Many prisoners have utilized the petition demanding their grievances be heard. The Commissioner simply forwarded the grievances to the person in charge of the grievance system, who wrote a letter to each prisoner that filed a petition. The letter informed the prisoners that they should file a grievance about the issue if they had a problem with the grievance system. Absurd, but true.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We responded to this comrade asking what they think should be done next to resolve this problem. Clearly, writing grievances isn't working. Writing to the Commissioner gets no results. Lawsuits can give some relief, but often only temporarily. And of course lawsuit victories come with the problem of enforcement.
Ultimately we believe we need to completely change our society in order to fix this problem. We try to contribute to lawsuits, but even more importantly we contribute to education and institution-building, so when our lawsuits fail we can still make progress in our struggle to a more just humynity.
The enclosed letter is submitted to you for follow-up to "Insulin Indifference Disables Prisoners".(ULK 57, p. 6) The publishing editor of that letter omitted the solution to that problem. Does anyone have time to comment on if mine compares to the grievance guides presently available? Or is my method in conflict with the advice in other manuals? I want to know how I compare with other grievance methods.
The problem in the article is a policy of no lunchtime fingersticks/insulin injections. The prison serves lunch so late it is outside the timeframe that a pre-breakfast shot of 70/30 insulin works for some diabetics within the prison.
For diabetics having this problem, immediately following lunch they may have symptoms of extremely elevated glucose, like hunger (even though they have just ate lunch), blurry vision, dry mouth, thirst, pins and needles (like tingling nerve pain), and frequent urination. In addition, at next fingerstick before supper their glucose may be extremely elevated.
"Extremely elevated" blood sugar is dangerous because it "can cause life threatening changes in the body within a matter of hours. An extremely high blood sugar level... And I am talking at least 300... can cause an imbalance in the delicate acid-based structure in the tissues of the body."(1)
So if you take 70/30 insulin (and your prison doesn't do lunchtime fingersticks/insulin injections) and you have the above symptoms, and/or if your suppertime glucose level is still over 300 several hours after lunch, then you should first try a medical request. Then, if necessary, a grievance explaining the problem. If filing a grievance (the formal step), then include the illustration of how extremely elevated glucose harms the body, located in the last paragraph of "Insulin Indifference Disables Prisoners." This way the warden, or other prison officials signing off on the grievance, cannot claim they were unaware of the damage that was occurring due to that they "are not medical professionals." (This is a popular excuse used by non-medical prison officials to escape liability in prison medical care cases.)
Two solutions to the problem are: 1. For the prison to start serving lunch earlier, or 2. For the prison to start providing lunchtime fingerstick/insulin injection, at which time you should receive a small dose of regular-type insulin, also called "mealtime insulin." Immediately following these two suggested solutions on your grievance, you should write "To do neither would constitute deliberate indifference."
In your medical request or your grievance, you should also explain that staff should periodically adjust your new lunchtime dose of regular insulin to determine exactly what amount is required to lower the residual glucose from lunch so it is at least somewhere between 200 - 300 by suppertime fingerstick. This will keep your glucose out of the danger zone between lunch and supper.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The problem with timing insulin injections with mealtimes is not lack of education or medical expertise. The problem of indifference is built in to the capitalist, white supremacist power structure. Imprisoned people, and oppressed nations in general, are not thought to need or deserve to have access to proper medical care. Prisoners' right to their eyesight or to keep all their toes is of absolutely no concern to the imperialist power structure. In fact, from the imperialist system's perspective it is probably better for prisoners and oppressed nation people to continue suffering, and be kept busy filing grievances. That way it's even harder to fight back.
We're glad this author wrote in with more details on what people could do to resolve the individual problems they are having with administration's approach to diabetes management. If we're talking about real remedies, though, and about fixing a problem, we need to acknowledge that capitalism and national oppression are the real cause of extremely elevated glucose levels. We need to struggle on our individual problems so we can be stronger for our revolutionary work. Don't lose sight of the bigger picture!
On 26 October 2017, U.$. President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. The declaration should lead to more federal funding for grants to combat opioid abuse.(1) As we explain below, this epidemic disproportionately affects euro-Amerikans. Trump linked his campaign to build a wall along the current Mexican border to the battle against this epidemic, despite the fact that prescription painkillers are at the root of it. This is consistent with the Amerikan government's solution for drug problems created by imperialism. For the crack epidemic of the 1980s Amerika responded with mass incarceration of New Afrikan men as the solution. As opioid addiction continues a steady rise, Trump offers further militarization of the border.
Opioids have been used by humyns for thousands of years both medicinally and recreationally, with many periods of epidemic addiction. Use began with opium from poppies. Morphine was isolated in 1806. By the early 1900s heroin was promoted as a cure for morphine addiction in the United $tates, before being made illegal in 1924. There was a lull in heroin use during the 1980s, when cocaine and crack overshadowed it. Various prescription pain killers began to come back into vogue in the 1990s
after the "Just Say No!" mentality was wearing off. Since then, use and abuse has been on a steady rise, feeding a new surge in the use of heroin as a cheaper alternative. This rise, in the economic centers of both the United $tates and China, is directly linked to capitalism.
