the GDR (pg 261). Today, with the temporary triumph of imperialism in Germany, none of these are still around. In Cuba, up until 1998, there were many collectives and various other institutions with either the name Tamara Bunke or Tania the guerrilla. And in Bolivia, the name Tania remains very popular for girls. In Nicaragua and Chile there also existed until 1998 many institutions and organizations with any variety of Tania's names and aliases (pg 261).
It was Tania's mother's last wish that Tania's remains be laid to rest alongside her fallen comrades whenever she was found. On 30 December 1998 Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider; alias Maria Iriarte; alias Vitorria Pancini; alias Laura Gutierrez Bauer; alias Tania the guerrilla finally arrived to the Ernesto Che Guevara Memorial in Santa Clara, Cuba, where she remains today (pg 273).
The role of wimmin in the annals of revolutionary struggle are not confined to a few noteworthy names such as Tania the guerrilla. From the Maoist struggle of the Naxalbari currently playing out outside the cities and urban areas of India, where guerrilla wimmin battalions and guerrilla units led by wimmin are some of the most feared by government troops, to the overwhelming amount of leadership positions held by wimmin in the Communist Party of Peru (aka "Shining Path") in the era of Gonzalo, to the national liberation struggles of the internal semi-colonies of the U.$. empire, wimmin will remain a vital component in the struggle for socialism-communism — this is what Mao meant when he said "wimmin hold up half the sky."
Indeed, the most effective road forward has already been paved. Revolutionary accomplishments should be viewed as the product of many peoples' collective labor and not just a select few. Anyone attracted to the Focoist theory of revolution need only look at the hystories of oppressed peoples' movements everywhere and learn from practice. What has been more successful – Maoism or Focoism? The relationship between mass movements and the individuals leading them is a dialectical one and neither can carry out the task of revolution without the other.
...I plan to reach out to this girl I'm dating here in re politics. I will start to feel her out on that topic tomorrow for the first time. She is 24 years old. I'm 31 years old, so I believe I can mold her. She is naive and trusting. I will attempt to teach her once I feel her out. Please write back and let me know what you think about this particular matter.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Generally, we discourage recruiting someone you're dating. Particularly when this persyn has exhibited no independent interest in anti-imperialism. We do agree with your seemingly cautious approach of "feeling her out" first. It is a prudent security tactic to not expose what political work you do to someone you're not sure about.
Next you say ey is younger, naive and trusting, and you imply that you will take advantage of that. That is how you create resentment. And when people resent people associated with the movement, the movement is put at risk. This is very likely when romance is involved. That is the number one reason not to mix dating with recruiting. People get confused about motivations. Recruiting friends is a little less risky, but also has this problem. It is true that the young are more open to revolutionary politics, which might lead us to take up tactics like leafleting at schools. Our approach should not be to take advantage of the young, or wimmin in general, by using characteristics caused by the gender oppression that they face. It should rather be to tap into the righteous resentment they might have of that gender oppression so that they throw off the negative characteristics that it has encouraged in them, and become revolutionaries.
In more advanced situations it can go another way where comrades start to question whether someone is hanging around because they're dating a comrade or because they're down for the struggle themselves. So for the individual and the collective it is better to be clear and scientific about what one's position is.
Recruiting should always be done based on a scientific explanation of political line. Of course, subjectivity comes into play, and there’s nothing wrong with packaging things so they will be more attractive to the masses (i.e. form/language). However, there is something wrong with manipulating people based on their subjectivity to take up politics for reasons other than their support of those politics. This leads to confusion, both politically and interpersynally. This is really a strategic question when we say don't use sex, flirtation or friendship to recruit people. Our goal is to teach people to think scientifically and create strong, scientific organizations.
This is not to say that most people in the mass movements will be scientific thinkers won over by purely objective motivations. So there are tactical questions of what language and images we use in order to present our message to the masses in ways that they can relate to. Wearing uniforms, having good music associated with our movement, or having famous people recommend our work are all tactics that appeal to peoples' subjectivism in a way that is not manipulative of the individual and therefore threatening the movement.
