I received September/October issue of Under Lock & Key. I have a couple of comments to share, regarding what I read. One person, page 9, thought the AEH in California meant he had to love someone who killed someone over his "views and beliefs." That's not what you're being asked. It would seem to me that if we look around there are serious issues that could be dealt with more effectively if we were to combine our resources. I've been in here going on 50 years, and trust me, I don't like everyone I work with. Doesn't matter — if we're fighting the same enemy.
Secondly, regarding the Texas gulag system hiding the prisoners' grievance manual, doesn't the state have an Open Records Act, or FOIA law? Even a backwater like Texas should have at least one of them.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This brief letter is very relevant to the question of the United Front and who we can unite with. We agree with this writer that we can be more effective united, and it is definitely true that we don't have to like everyone we work with. The views and behaviors we have learned over a lifetime of living under capitalist patriarchy are going to be filled with stuff that other people don't like. And perhaps more importantly, those people who aren't even interested in trying to fight their patriarchal views or other anti-people beliefs might still be potential allies. We don't have to like them, but if they are down for fighting on the side of the oppressed against the criminal injustice system we can ally with them in the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Over time we can also hope to educate them further in the various forms of oppression and perhaps awaken a broader desire for justice and equality. But we do not need all of our allies to also be close comrades. To require this would mean sacrificing our goals for unattainable ideals.
Every popular movement is confronted with a common obstacle: change. As life progresses, it evolves in a never-ending forward trajectory. Because of this fact, the current questions, problems and circumstances facing the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist movement will never be the exact same problems in the future as they are today. This is an undeniable fact. As comrade Mao faced different variations of imperialist opposition than those faced by Comrades Stalin, Lenin and Marx, so too does the current struggle and fight for communism face distinctly different obstacles.
Tactics and strategy are the only effective measures against an ever-evolving foe. Every popular movement has set down tactics and strategies for overcoming determined opposition and many have adhered to them uncompromisingly, to the fatal detriment of their movement. Inflexibility, lack of progressive and innovative thinking, an unbending determination to follow a set course and finally stagnation. All cancerous to a movement.
History gives us examples of movements that have failed for lack of adaption and others that have survived by adapting. The Cuban wars for Independence are examples of the latter. Beginning in 1868, the Ten Years War began in earnest, led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. As their reality changed so too did their tactics and strategies. There were three major stages to the struggle that lasted over 30 years. La Guerra Chiquita in 1879 (the Small War) was the second, followed by the Spanish -Cuban-American War (1895) which ended in 1889. In each stage there were new leaders; Antonio Maceo, José Martí, Calixto García, Máximo Gomez and others. These revolutionaries never stopped evolving and adapting to the reality of their circumstances.
This Cuban example is one that should be followed as it leads to success. Overwhelming opposition, oppression, and outright violence assailed these revolutionaries. Yet, they prevailed, overthrowing the imperial yoke that burdened them for so long. Those struggling for communism must do the same: adapt and be both reactive and proactive. Tactics and movement strategy are not principles, they can be and should be changed according to the present reality. Only fundamental principles are set in stone and uncompromising. Tactics are meant to confront specific circumstances. Yesterday's tactics will not solve tomorrow's problems. Evaluating circumstances, employing tactics and strategy, re-evaluating and employing new tactics and strategies must be a part of any anti-imperialist/capitalist movement. Without adaptability failure is inevitable.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade's main point that the revolutionary movement must be adaptable to current conditions and obstacles. We have overarching political line that is the theory behind our work, but then we develop strategies from this line which match current conditions in the world. And from those strategies we implement tactics suited to our day-to-day work.
