Greetings from the A-yard of Valley State Prison. In honor of the anniversary of the Attica uprising, and as an act of solidarity, the members of our study group abstained form eating for 24 hours. For one day we did not eat, starting with the Sunday G-slam, lunches (cold) and the evening meal. Ten copies of the solidarity study pack were passed out to members of our sg and a few other prisoners who were interested. A comrade was kind enough to photocopy my solidarity study pack which MIM(Prisons) provided. Most of the prisoners who attend our group were not even aware of the events at Attica on 9 September 1971, or the calls for prison reform which the Attica uprising prompted. A special emphasis was put on finding ways to promote peace and to educate all prisoners across the country on principles of the UFPP.
In closing, I want you to know that I may be new to this but I am tryign hard to learn and organize here at VSP and so are others. We, as always appreciate very much the material support and organizational guidance of MIM(Prisons). Thank you.
Abolitionists From Within (AFW) is back on the move here at SVSP quad this Bloody September. This September 9, 2018 we remember the anniversary of Attica of Sept 9, 1971 and them faceless freedom revolutionary fighters who fought and died in these prisons uprising throughout history of our struggle as we continue to fight the oppression, exploitation, abuse and inhumane treatment of prisoners. A lot of rights and privileges comrades have today is because of these soldiers at war with this corrupt system.
Throughout this country, we as New Afrikans must reconstruct our thoughts and come up with ways and ideas to get control over our minds behind enemy lines, and work to educate the lumpen. I know our young comrades think they know everything. Being upright, independent and fearless against all odds and not fearing the outcome of whatever is what the young comrades are looking for true leadership.
This Sept 9 day I refrained from all negative conversation. AFW continues to push to end prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities throughout this country. I had the chance to meet and become a student of the main 4 reps to end all hostilities between our racial groups, and also a brother from the representatives body. I spoke with brother X about our beloved brother W.L. Nolan and GJ and our conditions today as "new man," and how GJ struggled to transform the Black criminal mentality into a Black revolutionary mentality. And solidarity with all you comrades around the country this Sept 9 day.
We have been trying to set up an effective Release on Life program here at MIM(Prisons) for many years. We have expanded the pre-release support we offer to our active comrades behind bars. And we've set up some structures for better contact and support on the streets. But what we can offer is still so little in the face of the very harsh reality of life on the streets after a prison stint. We're working on expanding what we can offer. That takes money. But it also requires ideas and people on the streets to work on this. We know what we're doing now is inadequate. But we're trying to build.
For a few years we published a Re-lease on Life newsletter (ROL) which was mailed out to our comrades on the streets and those with release dates in the near future. But we didn't get much interest around this newsletter. We know people are inspired by ULK because we get lots of letters about it and article submissions for it. ROL didn't inspire many responses or articles. So we're discontinuing that effort. Instead we will focus on practical logistical support for our releasees. And we will continue to print release articles in ULK.
Get in touch if you have a date or expect to be released in the next few years. Start working with us now so we can help set you up for success on the streets.
Below is an interview with one of our comrades who was recently released, underscoring the challenges with life on the streets and the importance of preparation and education while you're still locked up.
Revolutionary Greetings!!! I was released from the penitentiary on July 9th 2018. I've been out for over a month. The state and federal government ain't helping us with shit. It's on us to hustle to provide for ourselves. Learn all u can in prison cuz once u hit these streets it's non stop action. For all y'all without a date, mad love n respect. Each one teach one.
Question: Have you found any support for finding housing? If not, what have you tried and what do you recommend others do if they don't have people to live with already set up?
No I have received housing. I haven't received shit from the state or federal government. If u ain't got friends or family to provide u with a roof over ur head then u gonna struggle out here for real. I got family and friends that blessed my game.
Question: Have you been able to sign up for any government support programs (food stamps, SSI, welfare, etc)?
Yes I did sign up for benefits and shit like that but the state and federal government both denied me.
Question: What did you do to find work after release?
I applied at staffing agencies and shit like that but after they ran my name I never got called. I still don't have a job. Been out 2 months already. Self-employed I guess.
Question: You say people should learn all they can in prison. What kinds of programs and studies do you recommend people focus on in prison to prepare for the streets?