At least half of our readers are in prison. And even in university or any smaller community, you will often find people you are already friends with becoming interested in politics. Then it becomes a skill of separating business from pleasure. Political disagreements should not decide friendships and vice versa. A useful tactic to use in this situation, if you feel there might be a conflict of interest or confusion, is to pass a friend off to another comrade to be their primary contact and recruiter. This gives the friend more independence to explore politics on their own terms with less pressure from implications that political agreement with you is a requirement for that friendship.
One new comrade who was won over to our cause reported how another prisoner dropped a ULK in eir lap on the way to a hearing and said, "here, you'll like this." Many of our subscribers report finding ULK in the dayroom. Both of these are examples of "free dropping," a technique to spread our ideas as far as possible to ensure that all who are interested have the opportunity to be exposed to them.
Finding the right balance between casting a wide net, like free dropping, and developing new cadre one-on-one is a tough tactical question. MIM has always erred on the side of casting a wide net. This is based in a strategic decision that building public opinion against imperialism is more important in our conditions than building cadre organizations. But we need people to do more than read ULK and our website. Whether it's supporting MIM(Prisons) projects or not, we need people to step up for anti-imperialism to amplify that anti-imperialist voice and to build independent institutions of the oppressed. The oppressed are reaching out to us every day for help. We need more comrades to step up and build the power necessary to provide real solutions to their problems.
This week MIM(Prisons) received sizeable contributions from both inside and outside prisons. Whether you're looking forward to celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Mao Zedong's birthday this month, please consider supporting our work financially.
One time donations are always welcome. But we'd like to recognize the comrades who donated this week as regular contributors. We think it is important to have an anti-imperialist newsletter for prisoners that comes out regularly. To do so we need to have the funds coming in regularly and reliably. It is our regular comrades and supporters that allow that to happen.
So where's our Paypal link? Well, you might have to make a slightly greater effort to donate without utilizing the infrastructure of corporate Amerika. But if you've got Bitcoin, we added our Bitcoin donate button this year. And if you don't think Bitcoin is anonymous enough email us for a Monero address to donate to. If none of that made sense to you, cash is still king, and cash by mail is always useable. If you want to send U.S. postage stamps, we are currently flush in 47¢ Forever stamps, but we always need more 21¢ additional ounce stamps.
In the last year there's been some struggle over MIM(Prisons)'s six main points. This is a good thing, as it indicates emerging Maoist cells trying to reconcile what does and should unite us. The focus of issue 54 of Under Lock & Key is tactics. Tactics are not what unite us. Tactics is the realm where we need many cells trying many different things. Tactics are guided by line and strategy, but are much more flexible over shorter time periods and therefore require creativity that is in touch with the masses.
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, or Maoism for short, is MIM(Prisons)'s political line. Maoism does not tell us whether putting money into one big advertisement or thousands of little fliers will have the greater effect. Maoism also doesn't tell us whether a hunger strike will be more effective than a legal battle. These are tactical questions.
Dividing Lines or Dividing Over Tactics
In the last year, a cell that we considered part of the broader Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) split with MIM(Prisons) over what we saw as a tactical question. Maoists should never split over tactical questions; this is the theoretical importance of distinguishing between line, strategy and tactics.
We pushed this cell to present their split in terms of ideological line in relation to our six main points. The response was that they uphold the six main points but believe there are other issues to split over, such as promoting white supremacy, which they accused MIM(Prisons) of doing. They came to this conclusion after MIM(Prisons) did not print a statement criticizing the actions of prison activists that we have no affiliation with. This cell had a history of working closely with MIM(Prisons) over many years. And despite all the work we have done in that time (work that they admit challenged white supremacy) they were willing to split with us over this one action (or lack of action).
We see this as an error in how one should assess other cells. A cell, just as an individual, should be assessed on the whole. If a cell has acted according to one line for years, but did one thing that you see as violating that line, you probably should not split with that cell. That would be an ultra-left error, because you are expecting others to be perfect. Once it has been established by a pattern of actions that a cell has shifted its line and violated cardinal principles, then it would be correct to stop working with and possibly publicly criticize that cell.
