It's been 50 years since the most advanced segment of national class consciousness of a people came together in unity nationwide in the inner cites to challenge imperialism. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) was capable of leading the lumpen in the struggle for the overthrow of oppressive/exploitative relationships and the building of national independence, self-determination, and socialism. They were equipped with the right ideology of dialectical materialism, which is a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, and knew how to apply it to where the principle of "from the people back to the people" was being done successfully with the breakfast for children program. However, they couldn't combat the oppressor's COINTELPRO strategy, which destroyed a beautiful movement. We celebrate the sacrifices these beautiful men and women made when they stood up to fascism, and some lost their life to the struggle by death, or state-sanctioned death known as incarceration, and they will not be forgotten.
As I've read books by Mumia Abu Jamal, Robert Hillary King, Huey P. Newton, David Hilliard, and Eldridge Cleaver (just to name a few), I'm reminded of what it means to be New Afrikan in the United $tates, as well as why being a revolutionary is the most important ideology to have and apply when facing this oppression, and it's due to the same challenges we face today. COINTELPRO is not over, but has only advanced so that the oppressor does not see another people's revolution again. The spirit of the Panther lives inside of me, as well as countless others who languish behind enemy lines, and we will continue their legacy through our practice of serving the people.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As we enter the month marking the 50th anniversary of the most advanced Maoist party in the history of this country, we put out a commemorative issue focused on the BPP this summer for our 50th issue of Under Lock & Key. [In October, hundreds of copies were also distributed at BPP commemorative events. That month we also finalzed a new edition of our study pack: Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party.] We'd also add to this that the Party's own internal contradictions played out allowing COINTELPRO to deliver the death blows that it did. There is no all-powerful oppressor that can stop the oppressed, although we are in the minority in this country. So as COINTELPRO continues, we learn from history and push the struggle forward!
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
One that has many young brothers and sisters missing
Stuck behind walls gated in a warehouse
Amerikkka's criminal injustice system
full of brothers and sisters they won't let out
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
Hurry you must hurry you can easily become the next victim
Another nameless soul thrown into the pen turned into a number
All in the goal of breaking you and making your spirit crumble
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
Revolution we must demand to overthrow these people's trippin
Planting evidence, misconduct, lies all for political motivation
We must band together, Revolutionaries for freedom of our nation
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
Power to the freedom fighters through means of resistance
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system!
In this issue of Under Lock & Key MIM(Prisons) set out to report on revolutionary organizing in wimmin's prisons in the United $tates.(1) Self-determination for the internal semi-colonies won't be won by males alone, and yet our subscriber list is overwhelmingly male. As a prison organizing group, we wanted to look at what is our role in resolving contradictions along gender lines, in our struggle toward national liberation and an end to Amerikkkan imperialism. The lumpen class has a strong training in male chauvinism, and prisons are an even more extremely masculine environment. If we are going to contribute to the resolution of gender contradictions, we need to consciously put effort into it.
We solicited articles from many current and former prisoners on this topic, but in the end we received very little response. This coincides with our overall reach into wimmin's prisons: while about 7% of the population in prison is locked up in wimmin's prisons, we do not have close to 7% of our subscribers located in these institutions. In this article we will explore the current state of imprisonment of females and some potential reasons for our limited reach and lower political involvement in institutions for wimmin.
MIM(Prisons) has long talked about gender oppression faced by prisoners in the United $tates. Gender is distinct from class and nation, and located within leisure time activities. Usually gender oppression is something suffered by biological females. But in prison, where the vast majority of the population is male, we still see significant gender oppression. When male prisoners are sexually assaulted by guards this is obviously gender oppression because it's based in "leisure" time. But there are other aspects of this gender oppression, including the Amerikan legacy of lynching New Afrikan men for supposedly raping white wimmin, which is an example of white females having gender power over New Afrikan males. So it's not so straightforward as just looking at biology to determine who is gender oppressed. And as on the streets, gender interacts with nation to complicate the situation in prisons.
Females make up 18.4% of all people under supervision of the adult correctional system (prison, jail and probation).(2) They are 6.7% of federal prisoners(3) and 7.2% of state prisoners.(2) The higher percentage of females in jails and on probation reflects the lesser severity and shorter sentences compared to males. Because our reach is mainly in prisons, that is what we will focus on here.
