Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
2011, PM Press
Keith LaMar (Bomani Hondo Shakur)
In April 1993 there was an 11-day occupation of Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, starting on Easter Sunday when the maximum security prisoners overpowered correctional officers (COs) while returning from recreation. During the occupation, eight COs were held as hostages; one was killed and the rest were released. Nine prisoners were also killed through the course of this uprising, all by other prisoners. The 407 prisoners surrendered when the administration committed to a 21-point agreement. After the uprising, five prisoners were sentenced to death for the murders, and they are the only people held on Ohio's death row.
Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising and Condemned are good books to read together, and give two thorough accounts of the events of the SOCF uprising, and even more thorough detail of what happened afterward. Lucasville is written by Staughton Lynd, a lawyer who plays a significant role in Condemned, which was written by Keith LaMar (Bomani), one of the people condemned to death for the events during the uprising. The content in these books overlaps a lot, but not too much as to be redundant. What content is repeated through the two books just underlines lessons learned, and clarifies the authors' political orientations, some of which MIM(Prisons) does not agree with. Rather than write a point-by-point criticism of these books which most of our readers will never have the opportunity to read anyway, below we summarize some of the lessons on prison organizing we gleaned from studying them.
Condemned recounts Bomani's first-hand experience before, during, and after the uprising, especially focusing on the struggle of the five prisoners who were scapegoated for the uprising (known as the Lucasville 5). Condemned is a good case study on many common aspects of prison organizing. Lynd's book describes all the work it took, and all the obstacles the state put in place, to support the Lucasville 5's struggle from the outside.
The first theme addressed in Condemned is the author's ideological transformation. MIM(Prisons)'s primary task at this point in the struggle is building public opinion and institutions of the oppressed for socialist revolution, so affecting others' political consciousness is something we work on a lot. On the first day of the uprising, Bomani was hoping the state would come in to end the chaos. But "standing there as dead bodies were dumped onto the yard (while those in authority stood back and did nothing), and then experience the shock of witnessing Dennis' death [another prisoner who was murdered in the same cell as the author], awakened something in me." Bomani's persynal experiences, plus politicization on the pod and thru books, are what led em to pick up the struggle against injustice.
At an event where Bomani was publicizing eir case and experience, a MIM(Prisons) comrade was able to ask em what go-to books ey recommend for new comrades who are just getting turned on to the struggle. Bomani suggested Black Boy by Richard Wright, and also refers to Wright in Condemned. MIM(Prisons) would second this recommendation. Black Boy is an excellent study of New Afrikan life under Jim Crow in the South, with many aspects of that struggle still continuing in this country today.
In eir own book, Bomani also recounts acts of prisoner unity against the administration shortly following the uprising, and how politicization of fellow prisoners played out in real life. The prisoners made a pact to trash the range each day, and not clean it up. The guards cleaned the range themselves for a few days, but then brought in a prisoner to clean it up. Simultaneously, the "old heads" on the pod were leading speeches nightly about the need for unity and the relationship between the prisoners and the administration, politicizing everyone within earshot.
"Every night there was a variation of this same speech, and I listened to it over and over again until something took root in me. I became openly critical of the mistreatment we had all undergone and, for a few months at least, was serious in my determination to persuade others not to join the administration in the efforts to further divide and conquer us."(Condemned, p. 33)
A tactic that was mentioned in passing in Condemned was how the prisoner who was cleaning the range for the pigs was dealt with. Ey was struggled with for a period of time, and asked to not clean the range, but ey came back day after day. Eventually this prisoner was stabbed by the protesters for continuously undermining the action. Bomani doesn't mention how this act impacted the unity demo, whether it helped or not. We aim to minimize physical violence as much as possible, although sometimes it may be necessary. It is up to those who are on the ground to make the call in their particular conditions, and this tactic should not at all be taken lightly. If much physical force is necessary to maintain a peace demo, then we should ask ourselves if the masses we're organizing are ready for that type of demo. Political education is always our focus at this stage in the struggle.
Both books address how a protest with solid participants can fail or succeed depending on the protest's outside support. Several hunger strikes were launched, and ended, without progress made on the demands. It wasn't until connections were made with outside advocates and media that prison officials took any steps toward fixing them. Especially in an instance where a lawyer met with the regional director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation, which led to some property restrictions being lifted.
Recalling a victory from a 12-day hunger strike which had a lot of outside support,
"When the administration refused to follow their own rules, we complained (verbally and informally) and then asked a district judge to intervene on our behalf, all to no avail. It never occurred to us that we were wasting our time by appealing to the very people who had placed us in this predicament we were in.
"Indeed, the whole process of redressing our grievances was nothing more than an exercise in futility designed to drain off our vital energy and make us feel as though we had done all that we could do.
"It was only when we began to write and reach out to 'the people' that things began to change. First, there was Staughton's book and accompanying play; then we began holding 'talks' around the state on various college campuses, as well as writing articles in various periodicals. In this way, we were able to generate some much-needed support."(Condemned, p. 179)
To combat the psychological warfare of the prison staff, Bomani strongly recommends daily meditation and yoga as a method to protect oneself. "By learning how to watch my thoughts [meditate using simple breathing exercises], I was able to rise above the vicious cycle of cause and effect, and thereby avoid the tricks and traps of my environment."(Condemned, p. 133)
MIM(Prisons) receives regular requests for information on sovereign citizenship. While we've written against this tactic at length elsewhere, Lucasville underlines it with an anecdote about three prisoners who cut off their fingers and mailed them to the United Nations to show how serious they were in in their claim of sovereign citizenship. The request was still denied.
A final lesson from these books, especially recounted in Lucasville, is that in any attempt at solidarity and justice for the oppressed, prison officials and other oppressors will do everything they can to undermine it. Everything. We should never expect that our enemies will act in good faith toward respecting us and our needs. We should always expect pushback and always expect that they will attempt to derail us at every step of the way. Studying past struggles for clues on how we can protect our movement will only make our job easier. The state is taking notes on our shortcomings and we need to do the same of both our shortcomings and our strengths.
