The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

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[Censorship] [River North Correctional Center] [Virginia]
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Fighting Censorship for "Gang Material"

It has been over 90 days since I filed an appeal over ULK 47 and I have received no reply. I filed the appeal for ULK 48 on 29 February, also receiving no reply. As for the theory journals, they have not been delivered nor have I been notified of their rejection. It seems that at this facility communism of any form is heavily censored.

I did get your guide to fighting censorship and I reference the case law and the gang definition in each appeal I file over a rejection of ULK. It has been most useful, however, it has done little to curb the level of political and religious censorship happening here at River North Correctional Center.

I was told that ULK 48 was rejected due to gang material being found on pages 8 and 18 but no further description has been provided. Being that gangs are typically imperialistic in their actions where related to violence and criminal actions I suspect that any anti-imperialist group wouldn't promote gang activity.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This censorship of Under Lock & Key in prisons with the justification that it promotes gang material is becoming more common. And of course it is very difficult for prisoners to appeal this censorship when they have no access to the material to disprove the "gang material" claim. This comrade is correct to point out that the biggest gangs are the imperialists, who carry out organized violence and criminal actions around the world. What the prisons claim is promoting gang activity is in fact MIM(Prisons) promoting a United Front for Peace in Prisons, urging lumpen organizations and their members to come together and end the struggle between prisoners in favor of unity to fight the injustice system. Those in power will always come up with labels to put down those who resist, whether it is "terrorist" or "gang member" or "criminal." But we know that the real terrorists and criminals are the imperialists. Write to us for a copy of our guide to fighting censorship.

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[Censorship] [LA State Penitentiary] [Louisiana]
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New Afrikan Books Censored in Louisiana

On 13 February 2015, the books Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, The Souls of Black Folks by W.E.B. Dubois, The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, and Blood In My Eye by George Jackson arrived at the Louisiana State Prison in Angola. They were sent to me by a family member directly from the Amazon.com as per the requirements of this institution. However, I wasn't notified of their arrival until six months and two weeks later. Added to that outrage was the rejection of the absolutely essential, must-read piece of literature for the New Afrikan Guerilla, Blood In My Eye.

The institution, perhaps on some "legitimate self-interest" grounds, could have possibly raised a plausible objection to the book. For it is known throughout the corrections racket that the book "Blood In My Eye" has been known to elevate the consciousness of the oppressed captives subsisting behind its walls. And of course conscious elevation equals prison population deflation, I get that. What I didn't get was this institution rejection the book on the grounds that it contained nudity or sexually explicit material. Yes you read that right. The book by Comrade George was rejected, according to this institution, because it contained nudity or sexually explicit material.

I of course immediately appealed the decision through the administrative remedy procedure. Three and a half months later - mind you that policy only allows 40 days for a response - I received an answer. Amazingly the book was now being rejected because it "contains material that could lead to inmate unrest for racial reasons." Not the nudity issue I addressed in the appeal! If it wasn't for the fact that I understand how the administration does battle, they would have totally thrown me off course with that move. But they didn't so I continue to fight on. Just another episode in the never ending series of "Administrative Justice". A Luta Continua.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for continuing the fight in face of the prison changing rules and reasons, failing to follow their own policies, and unjustly denying em educational material. We should all strive to have this same attitude of perseverance when we are repeatedly put down by those in power. We will lose most of our battles right now because we do not have power. This is why our tactical battles, like the one against censorship, must always be in the context of the larger struggle to overthrow imperialism. Only when we have a government that is serving the interests of the majority of the world's people, rather than one serving the minority of wealthy people, will we be able to implement real justice. This power will not come with a few petitions and legal battles, but these campaigns are part of the long hard work we do at this stage of the struggle.

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[Campaigns] [Missouri]
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Downloadable Petition for Access to Law Library, Missouri

Missouri Access to Courts

Click the PDF to download a copy of the Missouri petition to allow prisoners in Administrative Segregation to receive cases from the law library. This petition can be used on any security level where the law librarian is arbitrarily denying prisoners access to legal materials. It is meant to be rewritten by prisoners in Missouri and sent to State Representatives and the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) Inspector General.

While we struggle to build public opinion for socialst revolution in the United $tates, we use the courts to fight winnable battles — battles that will help make space for our overall anti-imperialist movement. The denial of legal assistance to prisoners without active cases prevents our comrades from even beginning an active case, or studying law in order to prepare for a case. We know that most cases will not be won in our favor, but maintaining the right to challenge injustices in court try is an important part of our struggle at this stage in the game.