Many have commented on the dramatically increasing female prison population in the United $tates, especially as the recent growth rate was so much higher than the rate for males. Between 1995 and 2005 the number of male prisoners grew 34% while the number of female prisoners grew 57%.(4) Overall, females went from 11% of all arrests in 1970 to 26% in 2014.(5) However, the U.$. prison population peaked in 2009 and has been dropping slowly since then. The total change between 2004 and 2014 was a 1% drop in prison population. Over that same period the male prison population dropped 1.2% while the female prison population increased 1.4%. Since 2004 the number of females in prison has bounced up and down every few years with a peak in 2008, a drop from 2008-2012 and then an increase in 2013 and 2014. The dramatic increases in incarcerated females prior to 2004 seem to have leveled off, and there are no clear trends since 2004.(2)
What we can conclude from the numbers above is that the imprisonment rate for females is growing faster than the rate for males, but the growth is relatively slow in recent years and the overall number of females in prison is so much smaller than the number of males that it would take many many years of significant growth to get close to equal incarceration rates between males and females. It is still true that when we talk about prisons in the United $tates we are overwhelmingly talking about prisons for men.
New Afrikans and Chicanas are disproportionately locked up compared to white females (twice the rate for New Afrikans and 1.2 times for Chicanas). But these statistics mean that a much larger proportion of people in female prisons are white than in the male prisons which locks up New Afrikans at almost 6 times the rate of white males and Chicanos at more than twice the rate of whites.(6) And in female prisons the disparity has been decreasing in recent years with incarceration of white females increasing at a faster pace than other nationalities.
Below we examine two possible explanations for MIM(Prisons)'s limited reach into facilities for wimmin. 1. We are not doing a good job addressing issues that are important to this population and so they're just not interested in working with us. 2. Females in prison are less political than males in prison. If the former is true, we hope that this ULK will inspire readers to write to us and tell us what we're missing. We do, however, see some solid evidence that the explanation is the lack of political interest among female prisoners.
We need to consider what might cause female prisoners to be less interested in our work than their male counterparts. Those who do write to us often comment on the complete lack of interest among their fellow prisoners. And while we hear this plenty from men's institutions, we also hear many more stories from the men's prisons about activism and interest. In addition, some of the wimmin who write to us are transgender and held in male institutions, with this experience contributing greatly to their political awareness.
Based on our experience and what evidence we can find from studies of prisoners, we believe that wimmin are less likely to be locked up long term, less likely to be put in solitary confinement, more likely to have family waiting for them on the outside, and less likely to have been active members of a lumpen organization prior to or during their term. These are mostly conditions of wimmin in general in the United $tates, and so reasonable assumptions to make. We are by no means suggesting that imprisonment of females in this country is free of abuse or anything other than a product of a system built for social control. But females who are swept up in the net of widespread incarceration are often not the primary targets of the system. The stats on nationality make this clear.
One might argue that gender oppression in wimmin's facilities is scaring people locked up there into unwillingness to reach out to MIM(Prisons). However, we see that increased repression in men's prisons generally results in increased political interest. We get many letters describing threats resulting from political activism or even just education leading people to greater interest in men's facilities. And historically, on a global scale, greater oppression has led to greater resistance, by nation, class and gender.
Overall we think the lower percentage of people in wimmin's facilities reaching out and getting involved with MIM(Prisons) validates our theory about what leads prisoners to becoming politicized. Significant factors include: solitary confinement, lumpen organization involvement, significant repression, censorship and conditions of abuse. Essentially, repression breeds resistance (as long as the repression isn't so extreme that prisoners face total censorship, or health conditions so bad that they are unable to function). We regularly hear that widespread access to TV and other privileges really does buy prisoners out of political interest and activism. This is not a surprise in a country of wealth and privilege where the vast majority of the population enjoys petty bourgeois lifestyles.
Further supporting this theory is our anecdotal experience that trans wimmin are interested and active behind bars. We know they face significant repression distinct from the general prison population. So it is not surprising that trans prisoners are driven to political awareness and activism.
Unique Challenges in Wimmin's Prisons
While material conditions, as analyzed above, play a role in the appeal of proletarian-led communist revolution to any population, we also need to look at our own attempts, or lack of, to organize with this population. MIM(Prisons) has not made a concerted effort to connect the struggle for national self-determination with struggles in wimmin's prisons. With this ULK we hope to spark that conversation.
With that said, we need to look at what unique challenges are faced by people locked up in facilities for wimmin. This will help determine if we are not addressing the issues that are important to these prisoners.