In this particular case, MIM(Prisons) was condemned, not for participating in an event perceived to be white supremacist in nature, but for not condemning it. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) would argue that in most cases even if we had participated in this one event, that would still not be sufficient reason to split. You might publicly condemn the event yourself, but this should not rise to the level of creating splits in the Maoist Internationalist Movement. Willingness to split over non-cardinal issues is a threat to our ability to consolidate our forces in this country where individualism and splitism prevail. (To clarify, division of labor into collaborating cells is not the same as a split.)
If a cell does promote a campaign that caters to white nationalism, then one should criticize that based on our 4th point on the First World labor aristocracy being a force for imperialism, and as a violation of the Maoist line that oppressed nations have a right to self-determination. As anti-imperialists, supporting the labor aristocracy and undermining oppressed-nation self-determination is a no no. And a consistent practice of doing this indicates an underlying incorrect line that is a cause for splitting.
Principles of Line or Strategy?
Another MIM cell recently questioned why MIM(Prisons) put forth 6 points, adding on to the 3 cardinal principles that have historically defined the MIM.(see p. 2 of ULK) While we do present our 6 points in place of the 3 cardinals, it was not necessarily to say that the 3 cardinals were insufficient to define who is a communist. However, we must admit that we created confusion there.
The origin of our 6 main points is twofold. Our first goal with the six main points was to distinguish ourselves in the eyes of our readers. We were frustrated with the countless letters from people telling us to work with other groups, stop criticizing other groups and just unite around our common fight for justice. We wanted to succinctly differentiate ourselves from the countless organizations out there. Point 1 separates us from the Liberals, and in point 2 we split from the anarchists. Neither of those points were necessary in MIM's 3 cardinals, because all those claiming to be communists already agree on those two points. Point 3 separated us from the Trotskyists and neo-Trostkyists whose idealism leads them to unite with the petty-bourgeoisie in the First World while criticizing the bourgeois forces in the Third World even when they are fighting against imperialism. Points 4-6 are essentially the MIM cardinals.
While the 3 cardinals, as MIM came to refer to them, are nice and succinct dividing line points, they originally appeared in a greater context of a piece entitled "Who is a communist?" in the second edition of What is MIM?, which discusses concepts like "the abolition of power of people over people," "a communist party... is necessary," "democratic centralism," and "general unity with all other groups and outbreaks against imperialism."
The second contextual thing to understand about our 6 points is that they were developed in the early years of our organization, when those in the MIM camp were figuring out how to relate to each other as separate cells/organizations. It was also a period of fierce struggle against those promoting a third way in the post-9/11 Middle East, while framing the struggles there as "McWorld vs. Jihad." Therefore, our point 3 became, in the eyes of many organizations at that time, a dividing line question. The original MIM comrades, in fact, pushed this line hard to expose revisionists allying with the U.$. state department. While it is often tied up with the labor aristocracy question, it stands alone as its own point.
Mao's practice on building the united front of classes in oppressed countries, and eir theoretical writings on this topic contributed to our line on the subject and the development of point 3. We can also take lessons from the rectification movement of the Communist Party of the Philippines to find universal line lessons on united front building. However, in practice, who to form united fronts with is really a strategic question, as the answer may change as the strategic stage of struggle changes.
Mao's contribution on united front work was based on the assessment of the principal contradiction being between the oppressed nations and imperialism. Some seventy years later, we can say this is still the situation. But someday it will change. That is what makes our point 3 a strategic question and not a universal line question. From the early days of MIM, differences on the assessment of the principal contradiction have been a primary point of criticism MIM made of revisionist parties. That said, MIM never said the principal contradiction or united front was a cardinal principle.
In our point 2, we point out the need for a Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations (JDPON) in order to implement socialism in the imperialist countries. This is MIM Thought, a logical application of MIM's line on the labor aristocracy to the universal communist principle of the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat. It is also a strategy question, that does not necessarily have universal application.
Who Defines the Cardinals?