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[Organizing] [United Front]
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Unification Against Defeatism and Inaction

I write this piece as a result of a conversation I had with a brother, who I consider, an intellectual equal and new friend. The conversation was about action, or should I say the lack of action, in a movement to curtail the imperialist society of capitalism, slavery and oppression. Now, just to clarify the brother I'm referring to is not only an active participant in the political revolutionary movement, he also supplied me with priceless literature on the cause. However, he choose to play the role of devils advocate in order to spark my creative mind.

In general, the conversation was based on a full-scale, non-violent movement against the financial interest of the oppressor, and called for all fellow POWs to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with one common goal: Victory! However, throughout our conversation I realized that there are several issues still holding a complete unification for this type of movement, at a stand still. I personally believe it's possible, and honestly I think it's the only way to effect change and bear the fruit of the movement. So I write this piece to bring these issues to the surface, and inject them into like minded conversation in pursuit of overcoming these sub-conscious inhibitors.

The simplest issue to address is the defeatist attitude carried by some, not all, of my fellow brothers behind enemy lines. One must understand that a pessimistic attitude deeper than just thinking negatively. It's allowing that negative thought to impact your ability and actions, in the cause for change. What I mean, and I'm sure some of you have experienced this, is the person who says, "Don't put your name on that petition, you'll only cause problems for yourself" or "I would join the movement but..." or "The officers don't bother me." These are all sorry excuses for tolerating the abuse and oppression from these barbaric animals who claim to uphold the law. Now, I understand that some of my fellow POWs have Stockholm Syndrome and attempt to identify with their captors as a form of survival. However, it is the actions of our captors that isolate us from our families, enslave us and oppress us, until we die or submit to their capitalist ways. If you don't or won't stand up it will never change! Dr. Martin L. King Jr., Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez all initiated a movement with the knowledge and understanding that the road would be tough. However, they all focused on the destination not the trip itself. There's a Buddhist saying that says, "no one drop of water wants to be the cause of the flood," and that's exactly what we're faced with when fellow POWs carry this defeatist attitude.

The next issue that needs to be addressed is our inability to move as one! As I read ULK, the Bayview and all other literature geared towards the movement, I see from the many different groups listed in the literature that sub-consciously we are unable to combine and move under one front or one flag. To divide and conquer has to be one of the oldest military and war tactics known to man, and has a cumulative effect on any movement or political power. Furthermore, it's so effective that it's still being taught at Westpoint military academy as I write this. One must understand what it's doing to the success of the movement. First, strength is in numbers and if you're oblivious to the fact that POWs have the numbers then here's the facts. There's currently 31,000 correctional officers in the state of California (according to MIM(Prisons) December 2007 ULK2) and 110,000 to 120,000 men and women incarcerated in the state of California (per federal population cap issued in 2013). With that being said it is common knowledge that it's easier to control several small groups then a large one. Furthermore, if those smaller groups are fighting amongst themselves for the illusion of ownership of objects that will never truly belong to them (i.e., phones, pull-up bars, tablets, etc.), that only makes it easier to oppress, control and enslave. We as a group must break all seemingly innocuous forms of segregation and unite as one! All racial and ethnic barriers must be broken, followed by all of the small pockets of revolutionary soldiers flying one flag. Symbolizing the unification of one movement, sharing the same political and ideological views. We allow capitalist oppressors to dictate where we draw the lines in the sand and divide us into controllable groups. We have the power, and the time is now. It's time to follow the example of Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell and George Jackson.

To the main issue of this piece and the most important. Is the lack of effective action. When I say effective action I mean a non-violent protest not only done by POWs, but also by the family and friends who support us in our cause. As of now all I see is a massive amount of information being passed around with no action. Information is knowledge, knowledge is power, now that we have the power we don't utilize it. Now, I understand that moving prematurely will only work against the desired effect. However, the same is to be said for not moving and allowing the enemy time to prepare a counter. Most importantly our movement lacks a figurehead. For example, without putting any emphasis on what he stood for, yet highlighting his ability to lead, Adolf Hitler is a prime example, or Alexander the Great, or Malcolm X, or Dr. M.L. King Jr., or Cesar Chavez, or Huey P. Newton just to name a few. However, I want ot reiterate it's not what they stood for its their impact and motivation of their particular movement. In my opinion, that's what all the brothers and sisters enslaved behind enemy lines are missing to propel this movement into national spotlight and over the hump. So I, as an enslaved prisoner of war, surface these issues not only to my fellow enslaved brothers and sisters, but to all those who support our cause form the other side of the razor wire. Let's stop being that one drop of water, and become a wave!