The battle to maintain or regain custody of children is one issue more prevalent in facilities for female prisoners. In 2006 (and other studies suggest this number is pretty constant in recent years), more than 65% of females in state prisons and 55% of males in state prisons had children under 18 years of age. 64% of these mothers lived with their children before prison, compared to 44% of fathers.(7) While this is a pretty big difference, the overall magnitude of the impact of imprisonment isn't close: there are so many more fathers in prison than mothers in prison. One possibility is that mothers who fear losing custody will do anything they can to keep clean and get out quickly, and this focuses them more on doing their time quietly than fighting abuse.
Sexual assault is another potential issue that may affect female prisoners more than males. In a PREA survey of former prisoners from 2008, 10.5% of females reported prisoner-on-prisoner sexual assaults compared to 2.7% of males. Staff-on-prisoner sexual assault was also more commonly reported by females (2.5%) compared to males (1.1%).(8) We are skeptical of these numbers, especially since the taboo against reporting sexual assault is even greater for males and so it's hard to say if these statistics represent a meaningful difference between the experiences in wimmin's and men's prisons. Even if it does, we wouldn't expect this abuse to lead females away from political activism. But it is perhaps an issue we need to expose more often to address the large portion of wimmin who are facing this abuse.
The Path Forward
It is important to connect our political line with our strategy and tactics, and engage in the scientific process of developing that line as we learn from our practice. While in this article we have focused on facilities for wimmin and organizing of females behind bars, this is a bigger question of how we mobilize females on the streets to join our revolutionary struggle. We are fighting against class, nation and gender oppression on a global scale, and this battle requires uniting all who can be united. Around the world we have examples of wimmin joining struggles for national liberation, taking up leadership in communist organizations, and historically in leadership positions in Communist China. While we see the national liberation struggle as principal at this point in history, we can not neglect the gender contradiction, both in the general fight against imperialism and in our own political practice.
The below transcript is provided because this writer wasn't able to find a good transcript of the whole address. The address(1) is itself considered a historic moment for indigenous nations of North America.
The proposed pipeline, almost two thousand kilometers long, impacts or potentially impacts many First Nations. It doesn't affect just the Standing Rock Sioux and other nations/groups of Sioux people belonging to the larger Sioux nation, which along with other nations is still owed land illegally taken by the U.$. government. For many First Nations people, the anti-DAPL struggle is about land and sovereignty, to which they have a right regardless of Amerikans' economic, energy and environmental concerns.
There is a long history of amerikans' violating First Nations' sovereignty even by breaking agreements they themselves imposed and signed. The First Nations' struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is one of the biggest in living memory. As it gets more publicity, there is a chance to change public opinion — or reinforce it in an undesirable way — regarding such violations of law and sovereignty. That is in addition to stopping the pipeline project, which has already destroyed some burial and prayer sites.
Like Palestine, the Great Sioux Nation is a nation containing aspirations of greater unity/wholeness, independent statehood, and full sovereignty. And like Palestine, the Great Sioux Nation is experiencing ongoing settlement and colonialism, internal governmental issues related to partitioning, and results of other nations' failure to honor/obey and enforce treaties and other international law. The majority-exploiter imperialist settler entity called "the United States" subjects nations both inside and outside u.$. borders — and Palestinians both inside and outside the Green Line — to colonialism and even opposes the two-state solution in Palestine despite verbal agreements. It happened that the Standing Rock Sioux Chairman spoke to the Human Rights Council in Geneva just a day before the International Day of Peace and two days before Mahmoud Abbas(2) spoke to the General Assembly in New York.
With a global, long-term perspective and the world's help, the Sioux nation will get their land back and full sovereignty one day. Some in denial about this are attempting to subsume the anti-DAPL struggle under some anti-capitalist or environmental struggle including the ameriKKKan petty-bourgeoisie and/or opposing nationalism of oppressed nations. Some others talking about colonialism and sovereignty nonetheless openly say their real concern is climate change. Hopefully they can still contribute something to the struggle. Apparently, it is too much to ask more amerikkkans to just abide by their own treaties and other laws. If First Nations people weren't facing staggering state power, a numerically large enemy and dog attacks, like Palestinians also have, there would be less compulsion to tolerate certain outsider activists who seemingly may undermine the anti-DAPL struggle or larger struggles by making their own priorities central.