I say people should learn all they can in prison like read books. I did my time in solitary confinement Ad-Seg cuz I'm a active STG member. I educated myself. That's what I mean. Use ur time wisely cuz once u hit these streets its a whole nother world.
Some of our fellow comrades remain skeptical or indifferent about our engagement in the political process. Don't be foolish! We have to act while we can to fortify our freedoms and ensure that government does not try to quarantine our communist ideology. Too long have we been unrepresented at the polls for elections.
The fact that we have been unrepresented only condones and promotes the inundated lies that sound convincing and are spread through education, through the media and through entertainment. "In January 2010, a conservative minority on the Supreme Court radically rewrote Ameri[k]a's campaign-finance laws to allow mega-donors and corporations to contribute unlimited sums, often in secret, to political action committees. The Citizens United v. FEC decision gave wealthy donors unprecedented influence to buy elections, which Republicans quickly used to their political advantage" (Rolling Stone, Ari Berman, February 8-22, 2018, p.30). I do not believe there is any difference from today's political culture and the one of the late 1780s "Three-Fifths Compromise" which treated each slave as three-fifths of a person for tax and representation purposes. It has always been about which political party is going to get the vote.
These mid-term elections elect a body of electors who elect the president and vice president. Under the Trump administration we have watched numerous offices filled and seats to our judicial branch, two of which after the next Supreme Court justice seat, will be for the life of that persyn. How does that weigh on us? I do not know, so the advancement of "why the need to vote?" is a relevant topic for discussion amongst us comrades.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is right that we should be talking about elections in ULK because so many people are focused on this topic in the United $tates right now. On the "left" we regularly hear about the critical need to get Democrats elected in mid-terms to limit President Trump's power. But we come at this topic from a different perspective.
To determine what is the most effective actions we can take today we need to first identify our principal enemy. For revolutionaries this enemy is imperialism, the global system which keeps many nations poor and oppressed in order to provide wealth for a few nations. We happen to live within one of the imperialist powers: the United $tates. Here still imperialism is our principal enemy. And the President is certainly the leader of this imperialist country. But congress is just as much a part of that leadership structure. And whether members of congress are Democrats or Republicans matters not one little bit to which side they are on; being in the Amerikan government requires supporting imperialism.
So when this writer points out that revolutionaries are dramatically underrepresented in the government, we think that's to be expected. The system is not set up to allow for a peaceful revolution through elections. And in fact, when we look closely at the interests of the vast majority of people who could legally vote in elections, we see that their material interests are aligned with imperialism. So of course they are electing these imperialists! The capitalist system has advanced to the point where people living within imperialist countries can be bought off with the vast wealth plundered from the Third World. And buying people off includes buying their voting allegiance since they want to help perpetuate this system that is giving them a comfortable life.
Within imperialist countries we can't expect to have a majority on the side of the oppressed, fighting for revolution, until conditions change dramatically. At this point we're not even close. Trump's reactionary policies and rhetoric may be angering some self-described leftists, but only to the extent that they want to get a more soft-spoken imperialist into the White House. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama are friends of the oppressed. They just peddle a different flavor of imperialism.
It's a mistake for revolutionaries to focus on getting Trump out of office. And when we tell people to vote in mid-term elections we are telling them to vote for the imperialists. There are no revolutionary candidates for high office. And with the implication that we oppose Trump, we're telling people that we support the Democrats. This is not only misleading but also will soon be demoralizing. What happens if the Democrats win big? And at the next presidential election a Democrat comes into office. When we still have imperialism, and the Democratic President is funding more prisons, more police, and more invasions of other countries, what are people going to think of the revolutionaries who campaigned for the Democrats?
This writer raises the question of the Supreme Court. Presidents have the power to fill seats in the court with someone who will serve for life. And these individuals have a big impact on laws in the United $tates. The right to legal abortions, for instance, is a decision many fear could be overturned with a more conservative court. This is an example of a law that has a real impact on people's lives, especially hurting those without the resources to buy access to safe abortions. Just as we fight for legal victories to gain more organizing space and less abuse within prisons, we would oppose outlawing abortion. But these laws and legal precedents are no different than variances in how a city deploys its police force: more trigger happy cops in the projects means more dead oppressed nation youth. There are so many laws and policies within imperialism that are harmful to the oppressed.