This will be my full account of my evolvement with the organizing of peace between all prisoners, be they independent citizens of this yard or members of lumpen groups or organizations. Many prisoners have been involved in the processes that will be disclosed, to ensure their safety their names won't be mentioned in this report. All circumstances are well known by the prisoner population on this yard (C yard @ Tehachapi) and can therefore be verified easily by asking and requesting anyone who receives ULK on this yard. Before starting I want to give shouts out to United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP), because I hold your principles and am inspired by your scientific methods. As a 5%er I give all due respects to the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) for my Free dome and clear sight which allows me to live in a non-fictional reality, being awakened to the True Self which is righteousness without fear. Also I would like to thank ULK and MIM(Prisons) for providing revolutionary education for free, which has taught me how to lead and helped me realize that I am a socialist with a revolutionary conscience. Thank all the prisoners here at California Correctional Institution (CCI) who's assisted me [nicknames omitted], Tha Numbers, Tha Old Black Vanguard and a huge part of the New Afrikans and [email protected]
I arrived here at CCI in mid-2016. Upon my arrival I introduced myself as a member of the NGE. I met several New Afrikans that were very negative about the program here, C.O. culture, prisoner treatment and a myriad of other complexities dealing with conflicts among prisoners. The first persyn I came to know from a non-fictional reality is a member of one of the largest street organizations in North America. Our first conversations would become the foundation and conduit for many actions that followed. His assessment of the yard has proven to be invaluable, though bleak when he spoke of the mental deadness of our people; meaning the Black prison population on the yard. Blind, deaf and dumb with no concept of organization or unity. This comrade is indispensable to the prosperity, growth, and development of this yard's prisoner on just about every level. His advice is most valuable now as ever.
To begin to address these conditions, I initiated the weekly services for everyone on the yard who wants to attend as a place of unity, education and true identity resurrection. From proposal to acceptance it took one month, then from acceptance to being physically scheduled it took three more weeks ending when we had the first NGE service in November 2016.
At the same time this was being developed, most people were saying this will never be accepted by the administration on this yard. Doubters included prisoners, as well as Captains, Chaplains and Correctional Officers. I persynally began circulating my verbal disapproval of two-on-one violence or group violence against one person. Simply stating these actions won't be tolerated when acted out against New Afrikans by other racial groups nor by other New Afrikans on New Afrikan prisoners nor member of other races who are also prisoners regardless of charges and convictions issued by the unlawful court system. By my understanding this position is backed by the BPP's 10 point program demand #8.(1) This has become the new norm through actions I will now describe.
On a day at the ass end of September 2016, at the morning yard for the lower tier, I noticed a dichotomy between a group of Aztlán known as the Number and an elder from the New Afrikans. Three members of the Number appeared to be attempting to jump physically this unknown elderly New Afrikan when his cellie physically assisted him ending the exchange of blows by walking away and descending to the bottom of the yard. All this happened in the direct view of the yard Correction Officers without any response. After my initial investigation of the occurrence turned little to no information I migrated to the bottom of the yard to build and better understand what I had just witnessed. Upon speaking to a New Afrikan soldier who we shall call Ty, me and him decided to get to the bottom of this matter. The elder explained that the Number owed him and upon confrontation about the debt verbally refused to pay. That is when the elderly New Afrikan swung his fist, hitting the debtor in the jaw, causing 3 members of the Number lumpen group to engage him in physical battle. After the knowledge, me and Ty decided to go and confront the Numbers, to issue a formal notice that the jumping of any New Afrikan would no longer be accepted and if we cannot have an agreement we would go to war at that moment. However, due to the magnetic energy all the New Afrikans on the yard mobilized with unity and harmoniously walked as one to the Numbers table at which time the aforementioned decree was stated to the Numbers. They decided peace was best for the yard at that moment and minutes later came assuring the elderly New Afrikan he would receive what he was owed. They apologized for the acts of aggression and the miscommunication.
During this time the Correctional Officers stayed in their yard position but many prisoners reported hearing them radio the tower to shoot Blacks if violence was to occur. Many New Afrikans felt the power of unity that day and began a positive dialogue due to being empowered by the unity of that event. That day also respectful communication between New Afrikans and Numbers were established including beginning dialogue between white nationals of two different lumpen groups in days to follow, which opened up the door for me to begin to share the principles of the UFPP with both major groups. The NGE membership grew to 23 prisoners of a racially diverse demographic, mostly New Afrikan but Aztláns and YT's joined too. I shared white national books out of my collection with the white nation lumpen group member and believed we had strong lines of communication.
Over a month later, in November 2016, an issue was made known to me about an alleged thief of a radio supposedly by a New Afrikan who had a history of mischief named KC. When word got to me I was told the Aztláns were planning to jump the New Afrikan, after sharing this with my comrade it was decided that we would investigate in order to keep the peace. While playing basketball someone had taken the radio off of the sidelines where items had been sat inside owners' shirts. My comrade believed KC to be the culprit, which he denied. Voluntarily, all the New Afrikans stripped down to their boxers proving they didn't have the property in question, lastly and with little fuss KC stripped proving he didn't have it. Then all the Aztláns likewise stripped proving they didn't have it either. The victim still felt like KC was guilty and wanted to fight. KC reluctantly obliged and whipped him and peace was better established stating New Afrikans won't turn down no battle if requested but peace is desired.
Almost a month later a white national, who I believed to be solid used our growing relationship to lure KC away from myself, then attacked him with a huge stone in a pillow case when his back was turned. Needless to say his instant karma manifested, KC was able to thwart this plot against himself and turn the tide with a huge victory over this extreme form of physical oppression and violent aggression. In days to follow white national politics seemed to attempt to establish itself, with whites telling Blacks they could not use pull up bars near their table. On hearing this I spoke with their known leaders and we all decided to end all attempts at making C yard a racialized environment and instead work together on a proposal to help create this yard into an honor yard. Vowing to do away with weapon usage and to better establish open lines of communication in order to solve interracial issues without violence.
There was an issue which touched home that I must share with you now. One of the persyns I most respect was accused of a savage crime against his celly. At the time I was allowing him to use my TV and a few CDs as was two other comrades. Upon his arrest people began circulating rumors of his alleged guilt. Due to his conduct and our developed closeness I persynally went to those prophecizing against him and told them to stop and desist. While he was being investigated a white porter came into blame for what was by then deemed missing property, that the porter had access to and had allegedly stolen. This was based on the fact that neither my TV nor all the CDs and a CD player made it to R&R. He was blamed and pressured to pay for two of the missing CDs by someone of influence. During this time I found out that the Building Officer had on his own taken my TV out of this persyn's property before it even left the building along with the CD player. I was asked to protect the white porter by one of the members of the original Black prisoners vanguard party, which I agreed to. Then the Correctional Officer returned my TV after keepin it almost two weeks, which is not just unfair but it is unlawful and burglary by definition. I didn't know if the white porter was guilty so I didn't charge him for my CDs knowing that the comrade was innocent and would be returning. Under threat and fear the white porter paid a 16oz jar of coffee to the owner of two missing CDs.
Well, I was right about the porter being innocent and the comrade because when he came back the CDs were in his property which he returned to their owners. The porter got his coffee back and all the false prophets learned a valuable lesson and some even apologized for smutting the comrade.
Now I have a monthly unity walk at yard with an all inclusive New Afrikan peaceful unity movement and I will have my first banquet in February 2017, of which all the leaders of the different lumpen organizations have been invited to attend. I will read UFFP principles at that time and speak on United Prisoners (UP) its benefits and how important it is to take the initiative in the Change Movement.