Overall, it looks like the struggle of the Standing Rock Sioux as a nation was well-represented in this brief spoken statement in Geneva.
Transcript of Standing Rock Sioux nation address to the UN Human Rights Council on September 20, at the 33rd Regular Session
Human Rights Council President Choi Kyong-lim: I give the floor to the distinguished representative of Indian Law Resource Center.
Chairman Dave Archambault II: Thank you, Mr. President.
My name is Dave Archambault. I am the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Our tribal nation is a sovereign nation located in the United States. Our sovereignty is recognized by the United States through the legally binding treaties of 1851 and 1868, signed by our traditional Lakota government, Oceti Sakowin (Oceti Šakowin, the Seven Council Fires), then passed by the United States Senate, and proclaimed by the President of the United States.
I am here because oil companies are causing the deliberate destruction of our sacred places and burials. Dakota Access Pipeline [Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners; a.k.a. "Dakota Access"] wants to build an oil pipeline under the river that is the source of our nation's drinking water. This pipeline threatens our communities, the river, and the earth.
Our nation is working to protect our waters and our sacred places for the benefit of our children not yet born. But the oil companies and the government of the United States have failed to respect our sovereign rights. Today, the pipeline construction continues. Although it has temporarily stopped near our nation, this company has knowingly destroyed sacred sites and our ancestral graves with bulldozers. This company has also used attack dogs to harm individuals who tried to protect our water and our sacred sites.
I condemn all violence, including the use of guard dogs.
While we have gone to the court in the United States, our courts have failed to protect our sovereign rights, our sacred places, and our water. We call upon the Human Rights Council and all Member States to condemn the destruction of our sacred places and to support our nation's efforts to ensure that our sovereign rights are respected. We ask that you call upon all parties to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and to protect the environment, our nation's future, our culture, and our way of life.
This is Saif-Ullah, from USW, checking in from California Correctional Institution. In the last 15 months I've witnessed comrades being beat, slapped, set up, and pepper sprayed, without any justification, until about forty of the inmates of all races joined together with a campaign to have our families and friends call and complain about these abuses, until finally last month a new warden was hired and the old one sent away from here.
Since her arrival she has walked off three correctional overseers, and a teacher, who had some real racist acts under her belt as well. The overseer Stewart, and his side kick Miller are the ones here known to plant razors and assault and beat inmates and really act out, but they charge the inmates with attacking staff.
I myself and about thirty other comrades have came to the point that if we are attacked we will meet them with the same amount of force. As Huey stated, the party was born in a particular time and place. It came into being with a call for self-defense against the police who patrolled our communities and brutalized us. They are just an oppressive army occupying our community.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Amerikkka has been oppressing the internal semi-colonies of North America since the earliest settlers came to these shores. This comrade demonstrates how to put forth the correct analysis of conditions, while mobilizing the masses for short-term reforms like the firing of the worst abusers. There is a reason why we find so many "abusive people" in the departments of "corrections" of the imperialist United $tates. There is a reason why despite massive outcry, unarmed New Afrikan people continue to be murdered by the police. It is a system that aims to control other nations that demands this kind of brutality. That system of national oppression, imperialism, must be destroyed.
MIM(Prisons) has very few comrades who continue work with us once released from prison. Recently one of these comrades offered to ask the wimmin ey organizes with on the outside to write up something for this issue of Under Lock & Key. We sent prompts but didn't hear anything back. When we checked in on the article submissions, our comrade gave us an update:
"The reason nothing has come out of the shelter is because of a sudden turnover in residents, many of the active wimmin are now gone or just can't be reached. I have not submitted due to constraints on my time. My fiancée was kicked out of the shelter and due to taking care of her as much as possible and my own parole and other issues, i simply have not had time to put anything to paper. I am sleeping about 3 hrs. a day and on the move the other 21. We are working on an awareness project to get some of the people mobilized. Currently there are only 3 of us working on all of this, a member of Blackstone from Chicago, my fiancée and myself. It is very slow and tiring work. I apologize for my silence, i have just been swamped with stuff every day."
We empathize with this comrade's difficulties in finding time to put pen to paper. It's extremely difficult to juggle the bureaucratic challenges of parole with the lack of resources available for basic survival. We need to build independent institutions so we can meet our basic survival needs, so we can focus on the political struggle for self-determination. There's a catch 22 where reformist struggles take time and energy to build, and our ultimate goal is liberation from the conditions that make these band-aid programs necessary.