"The materialist approach to cardinal principles stresses an examination of actual history, not just our own vivid imaginations of how the world SHOULD BE. We materialists do not take splitting the proletariat and its vanguard party lightly. We form only as many cardinal principles as are necessary to unmask the enemy's attempts to infiltrate us or divert us to a less efficient road to communism." - MC5(1)
The cell structure complicates things further. For with a centralized organization MIM could say that if you agree on these three points and the need for a party then you should join ours. Then you are obligated to accept our other lines until you convince the party to change them. With many small cells there is not democratic centralism on line in this way, and we could see many disagreements on many non-cardinal issues. This could lead to confusion and division in the movement. Therefore we caution all MIM cells to carefully think out their positions before disagreeing with historical MIM line and the lines of other contemporary cells.
At the same time, we must not hold dogmatically to MIM Thought frozen in time of 2006 or earlier. The three cardinals themselves evolved over the years of the original MIM. While MIM formed in 1983, they did not get serious about the third cardinal until 1987.(2) In the MIM Notes archive, which is incomplete for these early years, it is issue 42 from June 1990 when we first see the 3 cardinals presented as such. However, the paper version of issue 42 does not feature the 3 cardinals, so this seems to have been added to the web version after the fact. MIM Notes Issue 50 (March 1991) does have the 3 cardinals listed in the paper version. In 1999, MIM expanded the 3rd cardinal to include reference to Marx, Engels and Lenin, describe the oppressor nation labor aristocracy as a petty bourgeois class and specifically list which countries this line applies to.(3)
In practice, MIM used the 3 cardinal principles to determine fraternal status.(4) This came up most strongly when it decided that the third cardinal applied internationally and not just to First World parties, thus cutting its direct promotion of some who were practicing People's War in the Third World. This began with the "Resolution on defending cardinal principles in international context," 2002, but it was sometime after 2002 when MIM actually stopped any promotion of those parties.
Building MIM Today
MIM(Prisons) was announced as a MIM cell on 8 October 2007. To this day we often refer to "Maoism Around Us," published in May 2009, when discussing these issues. This was one of what could be considered the founding documents of MIM(Prisons). While our ideology was already represented in the expansive work of MIM, in that article we addressed the situation we found ourselves in as the original centralized organization of MIM had ceased to exist. In it we pointed out that the MIM lives on, by the same definition as it always has. We continued to print MIM's 3 cardinal principles in most issues of Under Lock & Key.
It was after our first official congress in July of 2010 that MIM(Prisons) put out our six main points. Since then we have referred to them as our "cardinal points" once or twice, and printed them in every issue of ULK with a similar tagline as we once printed MIM's three cardinals: "MIM(Prisons) distinguishes ourselves from other groups on the six points below."
As we've said before, we need more Maoist Internationalist cells. Topical cells that focus on gender, ecology and the environment, and anti-militarism are all good candidates. And there is an endless need for locality-based cells that focus on local recruitment and building around popular movements in the region that align with the interests of the Third World proletariat. But us saying this does not make them appear out of thin air. As we gain small victories in recruiting comrades outside prisons, we wonder if the MIM needs institutions that can allow those who agree on the 3 cardinals to join up in a meaningful way. A way that provides coordination without sacrificing security, independent initiative and other benefits of the cell structure. Six months ago we set up the subreddit /r/mao_internationalist "to help individuals and groups allied with the Maoist Internationalist Movement support each others' work." Maybe it is time to refocus on the 3 cardinals and push for a regroupment of MIM.
There are United Struggle from Within (USW) cells that might as well be considered MIM cells due to their advanced political practice. And there are prison-based cells that are in the MIM camp that are not USW, which are usually nation-based. We support the nation-based organizing strategy as a reason to form a new organization separate from USW. There is probably no tactical advantage to identifying prison-based cells as MIM cells, because of the repression in the prison environment, although there is obvious theoretical advantage in summarizing a group's line and practice.
Being in prison limits one's ability to coordinate with other cells without relying on MIM(Prison). For our own organization, MIM(Prisons) does not accept prisoners as members because it is not possible to have democratic centralism when all our mail is read by state employees. When coordinating between cells, we need to make similar considerations.