The history of the Cuban revolutionary movement does provide some good examples of adapting to conditions, such as the period highlighted by this writer. Cuba in more recent years also provides us with some examples of strategic mistakes and failure to correctly account for conditions. The Cuban revolutionary strategy led by Castro missed out on some important global conditions that should have impacted their strategy, and thus ultimately failed to learn from history. The end result was a dependence on the social-imperialist Soviet Union that held back the development of Cuba and forced them into some counter-revolutionary actions and policies. Maoism was alive and well in the world at the time of the Cuban revolution but they did not learn from the successes and failures of China's experience. The Soviet Union had already given up on socialism and was building a state capitalist system when Cuba became dependent on trade in a way that mirrored imperialist countries' relationships with their satellite colonies, keeping Cuba from diversifying crops and forcing Cuban troops to fight Moscow's battles in Third World countries.
It's been rough these past couple months at Gulf Correctional Institution Annex, that is ever since prisoners attempted to have a non-violent sit down. On 8 September 2016 Administration walked around to every dorm stating "We going to treat a non-violent sit down just like a violent one." When it came to awaken A.M. food service workers to report to work, all prisoners sat on their bunk in silence. At approximately 2:05AM administration gave a final call in L-Dorm for food service workers to report to their assigned post for work. Every prisoner refused to leave the dorm and sat on their bunk.
Once the sun began to rise prisoners became aware of the large number of heavily armed Rapid Response Team (RRT) officers in full body armor marching towards L-Dorm. A sledgehammer came crashing through two open bay windows. Once an opening was cleared, officers armed with 12 gauge shot guns started aiming on those prisoners sitting on their bunks in L-Dorm. Warden Blackwood ordered all prisoners to lay on their bellies with their hands on head. The warden ordered officers to switch to live rounds, safeties off, any prisoner gets off his bunk shoot to kill.
Once the prisoners in K-Dorm and Q-Dorm witnessed how Administration and RRT members was mistreating prisoners in L-Dorm they started standing up against our oppressors. RRT members smashed out a window in K-Dorm and deployed Pepperball Launching System (PLS). RRT members began extracting K-Dorm prisoners, zip tieing them, and emergency shipping those prisoners. While in Q-Dorm prisoners were ordered to go into their cells and close the doors, RRT entered Q-Dorm using Pepperball Launching System (PLS), noise flash distraction devices, and stinger rubberball grenades.
One prisoner was disabled and confined to a wheelchair due to having only one leg. This Muslim disabled prisoner had a stinger rubberball grenade explode under the wheelchair. Officers days later was heard bragging how it launched the prisoner out of his wheelchair and into a cell! While in L-Dorm hours went by laying on bellies, prisoners were denied restroom privileges and forced to urinate into empty powerade bottles or on the floor next to their bunk. Only times prisoners had permission to sit up was when bag lunches arrived during breakfast, lunch and dinner. No drink was provided at any meal to prevent dehydration. Prisoners began to beg for water around evening. Captain Shwarz followed by armed RRT members entered L-2. Captain Schwarz had a 9mm handgun in his hand, walked up to the prisoner who had been requesting water out the window, leveled the handgun on the inmate and threatened to blow his head off if he did not cease his actions. Prisoner was then zip tied and escorted to confinement.
The following day inmates was rounded up and placed in Q-Dorm which became Emergency Confinement. Administration rounded up the majority of prisoners who had ties to one affiliation or another. This was administration's excuse for their excessive force used. The gangs didn't force prisoners to participate in the sitdown but as far as the warden was concern that's who the blame was going to fall on. Prisoners in Emergency Confinement were placed under investigation, given falsified disciplinary reports, unjustly use of force in the form of CS gas, placed in scalding hot showers for decontamination, escorted back to the same cell that had not been decontaminated, forced to sleep on steel + concrete for 63.5 hours, and had suffered a beating from the hands of officers.