Today we Raza and Natives/others kicked off the new year by exercising unity here in C Yard by not going to work or education at work center (head quarters) of this yard. Other factions decided not to participate because they care too much about the 5-10¢ paying job they currently have (Lumpen Aristocracy?).
This campaign we currently put into motion is to stop the form of harassment these pigs use thru daily body searches, i.e. x-ray body scan, strip search, etc. before we go to school/work and before we leave. We know that we can stop at least the x-ray scan from taking place for we will continue to refuse the x-ray scan and therefore work/education. This is the recent flow here.
Persynally I believe that we should shut down all movement but still go to Yard, programs and accept our food. Just make the pigs do all the work. That is the only way to make these pigs fly. Even then, these forms of campaigns are at a beginner step and might not be fully successful. We should still engage and get a feel of the opposition. The only way we know how to deal with an opposition is thru the motion of our resistance. It is then that we'll know what we're up against and to what extent they'll go. Not only this but we learn on how to combat the beast. New views and forms of tactics come from this. It is what we call the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing.
Rogue One is the backstory behind the very first episode of Star Wars ever produced (which is now chronologically number 4 in the unendingly profitable Star Wars series of movies). In this movie we learn how the rebel alliance managed to get a copy of the blueprints for the Death Star, a critical piece of information used to destroy that weapon. This movie is an impressive example of how well-funded elements of capitalist culture can spend millions of dollars in order to make a profit off of entertainment: the estimated budget was $200,000,000. Imagine what could have been done with those resources in a system guided by peoples' need instead of profit.
For this money we get a story that has some progressive elements but also many questionable and reactionary messages. Rogue One is about the rebel alliance's fight against the Empire. This could be a great anti-imperialist analogy. And there are some solid themes of revolutionary sacrifice and the oppressed coming together to fight a common enemy in a united front. But in the end it is individualism that wins, as of course that makes for a more exciting story in our culture.
This episode is a fairly satisfactory effort to stitch together episode 3 and episode 4, and provides us with a better explanation for why the Death Star could be completely destroyed with one good shot. The saboteur behind this weakness gives us one of the many examples of revolutionary sacrifice in this movie. It also offers an example of how resistance is possible from someone who is forced into a situation where there seems to be no resistance. While this character is depicted as having unique skills, eir course of action serves as a good example of the existentialist axiom that we always have a choice. This may serve as inspiration for those in the imperialist countries surrounded by class enemies, or those in isolation cells with no contact with the outside world but occasional letters.
While revolutionary sacrifice is a strong theme with many characters in the Rebellion, this message is not inherently anti-imperialist as it will likely reinforce those fighting for U.$. empire who believe what they are doing is good. The Empire in the movie, rather than being an example of the evils of imperialism, continues to come across as a caricature of what Amerika thinks of communism. Everyone wears the same uniform and is forced to work for the military dominance of the world under the leadership of one egotistical leader. But for those with a revolutionary mindset, we can pretend this was meant to represent the imperialist empire, and root for the Rebellion and honor their sacrifices.
There is a group that resembles Arab militants who have taken up focoism against the Empire, and who the Rebel Alliance grudgingly wants to work with. In some ways this is better than the average portrayal of Arab peoples in Hollywood movies, where they are often just the terrorists. But in this case they come across as not smart enough to participate in a united battle, just doing what their leader directs, in random focoist attacks. Still a rather stereotypical picture.
The Alliance itself appears to be a united front of various species from around the universe who are working together to defeat the Empire. This could be seen to parallel the united front of oppressed nations that will be necessary to take down U.$. imperialism. In humyn history we have strong examples of united fronts within nations, such as China. But the multinational united front and the joint dictatorship of the proletariat that will likely be necessary after defeating U.$. imperialism are things that we have little experience with. Fred Hampton's Rainbow Coalition in Chicago was an early form of such a united front, but it was repressed before an anti-imperialist war could emerge.
The movie uses this united front to promote ultra-leftism and individualist acts of desperation. When they get bogged down in fighting over whether or not they should take military action or run and hide, a small group of fighters take independent action because they don't know anything but war. These are the brave heroes of the movie. The main disagreement within the united front was over whether or not it was possible to win in a fight against the Death Star. This debate over tactics could have been a good lesson in struggle and unity, perhaps greater gathering of information and a testing of various tactics to learn from practice. Instead there was a short verbal fight and then a decision that no action could be taken because of all the disagreement, portraying the united front as futile.
Rogue One did feature more female characters than the average Hollywood movie, but the main characters were born into their roles, rather than rising up to take positions out of conviction and hard work. While the lead male characters overcame great hardship, or fought against persynal circumstances, to take up the rebel struggle. And still the vast majority of the characters seen in the movie are male, an odd feature for a society so far in the future. Clearly the patriarchy still dominates in Star Wars.
Star Wars movies all feature reference to "The Force" to greater or lesser degrees. In this storyline The Force is basically turned into a religion, practiced only by one Asian man who blindly guards the temple (literally, he is blind). This man's blind faith (it's not very subtle) becomes an important part of the rebel fight. And at one point this faith saves the day, again promoting a sort of ultra-leftism.
With all of these failings, MIM(Prisons) can't recommend Rogue One for anything more than critical analysis.
I'm once again checking in from California Correctional Institution (CCI). In 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale planted the seeds of the Black Liberation movement in Oakland. The seeds they planted rapidly spread to the rest of the United States and now years later we're fighting for the same things as the Panthers.
We still follow the same theme of Black nationalism, armed militancy, intercommunalism, and answering the call to join the revolutionary struggle. Even today, I can still see and hear the voices of comrades such as Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis, Gwen Fontaine, Fredrika Newton and Lil Bobby Hutton; their teachings, thoughts, practices. And they still resonate with significance and power through the pages of books.
The spirit of the Panthers have been spread so deep into the roots of Black life and into the fabric of every African Community in America, that it's just natural for us to want to stand up and fight when we hear the call. In our homes, schools, hoods, jails, and prisons. That's the revolutionary legacy, and the spirit these comrades planted in us.
This yard we're on is considered an Ad-Seg kick out yard. But in our efforts to educate the people we've begun to create something better. This yard is becoming a place where cadres are born. We have created programmes that serve the people: we have political study groups, we have a GED study group, in which we are helping comrades get their GEDs, and we are helping individuals with their college classes as well.
I am very proud of the comrades on this facility of all nationalities. Because we're not just talking we're doing, pushing hard for a truly united front and serving the people. We have just submitted the paperwork for a banquet. That will be used as a Unity Celebration, where we will all meet and share our thoughts on the issues of today, and share a little political knowledge with each other.