I read some individuals voice their opinions regarding the SNY in unity for the Chicano liberation movement. I have stated before, I am not gang nor am I with gang. My decision to step away from GP was due to my differences in views and beliefs about gang against true revolutionary goals, of which were deemed "undisciplined," (uniting with all Raza North-South, seeing New Afrikans as revolutionary allies, etc.) and succumb to ostracism within a group claiming to be for the Raza.
As a true revolutionary I will not discriminate, isolate, or alienate anybody who is seeking education and displays interest to understand the tyranny of imperialism. Be GP or SNY, that is only prison mentality of which I believe should never resurface in a post-revolution liberated Aztlán, this is the greater cause for the national liberation of Aztlán. That is where the true revolutionaries distinguish from gang. My true enemy is imperialism and its many systematic vehicles of oppression against the Chicano lumpen. Always keeping aware of infiltrators and spies working to suppress any resistance, including so-called allies who in truth operate on a subjective ideology of fascism.
In the SNY there are many comrades who have developed a higher political interest and awareness. A personal higher calling for servitude seems present in many for a better future for our next generations. Those who are still with gang are very present as well, but it is those who seek a higher learning and understand of this phantom enemy, imperialism, who I would like to reach out to! This is the struggle to unite.
It is public consciousness what we aim for, not numbers. The calling for revolution is within each one. Many lumpen have perceived revolution solely as an armed struggle and cause for war to kill the oppressor. In part, yes that is a goal, but i would disagree to integrate individuals who are solely for war. That would be as uniting or recruiting mercenaries, as Reagan did against the Sandinistas and to extreme case, the Salvadorian government force enlisting children against the FMLN.
Those with true revolutionary interest take on study and self-development with eagerness. Those whose interests are not aligned, they simply walk away. Revisionist and other suppressive Raza are always present and that creates obstacles as well as a struggle to unite. Interacting, talking, and sharing our political lines are gateways to congregate and build study cells without risking our demise in a front by those wishing to suppress our efforts to unite.
No matter what another comrade's political maturity is, well-developed or first time knowing, the practice and persistence to learn is what I see. For I myself am still amateur to communism. The abolition of imperialism and the liberation for Aztlán is my goal, to live in equality for all.
Sharing ULK and other material is a minor step I take for now in order to broaden and spread that consciousness within the lumpen here in my environment. Sometimes referring to myself as being for the Chicano national liberation movement upon meeting fellows brings questions from some and ignites interest in others. With time I share my copy of [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán.
To comrades in SNY reading this, let's continue our struggle to unite. To comrades in the GP, struggle in solidarity and power to you all true revolutionaries.
In March 2016, I sent a letter to Representative Borris Miles about not having a law library at the Wheeler Unit. I also filed a grievance on the indigent mail getting 5 letters a month sent out instead of 5 per week. It was sent back saying that it was too old to file on.
I filed some legal work with Rep. Borris Miles because the other unit where I was before didn't have a law library. The Wheeler Unit is only a few yards from here and they don't have access to the law library or access to the courts which is a Federal violation. Below is part of my letter to Rep. Miles.
"I am writing this complaint to state from the evidence that I have, which is some I-60s, inmate request slips, which I wrote requesting to go to the law library to do some legal work, and was denied twice because Ms. J. Lara stated that we didn't have law library sessions at this unit [Wheeler], because the law library which don't have NO BOOKS just a few stuff not enough that you could actually use to complete legal work with. To the other request, her response was that I was afforded with what they had, but every time a request is put in by somebody it is denied. We have a full size library about 300 yards from this Unit at Formby Unit. I have requested to be transferred over there where I can have legal access to the law library so that I can have access to the courts also."
You can print this, just leave my name out, because I would have trouble here and be retaliated against because of it. If you get this letter please write back and let me know that you got it because mail don't always make it to where it's supposed to go to. So please answer ASAP when you get this so I'll know that you received this.
If you have a grievance manual I would like to have one if possible. I am in the processing stage of writing Rep. Miles about the grievance process. They need to have grievances looked at by somebody outside TDCJ, besides the grievance investigator here, because we don't think the Warden even sees Step 1, because the same answer comes back on every Step 1, saying not warranted for further action. So this inital decision is all on it and it's been typed on every Step 1 and then Huntsville looks at Step 1, copies this answer on Step 2, and sends it back to us, agreeing with the answer on Step 1. And we use Texas Penal Codes on it and it states clearly that state law is being violated by employees and it's covered up within the Unit. So legal action can't be taken. Send me a few of the petitions and grievance manual and I'm filing with others about this also.