All prisoners in Q-Dorm have been shipped after 60 days. Only 18 prisoners remain now, and have been escorted to P-Dorm regular confinement. I am the prisoner who suffered beating from Sergeant Kirk who was escorting me to rec. Captain Schwarz told Sergeant Kirk to "take care that little bitch for me." Once outside and out the view the camera Sergeant Kirk struck me in the back of the head with a closed fist, slammed me viciously to the ground, elbowed me to the back the head, while trying to force my hands above my head in handcuffs. I don't know why out of the hundred some prisoners in Emergency Confinement that I was left behind and not transferred. As of now I've been sentenced to 150 days disciplinary confinement, my DR's consist of "Refuse to Work," "Participating in Minor Disturbance," "Gang Related Activity," and "Disorderly Conduct." My grievances are being trashed and I expect more hands-on retaliation upon my release from confinement. This is all results of September 9th at Gulf Correctional Institution Annex.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We've printed a lot of reports about the protests on September 9, both as part of the United Front for Peace in Prisons Day of Peace and Solidarity, and part of the broader work strike. It is good to hear more details about the unity and struggle put into action on that day. We also want to publicly document that brutal, terroristic and illegal behavior of Florida DOC staff towards the peaceful protesters at Gulf CI Annex. Humyn rights in action in the United $tates of Amerikkka.
It is not surprising that the prison administrators blame lumpen organizations (LOs) for the action. Although LOs in some prisons serve a negative role by pitting prisoners against each other, in many places they have taken a positive role and stepped up to push unity and struggle against the criminal injustice system. The potential for these organizations of oppressed nations, which already have a strong cadre and the ability to quickly mobilize many, is correctly identified as a threat by the administration. And it is our job as revolutionaries to help members push these organizations towards progressive action.
Revolutionary greetings comrades, it has been a while since I reported from behind enemy lines. As Donald Trump enters the oval office I don't see any other choice than to partner with MIM(Prisons) in order to educate and organize the lumpen underclass. My comrades and I are actively engaged in a battle which seeks to abolish prison slavery as well as shed a discerning spotlight on toxic prisons.
I arrived on Eastham Unit located in Lovelady, Texas in November 2016. This was my second transfer since the September 9th national actions. I've been placed in long-term solitary confinement because of my organizing surrounding that and other campaigns.
Eastham Unit is one of the oldest prisons in Texas. The plumbing has deteriorated and corroded in such a way that dirt and sediment from the soil leaks into the water supply producing a foul stench in the water. The offensive smell of the water was the first thing I noticed. Officers here liken the smell to boiled eggs and burnt rubber. ULK 49 (March/April 2016) published an article on contaminated water at Eastham Unit and we know the contaminants to be copper and lead!
My application of historical dialectical materialism has taught me the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) misinforms the public about conditions inside its numerous slave kamps and gulags. But moreover, I have discovered a collusive and conspiratorial relationship between state agencies like the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and TDCJ.(1)
Wallace Pack Unit located in Navasota, Texas is the case in point. The arsenic levels in the water were at least double the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard and the TCEQ knew this for quite some time. But it wasn't until Panagioti Tsolkas of Prison Legal News exposed the contamination that conversations began. However, it took the actual prisoners at Wallace Pack Unit, with representatives from the NABPP-PC to take their destiny into their own hands and file complaints with the federal court.(2)
Already I see a shroud of secrecy and the overt signs of an elaborate cover-up concerning the water at Eastham Unit. Prison officials, who are easily identified as members of the labor aristocracy and bourgeoisie imperialist pig class, do not have a vested interest in the long-term health of prisoners.
Prisoners at Eastham Unit must fight back! The first thing we do is file a Step 1 (I-127) grievance form. Then simultaneously, those that have friends and family must request they file a formal public complaint online with the TDCJ Ombudsman office (e-mail address [email protected]). While these are marinating we start a letter campaign to the Prison Ecology Project, P.O. Box 1151, Lakeworth, Florida 33460.(3)
Behind enemy lines, I will be doing what I can do to attract media attention and free world help but without comrades actively filing grievances about the water I will be on the front line by myself and the oppressor will claim I am just creating lies. A favorite pig tactic.
Even if you've filed on this poison water in the past, please consider filing again. A huge support network is following our work as we combat toxic prisons. I had a discussion with one of the pigs who works here. The subject was the closing down of Eastham because of the poison water. Here is what he said: "You think you can get the state to shut this unit down on account of the water? They don't care about that – what they care about is those 800 acres of corn we got in the ground in them fields!"