The only issue I see is that the room only holds fifty people, so not all of the groups can fit in this room, so we're planning to have another on the yard the next day. We don't want anyone left out. We are here to serve the people, educate the people, and to help liberate the people, all the people. My rules are if we focus on what we have in common and less on our differences we'll be able to learn better, who we are, and what we're about.
We all want the same things. We all have the same goals, and we all want to create positive change in our world, and in our communities. A community by way of definitions is a comprehensive collection of institutions that serve the people who live there. CCI C-Facility is where we are living right now. So this is the community we're serving.
It is the duty of all revolutionaries to make the revolution. This is obviously rule one. But this is a way of denouncing, in the context, all the so-called revolutionaries who not only did not seek to make the revolution, who managed secure income, talk the revolutionary shit, but who torpedoed the efforts of the people to liberate themselves and that must not be. As Huey said, revolutionary theory without practice ain't shit.
I randomly bumped into a homie who I had previously met a few years back. We got to conversating and eventually got to swapping materials (books, magazines) and we each offered to exchange a "political newsletter." It turned out that we were both referring to ULK; each of us not knowing at the time that we were both corresponding with MIM(Prisons) and we were talking about the exact same newsletter (ULK 52).
An interesting fact to note is that we were both able to overcome past "beef" that we had against one another. Beef that had manifested in an administrative segregation barracks during 2015 as a result of our poor/squalid isolated living conditions. Our beef was evidence of the negative side-effects that ramify into violence and verbal insolence/disrespect/threats between captives, all being things consequential of our long-term solitary confinement that is deliberately facilitated by the pigs.
We both (me and this said comrade) peeped game and realized that the police want us to have discord sown between us (captives in general, but also specifically between me and this comrade) and I immediately took personal measures to end the pettiness and hostilities –- for unity's sake. By squashing the trivial/frivolous "childsplay," and setting aside our pride (which has always been a real challenge for me), we wound up developing a very strong unified bond and comradeship that is likely going to carry on into the free world. We passed knowledge back and forth, to fortify one another. I was stoked to be able to aid and assist this comrade as much as possible.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Often Under Lock & Key is censored by prison administrators for encouraging violence. We hope the administrators are paying attention to this letter as it clearly demonstrates what we've been saying all along: ULK actually encourages peace!
Tania La Guerrillera Y La Epopeya Suramericana Del Che
("Tania: Undercover with Che Guevara in Bolivia" is the title of the English translation)
Ocean Press 2005
Mention the name Che Guevara virtually anywhere in the world and images of Cuba, Fidel Castro and armed struggle come to mind. Travel to places like Cuba, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay and say the name Che and another image comes to mind; that of Haydée Tamaia Bunke Bider, better known as "Tania the guerrilla", the only womyn to live, fight and die as part of Che Guevara's Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN), National Liberation Army.
The first time i came across the figure of Tania the guerrilla was in reading the book Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson, which documents Che's extraordinary political life from childhood to his death. And while Jon Lee Anderson's book is unrivaled as far as political biographies goes, his emphasis was on Guevara, so his writing on Tania left much to be desired. In stark contrast, Ulises Estrada's present work casts much needed light on this figure little known here in the U.$.
Tania the guerrilla was born Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider on 19 November 1937 in Buenos Aires, Argentina to Erich Bider, a German communist, and Nadia Bunke Bider, a Russian Jew (pg 157). The Bider's fled Nazi Germany in 1935 and settled in Buenos Aires, promptly joining the banned Argentine Communist Party (ACP) (pg 143). Nadia Bider recounts how Haydée was exposed to politics early on as the Biders hosted ACP meetings, hid weapons, stashed communist literature in their home and helped Jewish refugees (pg 162). Besides joining the ACP, Nadia and Erich also belonged to various anti-fascist organizations (pg 144).
The Biders were to remain in Argentina for most of Haydée's young life and would not return to Germany until well after the Soviet Red Army smashed fascism there. Then in 1951, when Haydée was fourteen and after having spent two years in Uruguay, the Biders moved to the German Democratic Republic (GDR), also known as East Germany, part of the old Soviet bloc (pg 145). Haydée, having lived all her life in South America, did not want to leave her home and made her parents promise to let her return when she was older (pg 145).
After arriving in the GDR, Haydée felt as if she'd experienced a "revelation" (pg 145). She immediately incorporated herself into political life. Having attended her first Free German Youth meeting, Haydée returned home with "great enthusiasm." According to Nadia, Haydée confirmed that the socialist system was superior to capitalism, because, among other things, she was allowed to speak freely and express herself politically (pg 145). No doubt that having lived in Argentina, a "democracy" where the communist party was banned and poverty and exploitation were rampant helped her make this materialist comparison.
Apparently Haydée never forgot her beloved Argentina and, after having settled into German life, couldn't help but share with her new friends her preference for Argentinian folkloric music (pg 145). Like most girls raised in a capitalist democracy (Argentina, Uruguay), Haydée was socialized into dreaming of marriage and children. When she got older, however, even in adolescence, her priority was to one day join the revolutionary struggle in Latin America — this was to remain a focal point for Haydée (pg 145).
At age 18, Haydée was admitted into the United German Socialist Party in the city of Stalinstadt. Due to Haydée's high level of political education and commitment, she was admitted into the UGSP after only a one-year waiting period instead of the mandatory two. This would be the only time in its hystory that this exception would be made (pg 258). Haydée first became familiar with Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and the struggle in the Sierra Maestra while attending the 5th annual World Youth Festival in the Soviet Union in 1957 (pg 145). Shortly thereafter, she decided she had to go to Cuba and the next two years in Germany were spent organizing for the trip (pg 146). Haydée was confident that in Cuba she'd learn the revolutionary methods with which to liberate Argentina from the imperialist stranglehold (pg 146).
Haydée's participation in Che Guevara's ELN started sometime after arriving in Cuba. She was chosen from among two other Argentinian wimmin living on the island to take part in "Operation Fantasm", which was the code name given to the mission to infiltrate the Bolivian government at the highest levels, as well as to initiate a guerrilla insurgency there (pg 20). At the time Haydée was interviewed for this position, she was working as a German translator for the Cuban Ministry of Education (pg 22). She was also involved with the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the World and the steering committee for the Woman's Federation (pg 22). In addition, Haydée also worked with the Rebel Youth Association, the Young Communist Union, she volunteered in various other serve-the-people type programs and was a member of Cuban Popular Defense Militia (pg 25). The author of this book, who was working in Cuba's Ministry of the Interior at the time and was vice-minister of "political intelligence" as well as one of the people to recruit Haydée for Operation Fantasm after Che himself recommended her, remembers how she swelled with pride whenever she wore her olive green uniform and service weapon (pg 25). Among other useful academic accomplishments of Haydée was her fluency in Spanish, English, German and French (pg 145). She'd also just received a Journalism Degree from Havan University and, at the time of her departure from the GDR, she'd just completed her first year as a philosophy major at Humboldt University in East Berlin (pg 25). It was also around this time Haydée met Carlos Fonseca, the founder and leader of the Nicaraguan Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), to whom she'd confessed her wish to one day participate in the guerrilla struggle there (pg 25).