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is true that charismatic leaders can inspire people to overcome defeatism. That is why the J. Edgar Hoover gave the FBI the mission of preventing the rise of a "Black Messiah." The problem was, they were successful. While some "messiahs" rose to the occasion they were shot down, imprisoned or otherwise neutralized.

It is a contradiction we face of how to motivate the disempowered to feel empowered. Many peoples' have faced this situation before. And while we all want action sooner, rather than later. It is the careful study and education of the masses that builds a truly powerful movement where we are not dependent on charismatic or well-studied leaders. Especially in the prison environment, where conditions are closer to fascist repression, it is too easy to isolate our leaders. So we must keep up the slow and steady work of building unity through struggle and education. Just as this comrade experienced with eir new friend above.

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[Rhymes/Poetry]
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Waking each day in my cell

Waking each day in my cell
is like living in hell
Getting a rude awakening by magic mike
on the mic
As we hit the yard, a group of pigs scan
the seen
If we walks in threes, we might get STGed
They say it's greener on the other side but I'll never know
Because they're not going to brainwash
me to say what they want to know
And they gave us a new enemy in our ranks
It's not a risk some of us are willing to take
Because they're threatening to take our dates.
But some can consider this paradise what I go thru
We can never forget our comrades slammed in the SHU
As they hate & taunt
We must keep our United Front
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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Graterford] [Pennsylvania]
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Censorship Victory in Pennsylvania

I have received some good news. Executive Secretary of Corrections Shirley Moore-Smeal of Pennsylvania DOC has fired two of the mailroom staff here at this prison. These staff were found to be stealing and discarding mail from prisoners that they didn't agree with or didn't like the contents of. The study group material was among the mail these two staff stole and destroyed. Ms. Moore-Smeal made it clear to all staff here at this prison that prejudice or bias displayed against any prisoner regardless of political viewpoints, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. will not be tolerated unless a significant security or penological interest warrants it. You might remember me sending you a letter to forward to Ms. Moore-Smeal, concerning this issue or something very similar.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This is very good news, and if this comrade or anyone else in Pennsylvania has a copy of an order from Ms. Moore-Smeal about censorship and discrimination please send it to us. If this order exists in writing it will be very useful in appealing future censorship. Of course we know these victories are temporary and often reversed or ignored so we will take advantage of it and encourage our Pennsylvania comrades to write in to request study material while they can. Be sure to let us know what work trade or payment (stamps and checks accepted!) you can make in return.

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[Organizing] [Hamilton Correctional Institution] [Florida]
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Operation S.A.F.E. Standing Against Fearful Environments

Progressive Precepts

  1. Respect: Abolish the antagonisms that exist between us. We must develop and possess a willingness 2 respect one another regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, street-level affiliation or sexual-orientation.
  2. Solidarity: The U.$. prison population is held in kaptivity by greedy prisoncrats that subject us 2 systematic abuse and brutalization. Since we are all under the yoke of the same oppressor we should stand in solidarity 2 build a united front 2 end all forms of injustice.
  3. Unity: Discord is counter-revolutionary. 2 build a solid movement for social-revolutionary change all freedom loving individuals must be in a state of accord.
  4. Agitation: Knowledge is power. We should strive to become politically astute so that we can go about the business of raising the political consciousness of the prison population at large.
  5. Autonomy: We acknowledge and exercise our inherent right 2 self-governance. No one is coming 2 our rescue. We must organize the formation of our own independent groups, associations, and fraternities now 2 become saviors of ourselves.

Mission Statement

The concept for Operation S.A.F.E. was born out of a desperate need 2:

  1. Raise the political consciousness of the Florida prison population.
  2. Introduce them 2 progressive revolutionary ideals.
  3. Foster unity and respect among all kaptives held within their confines of FL DOC regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, street-level affiliation or sexual orientation.
  4. Educate the prison population on how to peaceably organize against the various forms of physical and psychological injustices that we are subjected 2 on a daily basis.

Wherever oppression exists, there can be no peace and there can be no peace without organized struggle - we invite and encourage all freedom-loving individuals 2 stand in solidarity with us 2 assist in organizing a movement for social-revolutionary change. May the benevolent forces of the universe imbibe us all with a spirit of a love and revolutionary unity!