In most contexts that we are aware of, MIM(Prisons) is seen as the foremost cell representing the MIM today. While we are honored by that recognition, it is also a sign of how far we have to go. Discussion of party formation is no more relevant today than it was ten years ago when our organization just formed. If we cannot get more than a handful of cells putting in work at the level that MIM(Prisons) does, how can we build a Maoist Party? And what good would such a party do? There is no question of seizing power in the United $tates today, where MIM(Prisons) is based. But there is much work to do to prepare for that inevitability as the imperialists overextend themselves militarily and the Third World continues to strike blows against them.
I was sitting on tier speaking with a brotha on an intellectual note on topics in your ULK 52 issue. The thing is neither of us ever seen your publication (any of them). After we were done another brotha handed me issue No. 52 on his way to see the Sergeant over some writeups he got when they hit his room. He told me "you'll like this!"
Now before we explore my reaction to your publication you have to know the ground on which I stand and the position I'm coming from. I'm a sex offender. Believe it or not, not by choice, but in the state of Nevada I knew that signing a deal would be the only way to see light again. Trial would be death.
I read your issue from front to back. The whole time I was reading it I wanted to write to you and tell you how I was waiting for something like this to approach me. Then, I got to the last page and read the upcoming themes. In No. 55 I read "Would unity with pariahs such as snitches or child molesters ever be appropriate?" Reading that prompted me to switch my motive to speak on this first hand. But before I can do that you need to know a little about me.
I was raised very well with a loving family. My academics always were "en punto." National Honor Society — all that stuff. I spent 9 years in the military. Leaving my family several times so spoiled brats could remain safely at home with theirs. I have an Associates Degree, I'm semi-fluent in Spanish, I'm halfway through obtaining a paralegal certificate from Blackstone, I'm a writer, and I'm Black.
I will not defend child molesters or snitches but I want to shed some light on sex offenders in general — since I am one. I have five kids so I know the need to protect my babies. Then I found myself fighting for my life on the very subject that I said I would kill someone over for messing with my babies.
I had and have a different outlook now by my circumstances and by removing my bias. After it was evident I was coming to prison I decided to help other sex offenders (SOs) fight their cases. I obtained a client, a pisa, who couldn't speak English well. I fine-tooth-combed his discovery. There was no evidence but much hearsay. Despite my help and a paid lawyer he received a kidnapping and sexual assault charge with a teen.
Sounds like a typical innocence story right? Well, I have more detail that I can't tell you but I believe he's innocent. There are more people in here with similar innocence claims all over the world but I wanted to get to a point in response to your issue No. 55 question.
Prison has a caste system and SOs find their way to the bottom. We are the lowest class in society and outside of society. I don't like calling myself a sex offender. In fact, I'm not, but I'm labeled as one because my charge says that I am. My circumstances of my charge won't allow me to admit to being one. But it doesn't matter what I think or say. I've noticed, in my time around other SOs that they (most of them) made a mistake or a bad choice. I'm not talking about rapists, but still, I've met some very good people.
I've lived a very good life. I always been hard working, trustworthy, reliable, smart and loving. I've learned a lot in the military especially from visiting foreign countries. Cambodia and Iraq taught me a lot. Before now I never been in trouble with the law. When I didn't have I still gave. And I still do. I run store in my unit but it's not for me. The profit takes care of who I choose, who I believe is the less fortunate. If somehow I can make one person see that sex offenders are human, I made a difference. I would like to be a force to help unite all. The sex offender label shouldn't disqualify people in a movement bigger than us because if it does — would that really be socialism?
MIM(Prisons) responds: "Sex offenders" in general are seen as pariahs who can't be touched, and certainly can't be part of a progressive movement. But as this comrade points out, people are labeled as sex offenders by our enemies, and we have no reason to take their word for it. How many people behind bars are unjustly sentenced or even innocent? Why do prisoners know this is true for people convicted of other crimes, but condemn all convicted sex offenders on the word of the criminal injustice system?
Our society encourages rape. Movies, music, advertising, porn, it's all pushing coercion and sex. Rape is coerced sex, and in a patriarchal society it's impossible to set up a relationship where both people are totally equal. There are differences in income, social status, beauty, educational achievement, etc. etc. All these things have become part of what people find attractive and we are indoctrinated to believe these inequalities are sexy.