After being vetted and being given the role in Operation Fantasm, Haydée began training for her position, which included cryptography and learning how to use various types of communications equipment (pg 27). Haydée was not given any specifics as to her mission other than the fact that she'd be functioning mostly as a technician, but under no circumstances should she rule out the possibility of actively participating in armed struggle (pg 28). At this point, Haydée asked that she'd be allowed to choose her own pseudonym for her mission. She chose the name "Tania" in honor of Zoja Kosmodemjanskaja, a Soviet womyn guerrilla who was killed after being captured and tortured by the Nazis during the German invasion of the USSR (pg 28). Days after her training was complete, she was taken to the Ministry of Industry, where she was met, much to her surprise, by Che himself (pg 28)! After congratulating her on her decision to take up this task, Che informed her that it was not too late to back out, as he understood the gravity of what they were asking her to do. Without hesitation, Tania stated that as a communist, it was her revolutionary duty to carry out whatever task necessary to liberate Latin America from imperialist exploitation (pg 29). Che then gave her his assessment of the political, economic, social and military situation in South America. He condemned Amerikan imperialism for siphoning the region's wealth and for its subordination of Latin American governments who they bought off with only a pittance of what they themselves stole. He then concluded his assessment by telling Tania that you couldn't be a revolutionary unless you were an anti-imperialist (pg 30).
In preparing Tania for her mission, the author shared his views on guerrilla warfare with her. He said that according to his own experience in the Sierra Maestra, it would be very difficult for a guerrilla insurgency in the rural areas to maintain itself and succeed without the support of an organization in the city, especially during the insurgency's early states. Only after the revolutionary movement in the rural areas reached maturity could it then execute military and political operations with independence (pg 32). From a Maoist perspective, however, this political-military line is incorrect. Strategically speaking, it is completely backwards as the peasant masses make up the driving force of any revolutionary movement in agrarian societies. So before moving on with respect to this topic, let us be clear that as Maoists, we disagree with the Cuban political-military strategy known as Focoism. Focoism is defined as:
"The belief that small cells of armed revolutionaries can create the conditions for revolution through their actions. Demonstrated revolutionary victories, the success of the Foci, are supposed to lead the masses to revolution. Focoism often places great emphasis on armed struggle and the immediacy this brings to class warfare. Focoism is different from People's War in that it doesn't promote the mass line as part of guerrilla operations."
-From the MIM(Prisons) Glossary
So while as anti-imperialists we have great unity with the national liberation movement that booted U.$. imperialism from Cuba, we also have a variety of criticisms of Focoism, in particular the line being espoused in this book. The line that says only the "urban population" (industrial proletariat & left-wing sections of the petty-bourgeoisie) in a Third World country are advanced enough to lead the revolution is crypto-Trotskyist. The Focoists, while claiming to be communist and claiming to follow in the footsteps of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, in fact prove themselves to disagree with the philosophy of dialectical materialism in practice by attempting to prove external forces as principal both in general and in particular. By relegating the role of the masses as makers of hystory to mere spectators in hystory, the Focoists display a lack of faith in the masses and thereby uphold the bourgeoisie theory of hystory which they also claim to struggle against in their individualist attempts to bring about revolution. The Focoist political-military line upheld by the author is therefore anti-Marxist, anti-dialectical materialist, anti-communist and contradicts the entire hystorical process ever since the emergence of classes and class struggle. It is no wonder that Focoism has never succeeded in defeating imperialism anywhere in the world with the exception of Cuba. Indeed the Cuban example has been the exception and not the rule when it comes to the revolutionary transformation of society.
On the other hand, if we look at all three major stages of the Chinese Revolution: from the war of independence against Japan; to the revolutionary war that ousted the KMT from China, including Amerikan, British and French imperialism; to the struggle for New Democracy, we can see how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under the leadership of Mao Zedong struggled shoulder-to-shoulder with the masses in order to build dual power from inside the revolutionary base areas from which they were able to encroach upon, encircle and challenge the cities of China. This revolutionary war strategy is called People's War and it is the model for national liberation struggles all throughout the Third World in the era of dying imperialism.
Once her training was complete, Tania's handlers were confident she was more than prepared to fulfill her role. They believed that during the course of her training, she'd displayed many new character traits: hate for the enemy, firm ideological grasp of the revolutionary task at hand, discipline, vigilance, a disposition towards sacrifice in victory without any personal ambition or gain and satisfaction in completing her mission (pg 42). Tania soon departed for Prague under the alias "Maria Iriarte" from Argentina (pg 62).
Once in Prague, she was briefed on the next stage of her mission by Czech agents working in tandem with Cuban intelligence. Tania then travelled to Italy and then to the Federal Republic of Germany, also known as West Germany, which was split at the time between U.$., Briti$h and French imperialism. Tania's objective here was to deepen her cover as Maria Iriarte so that she may then establish herself as “Vittoria Pancini” of Italian origin (pg 62). It was in the course of these trips that Tania was finally confronted with the on-the-ground reality of capitalism and the class distinctions between the developed West and the under-developed Third World. Here Tania was able to witness the existence of poverty alongside the opulence that characterized the West; the egoism of western society and various other social ills she'd only learned about in school and her studies of Marxism. Whereas many people newly arrived in imperialist countries have swooned at the sight of such riches, Tania on the other hand found that her resolve was only strengthened (pg 63). After a few months in West Germany, Tania was sent to Italy to create another persona, that of "Laura Gutierrez Bauer", also from Argentina (pg 79).
On 5 November 1964, after returning to Italy from West Germany, Tania arrived in Peru by way of Argentina on her next stop to La Paz, Bolivia (pg 82). This is where Tania really proved her powers as a Cuban spy. Through her connections she'd established with the Argentine embassy as "Laura", she was able to infiltrate the Bolivian dictator, General Ramon Barrientos's inner circle. Near the end of 1964, Tania managed to get herself invited to a special banquet breakfast for Gen. Barrientos, where she had a conversation with him and even had pictures taken together (pg 84). Following this event, Tania abandoned her residence at Hotel La Paz and moved into the guest house belonging to Alicia Dupley Zamara, the wife of an important cement factory administrator. From here, Tania was able to stockpile connections deep within the Bolivian bourgeoisie as well as with various right-wing leaders and organizations, reactionary Christian social-democrats and pro-fascist organizations (pg 35). Next, Tania began to embed herself into various government agencies, such as the Office of Criminal Investigations, where she was able to collect information on the extent of Amerikan imperialism's penetration into the Bolivian penal and judicial system. She also gathered intelligence on the local jail in La Paz known simply as "the Panopticon" (pg 89).