While K2 is one dangerous substance plaguing U.$. prisons these days, partly due to its undetectability, opioids are by far the biggest killer in the United $tates, and we expect that is true in prisons as well. Drug overdoses surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United $tates in 2007 and has continued a steady rise ever since. The majority of these overdoses have been from opioids.(2)
While the increase in deaths from opioids has been strong across the United $tates, rates are significantly higher among whites, and even higher among First Nations. One reason that use rates are lower among New Afrikans and [email protected] is that it has been shown that doctors are more reluctant to prescribe opioids to them because they are viewed as more likely to become addicted, and Amerikan doctors see them as having a greater pain threshold.(3)
We did see some evidence of this trend in the results of our survey on the effects of drugs in U.$. prisons. The most popular answer to our question of whether certain groups did more drugs in prison than others was no, it affects everyone. But many clarified that there was a strong racial divide where New Afrikans preferred weed and K2, while whites and usually [email protected] went for heroin and/or meth. Some of these respondents said that New Afrikans did less drugs.(4) A couple said that New Afrikans used to do less drugs but now that's changing as addiction is spreading. In states where K2 has not hit yet (CA, GA, CO) it was common to hear that whites and "hispanics" (or in California, "southern" Mexicans) did more drugs. The pattern of New Afrikans preferring weed and K2 seemed common across the country, and could have implications for strategies combating drug use among New Afrikans compared to other groups. In particular, stressing that K2 is completely different and more dangerous than weed could be part of a harm reduction strategy focused on New Afrikans.
If prison staff were doing their jobs, then we would expect rates of both overdoses and use in general to be lower in prisons. But we know, and our survey confirmed, that this is not the case (78% of respondents mentioned staff being responsible for bringing in at least some of the drugs in their prison). In hindsight, it may have been useful to ask our readers what percentage of prisoners are users and addicts. Some of the estimates that were offered of the numbers using drugs in general were
20-30%, 90%, 75%, and many saying it had its grips on the whole population.
Deaths from opioids in the general U.$. population in 2015 was 10.5 per 100,000, double the rate in 2005.(5) This is higher than the rates in many state prison systems for overdoses from any drug, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania that all reported average rates of 1 per 100,000 from 2001-2012. California was closer at 8 per 100,000 and Maryland exceeded the general population at 17 deaths from overdoses per 100,000 prisoners.(6) At the same time,
prison staff have been known to cover up deaths from overdoses, so those 1 per 100,000 rates may be falsified.
In our survey of ULK readers, we learned that Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, is quite popular in prisons (particularly in the northeast/midwestern states). Survey respondents mentioned it as often as weed as one of the most popular drugs, and more than heroin. Suboxone is actually used to treat heroin addiction. And while it is not supposed to be active like other opioids, it can lead to a high and be addictive. It is relatively safe, and will not generally lead to overdose until you combine it with other substances, which can lead to death.
Prescription drugs are not as common as other drugs in most prisons, according to our survey. Though in some cases they are available. We received a few responses from prisons where prescription drugs prescribed by the medical staff seemed to be the only thing going on the black market. Clearly there is variability by facility.
Two Paths to Recovery
The increases in opioid abuse in the United $tates has been staggering, and they cause a disproportionate amount of the deaths from drug overdoses. About 10% of opioid addicts worldwide are in the United $tates, despite only being less than 5% of the world's population.(7) At the same time, only about 1% of people in the United $tates are abusing opioids.(8) This is not the worst episode in U.$. history, and certainly not in world history.
Around 1914 there were 200,000 heroin addicts in the United $tates, or 2% of the population. In contrast, some numbers for opium addicts in China prior to liberation put the addiction rate as high as 20% of the population around 1900, and 10% by the 1930s. That's not to dismiss the seriousness of the problem in the United $tates, but to highlight the power of proletarian dictatorship, which eliminated drug addiction about 3 years after liberation.
Richard Fortmann did a direct comparison of the United $tates in 1952 (which had 60,000 opioid addicts) and revolutionary China (which started with millions in 1949).(9) Despite being the richest country in the world, unscathed by the war, with an unparalleled health-care system, addicts in the United $tates increased over the following two decades. Whereas China, a horribly poor country coming out of decades of civil war, with 100s of years of opium abuse plaguing its people, had eliminated the problem by 1953.(9) Fortmann pointed to the politics behind the Chinese success:
"If the average drug addiction expert in the United States were shown a description of the treatment modalities used by the Chinese after 1949 in their anti-opium campaign, his/her probable response would be to say that we are already doing these things in the United States, plus much more. And s/he would be right."(9)
About one third of addicts went cold turkey after the revolution, with the more standard detox treatment taking 12 days to complete. How could they be so successful so fast? What the above comparison is missing is what happened in China in the greater social context. The Chinese were a people in the process of liberating themselves, and becoming a new, socialist people. The struggle to give up opium was just one aspect of a nationwide movement to destroy remnants of the oppressive past. Meanwhile the people were being called on and challenged in all sorts of new ways to engage in building the new society. There was so much that was more stimulating than opium to be doing with their time. Wimmin, who took up opium addiction in large numbers after being forced into prostitution in opium dens, were quickly gaining opportunities to engage at all levels of society. The poor, isolated peasants were now organized in collectives, working together to solve all kinds of problems related to food production, biology and social organization. The successful struggle against drug addiction in China was merely one impressive side effect of the revolutionizing of the whole society.
In contrast, in the capitalist countries, despair lurks behind every corner as someone struggles to stay clean. The approach has ranged from criminalization to medicalization of drug addiction as a disease. "Once an addict, always an addict", as they say. Always an individualist approach, ignoring the most important, social causes of the problem. That drug addiction is primarily a social disease was proven by the practice of the Chinese in the early 1950s, but Western "science" largely does not acknowledge the unquestionable results from that massive experiment.
It is also worth pointing out the correlation between drug abuse and addiction, and capitalist economics specifically. Whether it was colonial powers forcing opium on the Chinese masses who had nothing, in order to enslave them to their economic will, or it is modern Amerikan society indulging its alienation in the over-production of prescription pills from big pharmaceutical companies marketing medicine for a profit.