I also saw in ULK 51 that you said the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook is banned in Texas. I checked with the mailroom staff here [Formby Unit] and they said it is approved on this unit as far as they know. Please make this correction in ULK.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We've gotten confirmation from multiple sources that the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook is *not* banned in Texas at this time. Thanks to this contributor, and others, who help us to stay informed.
We wrote about the need to connect the battles this comrade is fighting with the larger picture of revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist economic system in our article "Texas Comrades Need to Step Up" in ULK 52. Reiterating that call, we also encourage this comrade to see how futile it is to call for an outside review board to oversee the grievance process. Even if a review board was put in place, it would be run by the criminal injustice system or their allies, because that is who has the power in this country. And the whole process will start all over again with lawsuit after lawsuit filed and dismissed, and won and reneged. Revolutionaries can't afford to bang our head against this wall while people are dying the world over, and their liberation is being stalled by Amerikkka's runaround.
We should struggle for some reforms, as that's all we can do right now at this stage in our struggle where we are too weak to struggle any other way. But we need to focus on reforms that will have the greatest impact on our organizing work, which centers around building independent institutions of the oppressed and building public opinion for socialism. Is an "outside" review board an independent institution of the oppressed? No, it would just be a facade of the state, and a false victory. If we want to have our grievances answered, we need to build unity, and come together to demand our grievances are answered. Of course there are many ways and many steps to unity, but this would be an independent institution of the oppressed to defend ourselves and build for the future where we're not begging prison administration to please treat us like humyn beings.
Few things are more dangerous and detrimental to a revolutionary movement than over- and underestimation, in particular underestimation. Battles have been lost, tides and balances of struggles have ebbed and flowed, and slide from one side to the other. And all because of this simple mistake. Whenever we underestimate someone, group, or thing, we commit this mistake of relegating that persyn, group, or thing to unimportance. Or we ignore it or them as being trivial. This is something no revolutionary can ever afford to do. Especially those in the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist movements.
Unfortunately, our movements, as so many others, can be plagued by machismo, a particular form of male chauvinism. In revolutionary circles this happens and wimmin are undervalued and most often underestimated. Wimmin are a force without equal in any movement. In the fight against capitalist and imperialist governments wimmin are an indispensable resource. A clear example of their worth can be found in recent Cuban history, the 26th of July movement.
Everyone knows of Fidel, Raúl, Frank País and Abel Santamaría. But their fame and successes would have been unattainable save for the revolucionarias, wimmin revolutionaries. While there were many wimmin later in the movement, there were only two in key roles at the beginning: Haydée Santamaría Cuadrado and Melba Hernández Rodríguez de Rey. These two stood out as invaluable and the personifications of wimmin to a revolutionary movement. Together they were key to printing and distributing "History Will Absolve Me," the famous Castro speech. They also took up arms during the attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Although, triumph eluded them during the assault, their efforts spread the movement from the eastern provinces throughout all Cuba. Haydée and Melba were both imprisoned after the assault. But their efforts never stopped and they even became more active in overthrowing the U.$.-backed Batista regime. Their imprisonment, isolation, and cruelty suffered at the hands of a proxy of U.$. imperialism only served to strengthen their resolve and commitment. As the movement spread, so did support which finished in the triumph of the revolution in 1959. Without them the revolution may never have been achieved.
Wimmin are often undervalued, underestimated and ignored. Let us not commit such mistakes. While the capitalists and imperialists do, let us recognize this fault and exploit it, using their fallacy for our advantage to progress the movement. We need our wimmin to be involved because they are the life blood of any movement and an invaluable resource. As revolutionaries and persyns, wimmin are integral to the success of our movement.
Let us take note of this history lesson and put it to good use. We need wimmin, prisoners and captives, to exceed the examples of Haydée and Melba, leading other compañeras from behind the walls as they did. Directing others in constructive methods, organizing study groups and educating other wimmin about the present struggle, as well as how to champion it. Their efforts will give breath to our movement and once it has spread, triumph will shortly follow.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer gives a good historical example of wimmin who have overcome barriers of machismo to make significant contributions to the liberation of their nation. There are innumerable examples like this one that we can point to for anyone who is hung up on their sexism so much that they think only "men" can liberate the oppressed nations.