Afterwards, Tania left Bolivia for Mexico City, where she was to meet a member of Cuban intelligence who informed her of her next mission and congratulated her for a job well-done. Tania had accomplished far more than anyone expected. She was also informed that she'd been voted in absentia into the Cuban "Communist" Party* (pg 76).
The next stage of Tania's mission was to gain Bolivian citizenship so as to better facilitate her cover and role in the Bolivian urban insurgency. She was to be Che's eyes and ears in the Bolivian government. Tania gained citizenship by marriage to a Bolivian university student, Mario Martinez (pg 105). On 31 December 1966, Tania met with Che in the ELN's base camp in the Bolivian mountains for the first time since leaving Cuba. By all accounts it was a joyous reunion and Tania celebrated the 9th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution with the ELN guerrillas. Two days later, Tania left camp with explicit orders from Che not to return to the camp and to refrain from any illegal activities that might blow her cover. However, on 19 March 1967, Che was angered to receive news that Tania had returned to camp. In Tania's defense, she stated there was no other member of the incipient urban insurgency she yet trusted enough to deliver fresh soldiers to the ELN, which was the task Tania was carrying out at the time. The timing, however, could not have been worse as the ELN had just suffered the desertion of two volunteers (pg 113). Che immediately ordered Tania to return to the city. Before she could leave, however, they received information that the Bolivian Army was aware of the ELN's location and were on the hunt. On 23 March 1967 combat operations began when, during the course of an ambush initiated by the Bolivian military, seven government soldiers were killed and 14 were taken prisoner. Four days later, news reached the camp that Tania's cover might have been blown when government officials announced over the radio that they were looking for someone matching Tania's description with links to the ELN. Around this same time the Bolivian police found identification belonging to a "Laura Gutierrez" inside of a jeep of a home they'd raided in search of possible connections to the ELN (pg 118).
On 31 August 1967 "Tania the guerrilla" was killed by government soldiers during an ambush along the edges of the Rio Grande. According to the only surviving member of the ELN, the group were trying to march out of the zone known as the Bella Vista mountain range where the military was attempting to confine Tania's unit, which had split off from Che's. As Tania knelt down to touch the water a single shot rang out. Tania had been shot through the arm. She immediately lifted her arm over her head to reach for the M1 slung over her back, when she suddenly collapsed. The single bullet traversed her arm and hit one of her lungs. Tania fell into the Rio Grande and was swept away by the current as shots raced back and forth between the ELN and the Bolivian Army (pg 124). Tania's body was found three days later by government troops (pg 125). On 8 October 1967, Che Guevara was taken prisoner and summarily executed the following day (pg 126). The bodies of all 33 fallen ELN guerrillas would then be disappeared by government troops and would not be found for nearly 30 years, when retired Bolivian general Mario Vargas Salinas confessed to Jon Lee Anderson the true location of Che Guevara's remains (pg 132).
As late as 2005, the people of Vallegrande, near the site where Tania was killed and where her remains were last seen, still held a special Mass every Sunday for Tania the guerrilla (pg 138). Until the dissolution of the GDR in 1990, there existed more than 200 juvenile brigades and "feminist" groups with the name Haydée Tamar Bunke Bider. Day care centers and elementary schools also bore her name in the GDR (pg 261). Today, with the temporary triumph of imperialism in Germany, none of these are still around. In Cuba, up until 1998, there were many collectives and various other institutions with either the name Tamara Bunke or Tania the guerrilla. And in Bolivia, the name Tania remains very popular for girls. In Nicaragua and Chile there also existed until 1998 many institutions and organizations with any variety of Tania's names and aliases (pg 261).
It was Tania's mother's last wish that Tania's remains be laid to rest alongside her fallen comrades whenever she was found. On 30 December 1998 Haydée Tamara Bunke Bider; alias Maria Iriarte; alias Vitorria Pancini; alias Laura Gutierrez Bauer; alias Tania the guerrilla finally arrived to the Ernesto Che Guevara Memorial in Santa Clara, Cuba, where she remains today (pg 273).
The role of wimmin in the annals of revolutionary struggle are not confined to a few noteworthy names such as Tania the guerrilla. From the Maoist struggle of the Naxalbari currently playing out outside the cities and urban areas of India, where guerrilla wimmin battalions and guerrilla units led by wimmin are some of the most feared by government troops, to the overwhelming amount of leadership positions held by wimmin in the Communist Party of Peru (aka "Shining Path") in the era of Gonzalo, to the national liberation struggles of the internal semi-colonies of the U.$. empire, wimmin will remain a vital component in the struggle for socialism-communism — this is what Mao meant when he said "wimmin hold up half the sky."
Indeed, the most effective road forward has already been paved. Revolutionary accomplishments should be viewed as the product of many peoples' collective labor and not just a select few. Anyone attracted to the Focoist theory of revolution need only look at the hystories of oppressed peoples' movements everywhere and learn from practice. What has been more successful – Maoism or Focoism? The relationship between mass movements and the individuals leading them is a dialectical one and neither can carry out the task of revolution without the other.
...I plan to reach out to this girl I'm dating here in re politics. I will start to feel her out on that topic tomorrow for the first time. She is 24 years old. I'm 31 years old, so I believe I can mold her. She is naive and trusting. I will attempt to teach her once I feel her out. Please write back and let me know what you think about this particular matter.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Generally, we discourage recruiting someone you're dating. Particularly when this persyn has exhibited no independent interest in anti-imperialism. We do agree with your seemingly cautious approach of "feeling her out" first. It is a prudent security tactic to not expose what political work you do to someone you're not sure about.
Next you say ey is younger, naive and trusting, and you imply that you will take advantage of that. That is how you create resentment. And when people resent people associated with the movement, the movement is put at risk. This is very likely when romance is involved. That is the number one reason not to mix dating with recruiting. People get confused about motivations. Recruiting friends is a little less risky, but also has this problem. It is true that the young are more open to revolutionary politics, which might lead us to take up tactics like leafleting at schools. Our approach should not be to take advantage of the young, or wimmin in general, by using characteristics caused by the gender oppression that they face. It should rather be to tap into the righteous resentment they might have of that gender oppression so that they throw off the negative characteristics that it has encouraged in them, and become revolutionaries.
In more advanced situations it can go another way where comrades start to question whether someone is hanging around because they're dating a comrade or because they're down for the struggle themselves. So for the individual and the collective it is better to be clear and scientific about what one's position is.