Comrades, I couldn't say a damn word! Because it will be the lumpen prisoners who will be picking that damn corn! I must echo the words of the Free Alabama Movement - "Let the crops rot in the field." And what do you think would happen to that corn if the public knew those corn fields were being irrigated with poison water!? Knowledge is power isn't it?
A significant step in this struggle is getting prisoners recognized as environmental justice communities by the EPA, so that prison facilities can be forced into compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.(6) However, the state of Texas has created laws and policies that keep the EPA out of its toxic prisons so we must create a public outcry in order to knock the doors down! Apply Pimp C's "Knockin Doorz Down" as needed! UGK for life!(7)
Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people!
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is great to have clear steps in order for any tactical work to be successful, so we highlight this campaign as one with a clear path broken down into small steps, making it easy to get involved and mark progress. While we struggle on these reformist campaigns, we also know that they are unlikely to be successful. But that is all part of building public opinion for socialist revolution. In a socialist system, as in China under Mao, people's needs were valued above profits and prisoners were not poisoned via their water supply.
People should not be forced to get heavy metal poisoning just because they are in prison (or because they live in an oppressed nation community as what happened in Flint, Michigan). The EPA, one of those bandaid organizations of the United $tates government to give people something to focus on instead of straight up revolution, is unlikely to categorize prisoners as environmental justice communities, and also unlikely to enforce their policies in prisons in Texas. Even if they did, to enforce environmental policies on Texas prisons is a decades-long struggle, while hundreds of thousands of people will be forced to drink poisonous heavy metals in the meantime.
Still, we support this campaign and encourage our readers to get involved. It may win some improvements in water quality that will have a significant impact on the health of Texas prisoner. Even if the campaign fails, it is a good example of how futile petitioning the U.$. government agencies generally is. If the campaign succeeds, it will likely only be with caveats which undermine the overall campaign, which we can point to as an example of the futility of reformism. Either way, Texas prisoners come out better organized and better poised for the only struggle that has shown any success in valuing peoples' well-being, and that's the revolutionary struggle toward socialism and communism.
by a South Carolina prisoner November 2016 permalink
This letter is to inform you to discontinue sending out the Under Lock & Key newsletter to me here. There is a very repressive regime established at this prison and indeed the entire state. The censorship of our materials goes without challenge. Why? Authorized violation of so-called rights! The grievance procedure is designed to be a stalling mechanism and as it stands now is actually depriving the prisoners here of redress of grievances and access to the courts!
I do not want relevant/useful information appropriated or destroyed by these foolish people so please do not continue to mail any of your publications for now. I am furious at these methods and practices this system is using to block our awareness and consciousness but I am unable to offer a real challenge because these South Carolinians are fast asleep! I grow weary of the incessant thought of the problem. Merely writing or filing actions to the courts who, with every degree of bias/prejudice, turn blind eyes. We need some direct action! Do not let our papers go to waste brothers and sisters! I do not have any reliable sources out there. Yet, but I guarantee I soon will.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is always sad to hear from comrades hard at work behind bars who want their Under Lock & Key subscription terminated due to censorship problems. We appreciate this comrade's desire to save us the cost of sending in a publication that will only be censored, but we have also noticed that in prisons that are usually censoring our literature, occasionally things will slip through. So if you are in this situation, we are willing to continue to send ULK, in the hopes that it will get to you.
If we look at the last 10 issues of ULK, the rate of copies reported received in censor-heavy states like South Carolina and North Carolina are the same as the average across the country. The reports of censorship in those states are higher, but we still have more people reporting ULKs received. We have also had isolated victories after appealing censorship in both states in the last couple years. Of course, if more subscribers told us which issues they received and which they did not, we would have more information so we could make a more accurate assessment. So please let us know specifically what you have received every time you write us.