Educate, Agitate, Unify and Revolutionize

The co-ordinating body of Operation S.A.F.E. does not encourage acts of violence against FL DOC staff. Instead we strongly encourage political education/dialogue and non-violent organizing/struggle. We call on all kaptives held in FL DOC 2 institute a moratorium on all spontaneous acts of violence, unless faced with a do-or-die dilemma.

Knowledge is power - start a study group. Request materials from:

MIM(Prisons), PO Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140

Anthony Rayson, C/O So. Chicago ABC Zine Distro, PO Box 721, Homewood, IL 60430

Request materials written by: Sean Swain, El Coyote, Maroon Zolo, Rashid and A. Rayson.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This statement from Operation S.A.F.E. is another good demonstration of local organizations applying the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) organizing principles. Their five progressive precepts line up well with the five UFPP organizing principles: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism and Independence. And their focus on education underscores a critical task for all revolutionaries today. We echo their call for people to write to us to start a study group and request materials from us to support this group. We can provide revolutionary literature to study, study questions, and we will respond to comments or questions you send us about the reading that come up in your study group. In this way we can build together for the day when revolutionary forces can take power from the oppressors and put an end to this capitalist system of oppression.

Where Operation S.A.F.E. is against all discord, we know that all of existence is full of contradictions, even within a United Front for Peace in Prisons. In order to understand how to change any phenomena to our advantage, it is imperative to understand how contradictions work and how history is shaped. We'd recommend a thorough study of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, starting with material by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. We see contradictions between competing theories of how to achieve liberation, and in fact MIM(Prisons) has published some debates with Rashid (a recommended author above by Operation SAFE) over significant disagreements on the question of defining who are our friends and who are our enemies. These debates should not be ignored in an attempt to create a false sense of unity as we have a duty to the oppressed of the world to find the best and fastest path towards liberation and to avoid false promises that only lead to further oppression for the world's majority.

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[Organizing]
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Is It Time to Let www.prisoncensorship.info Die?

abandoned store front

Almost 5% of our comrade time in 2015 was put into maintaining the technical aspects of our online presence, mostly our website www.prisoncensorship.info. While that might seem like a small percentage, an increase in our capacity of 5% would allow us to see some significant improvements in our work.

In the past we had estimated that our online readers were about equal in number, if not quality, to our print readers in prison. In recent years we've seen a doubling of our readership inside prisons. In the past year we've seen a significant drop in our online readership, though this is probably completely due to technical difficulties and not a decrease in interest.

Recently, prisoners have donated about 5% of the cost of distributing ULK (this includes some regular contributions from USW members on the outside). During the same period, comrades in prison have contributed an equal amount of money to pay for books and study materials from the Ministry. The rest of our funding comes from members of MIM(Prisons). While we might make a few bucks here and there at public events, it is irregular. This summer we set the achievable goal of funding 10% of ULK through prisoner donations. None of our funding comes from online readers. In other words, online readers cover 0% of the cost to fund the website, despite the fact that it is much cheaper than the newsletter and our online readers have much greater access to money than our imprisoned readers.

Most of the writing and almost all of the art in ULK is contributed by prisoner subscribers. Almost none of it comes from our online readers. (Just before publishing this article we did get some article submissions via web contribution.)

In recent years we've had a couple of allies who have contributed to our work in a consistent way, and we have some volunteers come and go that help us with typing, editing and other tasks. But when all is said and done, we are losing more comrade time to maintaining the website than we are gaining from it.

Now, we try to keep in mind that our principal task is building public opinion and not building our organization. Yet, we are approaching a crisis where our comrade time on the streets cannot keep up with the interest from prisoners. Really it never could, but even to the standard we are used to we are losing ground. So the question starts to look like: do we spend more resources building public opinion behind bars or on the streets (and by streets, we mean online)?

Alternatively, our online readers could step up to the plate. Five percent of our annual comrade time is no small beans. But it is easily achievable by a few regular contributors. It could be achieved by one dedicated comrade who steps up and starts putting in work. But how do we inspire someone to act over the internet like we do through the mail?

The worldwide web has always been an important tool in the MIM agitational toolbox. Prisoncensorship.info is approaching its 10 year anniversary of going strong and we host the archive of the MIM etext site dating back another 15+ years. We might foresee situations where not having it could really hamper our work in the future. So there are other points to consider here.

But the question remains, is it time to let www.prisoncensorship.info die in order to focus all our efforts on supporting the organizing efforts of the imprisoned masses?