Focusing on the Supreme Court again keeps us from seeing the big picture: it's all still a part of imperialism. We will have variations in legal rights and in modes of repression, but imperialism is still the same system of exploitation and oppression. And many of the Supreme Court decisions that Amerikans worry about are only possible due to the luxury of living in this wealthy country. Of course we support affirmative action, LGBTQ rights, and abortion access. But these are things aren't even considered in many Third World countries where the masses are barely surviving in the wake of imperialist wars, direct and by proxy, to secure cheap resources and labor, with puppet dictators in power. The United $tates has not become less imperialist by implementing more rights for more people within U.$. borders.
There are battles that can be fought in these non-revolutionary times that do contribute to weakening imperialism, such as ending torture and political repression within the injustice system. And so we say: keep your eyes on the principal enemy. That enemy is imperialism. Fight that enemy for rights for those living within U.$. borders, but never sacrifice or lose sight of the bigger picture. An imperialist who supports legal abortion for Amerikan wimmin is still an imperialist.
Durante el tiempo que crecí en Newark, New Jersey, siempre escuchaba
las historias sobre disturbios, los movimientos de base, y los resultados de la
vida en las décadas de 1960 y 70. Sin embargo, yo era un joven que sólo
se preocupaba por drogarse, estar en pandillas y querer ser reconocido como alguien grande y malo. Y sí, fui reconocido, pero por malas razones. En el año 1999, a la edad de 20 años, fui acusado de asesinato y condenado a 40 años de prisión.
Los primeros años en la prisión todavía me portaba mal, y todavía trataba que me reconocieran como alguien grande y malo. Pero no fue hasta el 2005 que la chispa revolucionaria se encendió por primera vez en mi mente. Todo comenzó cuando fui a reclusión solitaria por una pelea en la que estuve involucrado. Durante el tiempo en reclusión solitaria no tenía nada para leer o cualquier cosa para mantener mi mente ocupada. Así que pasé las horas parado en la puerta gritando y echando maldiciones a los marranos cuando pasaban para la cuenta. Y bueno, creo que mi vecino del costado ya estaba cansado de escuchar mis gritos, así que tocó a mí pared y me preguntó si necesitaba un libro para leer. Entonces le dije, “Sí, porque no.” Me pasó un libro llamado Assata por Assata Shakur. Antes de esto yo nunca había escuchado sobre ella ni leído el libro, pero como no tenía nada mejor que hacer en la reclusión, lo leí.
Mientras leía el libro, pasando hoja tras hoja, la historia de Assata me habló. Sentí y reconocí su lucha. En dos días terminé de leer el libro y ahora fui yo quien tocó la pared de mi vecino, queriendo más para leer. Mi vecino era un hermano mayor y durante el año que pasé en reclusión él siguió dándome libros como, Blood in My Eye (Sangre en mi Ojo), Soul on Ice (Alma sobre Hielo) y otros grandes libros. Mi vecino era un firme partidario de la ideología de la Armada de Liberación Negra y las Panteras Negras. Yo que soy Latino, él también me enseño de gente y grupos como Che Guevara y el partido de Señores Jóvenes. Ahora, en lugar de pasarme horas gritando en la puerta, mi vecino y yo pasábamos horas hablando, construyendo y ayudándome a ser más consciente de mí mismo. Él me ayudó a darme cuenta que mi deseo de querer ser conocido como grande y malo, era sólo esa fuerza egoísta por reconocimiento que a un día me llevaría a darme contra una pared de ladrillo.
Después de que concluyó mi castigo en reclusión solitaria, continué con mis estudios durante la línea principal. Me puse a leer sobre gente como
Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Tse-tung, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Marx y
muchos más. El andar con pandillas ni siquiera estaba en mi radar. Esa sola chispa se convirtió en una llama, cambiando mi manera de pensar, mi manera de hablar y la manera cómo me comportaba. A lo largo de los años desde ese tiempo, esa llama es ahora un fuego hambriento dentro de mí, como el calor de
la tierra encendida. Mi única misión es ayudar a educar a los oprimidos sobre las condiciones políticas y sociales ¡bajo las que nosotros vivimos! Porque cómo mi vecino me enseñó hace mucho tiempo, ¡“Cada uno le enseña a uno!” ¡Poder a la gente!