Ultimately it is a tactical question of when we want to exclude a facility or state from our mailing list because we think we are just throwing money away. Overall, we know that only a small fraction of the prison population is exposed to Under Lock & Key and we will always face state repression in our efforts to expose them. So we have chosen tactics that increase our chances of exposing the greatest number of people.
This writer is setting a good example by fighting this censorship on all the fronts possible. And trying to organize others as well. Conditions change over time, and organizing is a dialectical process that involves many failures. This letter underscores the need for outside support for our comrades' battles behind bars.
My opinion on how we should decide what tactics to use in our present day struggle is simple. First off, we must educate one another about past struggles that have a lot of similarities with our present-day struggles. Then we must find strategic ways in resolving problems with international support throughout the masses. Also we must carry a "by any means necessary" persona at all times, and will not compromise until we've reached an agreement with the oppressor that settles in our favor.
The majority of our people in the struggle work on campaigns that they know isn't going to be successful because they probably look at that certain leadership through one point of view. Like, a so-called leader might bring forth a front that seems to be totally for people of poverty but in all actuality the plan puts even more money in the pockets of exploiters while the people will suffer more after the smoke clears. For example, before 1776 America was a British colony. The British government had certain laws and rules that the colonized Americans rejected as not being in their best interests. In spite of the British conviction that Americans had no right to establish their own laws to promote the general welfare of the people living here in America, the colonized immigrant felt he had no choice but to raise the gun to defend his welfare. Simultaneously, he made certain laws to ensure his protection from external and internal aggressions, from other governments, and his own agencies. One such form of protection was the Declaration of Independence, which states: "...whenever any government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its power in such forms as to them, shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is correct that we need to focus our work on uncompromising struggle in the interests of the oppressed. And we should not waste our time on campaigns that have no hope for success. Although we do see value in smaller battles that can be used to educate people about the struggle, even if the chances of success are minimal, such as with the grievance campaign. But this writer is focused on the larger battles, and on that question we firmly agree. In fact this is why we are clear that electoral politics within the corrupt and tyrannical system of imperialism are a waste of time. We will never “reach an agreement” with the oppressor that is in favor of the oppressed. We will only put an end to imperialism through force. Today we are at the stage of building public opinion and growing our organization, but we can't lose sight of the bigger picture and the need for revolution to liberate the oppressed.
"The imperialists export fascism to many Third World countries via puppet governments. And imperialist countries can turn to fascism themselves. But it is important to note that there is no third choice for independent fascism in the world: they are either imperialist or imperialist-puppets. Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan had all reached the banking stage of capitalism and had a real basis for thinking they could take over colonies from the British and French. ... The vast majority of the world's fascist-ruled countries have been U.$. puppets." — MIM Congress, "Osama Bin Laden and the Concept of 'Theocratic Fascism'", 2004
What MIM wrote about Osama Bin Laden in 2004 is just as true for the Islamic State today. Those who call the Islamic State fascist use an unsophisticated definition of fascism that may mean anything from "bad" to "undemocratic" to anti-United $tates. But the idea that it is in the Third World where we find fascism today is correct.
Much funding for the Islamic State has come from rich Saudis. For this, and other reasons, many people have tried to put the fascist label on the obscurantist monarchy of Saudi Arabia. Despite having almost the same per capita GDP (PPP) as the United $tates, it is by geological luck and not the development of imperialist finance capital that Saudis enjoy such fortune.
A word often associated with fascism is genocide. More recently Saudi Arabia is getting some "fascist" rhetoric thrown at it from the Russian camp for its war on Yemen. What is currently happening in Yemen is nothing less than genocide. A recent analysis by the Yemen Data Project showed that more than a third of the "Saudi" bombings in that country have targeted schools, hospitals, mosques and other civilian infrastructure.(1) We put "Saudi" in quotes here because the war to maintain the puppet government in Yemen is completely supplied by the imperialists of the U.$., UK and Klanada, along with U.$. intelligence and logistical support. The United $tates has been involved in bombing Yemen for over a decade, so it is a propaganda campaign by the U.$. media to call it the "Saudi-led coalition." In October 2016, the United $tates bombed Yemen from U.$. warships that had long been stationed just offshore, leaving little doubt of their role in this war. A war that has left 370,000 children at risk of severe malnutrition, and 7 million people "desperately in need of food," according to UNICEF.(2)
This is another example where we see confusion around the definition of fascism feeds anti-Islamic, rather than anti-Amerikan, lines of thinking, despite the majority of victims in this war being proletarian Muslims in a country where 40% of the people live on less than $2 a day.