And now, opioid addiction is on the rise again in capitalist China after decades. A steady rise in drug-related arrests in China since 1990 are one indicator of the growing problem.(10) As more profits flowed into the country, so have more drugs, especially since the 1990s. We recently published a review of Is China an Imperialist Country?, where we lamented the loses suffered by the Chinese people since the counter-revolution in 1976. It goes to show that when you imitate the imperialists, and put advancing the productive forces and profits over serving the people, you invite in
all the social ills of imperialism.
In China drug addiction has now become something that people fear. Like it did with its economy, China has followed in the imperialists' footsteps in how it handles drug addiction. Chinese policy has begun treating addicts as patients that need to be cured to protect society. Rather than seeing those who give up drugs as having defeated the oppressor's ways, they are monitored by the state, lose social credibility, and have a hard time getting a job.(11) Under socialism, everyone had a job and no one needed recreational drugs to maintain themselves mentally. The path to combating drug addiction and abuse is well-established. Attempts under imperialism that don't involve liberatory politics of the oppressed have little to no effect.
For this issue of Under Lock & Key we took on the task of investigating the impacts of drugs and the drug trade on the prison movement. We ran a survey in the Jan/Feb 2017 and March/April 2017 issues of Under Lock &
Key. We received 62 completed surveys from our readers in U.$. prisons. We have incorporated the more interesting results in a series of articles in this issue. This article looks at the central question of the role of the drug trade inside and outside prisons and how to effectively organize among the lumpen in that context. In other articles we look more closely at the recent plague of K2 in U.$. prisons, and the latest rise
in opioid addiction and what socialism and capitalism have to offer us as solutions.
Bourgeois society blames the individual
Bourgeois society takes an individualistic view of the world. When it comes to drugs, the focus is on the individual: we talk about how they failed and succumbed to drugs because of their weakness or mistakes as an individual. While individuals must ultimately take responsibility for their actions, it is only by understanding society at a group level, using dialectical materialism to study the political economy of our world, that we can address problems on a scale that will make a real impact. Even at the individual level, it's more effective to help people make connections to the root causes of their problems (not supposed persynality flaws) and empower them to fight those causes if we want lasting change.
Much of our criminal injustice system is built on punishment and shaming of those who have been convicted. A proletarian approach to justice uses self-criticism to take accountability for one's actions, while studying political economy to understand why that path was even an option in the first place, and an attractive one at that.
In the essay "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", Cetewayo, a Black Panther leader, provides a good example of overcoming the conditions one is born into. Ey was addicted to heroin from age 13 to 18, before joining the Black Panther Party. Eir example stresses the importance of providing alternative outlets for oppressed nation youth. In some cases the mere existence of that alternative can change lives.
Drugs and the Principal Contradiction in Prison
MIM(Prisons) and leaders in the Countrywide Council of United Struggle from Within (Double C) have had many conversations about what the principal contradiction is within the prison population. MIM(Prisons) has put forth that the parasitic/individualistic versus self-sufficient/collective material interests of the lumpen class is the principal contradiction within the prison movement in the United $tates today. The drug problem in prisons relates directly to this contradiction. Those pursuing drugs and/or dealing are focused on their persynal interests, at the expense of others. The drug trade is inherently parasitic as it requires an addicted population to be profitable, and users are escaping the world for an individual high, rather than working to make the world better for themselves and others.
A Double C comrade from Arkansas explains this contradiction:
"Things have been slow motion here due to lockdown. Reason being too much violence across the prison. Some of this violence is due to the underground economy. Being submerged in a culture of consumerism which is not only an obstacle to our emancipation (mentally and physically) this self-destructive method of oppression is a big problem consuming the population. I've been in prisons where the market is not packed or heavily packed with drugz. It is in those yards that unity and productive lines are greatly practiced. The minute drugz become the leading item of consumption, shit breaks down, individualism sets in and all of the fucked up tendencies follow suit.
"I say 75% of the population in this yard is a consumer. About 5% have no self control, it's usually this percentage that ends up a 'debt' victim (since you owe $ you owe a clean up). Aggressor or not, consumerism is a plague that victimizes everyone one way or another. This consumerism only aids the pigz, rats, infiltrators, and oppressors in continuing with a banking concept of 'education/rehabilitation' and therefore domesticating the population.
"I mean the consequences and outcomes are not hidden, it is a constant display of what it is when you can't pay the IRS, so it is not as if people don't know. I've seen people slow down or stopped some old habits after experiencing/witnessing these beheadings. Shit, I just hit the yard because pigz were all inside the block searching and homeboy's puddles of blood were still on the yard."
Drugs and Violence
It is no secret that drugs and violence often go hand-in-hand. As the above comrade alludes to, this is often related to debts. But one of the things we learned from our recent survey of ULK readers is that in most prisons there is an inherent threat of violence towards people who might take up effective organizing against drugs.
A California comrade wrote,
"No one in prison is going to put their safety and security on the line over drugs. You have to understand that life has little value in prison. If you do anything to jeopardize an individual's ability to earn a living, it will cost you your life."
Another California comrade was more explicit,
"If you say anything about the drugs, cell phones, extortions, etc., whether if you're in the general population, or now, worse yet in 2017, SNY/Level IV, the correctional officers inform the key gang members that you're running your mouth. You either get hit immediately, or at the next prison. Although my safety is now at stake, by prisoners, it's being orchestrated by corrections higher-ups concocting the story."
This was in response to our survey question "Have you seen effective efforts by prisoners to organize against drug use and its effects? If so, please describe them." Not only were the responses largely adamant "no"s, the vast majority said it would be dangerous to do so. This was despite the fact that we did not ask whether it would be dangerous to do so. Therefore, we assume that more than 73% might say so if asked.