Recruiting should always be done based on a scientific explanation of political line. Of course, subjectivity comes into play, and there’s nothing wrong with packaging things so they will be more attractive to the masses (i.e. form/language). However, there is something wrong with manipulating people based on their subjectivity to take up politics for reasons other than their support of those politics. This leads to confusion, both politically and interpersynally. This is really a strategic question when we say don't use sex, flirtation or friendship to recruit people. Our goal is to teach people to think scientifically and create strong, scientific organizations.
This is not to say that most people in the mass movements will be scientific thinkers won over by purely objective motivations. So there are tactical questions of what language and images we use in order to present our message to the masses in ways that they can relate to. Wearing uniforms, having good music associated with our movement, or having famous people recommend our work are all tactics that appeal to peoples' subjectivism in a way that is not manipulative of the individual and therefore threatening the movement.
At least half of our readers are in prison. And even in university or any smaller community, you will often find people you are already friends with becoming interested in politics. Then it becomes a skill of separating business from pleasure. Political disagreements should not decide friendships and vice versa. A useful tactic to use in this situation, if you feel there might be a conflict of interest or confusion, is to pass a friend off to another comrade to be their primary contact and recruiter. This gives the friend more independence to explore politics on their own terms with less pressure from implications that political agreement with you is a requirement for that friendship.
One new comrade who was won over to our cause reported how another prisoner dropped a ULK in eir lap on the way to a hearing and said, "here, you'll like this." Many of our subscribers report finding ULK in the dayroom. Both of these are examples of "free dropping," a technique to spread our ideas as far as possible to ensure that all who are interested have the opportunity to be exposed to them.
Finding the right balance between casting a wide net, like free dropping, and developing new cadre one-on-one is a tough tactical question. MIM has always erred on the side of casting a wide net. This is based in a strategic decision that building public opinion against imperialism is more important in our conditions than building cadre organizations. But we need people to do more than read ULK and our website. Whether it's supporting MIM(Prisons) projects or not, we need people to step up for anti-imperialism to amplify that anti-imperialist voice and to build independent institutions of the oppressed. The oppressed are reaching out to us every day for help. We need more comrades to step up and build the power necessary to provide real solutions to their problems.
This week MIM(Prisons) received sizeable contributions from both inside and outside prisons. Whether you're looking forward to celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Mao Zedong's birthday this month, please consider supporting our work financially.
One time donations are always welcome. But we'd like to recognize the comrades who donated this week as regular contributors. We think it is important to have an anti-imperialist newsletter for prisoners that comes out regularly. To do so we need to have the funds coming in regularly and reliably. It is our regular comrades and supporters that allow that to happen.
So where's our Paypal link? Well, you might have to make a slightly greater effort to donate without utilizing the infrastructure of corporate Amerika. But if you've got Bitcoin, we added our Bitcoin donate button this year. And if you don't think Bitcoin is anonymous enough email us for a Monero address to donate to. If none of that made sense to you, cash is still king, and cash by mail is always useable. If you want to send U.S. postage stamps, we are currently flush in 47¢ Forever stamps, but we always need more 21¢ additional ounce stamps.
In the last year there's been some struggle over MIM(Prisons)'s six main points. This is a good thing, as it indicates emerging Maoist cells trying to reconcile what does and should unite us. The focus of issue 54 of Under Lock & Key is tactics. Tactics are not what unite us. Tactics is the realm where we need many cells trying many different things. Tactics are guided by line and strategy, but are much more flexible over shorter time periods and therefore require creativity that is in touch with the masses.
Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, or Maoism for short, is MIM(Prisons)'s political line. Maoism does not tell us whether putting money into one big advertisement or thousands of little fliers will have the greater effect. Maoism also doesn't tell us whether a hunger strike will be more effective than a legal battle. These are tactical questions.
Dividing Lines or Dividing Over Tactics
In the last year, a cell that we considered part of the broader Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) split with MIM(Prisons) over what we saw as a tactical question. Maoists should never split over tactical questions; this is the theoretical importance of distinguishing between line, strategy and tactics.
We pushed this cell to present their split in terms of ideological line in relation to our six main points. The response was that they uphold the six main points but believe there are other issues to split over, such as promoting white supremacy, which they accused MIM(Prisons) of doing. They came to this conclusion after MIM(Prisons) did not print a statement criticizing the actions of prison activists that we have no affiliation with. This cell had a history of working closely with MIM(Prisons) over many years. And despite all the work we have done in that time (work that they admit challenged white supremacy) they were willing to split with us over this one action (or lack of action).
We see this as an error in how one should assess other cells. A cell, just as an individual, should be assessed on the whole. If a cell has acted according to one line for years, but did one thing that you see as violating that line, you probably should not split with that cell. That would be an ultra-left error, because you are expecting others to be perfect. Once it has been established by a pattern of actions that a cell has shifted its line and violated cardinal principles, then it would be correct to stop working with and possibly publicly criticize that cell.
In this particular case, MIM(Prisons) was condemned, not for participating in an event perceived to be white supremacist in nature, but for not condemning it. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) would argue that in most cases even if we had participated in this one event, that would still not be sufficient reason to split. You might publicly condemn the event yourself, but this should not rise to the level of creating splits in the Maoist Internationalist Movement. Willingness to split over non-cardinal issues is a threat to our ability to consolidate our forces in this country where individualism and splitism prevail. (To clarify, division of labor into collaborating cells is not the same as a split.)
If a cell does promote a campaign that caters to white nationalism, then one should criticize that based on our 4th point on the First World labor aristocracy being a force for imperialism, and as a violation of the Maoist line that oppressed nations have a right to self-determination. As anti-imperialists, supporting the labor aristocracy and undermining oppressed-nation self-determination is a no no. And a consistent practice of doing this indicates an underlying incorrect line that is a cause for splitting.
Principles of Line or Strategy?
Another MIM cell recently questioned why MIM(Prisons) put forth 6 points, adding on to the 3 cardinal principles that have historically defined the MIM.(see p. 2 of ULK) While we do present our 6 points in place of the 3 cardinals, it was not necessarily to say that the 3 cardinals were insufficient to define who is a communist. However, we must admit that we created confusion there.
The origin of our 6 main points is twofold. Our first goal with the six main points was to distinguish ourselves in the eyes of our readers. We were frustrated with the countless letters from people telling us to work with other groups, stop criticizing other groups and just unite around our common fight for justice. We wanted to succinctly differentiate ourselves from the countless organizations out there. Point 1 separates us from the Liberals, and in point 2 we split from the anarchists. Neither of those points were necessary in MIM's 3 cardinals, because all those claiming to be communists already agree on those two points. Point 3 separated us from the Trotskyists and neo-Trostkyists whose idealism leads them to unite with the petty-bourgeoisie in the First World while criticizing the bourgeois forces in the Third World even when they are fighting against imperialism. Points 4-6 are essentially the MIM cardinals.