In countries where the imperialists haven't been able to install a puppet government they use other regional allies to act as the bad guy, the arm of imperialism. It is an extension of neo-colonialism that leads to inter-proletarian conflict between countries. We see this with Uganda and Rwanda in central Africa, where another genocide has been ongoing for 2 decades. While Uganda and Rwanda have their own regional interests, like Saudi Arabia, they are given the freedom to pursue them by U.$. sponsorship. And we are not anti-Ugandan, because Uganda is a proletarian country with an interest in throwing out imperialist puppets. Even Saudi Arabia, which we might not be able to find much of an indigenous proletariat in, could play a progressive role under bourgeois nationalist leadership that allied with the rest of the Arab world, and even with Iran.
Sometimes fascism is used as a synonym for police state. Many in the United $tates have looked to the war on drugs, the occupation of the ghettos, barrios and reservations, gang injunctions and the massive criminal injustice system and talked about rising fascism. We agree that these are some of the most fascistic elements of our society. But many of those same people will never talk about U.$. imperialism, especially internal imperialism. This leads to a focus on civil liberties and no discussion of national liberation; a reformist, petty bourgeois politic.
If we look at the new president in the Philippines, we see a more extreme form of repression against drug dealers of that country. If the U.$. injustice system is fascist, certainly the open call for assassinating drug dealers in the street would be. But these are just tactics, they do not define the system. And if we look at the system in the Philippines, the second biggest headlines (after eir notorious anti-drug-dealer rhetoric) that President Duterte is getting is for pushing out U.$. military bases. This would be a huge win for the Filipino people who have been risking their lives (under real fascist dictatorships backed by the United $tates like Marcos) to protest U.$. military on their land. This is objectively anti-imperialist. Even if Duterte turns towards China, as long as U.$. imperialism remains the number one threat to peace and well-being in the world, as it has been for over half a century, this is good for the masses of the oppressed nations.
The importance of the united front against fascism during World War II, which was an alliance between proletariat and imperialist forces, was to point out the number one enemy. While we don't echo the Black Panther Party's rhetoric around "fascism," they were strategically correct to focus their attack on the United $tates in their own United Front Against Fascism in 1969. And it was reasonable to expect that the United $tates might turn fascist in face of what was a very popular anti-imperialist movement at home and abroad. What dialectics teaches us is the importance of finding the principal contradiction, which we should focus our energy on in order to change things. Without a major inter-imperialist rivalry, talking about fascism in a Marxist sense is merely to expose the atrocities of the dominant imperialist power committed against the oppressed nations.
Rather than looking for strategic shifts in the finance capitalist class, most people just call the bad sides of imperialism "fascism." In doing so they deny that imperialism has killed more people than any other economic system, even if we exclude fascist imperialism. These people gloss over imperialism's very existence. But MIM(Prisons) keeps our eye on the prize of overthrowing imperialism, principally U.$. imperialism, to serve the interests of the oppressed people of the world.
by an Ohio prisoner November 2016 permalinkIn response to a letter from MIM(Prisons) struggling over some apparent points of disagreement, we received this commentary on movement strategy and tactics.
We believe in having a political branch and a military branch. It's nothing wrong with being political, it is needed in the fight against imperialism and capitalism. So you doing public building of opinions and creating independent institutions is good. That's what nonviolent people do who are coffee house revolutionaries. It's nothing wrong with being coffee house revolutionaries. Everybody has a position to maintain. That's why I support you and a few other people we deal with support you. So do your prisoner support work and lumpen organizing. That's a good thing which I support. If me and others did not support it we would not contact you.