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 51]
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On the Importance of Theory in the Prison Movement; Opportunism and Revolutionary Leadership

Path to Liberation

"Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism combined with absorption in the narrowest forms of practical activity." - V. I. Lenin

Often times the first half of this quote is misrepresented by people not really knowing the context. Well-meaning comrades will repeat this political axiom when calling for others to pick up their theoretical game (grasp of revolutionary science), for reasons having to do with the obvious need for revolutionary theory to influence and propagate our revolutionary practice. Yet it was in the process of struggle and heated political debate that Lenin first made this now famous statement. These struggles and other political debates were recalled by Lenin in eir book What is to be Done?; a book about communist organization and discipline. More to my point, in this book, Lenin addressed the importance that revolutionary theory should play in informing the revolutionary movement, in part for the purpose of combating various erroneous tendencies.

The main tendency which Lenin devoted the better part of this book to was the problem of opportunism. Opportunism can be defined as the conscious or unconscious watering down of political line in order to garner more sympathy for your cause or movement. It can also be said that opportunism can be described as the glossing over of contradictions within the revolutionary movement so as to not offend or turn away your social base. A perfect example of opportunism would be to tell Amerikans that they are the revolutionary vehicle which we call the proletariat instead of telling them the truth: that they are by and large the objective enemies of the international proletariat — parasites which we call the labor aristocracy.

One example of how opportunism can work its way into the revolutionary prison movement is thru a philosophical belief called pragmatism. To be a pragmatist means to worship the tactics of whatever works at the present time. While there may be occasions in which we must do what is most effective at that particular instance/moment, we must do so in a way that doesn't have us sacrificing our political principles or political line, all for the sake of practical results. Pragmatism as a strategic orientation is a danger to revolutionary movements because it can cause us to shift focus from our strategic goals in favor of the immediacy of tactical results. While tactical wins are a good thing for the oppressed, we will be in error if we confuse a tactical gain for strategic victory. A real world example of the negative effects of pragmatism is how many prisoners who participated in the California hunger strikes first initiated in 2011 abandoned the struggle for humyn rights in favor of material concessions and a more comfortable oppression.

Other more nuanced examples of how opportunism has come to dominate political organizing behind prison walls come in the form of "friendship groups" and "elites." Both are hazards to the prison movement because of the seemingly casual nature of the two and the Liberalism that underlies them.

Friendship groups are the more obvious of the two. Friendship groups can be defined as: "A group of friends who also happen to participate in the same political activities. Most of these groups' members participate within the group because they like the people in them and not because they have the correct political line."

Elites can be defined as: "A small group of people who have power over a larger group of which they are a part of, usually without a direct responsibility to that larger group and often without their knowledge or consent."

Friendship groups function on an external level and so many prisoners will surely recognize one when they see them, as most LOs have these types of groups functioning in one capacity or another. Elites on the other hand, while being dialectically related to the friendship group are the opposite and function on an internal level. One thing which both these groups share in common is their popularization and use of false logic as a method of accomplishing their objectives. This false logic can be best understood as sophism; a method of argument that fake philosophers use to fool the masses by exploiting to their own advantage any situation they encounter or create. One such method of the professional sophist is the ad hominem attack. Ad hominen attacks are marked by appeals to feelings or prejudices rather than to intellect. For example, if one persyn doesn't like another persyn's politics, but can't correctly argue against eir political line, the aggressor might use an ad hominem attack instead. The ad hominem attack might be accusing the persyn of violating an established taboo, such as stealing from another persyn.

Opportunism will find its way into revolutionary movements and organizations if both the masses and the leadership do not have a strong grasp or even an elementary understanding of revolutionary theory. This can allow for various dishonest and incorrect elements to find their way into our structures, which as a result can cause our movements to falter and perish. This is why as revolutionaries we put such a high premium on the study of revolutionary science not only amongst the prison leadership but the prison masses. Furthermore, in making this point we cannot over-emphasize the dialectical relation between study and practice, as a correct grasp of one will inevitably lead to a correct grasp of the other.

To re-iterate, preventative measures are essential in order to safe-guard our movements from taking up opportunism and watering down their revolutionary agendas. We must strongly advocate and fight for the study and production of both revolutionary theory and practice not only to effectively meet the demands and goals of revolutionary organizing, but to navigate our movements thru the sea and fog of bourgeois Liberalism. Our practice will grope in the dark unless its path is illuminated by the most advanced revolutionary theory.