Some readers questioned what to do about staff involvement bringing drugs into the prisons. One writer from Pennsylvania said:
"It's hardly ever dry in Fayette and this institution is a big problem why. A lot of the staff bring it in. Then when someone goes in debt or does something they wouldn't normally do, they don't want to help you, if you ask for help. There's no unity anymore. Nobody fights or stands up for nothing. Everybody rather fight each other than the pigs. It would take a lot to make a change in the drug situation. Is it wrong to put the pigs out there for what they're doing? Would I be considered a snitch? I know there would be retaliation on me, maybe even a ass whoopin. I'm curious on your input on this."
If we look at the involvement of staff in bringing drugs into prisons, and the violence associated with the drug trade, we have to call bullshit when these very same institutions censor Under Lock & Key on the claim that it might incite violence. The system is complicit, and many staff actively participate, in the plague of drugs that is destroying the minds and bodies of the oppressed nation men and wimmin, while promoting individualistic money-seeking behavior that leads to brutal violence between the oppressed themselves.
Organizing in Prisons
While the reports responding to that question were mostly negative, and the situation seems dire, we do want to report on the positive things we heard. We heard about successful efforts by New Afrikans getting out of the SHU in California, some Muslim communities and the Nation of Gods and Earths. Some have been at this for over a decade. All of these programs seemed to be of limited scope, but it is good to know there are organizations providing an alternative.
In Arkansas, a comrade reports,
"For the mass majority of drug users and prisoners I have not seen any positive efforts to stop drug use and its effects. But for my affiliation, the ALKN, we have put the product of K2/deuce in law with heroin and its byproducts where no member should be in use of or make attempts to sell for profit or gain. If you do you will receive the consequences of the body who governs this affiliation and organization for lack of discipline and obedience to pollute your self/body and those around you who are the future and leaders of tomorrow's nations."
While practice varies among the many individuals at different stages in the organization, the Latin Kings/ALKQN has historically opposed the use of hard drugs amongst its members. Many in New York in the 1990s attributed their recovery from drug addiction to their participation in
There are some good examples of lumpen organizations engaging in what we might call policies of harm reduction. One comrade mentioned the 16 Laws and Policies of Chairman Larry Hoover as an example of effective organizing against drugs in eir prison. Lumpen leaders like Jeff Fort and Larry Hoover are where we see a national bourgeoisie with independent power in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates. The proletarian organizations of the oppressed nations should work to unite with such forces before the imperialists corrupt them or force them into submission. In fact, the Black Panthers did just that, but failed to build long-term unity with the Black P. Stone Rangers largely due to state interference and repression.
On the other hand, in some states comrades reported that lumpen organizations are among the biggest benefactors from the drug trade. Some of the same names that are mentioned doing positive work are mentioned as being the problem elsewhere. This is partly explained by the largely unaffiliated franchise system that some of these names operate under. But it is also a demonstration of the principal contradiction mentioned above, which is present in the First World lumpen outside of prisons, too. There is a strong individualist/parasitic tendency combating with the reality that self-sufficiency and collective action best serve the oppressed nations. Too often these organizations are doing significant harm to individuals and the broader movement against the criminal injustice system, and can not be part of any progressive united front until they pull out of these anti-people activities.
The more economically entrenched an organization is in the drug trade, the more they are siding with the imperialists and against the people. But on the whole, the First World lumpen, particularly oppressed nation youth, have the self-interest and therefore the potential to side with their people and with the proletariat of the world.
As one Texas comrade commented:
"I must say that the survey opened a door on the issue about drugs within prison. After doing the survey I brought this up with a couple of people to see if we could organize a program to help people with a drug habit. I'm an ex-drug dealer with a life sentence. I can admit I was caught up with the corruption of the U.S. chasing the almighty dollar, not caring about anyone not even family. Coming to prison made me open my eyes. With the help of MIM and Under Lock & Key I've been learning the principles of the United Front and put them in my everyday speech and walk within this prison. The enemy understands that the pen is a powerful tool. Comrades don't trip on me like other organizations done when I let them know I'm a black Muslim who studied a lot of Mao Zedong.
Building Independent Institutions of the Oppressed
At least one respondent mentioned "prisoners giving up sources" (to the pigs to shut down people who are dealing) in response to the question about effective anti-drug organizing. From the responses shown below, it is clear that the state is not interested in effective anti-drug programming in prisons. This is an example of why we need independent institutions of the oppressed. We cannot expect the existing power structure to meet the health needs of the oppressed nation people suffering from an epidemic of drug abuse in U.$. prisons.
The Black Panthers faced similar conditions in the 1960s in the Black ghettos of the United $tates. As they wrote in Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide,
"It is also the practice of pig-police, especially narcotics agents, to seize a quantity of drugs from one dealer, arrest him, but only turn in a portion of the confiscated drugs for evidence. The rest is given to another dealer who sells it and gives a percentage of the profits to the narcotics agents. The pig-police also utilize informers who are dealers. In return for information, they receive immunity from arrest. The police cannot solve the problem, for they are a part of the problem."
Our survey showed significant abuse of Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. In the 1970s Methadone clinics, backed by the Rockefeller Program, became big in New York. The state even linked welfare benefits to these services. Yet, Mutulu Shakur says, "In New York City, 60 percent of the illegal drugs on the street during the early '70s was methadone. So we could not blame drug addiction at that time on Turkey or Afghanistan or the rest of that triangle."(2) Revolutionaries began to see this drug that was being used as treatment as breaking up the revolutionary movement and the community. Mitulu Shakur and others in the Lincoln Detox Center used acupuncture as a treatment for drug addiction. Lincoln Detox is an example of an independent institution developed by communists to combat drug addiction in the United $tates.