To my second point, I and others believe that MIMs and us can learn from each other. It's not about just what MIMs can share or teach us. It's about what we can share and teach MIMs also. It's about real uniting for a common purpose against a common enemy. We call this networking, sharing lines, etc. Not being forced to accept someone's line, but respecting it. We know war is fought using different strategy and tactics. We are not pushing anyone away who is trying to bring about revolution and establish socialism.
That's what I and some others think MIMs do when they criticize people who are socialist or revolutionaries but belong to other orgs. MIMs see their way is the only right way. Not everybody believes that. That's what Christians and Muslims believe and do and look at them, they fight each other over who is right but they have some things in common with slight differences. If you seek unity, stop criticizing other socialist revolutionaries and unite on common grounds. If something is expressed different than what you believe, you can state how you view something then leave it up to the people to decide what strategy and tactics they want to follow.
Everybody is not political, some people are militant and are about militarism. We accept MIMs being political. We want to share militarism spirit or values. For we are truly on the battlefield with weapons. People are dying and getting locked up. We come from the battlefield from street orgs, etc. We risk and sacrifice our lives every day. While some are scared to die or get out on the front lines, that's where we are at on the battlefield or on these plantations. We are not nonviolent, we are violent. We contact MIMs so we can work together not apart. We are about unity for real, not about if you believe as me I unite with you.
There are white nationalist groups called the 3% who believe that 3% of the population went to war and won the revolutionary war in 1776. These white groups form militias and are militarized. They train for war. They building a militarized institution while MIMs are being political. All we're saying is how you claim to be a vanguard and you're not training and educating people to form militarized units instead of just spreading public opinion on socialism. If y'all just going to spread public opinion okay do that. I and others think at least work with those who are working on building militarized units who fight instead of just talk and read. Everybody don't have to do the same thing.
So just so there be no misunderstanding, I and others respect your line and strategy. Keep up the good work. You're just not militant from what we can tell. People who are militant are willing to support you, why don't you support them and show some real unity? Then you can say you're a vanguard and are real revolutionaries. What's the point in being political if you have no military to enforce your laws, beliefs, etc. So that is why I write you to support you. The question is do you support militant revolutionaries or are you just a big study group who act elitist? Are you for the people or just people who are under your line and strategy?
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is particularly relevant to this issue of ULK focused on movement tactics. The writer raises some good points about unity that we want to address.
First, to clarify, MIM(Prisons) does not claim to be a vanguard party at this time, which is implied by this comrade saying we need an army to enforce our laws, beliefs, etc. We recognize the need for a vanguard party for the defeat of imperialism by the communists, but the strategic defeats of the movement over the recent decades have led us to conclude that cell organizing is more effective and appropriate to rebuild the movement. However, we would not split with anyone who disagrees on this point, it is a relatively short term strategic question. We do aim to be part of the vanguard movement, with the most advanced and correct line and practice.
With that said, we agree with this writer that it is important to build unity across revolutionary organizations that are working on different anti-imperialist strategies and tactics. The question of when to take up armed struggle, and even when to build an army for that battle, is also a strategic one. This is something that is relatively longer term, i.e. you don't build an army today and disband it tomorrow. But it's definitely not a disagreement over political line: we agree that the only way to overthrow imperialism is through armed struggle. The bourgeoisie won't give up their wealth and power peacefully. We are also not nonviolent. The disagreement is one of strategic timing, not method.
So are we just coffee house revolutionaries afraid of or refusing to see the importance of armed struggle? Our analysis of recent history in the United $tates reveals the murder or imprisonment of revolutionary groups that have attempted any form of armed struggle, or even just the collecting of weapons for self-defense, even when this is done completely within U.$. laws. This study of history has led us to conclude that we are at the stage of building and educating right now. We know this will change, but we can't say when, we just need to be ready and willing to change when conditions require it.