We don't let people off the hook for knowingly committing violence against other people. But we also know that people are a product of their culture and we need to push for the re-education of people if we hope to build a society where all people truly are equal. Because of this, we must also judge people based on what they do, and not a label put on them by the criminal injustice system. We agree with this writer that people make mistakes, and that they can change.
With that I am proud to say that they called me back within 24 hours, saying I "will no longer have any problems receiving [my] mail" :)
Finally, yesterday my name was called to pick up Sept/Oct. 2016, No. 52 issue. Honestly I was shocked, empowered to know the feeling of winning these people is such a childish move on their behalf. I sat in the dayroom reading the publication with honor and pride.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This victory came through comrades coming together and filing appeals and paperwork on the inside and the outside. This comrade should be proud for standing up for eir First Amendment rights and following through on the bureaucratic process that is often there to wear you down.
First, before we erect or construct anything we must have a strong foundation, a base – so to speak. Otherwise the whole structure will eventually collapse. That said, we must focus most of our energy and efforts on building a base inside prison, then work our way outwards. Once we are well-rooted, it will be easy to branch out by sending our ideology to the streets with serious minded brothas/sistas who will push the movement out there. However, that is not to say that we shouldn't be trying to build out there right now.
Thus, we must advocate for the development of a movement rooted in the revolutionary tradition that looks out for the interests of all oppressed people as a whole, opposes fratricidal violence (black-on-black, brown-on-brown) and work to develop an alliance with other social movements outside prison.
Secondly, we must understand that even small movements, because they include people with different ideas, reveal political debates over next steps, practical objectives, potential allies, and movement tactics. The idea and politics that guide a specific movement have a profound effect on its ultimate direction as well as on the activists involved. But, the guiding politics of social movement don't simply appear out of thin air. Rank-and-file BPP members themselves invented the armed self-defense tactics just as rank-and-file civil rights leaders developed the civil disobedience and non-violent protest strategy, and these members had to win others to these new tactics through a process of political debate and experience. They were leading with their ideas and testing them in practice.
Political leadership is just this: individuals, with the experience of struggle, can advance ideas and tactics that will strengthen the movement and develop to help prepare it for the next stages in struggle — whether economic, political, or ideological.
Huey P. Newton and others recognized the importance of uniting oppressed people into a political party that could act as a unit, providing leadership and an important counter-weight to the overbearing power of the capitalist state.
I'm going to finish with a quote from one of the leaders of the Black Power movement, who said "when a people arises, when it develops awareness, when it is convinced of the righteousness of its actions, there is nothing that can stop it. The people sweep aside all obstacles placed in their path like a whirlwind cleaning out all the dirt in a country."
Now, we have a lot of work to do before we can go around making claims like that. But this idea that we need to be building inside right now is, I think, the only perspective that fits when you understand that we're looking at a war against the system that is being launched from within, and when you understand the scale of resistance that is necessary.
People are receptive to the "idea" of resisting, but they're doing so in a context in which their revolutionary spirit is very weak and needs to be ignited. But, this is the task of our generation, and I think these kinds of ideas we are building on now are all about the process of trying to rebuild that Black revolutionary fighting anti-capitalist regime.
MIM(Prisons) adds: "Unity from the inside out" is a slogan that United Struggle from Within has used in promoting the development of unity among and between lumpen organizations (LOs) in prison. This slogan echoes the strategy promoted above of building a strong prison movement to affect the rest of society. Sloganeering is one of the tactical tasks necessary to build an effective anti-imperialist movement. Good slogans are based in mass line. This means taking correct ideas from the masses and reinforcing them through propaganda. Finding effective slogans and language that connects the mass consciousness to the revolutionary struggle should be a focus of USW. This is part of what it means to provide leadership as the comrade describes above.
Currently on a day to day we are faced with dealing with situations that are not part of our sentence. For me I have to decide what approach or tactics I can use dealing with correctional staff whose behavior has escalated from being rude to disrespectful and retaliative. Here, in Washington, Correctional Officers (COs) try to gain popularity amongst their peers by doing disrespectful things and abusing their authority in order to impress each other. They do things like slam your cuff door, kick your door while you sleep, and put your handcuffs on too tight. I've seen officers tampering with an offender's food. This causes me anxiety. I suffer from panic attacks and my mental stability can't handle the paranoia.