This author is advocating for a necessary first step: first, we must accept that anyone is perfectly capable of being a strong theorist, warrior, contributor, to the national struggles. We don't see many people writing in telling us wimmin are too weak or otherwise should be excluded from revolutionary organizing, so while this sexist indoctrination will ultimately affect how we approach organizing, at least on a conscious level we might be already doing good on step 1. So what's next?
If we continue to see wimmin as a resource, even for revolutionary aims, we are not going to get very far in resolving the gender contradictions that plague our struggle for unity and liberation. Rather than asking ourselves how can we mine this resource, we need to ask "what are the contradictions inhibiting this growth of our movement?" and "what can we do to help resolve these contradictions?" A study of dialectical materialism, including Mao's essay "On Contradiction" is imperative for this discussion.
Similarly, we can't fetishize organizing of any subgroup in our movement, lest we lose direction for the sake of getting some wimmin on board. That's the mistake made by people who believe who is saying it is more important than what is being said. It's the same trap that got Obama elected as a Black persyn, and Hilary campaigning on the platform of being a female. Even if the tokenization is of an oppressed group (queer/trans people of color appear to be the token of the day), identity politics is always dangerous and an antithesis to materialism.
Prisons in California have become one of the most active and organized areas of resistance behind bars in the United $tates. With the second largest prison population in the country, and some of the biggest long-term isolation units, this is perhaps not surprising. Out of this repression and resistance has come some strong organizing efforts over the past few years. And this has also raised contradictions that need to be resolved to advance the struggle. We use this issue of ULK to highlight the contradictions and challenge our comrades in California to think broadly about resolutions.
While SHU/Ad-Seg prisoners are about 6% of the California prison population, they were 35% of our readers according to our reader survey conducted a couple years ago. Special Needs Yards (SNY) are reported to be around 30% of the total population, but were about 40% of our reader responders. So while SHU/Ad-Seg are very over-represented, SNY also seems to be slightly over-represented among our readers. There is a big division between SHU/GP and SNY prisoners with distrust and anger on both sides. But comrades from both sides continue to do solid organizing work. One of the significant developments in Cali is the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH), a United Front that has made important strides forward but is also plagued by these divisions.
It is unlikely anything we do or say will worsen the division between SHU/GP and SNY. Rather than fan the flames, we are airing these grievances as a step towards understanding and eventual reconciliation. We also want to challenge both sides. The revolutionary, anti-imperialist, pro-people forces are tiny in all sectors. Some argue that SNY is in a better position to unite, while others say only GP has potential. So we want to encourage a little friendly competition between the two sides to see who can do more. Practice has already demonstrated the leadership from SHU's ability to mobilize the masses for a progressive cause. But progressive forces on that side must continue to move forward in order to consolidate those gains, or risk them being lost. At the same time SNY comrades claim they gained the freedom to unite and organize with whoever they want, and so they need to use that position to unite others who dropped out. To both sides we say: if you're only seeking a comfortable way to do your time you're not helping advance the struggle and the revolution has no place for you.
We received a number of responses to the article in ULK 50, "[email protected] Power Book Tainted by AEH." One comrade in SNY wrote: "In my point of view it [the Agreement to End Hostilities] contradicts every aspect that they preach. Now everybody who died, who caught a life sentence for the struggle they believed in was all for nothing. Take a second and think about that. There are people who are in prison serving a life sentence for killing an individual who opposed his views and beliefs. Now they expect him to be the best of friends with these same people? How does that make sense?
"Now you guys reading this might say 'He is only saying that because he's SNY.' Well, for 4 years I was active and I have seen both sides of the fence. Not everybody over here is a snitch. There is more unity here than there is on the mainline. You see raza from North and South united where it doesn't matter what part of the state you're from."
Saying that the AEH is hypocritical based on the past goes against the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) principle of Growth. We must allow for growth and evolution of individuals and organizations if we want to see unity among the oppressed, because the old way didn't work. There are major contradictions between lumpen organizations (LOs) still, and between different housing units in California. But we see these as contradictions among the people. Which is why we stand behind the AEH, and think those old wounds can heal. It's been four years, and there's still a long way to go. But people are putting in the work, and in some locations we've seen real progress.
We understand the lack of trust that some have for those calling for the AEH in California. But we say to those people, the ones who truly want to end oppression as this comrade does, isn't the AEH a step towards what you want? Even if you don't trust certain individuals, the more we do to promote the spirit of the AEH, as well as the principles of the UFPP, the closer we get to replacing the old order with a new order based on unity of the oppressed.