I am approaching from a background of having been held captive in general prison population where I am aware that at least a few of us subscribe to The BayView and Under Lock & Key and agreed the latter's issue No. 62 is controversial in criticizing a certain labor union.
One reason for focusing on this outstanding view(s) is because some of us are unionized with this entity which is the only one of its class that waves membership dues for prisoners and is also actively involved in the prison abolition movement. Specifically you allude in your article to, "Those organizations don't want low paid prisoners to replace high paid petty bourgeois workers."
Further what I think was more shocking is you attributed to outside support low, selfish motive by claiming, "They would be happy to see prisoners rot in their cells... it's higher pay for their class that the labor aristocracy wants." Indisputably your position is informative and generally supported by historical patterns, including Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow which illustrated how Capitalists successfully divided White and New Afrikan working class through granting pay raises and white skin privileges who in turn collectively advocated us decaying in segregation.
I would like to remain on Under Lock & Key subscription list because by far, it's more advanced than a number of other non-mainstream publications, in that yours boldly challenges general thought trends. One case-in-point is an Elder had cautioned us to be vigilant on what Under Lock & Key also affirmed about those who share sentiments identified as "the mass base behind the prison craze." We see clear signs they are present, active and have self-centered agendas.
But in contrast to what you promoted, I don't think our struggle has yet nor is on the verge of being co-opted by selfish motives — though potentially via "Incarcerated Organizing Committees" — provided our focus don't prioritize amending the 13th Amendment over acquiring human rights and Independence, attacking deceptive parole mechanisms. In this regard, MIM(Prisons) provides a vital source exhorting the prison movement to re-evaluate the ramification of amending the 13th Amendment. Perhaps the pendulum will sway away from giving successive energy to the 13th Amendment when factoring that many prison systems already pay money of account for prisoner labor; but yet, both sides of the spectrum agree mass incarceration is the core problem.
In ULK 62, among other issue numbers, you criticize massive prison work strikes. The perspective MIM(Prisons) is herein asked to ponder upon is the impact of "sustained" general work strikes will have on the bottom lines of private sectors; namely, commissary stork, telephone companies, choicey livestock parts that never reaches our food supply, etc.
MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we must make a disclaimer related to this discussion. We've learned of a recent article in Turning the Tide by a couple of United Struggle from Within comrades that calls out IWOC, among other organizations, as "ghost organizations." This is NOT the position of MIM(Prisons) or ULK. We will likely address this in more detail soon. However, we hope our readers can distinguish our approach here in criticizing the political line of other organizations and the effects of that line, rather than disparaging them for not doing anything just because they aren't working with us. No one can deny that the IWOC has done a lot to successfully publicize recent prison struggles and actions.
Overall it seems we have a lot of agreement with the writer above, but areas of debate are well worth addressing. The main point raised here is whether labor unions are selfishly pushing their own agenda for higher wages for the Amerikan labor aristocracy, or if these labor unions can really be putting the interests of prisoners first in prison labor struggles.
As this writer notes, we have plenty of historical evidence of labor unions in the United $tates promoting the interests of the Amerikkkan nation at the expense of oppressed nations.(1) And this promotion of national oppression includes support for the expansion of prisons to lock up oppressed nations. In fact, those prisons provide well-paying jobs for many labor aristocracy workers. So the contradiction between prison employees and prisoners is amplified, as this incarceration is essential to their livelihood.
Many corporations can't take advantage of cheap prison labor because labor unions have put provisions in their contracts and state laws to force consultation with labor leaders before establishing a contract for prisoner labor. It is clear the cheaper labor available in prisons is a direct threat to the high wages paid to people outside of prisons for work that could be done by prisoners. Many labor unions are quite clear about their position on this point.
But the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is different from other labor unions in that it claims to be international and anti-capitalist. The IWW is the labor union offering free membership to prisoners and actively campaigning on behalf of prisoners. The IWW also actively campaigns for higher wages for Amerikan workers. So they are walking a fine line between progressive work supporting prisoners' struggles, and reactionary pro-labor-aristocracy politics. The history of the IWW includes some clear examples benefiting white workers at the expense of colonial labor, as is documented in J. Sakai's book Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat.(2)
This doesn't mean the IWW is always working against the interests of prisoners. In fact they have waged some progressive battles. But their goal of raising wages for Amerikan workers is still fundamentally reactionary. The Amerikan labor aristocracy is the mass base for fascism, not a base for revolutionary organizing. They continue to come down on the side of imperialism, and are well bought off with the spoils of conquest and exploitation of oppressed nations around the globe.