"[O]n November 10, 1970, a group of the Young Lords, a South Bronx anti-drug coalition, and members of the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (a mass organization of health workers) with the support of the Lincoln Collective took over the Nurses' Residence building of Lincoln Hospital and established a drug treatment program called The People's Drug Program, which became known as Lincoln Detox Center."(3) Lincoln Detox was a program that was subsequently run by the Young Lords Party, Black Panthers that had survived the Panther 21 raid, the Republic of New Afrika, and White Lightning, a radical organization of white former drug addicts, until 1979 when a police raid forced the communists out of the hospital, removing the political content of the program.(4)
Young Lord Vicente "Panama" Alba was there from day one, and tells eir story of breaking free of addiction cold turkey to take up the call of the revolution. After sitting on the stoop watching NYPD officers selling heroin in eir neighborhood, and a few days after attending a Young Lords demonstration, Panama said, "Because of the way I felt that day, I told myself I couldn't continue to be a drug user. I couldn't be a heroin addict and a revolutionary, and I wanted to be a revolutionary. I made a decision to kick a dope habit."(3) This experience echoes that of millions of addicted Chinese who went cold turkey to take up building socialism in their country after 1949.
Mutulu Shakur describes how the Lincoln Detox Center took a political approach similar to the Chinese in combatting addiction, "This became a center for revolutionary, political change in the methodology and treatment modality of drug addiction because the method was not only medical but it was also political." Shakur was one of the clinic's members who visited socialist China in the 1970s to learn acupuncture techniques for treating addiction. He goes on to describe the program:
"So the Lincoln Detox became not only recognized by the community as a political formation but its work in developing and saving men and women of the third world inside of the oppressed communities, resuscitating these brothers and sisters and putting them into some form of healing process within the community we became a threat to the city of New York and consequently with the development of the barefoot doctor acupuncture cadre, we began to move around the country and educate various other communities instead of schools and orientations around acupuncture drug withdrawal and the strategy of methadone and the teaching the brothers and sisters the fundamentals of acupuncture to serious acupuncture, how it was used in the revolutionary context in China and in Vietnam and how we were able to use it in the South Bronx and our success."(2)
Dealing with the Dealers
Though the Black Panthers had organized the workers at Lincoln Hospital leading up to the takeover, by that time the New York chapter was already in decline due to repression and legal battles. While many BPP branches had to engage with drug cartels, the New York chapter stood out in their launching of heavily-armed raids on local dealers and dumping all of their heroin into the gutters. The New York Panthers faced unique circumstances in a city that contained half of the heroin addicts in the country, which was being supplied by la Cosa Nostra with help from the CIA. While there was mass support for the actions of the Panthers at first, state repression pushed the New York Panthers down an ultra-left path. The Panther 21 trial was a huge setback to their mass organizing, with 21 prominent Panthers being jailed and tried on trumped up terrorism charges. After they were all exonerated, the New York Panthers, siding ideologically with Eldridge Cleaver who was pushing an ultra-left line from exile in Algeria, made the transition to the underground. If they were going to be accused of bombings and shootings anyway, then they might as well actually do some, right?
These were the conditions under which the Black Liberation Army was formed. Though there was overlap between the BLA and those who led community projects like Lincoln Detox, the path of the underground guerrillas generally meant giving up the mass organizing in the community. Instead, raiding local drug dealers became a staple of theirs as a means of obtaining money. Money that essentially belonged to the NYPD, which was enabling those dealers and benefiting them financially. The former-Panthers-turned-BLA continued to destroy the dope they found, and punished the dealers they raided.
Again, we are confronted with this dual nature of the lumpen class. It would certainly be ultra-left to view all drug dealers as enemies to be attacked. It is also certainly clear that the CIA/Mafia/NYPD heroin trade in New York was an enemy that needed to be addressed. But how does the revolutionary movement interact with the criminal-minded LOs today? In its revolutionary transformation, China also had to deal with powerful criminal organizations. The Green Gang, which united the Shanghai Triads, significantly funded the Guomindang's rise to power, primarily through profits from opium sales. In the late 1940s they opened up negotiations with the Communist Party as the fate of China was becoming obvious. However, no agreement was reached, and the criminal organizations were quickly eliminated in mainland China after 1949. They took refuge in capitalist outposts like Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Chinatowns elsewhere in Asia and Europe. While heroin has returned to China, the gangs have not yet.(5)
While the contradiction between the communists and the drug gangs did come to a head, it was after defeating Japanese imperialism and after defeating the reactionary Guomindang government. And even then, most drug dealers were reformed and joined the building of a socialist society.
Many respondents to our survey sounded almost hopeless when it came to imagining a prison system without rampant drug addiction. But this hopelessness is not completely unfounded. As "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", reads:
"The government is totally incapable of addressing itself to the true causes of drug addiction, for to do so would necessitate effecting a radical transformation of this society. The social consciousness of this society, the values, mores and traditions would have to be altered. And this would be impossible without totally changing the way in which the means of producing social wealth is owned and distributed. Only a
revolution can eliminate the plague."