This response comes from the comrade at Folsom (not SNY) who reported in ULK 50 on the progress of the AEH there, with Raza from north and south playing handball together on the same teams:
"It's a challenge educating people here, attempting to share and explain the current situation and contradiction of ideology, morals, politricks and capital. These factions seem to be following a textbook on capitalism. Yes, we have the AEH, which is a beautiful thing and can be used as a stepping stone for a more productive practice of commune. At the moment people are more concerned on exploiting the twisted habits of others and making their pockets fatter for self-interest. The 'chiefs' preach to confuse, saying that the ideology, morals and capital is framed around serve the people, united we are stronger and all that glitter. But i've not yet seen one cent invested in the people, books, education or basic needs. Too bizzy taxing the fellas for pickles out their store bags.
"Get your back straight my people, the AEH is being tainted by self-interest and is not being maximized to its full potential in a more revolutionary way. Serve the People.
"The great are only great because we are on our knees. If you don't have sycophantic attitudes towards the 'leader' and express your support they don't look great. Put some pressure, maybe then these individuals that abandoned the cause for self-interest can snap out of their pig ideology and step their game up and shape their minds and struggle towards national liberation. Resemble more a revolutionary internationalist and not the imperialist pigs that fucked us all in the first place, Tony Montana wanna-be mofo.
"I will continue to read, educate, practice and liberate regardless of the situation and this September 9 will be no different.”
A comrade in Corcoran (not SNY) is skeptical of the AEH, but echoes the refrain from many in SHU/GP that there can never be unity with SNY:
"The AEH is a godsend to all the souljas who have been held captive in the concrete tombs for 10, 15, 20+ years. The AEH is the tool CDCR is going to try and use to 1) gain more funds to build more prisons, and 2) justify the need for indeterminate SHU sentences. The current shape/mindset of prison and prisoners is not what it was back in the days that the souljas remember it being. This is going to create problems. These newly released souljas are going to be dealing with 18, 19, 20 year olds sentenced to 50, 60, 100 years.
"The AEH is going to create old-school versus new-school. That about sums it up. There's more to it. Like say the both schools are getting along there's also a snake on the police side ready to cause dissension amongst the community. Bottom line, CDCR cannot afford for the AEH to work, so they will see that it doesn't and when it doesn't they'll try to capitalize off its failure.
"They are now selling e-tablets, but only for SNY yards. There's mp3 players only for SNYs. The list goes on. Even with the trades there on SNY yards, the GP level prisoners aren't being afforded an opportunity to utilize programs that would rehabilitate them and better their lives and chances of staying out of prison. The message is clear: if you level four prisoners want to better your life you got to go SNY.
"Oh, there won't ever be a united front between GPs and SNY. You're better off trying to get a united front between convicts and pigz. See how crazy that sounds?! While there are solid souljas on the SNY yard, who became tired of the twisted prison politics. They're far outnumbered by pieces of shit, ie. child molesters, rapists, snitches, cowards, people running from drug debts, etc."
This last point is an important one that requires comment. Yes, prisoners are more likely to unite with pigz than they are with SNY because they are currently led by the criminally-minded. And it's hard to do serious money-making behind bars without working with some criminal pigz. This is a challenge and a contradiction we face trying to organize the First World lumpen. Not only are they criminal-minded, they can often make a fair amount from that crime, even some in prison are happy and prefer that over uniting New Afrika and Aztlán to fight imperialism. This is echoed by the Folsom comrade above.
All of these struggles in the California prisons remind us of how far we have to go, as humynity, to achieve a society where all people can live together in peace, in a society where no group of people has power over any other group. That long-term goal is communism. But to get there we will need to radically change our culture and the education people get from schools and society. Divisions are built into imperialism, people are pitted against each other based on class, nation, and gender generally and more specifically feuds are fostered by the imperialists to pit the oppressed against each other. This culture won't disappear overnight.
We learn from the revolutionary history of China that cultural revolutions will be needed after the oppressed take power, to re-educate everyone and build a truly revolutionary culture and society. It's a long road, and our comrades behind bars in California shouldn't be discouraged by divisions that have been created over many years of capitalist cultural indoctrination. Keep the big picture in mind and build for the revolutionary united front that serves the oppressed of the world.