In all of our prison struggles we need to keep the contradiction between internal oppressed nations (locked up, killed by police, flooded with drugs, denied economic, educational, and work opportunities, etc.) and the oppressor nation at the forefront. Why do we have such a huge prison population in the United $tates? It comes back to national oppression.
Battles around prisoners getting access to education, or getting paid for their labor, can be progressive parts of the struggle against the criminal injustice system. As long as they are framed in the context of the battle for liberation of oppressed nations. Opportunistically tying the prison labor battle to the broader Amerikan labor union struggles will only drag us down into reactionary oppressor-nation politics which builds up the labor aristocracy at the expense of the world's oppressed.(3) The oppressed, around the world and within U.$. borders, are always the losers in Amerikan labor union wage struggles.
The example(s) set down by the "People's Machine" still resonate today...within the hearts and minds of captives in particular, and conscious folk out in "minimum security" (Amerikkka!) in general.
The blood of our revolutionary martyrs still stains the ground in San Quentin, Soledad, Tracy, Attica, Angola, Jackson, Walla Walla, among others! Their spirits call out to us..."Avenge Us", they say! Can we hear them? Truly?
Today being the day, 47 years ago! that the "Dragon" spit fire and in turn, ran out of the adjustment center...to a revolutionary death! The Amerikkkans thought that killing Comrade George, they would kill the movement...WRONG!
Granted...the system of capitalism has been quite active in circumventing our quest(s) for revolutionary change! As we ourselves have internalized "gangsta" delusional fantasies...and in turn, became cannibals of our own! Between the two lives the poor and oppressed masses! The have nots! starving for freedom...starving for justice...starving for equality! Just unsure of "how" to go about obtaining it?!
The fact that every issue of ULK that i have ever read has had at least one prisoner submission that referenced Comrade George, speaks volumes! At least to those who are truly conscious...These Brothas identify with strength in these torture chambers, where broken men abound! They want to be about more than lip service...it is on those of us who know, to teach! and lead by example!
Comrade George, W.L. Nolen, Bill Christmas, Khaiari Gualden, others unnamed, sacrifice their very lives for the cause of liberation! They waged struggle in service of all of us behind the walls and we owe them, period!
Today, i am deep in thought...examining my conditions and the cats i find myself imprisoned with. And I am working...regardless of what the Amerikkkans do to me: indeterminate SHU, death row, out of state moves, even death! i shall continually strive to be the example of resistance to those around me! Way i see it, i have absolutely nothing left to lose...but my chains! Life in a cage is unacceptable...to a "Black Cat"! i salute all of you Brothas in struggle with a clenched fist held high! Thinking of the beloved Comrade G. i have blood in my eyes! Power to the People!
We are receiving a small but steady flow of general population (G.P.) prisoners on our yard. About 10 every week or two. It's not going well at all. SNY population is now jumping G.P. when able to. First time G.P.s arrived they attacked some SNYs in work out bar course. Four on five and G.P.s got scrapped. Next time SNYs were waiting, so guards had to escort G.P.s from R&R.
Next morning, 300+ prisoners were outside the building waiting for the G.P.s release. So guards decided not to release G.P.s and recalled the yard. Later guards released only 5 G.P.s and they were jumped by 20 SNYs. So this is the pattern. Only a matter of time before someone gets killed.
So now anytime in transit G.P.s and SNYs are in a possible dangerous situation. This SNY yard is super chill, with very few incidents to report. So I can only imagine how serious this issue will be on other more dangerous yards. OR when SNY prisoners are placed on a yard with the majority being G.P. Something needs to be done soon. CDC is basically staging these fights.
MIM(Prisons) adds: While family members on the outside have been petitioning to stop the integration, MIM(Prisons) has been supporting USW leaders who are trying extra hard to push the United Front for Peace in Prisons principles in these difficult situations. California prison staff have a long history of staging fights between prisoners. However, this massive integration is different in terms of the numbers involved. Comrades should search out opportunities to apply the principle of Unity, based on the fact that GP and SNY prisoners are now, more than ever, facing the same conditions.