We do not agree that militarism is to be contrasted with being political. Rather than see MIM(Prisons) as political and this comrade's organization as militarist, we call both groups political. We are both focused on fighting imperialism. The decision to militarize today or hold off until conditions are more favorable is a political decision. And it's something we should struggle over, because through political struggle we all learn and grow.
And this brings us to the point of unity. Those who disagree with us on the appropriate timing of militarizing are well within the anti-imperialist united front. And we certainly don't believe that we are the only holders of truth and cannot learn from others. Quite the contrary, we learn from our readers, other organizations that we work with, and even from our enemies. We are regularly publishing in Under Lock & Key articles explaining changes to our political line and/or strategy based on things we have learned through practice. And to be a viable political organization that survives we must always be open to learning more. But that doesn't mean we will just accept what other people tell us without struggling over the facts and interpretations if we believe they are wrong. Political struggle is not about egos, it is about learning. We look forward to learning and building with this comrade and eir organization for many years to come.
In our last update letter to United Struggle from Within (USW) comrades in California, we announced that the California USW Coordinator would be working with the California USW Council to provide better, more regular updates in ULK to coordinate our campaign efforts in the state. This will also reduce the need to send out separate letters except in time-sensitive instances. This issue of ULK is the first with such a CA-focused section.
One issue that came up among CA USW recently is restrictions on mailing stamp donations. This was happening at CSP-Sacramento, and more recently reported from West Valley Detention Center. In ULK 36 (3 years ago), we printed a report from San Quentin where they successfully campaigned against the same issue through a combination of 602 appeals and letters to the press exposing these restrictions on freedom of expression.
Appeal #CSQ-J-13-03205 was submitted October 27, explaining exactly how operational procedure 608 article 7 was being illegally circumvented. This appeal was rejected by appeals coordinator puppet M.L. Davis on November 1. Davis offered to process the appeal if appellant directed a CDCR 22 to the mailroom. Davis also demanded appellant remove copies of Article 7 and OP0212 which are in fact the official rules/directives regarding "items enclosed in incoming first-class mail."
If readers have other examples of successful tactics around this issue, or rules to cite, send them to MIM(Prisons) for the next issue.
Santa Clara County Strike a Success
In "Broad Participation in September 9 FAM Prison Strike" we refer to the challenge of organizing in California with more comrades in county jails not under CDCR control. Perhaps this will be a temporary setback though, as prisoners organized a recent strike in Santa Clara County. On 17 October 2016, over 300 people went on hunger strike, according to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition. The demands were around ending solitary confinement, inadequate clothing, a faulty appeals/grievance process and the overcharging at commissary. The strike was suspended after less than a week, when the sheriff's department agreed to the demands. Comrades will maintain the strike in suspension until the changes are actually made. MIM(Prisons) commends the organizing efforts of these comrades and the focus on key campaign issues of solitary confinement and the grievance process.
Ashker Settlement Hearings Done, SHU Victims Decrease
The number of people being held in SHU has dropped sharply since the Ashker settlement (see "Torture Continues: CDCR Settlement Screws Prisoners" in ULK 46 for more background). The review process has been completed, and 1,512 of the 1,557 people covered by the settlement have been released from SHU according to CDCR, with the remaining given dates for release. The number in SHU cells in California is about 1/6 of what it was before the settlement, with less than 500 SHU prisoners as of August 2016 (according to CDCR statistics). But we know a number of our readers are still in SHU, and many more are in other forms of long-term isolation in California, which is not covered by the settlement.
We must remain vigilant now to continue the fight against solitary confinement in California. As we've always pointed out, these reforms with such narrow focus only make it harder for those who remain in these torture cells to get out. SHU cells represented less than a quarter of the prisoners in California in long-term isolation according to our last count prior to the recent decrease in SHU (see www.abolishcontrolunits.org/research). But as the comrades in Santa Clara have demonstrated, this battle is still alive in the hearts of prisoners.