Last, but certainly not least, i would like to speak to other challenges of revolutionary organizing behind prison walls. When working with the lumpen and attempting to organize for our collective liberation it is only natural that we will run into a variety of problems that may end with us in frustration. However, we should not blithely dismiss the prison masses as incapable of listening to our message because they are supposedly too "ignorant", "backward" or "apolitical" to understand what the so-called "revolutionary" might regard as "complex," as this has more to do with the revolutionary's own ignorance, inability and incapability to either understand the masses or effectively communicate to them the correct political line. More likely than not, when any movement, strike or action fails to materialize or develop it is not due to the low level of consciousness of the masses, but to the revolutionaries' own lack of profundity and insight into the movement of the masses which they often claim some sort of near spiritual connection to.

We must continue to find better ways to correct our approach and understanding of the masses, correct our shortcomings, and stop blaming the masses. Likewise, neither should we fear the masses or their criticism, as the acceptance of criticism and self-criticism is integral to establishing the correct revolutionary line. Do not fear the masses because they are the way forward, and do not fear their criticism because often times they prove to be correct, if even just a bit, for whosoever fears the criticism of the masses only proves that what they really fear is revolution. Above all, always remember that revolutionaries are not above the masses in any way, shape or form. We are but the advanced detachment of the prison movement, nothing more, nothing less. Whoever does not believe this is not a Maoist.

In writing this missive a relevant story comes to mind. When the masses in socialist China were struggling for control of their country against the capitalist roaders during the period of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, many so-called "revolutionaries" felt that the masses were out of control, and that they weren't yet ready to share state power with the communist party. Many of these revolutionaries advocated an end to this "anarchy," accusing the masses of being too backward to run the country. To this Mao Zedong and Lin Biao responded:

"The assumption of power by ideological means is absolutely necessary if consolidation of the working class's power and hegemony is the goal... To accomplish the decisive political leap, the leading role must revert to the masses; this has nothing to do as it is generally believed in the West to do with any form of spontaneity. The role of the party in destroying 'spontaneous' illusions lies in the quality of leadership which consists in transforming dispersed rebel movements into a revolutionary current capable of overcoming contradictions. Lin Biao says that the mass revolutionary movement is naturally correct; for among the masses, right and left-wing deviationist groups may exist, but the main current of the mass movement always corresponds to the development of that society involved and is always correct. Revolution is the resolution of contradictions."(1)

Notes: 1. Daily Life in Revolutionary China, Maria Antonietta Macciochi, Monthly Review Books, p. 436.
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[Legal] [ULK Issue 49]
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Exhausting Grievances for PLRA

I write in response to the USW campaigns published in ULK 47. Please be advised, the grievance system is nationally governed by the United States Supreme Court Prison Litigation Reform Act. Although each state has its own format, a DOC failure to respond to a grievance at any stage is a failure of them to make the exhaustion remedies available.

Make sure in between stages to submit a simple delinquent notice if your grievances are not responded to. Make sure to do this twice, and retain copies. Then move through the stages and, if necessary, the delinquent notices will suffice if litigation elevates to court level. Also, a grievance rejected cannot be held by the exhaustion requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) because the rejection deemed the filing a non-grievable issue, therefore you have exhausted the grievance procedure and may proceed if necessary. Please see:

  • 438 f.3d 804, 809, 812 (7th GR. 2006)
  • 569 F. Supp 2d 398, 406-07 (D. Del 2008)
  • 287 F. Supp. 2d 210, 212 (WDNY 2003)
  • 231 F. Supp. 2d 341, 350 (D. Me 2002)
  • 54 F. Supp. 2d 199, 206 (S.D. NY 1999)

MIM(Prisons) adds: Many people facing problems with the grievance procedures where they're held also do not have access to a copy machine, or their cells are tossed and all their documentation is sabotaged. This suggestion of notifying staff of delinquency twice, and keeping copies, appears like a good tactic if possible. We would also encourage subscribers to request the Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual chapter on the PLRA that we distribute for $12 or equivalent work-trade. If you can afford to buy the Jailhouse Lawyer's Manual outright (approximately $30), we can send you the publisher's order form.

The mere existence of the PLRA, plus all the little headaches that make it so difficult to exhaust all available remedies, are signs that the criminal injustice system in this country is a total joke. It's not designed for justice at all - it's designed to frustrate and pacify, and provide busy work for, the oppressed people who are subject to its control. In addition to trying to fight winnable battles through the courts when possible, we encourage our subscribers to get deep into political study and organizing, which gets at the core of this unjust capitalist system and all its organs of oppression.

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