It's like figuring out how to deal with a high school bully. I've completed courses in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and also dispute resolutions. I've taken classes on human relations and was a very popular person out in the community where I am from. The CO is a new kind of bully. Similar to a bad boss you can choose to submit to their abusive ways, you know, favoritism, laziness, lying to offenders, slacking off, pretending as if their job is hard and stressful. You can become more passive and avoid conflict and simply stay out the way. Take the disrespect with a smile, do your time, and go home. My father told me to do this, to succumb to their oppression, do your time, and come home.
Because I've been sentenced to 126 months to life they have extended my sentence 3 times due to infractions and some made up reason concerning my mental health. I am a convicted sex offender guilty of rape in the 2nd degree domestic violence. A crime I committed against the mother of my child. Having said that, I understand the ideology that a sex offender is a pathetic human being deserving of whatever treatment he or she has coming. However, with crime, and I mean any crime now, there are people who will suffer indirectly. Families and loved ones who care get victimized when an offender is in prison and receives unfair, cruel and unusual punishment, abuse and neglect and these are people living the right way.
For a criminal to just avoid conflict, do his time and get out, is far more damaging because you left that offender in a cycle of behavior that leads to more crime and often someone's death. So no I don't choose to just do my time and go home. I continue to make a difference, that's how I do my time. If god wants me to be in here for 20 more years so be it. I am helping the men in here internalize change. I may have stopped a family member or loved one from harm by providing new perspectives and ideas that change minds and unlock potential.
So these five tactics I've come up with have nothing to do with avoiding. Just providing solutions.
Before deciding to deal with any issue check your intentions. Deciding whether the issue is detrimental or not and it has nothing to do with your ego.
Learn the 7 habits of highly effective people. Use them, practice them with your comrades. Seek first to understand all angles, give little of your reasoning but get all of theirs. That way you can punch holes in their lies and stories.
Push paperwork, write grievances and kites, use them as documentation. Because you never know when it may go to a lawsuit. Of course, that is not the goal, but fairness and equal protection treatment is.
Transfer power, officers tend to make a lot of mistakes but be considerate of their intentions. A lot of times it's because they haven't been told something or simply feel discomfort. You can ease the tension by helping them see the bigger perspective simply by asking questions. So that way they can come to their own conclusions.
Be reasonable, listen to reason and compromise. In the end it is all about respect. You will have officers who are flat out disrespectful. A lot of them feel they have to operate this way in order to get complacence and respect. So you can't take it personal but you should handle all your issues at the lowest form always.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We want to applaud this comrade's commitment to do more than just do eir time, instead trying to transform the consciousness of others while locked behind bars. There are a few things in here we want to comment on. First, many will criticize us for even printing something written by a sex offender, but we want to push people to consider the ideas rather than judging them based on the background of the people who put out the ideas. 2+2=4 no matter who says it. But even more importantly, someone who previously advocated that 2+2=5 can change and learn why eir previous answer was wrong. We believe the same is true of all people who commit acts against the people with sufficient self-criticism and re-education.
As far as the tactics proposed by this comrade, we agree with the points that promote checking your ego, and filing grievances and maintaining documentation. However, we have some disagreements with this writer's proposals about how to deal with people. First, when dealing with our comrades we should not tell people to "give little of your reasoning but get all of theirs." If this comrade is suggesting we do this with the enemy then that's fine, but with our comrades we should be honest and straightforward about our reasoning as we seek to build unity and respect.
On the other hand we think this writer gives too much credit to officers suggesting that they can be won over through respect and consideration. While it's true that we don't need to start with aggressiveness and should seek to diffuse situations that might work against us, we should not fool ourselves into believing that officers will come around to our side if we just treat them nicely. The prison system is set up to put officers in a position where abuse of prisoners is encouraged. It's not just personalities of individuals or lack of perspective that cause the problems, it's the system itself. We need to be clear on this so that we can stay focused on the system as the enemy.