To back up what the Panthers were saying here, we can look at socialist China and how they eliminated opium addiction in a few years, while heroin spread in the capitalist United $tates. The Chinese proved that this is a social issue and not primarily a biological/medical one. The communist approach differed greatly from the Guomindang in that addicts were not blamed or punished for their addiction. They were considered victims of foreign governments and other enemies of the people. Even many former dealers were reformed.(6) Although we don't have the state power now to implement broad policies like the Chinese Communist Party, we can help drug users focus on understanding the cause and consequences of their use in a social context. We need people to see how dope is harming not only themselves, but more generally their people, both inside and outside of prison. People start doing drugs because of problems in their lives that come from problems in capitalist society. Being in prison sucks, and dope helps people escape, even if it's fleeting. But this escape is counter productive. As so many writers in this issue of ULK have explained, it just serves the interests of the criminal injustice system. We can help people overcome addictions by giving them something else to focus on: the fight against the system that wants to keep them passive and addicted.
I got a message to all the tweakers, tecatos, potheads and boozers. Wake Up! Can't you see you're doing exactly what the oppressors wants you to do? So why are you giving them the satisfaction? With all the cameras rolling 24-7, you think they don't know what you're doing? Newsflash: You ain't that slick, buddy.
"All I had to do is drink a lot of water to flush out my system." I overheard one drug addict say when he came back from medical, for a drug test. "My piss came back clean even though I just used in the morning."
It's a miracle! We must run and tell the others! Now it's safe to puff puff, cough cough, & slam slam! As long as you hydrate and drink drink (a lotta water), you could pass pass (the 'drug test'), no problem. Your passing grade might be a D- but at least you didn't fail, right? Wrong!
Let's face it, water or no water, your urine is dirty. I know it, you know it, and the porkchop-patrol most definitely knows it. They just don't care. Besides, lucky for you, there's never enough room in the "hole." Five segregation singleman cells for a facility that houses 650 prisoners equals "no vacancy".
It's like you have to schedule an appointment, make it onto a guest list, then wait for about a month, in order to make it into the hole. But if the COs really did their job this whole place would be empty.
Literally, there would only be about 20 people left in each dorm. That's how bad this epidemic is. But fear not my drug-addicted friend, the pigs have bigger fish to fry. Or at least that's what they want us to think.
Extremely violent prisoners get top priority over minor drug offenders. But if you've been locked up as long as I have, then you'd know that extreme acts of violence are mostly over a minor drug debt. Common sense tells me, "get rid of the drugs and the violence shall cease." I have a hunch that the "system" could stop the drug flow at any time. But, looking at it through their eyes, why ruin a good thing?
Figuratively speaking, drugs are the oil that keep the oppression machine running. Sobriety is the monkey-wrench that'll break this bitch down. So put the word out, we need more wrenches. Staying clean is the worst thing we could do to these puercos.
Think about it for a second. Imagine if we obliterate the drug trade in prison. Most of these facilities would go out of business. Half the staff would start filling out applications at Mickey D'z, and Walmart, at the end of their shifts. But instead, most of us wanna keep on getting shit-faced; letting the enemy win with its foot on our necks. Wake up!
The enemy loves getting us high. Because it leads to a lot of drama, and drama is the safety blanket that keeps the oppressors warm at night. It gives them job security and a fat bank account. Meanwhile, all the users and dealers turn against each other while the pigs kick back and laugh. Don't worry, though. They're gonna let you keep using and selling on one condition; as long as y'all keep fighting and snitching, stabbing and pinching.
Don't get my words twisted. I'm not implying that you could keep on using, and abusing, and not get caught. Because every now and then, like once in a blue moon, they make an example out of somebody. But from what I've seen, their victim is usually the most humble junkie on the block. Yeah, this dude gets high but he's cool. He pays his debts, and doesn't bother nobody. But for some reason, the puercos got it in for him. He already got a few "dirties," and has an appointment at the "hole."
"But what about that trouble-making tweaker?" There's 1 in every block. "How come he doesn't ever get called for a random drug test, and go away?" I ask myself.
Lord knows this trouble-making tweaker is not low key. He's a dead beat and proud of it. His drug debts are stacking up, and on top of that, he's starting fights in the open; all in front of the cameras. And
still, the hooras act like they don't see him. They treat him like a model inmate.
It's like the pigs are watching in the wings, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Instead of nipping the problem in the bud, they wait for the problem to get smashed out, stabbed, or removed from the yard. Only then they jump into action.
But don't think they're gonna swoop in like some superheroes. No. They take their sweet time, sometimes just stand there looking; waiting for the "victim" to get nicely bruised up. Only then, they bust out the cuffs and add charges.
"Come on, you guys are not even doing nothing!" I once heard a pig say to a boo bop squad while they beat a tweaker. "You gotta hit 'em harder if you want me to stop it!" Then he laughed, I laughed, and half the yard laughed. But it wasn't funny. And his sick sense of humor cost him his job, cause I didn't see him after that.
But that's what he gets for letting things get out of hand. And all that - the beating and the firing - could've been avoided if his co-workers would've done their job properly in the first place. But why ruin a good thing?
Wake up amigos! It's time to stop entertaining these hooras. It's time to put down the needles, and the pookies, and get our minds back.
Drugs are a powerful temptation. Not just for those who become addicted to using them, but also for those selling them. Many overdose or die due to drugs. Besides death and ruining your health and life, often drugs lead to prison. Once in the dungeons, drugs become an even larger problem. Although drugs represent a bigger problem behind bars, they also mean the potential for a more substantial revolutionary impact.
Drugs are taken and sold in abundance behind bars. Prescription medication, street drugs, homemade wine and beer are present in almost every gulag (varying in quantities and qualities). Drugs are sold for
the same reasons in the dungeons as out in society. They're taken for many of the same reasons, but predominantly for escape. Whether aware of this or not, most, if not all to some degree, in prison turn to drugs to make being a prisoner a little easier to live with.