While the 3 cardinals, as MIM came to refer to them, are nice and succinct dividing line points, they originally appeared in a greater context of a piece entitled "Who is a communist?" in the second edition of What is MIM?, which discusses concepts like "the abolition of power of people over people," "a communist party... is necessary," "democratic centralism," and "general unity with all other groups and outbreaks against imperialism."
The second contextual thing to understand about our 6 points is that they were developed in the early years of our organization, when those in the MIM camp were figuring out how to relate to each other as separate cells/organizations. It was also a period of fierce struggle against those promoting a third way in the post-9/11 Middle East, while framing the struggles there as "McWorld vs. Jihad." Therefore, our point 3 became, in the eyes of many organizations at that time, a dividing line question. The original MIM comrades, in fact, pushed this line hard to expose revisionists allying with the U.$. state department. While it is often tied up with the labor aristocracy question, it stands alone as its own point.
Mao's practice on building the united front of classes in oppressed countries, and eir theoretical writings on this topic contributed to our line on the subject and the development of point 3. We can also take lessons from the rectification movement of the Communist Party of the Philippines to find universal line lessons on united front building. However, in practice, who to form united fronts with is really a strategic question, as the answer may change as the strategic stage of struggle changes.
Mao's contribution on united front work was based on the assessment of the principal contradiction being between the oppressed nations and imperialism. Some seventy years later, we can say this is still the situation. But someday it will change. That is what makes our point 3 a strategic question and not a universal line question. From the early days of MIM, differences on the assessment of the principal contradiction have been a primary point of criticism MIM made of revisionist parties. That said, MIM never said the principal contradiction or united front was a cardinal principle.
In our point 2, we point out the need for a Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations (JDPON) in order to implement socialism in the imperialist countries. This is MIM Thought, a logical application of MIM's line on the labor aristocracy to the universal communist principle of the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat. It is also a strategy question, that does not necessarily have universal application.
Who Defines the Cardinals?
"The materialist approach to cardinal principles stresses an examination of actual history, not just our own vivid imaginations of how the world SHOULD BE. We materialists do not take splitting the proletariat and its vanguard party lightly. We form only as many cardinal principles as are necessary to unmask the enemy's attempts to infiltrate us or divert us to a less efficient road to communism." - MC5(1)
The cell structure complicates things further. For with a centralized organization MIM could say that if you agree on these three points and the need for a party then you should join ours. Then you are obligated to accept our other lines until you convince the party to change them. With many small cells there is not democratic centralism on line in this way, and we could see many disagreements on many non-cardinal issues. This could lead to confusion and division in the movement. Therefore we caution all MIM cells to carefully think out their positions before disagreeing with historical MIM line and the lines of other contemporary cells.
At the same time, we must not hold dogmatically to MIM Thought frozen in time of 2006 or earlier. The three cardinals themselves evolved over the years of the original MIM. While MIM formed in 1983, they did not get serious about the third cardinal until 1987.(2) In the MIM Notes archive, which is incomplete for these early years, it is issue 42 from June 1990 when we first see the 3 cardinals presented as such. However, the paper version of issue 42 does not feature the 3 cardinals, so this seems to have been added to the web version after the fact. MIM Notes Issue 50 (March 1991) does have the 3 cardinals listed in the paper version. In 1999, MIM expanded the 3rd cardinal to include reference to Marx, Engels and Lenin, describe the oppressor nation labor aristocracy as a petty bourgeois class and specifically list which countries this line applies to.(3)
In practice, MIM used the 3 cardinal principles to determine fraternal status.(4) This came up most strongly when it decided that the third cardinal applied internationally and not just to First World parties, thus cutting its direct promotion of some who were practicing People's War in the Third World. This began with the "Resolution on defending cardinal principles in international context," 2002, but it was sometime after 2002 when MIM actually stopped any promotion of those parties.
Building MIM Today
MIM(Prisons) was announced as a MIM cell on 8 October 2007. To this day we often refer to "Maoism Around Us," published in May 2009, when discussing these issues. This was one of what could be considered the founding documents of MIM(Prisons). While our ideology was already represented in the expansive work of MIM, in that article we addressed the situation we found ourselves in as the original centralized organization of MIM had ceased to exist. In it we pointed out that the MIM lives on, by the same definition as it always has. We continued to print MIM's 3 cardinal principles in most issues of Under Lock & Key.
It was after our first official congress in July of 2010 that MIM(Prisons) put out our six main points. Since then we have referred to them as our "cardinal points" once or twice, and printed them in every issue of ULK with a similar tagline as we once printed MIM's three cardinals: "MIM(Prisons) distinguishes ourselves from other groups on the six points below."
As we've said before, we need more Maoist Internationalist cells. Topical cells that focus on gender, ecology and the environment, and anti-militarism are all good candidates. And there is an endless need for locality-based cells that focus on local recruitment and building around popular movements in the region that align with the interests of the Third World proletariat. But us saying this does not make them appear out of thin air. As we gain small victories in recruiting comrades outside prisons, we wonder if the MIM needs institutions that can allow those who agree on the 3 cardinals to join up in a meaningful way. A way that provides coordination without sacrificing security, independent initiative and other benefits of the cell structure. Six months ago we set up the subreddit /r/mao_internationalist "to help individuals and groups allied with the Maoist Internationalist Movement support each others' work." Maybe it is time to refocus on the 3 cardinals and push for a regroupment of MIM.
There are United Struggle from Within (USW) cells that might as well be considered MIM cells due to their advanced political practice. And there are prison-based cells that are in the MIM camp that are not USW, which are usually nation-based. We support the nation-based organizing strategy as a reason to form a new organization separate from USW. There is probably no tactical advantage to identifying prison-based cells as MIM cells, because of the repression in the prison environment, although there is obvious theoretical advantage in summarizing a group's line and practice.
Being in prison limits one's ability to coordinate with other cells without relying on MIM(Prison). For our own organization, MIM(Prisons) does not accept prisoners as members because it is not possible to have democratic centralism when all our mail is read by state employees. When coordinating between cells, we need to make similar considerations.
In most contexts that we are aware of, MIM(Prisons) is seen as the foremost cell representing the MIM today. While we are honored by that recognition, it is also a sign of how far we have to go. Discussion of party formation is no more relevant today than it was ten years ago when our organization just formed. If we cannot get more than a handful of cells putting in work at the level that MIM(Prisons) does, how can we build a Maoist Party? And what good would such a party do? There is no question of seizing power in the United $tates today, where MIM(Prisons) is based. But there is much work to do to prepare for that inevitability as the imperialists overextend themselves militarily and the Third World continues to strike blows against them.