Drugs contribute to many conflicts. Yet, their real impact is on prisoner resistance. Instead of analyzing the system, debating theories and strategems, building awareness and a united front, most are content
to accept what is given and whatever is ordered; so long as they can shoot up, snort, pop a pill, or drink reality away.
They're a part of prisons, just as they're a part of our barrios, and for the same reasons drugs pull us from our communities and land us in prisons. It's when we find ourselves in the dungeons, when reality hits us between the eyes, that we hold the greatest potential to help ourselves, our communities and defeat capitalism. Behind bars there's a choice to be made: continue to be a puppet, or become self-determinant.
If you're addicted to using drugs, become addicted to something useful: exercising, studying, teaching, etc. If you're addicted to selling, talk to other revolutionaries who understand the larger picture of the wider struggle oppressed nations face. Through study, research, inside and outside guidance (see, Notes on Advancing the Struggle: Outside), one can go from capitalist contributor to self-determinant.
A main problem or obstacle is prison culture. As I stated earlier, many are willing to be content as long as they have their distractions. This escapism is one of the main causes of the lack of resistance to jailer
domination. Most feel hopeless to effectively resist or lack any idea of how to begin. They feel that without other remedies, they might as well enjoy a little drink or high. Their lack of political consciousness is to blame, because they play unwittingly into the puppeteer's game. Once confronted with the reality of drugs and that you're nothing more than a pawn for capitalism, you've got to ask yourself at what price do you value your life? Are you without self-respect? Is it more important to
escape reality or to make efforts to stop the oppression in our barrios, which continues in the dungeons? Is your dignity that cheap that capitalists can buy it for an hour or two of good feelings?
The dungeons can be the fire that burns you or that strengthens you. But, it's a choice that must be made and revolutionaries must be active in guiding others towards this decision, towards answering these questions. For me and other revolutionaries the answer is simple: my dignity is worth more than their security.
Whether in prison or out in society, drugs constitute a major problem. In particular, for our Latino and Black communities, drugs represent a deceiving allure for youth. Power, status, authority, advancement, the all-mighty dollar - the "American Dream." In reality, drugs are just another trap to maintain our communities in an oppressed state unable to progress.
For us, drugs generally lead to a ruined life, prison, or death. There aren't many other avenues available. For those who've fallen into the drug illusion and find themselves in prison, the question is how can we help them escape drug's allure and stop the oppression of our nations?
Obviously, the system (controlled by capitalists and their contributors) has no inclination to help oppressed nations. Having to chase the American Dream through illicit methods or escaping our harrowing reality by using drugs is far more conducive to continuing a capitalistic state than providing viable means of community improvement. So we have to first recognize that no help will come from the top. Where does that leave us?
We have first-hand knowledge of drugs and an in-depth comprehension of our communities and cultures. What must happen is that those on the outside reach into the prisons and pull our people out from beneath the crushing weight of drugs. Building grassroots organizations focused on supporting those in the gulags overcome addiction. Not only addiction to using but to selling drugs as well. Connecting prisoners with outside sources for support, employment (once released), and most important of all, guidance. Many stuck in the gulags feel capitalism's oppression but have no idea how to combat it. Feeling hopeless to progress legally, many are seduced by drugs. Any guidance should be aimed at building consciousness, alternative avenues, and awakening a revolutionary spirit to pull people out from under the gulags.
The most important aspect of such grassroots organizations is that they're from among our own barrios. Their members live or lived where the struggle is deepest. They're connected in a way no outsider organization can ever be. All of this is good in theory, but does it actually work?
The BPP (Black Panther Party) gave us a perfect example when they educated their barrios while feeding their gente. From outside we must educate those inside, feeding them and providing alternative means of overcoming oppression. It must become clear that chasing the American Dream — a piece of the capitalist pie — isn't to our benefit. Our people are oppressed and gaining part of the pie does nothing to bring us closer to equality.
When capitalism is finally supplanted, revolutionary organizations with this kind of focus will provide the infrastructure for our new society. For the capitalists, you selling drugs is preferable to you fighting the system's oppression. You consuming drugs is more desired because you're escaping reality. Whether you sell or do drugs, you remove yourself from the necessary revolution and only contribute to the oppression visited upon our communities. And, if drugs don't ruin your life or kill you, there's another place for you. Capitalists call it the Department of Corrections, we call it the Dungeons.
Drugs in prison is a very serious issue that we as comrades held captive must overstand. The title itself is unusual, unless you can see it in our everyday existence in the imperial prisons here in America and abroad. Drugs take many forms, whether its religion, gang affiliation, working with the pigs, sex, political or revolutionary line, or chemical substance, and last but not least big pharma, medication. I list all these to shine light on the entities in prison which keeps us in a state of sleep. A mindstate which controls us as a wholem unable to unify and come together to bring awareness to the struggle. I am going to break down each element and how it truly affects us and those who are being used by the system to make sure this spell is never lifted.
I am going to tackle the religious aspect first. This is not an aim at anyone's particular higher power, but how the prison system uses religion as a way to keep us divided. The division alone is a spell which keeps revolutionaries from different religious backgrounds from uniting. So as if to say "if you don't believe what I believe there's no reason for dialogue." We fight over disagreements in the form of belief, rather than find solutions to cripple mass incarceration.
Examples of such actions can be seen by muslims, christians, NOI, jews, catholics, and those who choose to not accept doctrine or belief in a higher power. Religion to me is used as a drug, to put us asleep in our revolutionary work, by not coming together. So we see how religion is being used as a tool to pacify the masses.
Gang affiliation, what set you claim, can be a divisive tool, creating chaos in revolutionary work. We have many gangs that want unity but prison administrators will use comrades with not enough knowledge of its tactics and strategies to have us go at each other. And this mindset is a drag, because we cannot get anything done.
The violence which comes from disunity allows the imperialist masterbastards to create policies which counter revolutionary cause. So the drug in this affiliation is the benefits that some gangs receive in institutions, whether it's by phone connections, drugs, or sexual favors with staff. These devices are counter-productive to the struggle.
Prison medication is another drug which is detrimental. Although most of society believes it is helping us, prison medical is really destroying us. It's used as a device or substance for controlling the mind of the masses. In prison, medication is a weapon used against revolutionaries who pose a threat by mobilizing the population of prisoners.
They, the administration and psychopath doctors, falsify medical records and diagnose you as paranoid and delusional and once you're thrown into observation cells, then the goon squad comes in with shock shields or drugs to pierce thru you, disturbing your chemical balance, making you disturbed and lethargic. But once these drugs are pumped into ya system, you're never the same. Seems as though the meds (drugs) take over and you don't have time to bounce back, cause once you decide to get off, then all types of side-effects come at you in a harmful way.
I've seen young brothas (comrades) come into the system hard, with that revolutionary mindset. And it seems as though now medication is the solution to stop the criminal mind. Now we have brothas in prison addicted to Haldol, Prozac, and all types of anti-depressants. Drugs are used in many ways to neutralize and create a zombie state of prisoners.
My conclusion is that drugs are what they are in prison destroying revolutions using ghost spells. Anything which takes you from reality and places you in a euphoric environment to control you. This is a serious epidemic. Wake up! Peace.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade brings up an important point in the discussion of drugs in prison by expanding the definition to the many ways that people's minds are controlled by institutions within the system. All of these structures can be a serious detriment to the revolution. Although we would argue that lumpen organizations don't have to be detrimental: they have the power to become revolutionary organizations and contribute significantly to the movement.
Revolutionary Art from Pelican Bay S.H.U.
PO Box 4186
San Jose, CA 95150
2017, 214 pgs., soft cover, $50
Aztlán Realism is over 200 pages of revolutionary [email protected] artwork, straight from the hole. The pages are in black and white, and select pieces are shown in color in the front and back. It is easy to get lost in the pages of this book, imagining a different world, and clearly envisioning what it will be like to fight to get there.
The line in the artwork is on point. Lumpen (prisoners and gangsters) and peasants are shown working in unity to smash capitalism and national oppression. The Third Worldist line is prominent throughout: Aztlán is depicted in unity with oppressed nations globally, against Amerikkka and imperialism in general.
There is very strong revolutionary feminism in Aztlán Realism. Wimmin are shown on the front lines, and as the backbone, of [email protected] liberation. While the drawings containing wimmin in a revolutionary context far outnumber the scantily-clad and coy-faced Chicanas, we would choose to omit the sexy drawings altogether if we had the option. They're a direct reflection of the gendered culture we currently live in, and glorification of brown rather than white wimmin should not require objectification of bodies.
The only other thing we would change about this book would be to see the whole book printed in color. Villarreal's use of color adds vibrancy to the artwork which is very compelling.
We strongly recommend getting your hands on this book, or just reaching out to Aztlán Press to show some love. Aztlán Press aims to publish the works of imprisoned [email protected] writers, and we look forward to watching them develop over the years to come.
The challenges I faced upon release was money and housing. These two were primarily the most significant factors. I have a big family, so one may think that at least temporary housing wouldn't be a factor. Yet for me, and maybe for many others, it is. There's a family member that I have that loves me dearly, I believe, but just won't (or just can't) allow me to live with them, becuz of either past run-ins or past lifestyle choices I've made.
I mean let's face it — no matter what changes I've made recently (i.e. politically, morally), most of my family members just don't trust me to live with them or in their homes for more than a few days before they feel it's time for me to go. And it's not becuz, I feel, they believe I'm difficult to deal with, but becuz their not 100% faithful that I'll come thru on moral promises.
Then I find myself reaching out to parole to be placed in a program for parolees, but with programs comes parole restrictions. The only problem with this is the parolee begins to feel like he's been sent back to prison again. Upon arriving at the program, due to the CDCR regulations that most CDCR parolee programs operate under, this gives anyone thoughts of wanting to leave the program prematurely before securing a job or housing.
And even if one completes the program and/or secures job or housing or both, then there's the cost of living and spousal-family problems that comes into play. It did for me. These are some of the factors that makes it difficult for comrades to stay connected with our MIM homebase and involved in our political work.
There are also other factors that comes into play in addition to the above: Some of the biggest challenges are past gang ties and drugs. For me these are the most crucial and can greatly affect effective communication with the comrades.
I personally understand that communication is vital and efforts needs to be directed at communication, becuz had I stayed connected immediately upon release, my comrades could've walked me thru my obstacles by instruction. Without instruction, comrades being release may get lost. And without communication there can be no instruction.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer poses an important question, "What can MIM(Prisons) do to support our released comrades while they get their lives set up?" If you're reading this newsletter, you probably have already read our Release Letter and Release Challenges letters, both focused on the details of our Re-Lease on Live Program. In those letters we lay out the need for weekly communication with MIM(Prisons).
We advise that comrades write to us via snail mail at first, so we can set up secure communication lines. We can set up phone appointments and try to help you get e-mail running on a secure machine. Like our prisoner organizing, if we can't get on e-mail or phone, we are happy to support via snail mail indefinitely.
Our question to this writer, and everyone in a similar situation, is whether this system we've set up is viable. The writer above talks about the need for communication, instruction, support, between eirself and MIM(Prisons). With our current Re-Lease on Life structure, are we set up to be successful at this? What do we need to modify about it to be successful?