You never hear about Nevada and there's a reason why. Cover-ups, medical negligence, racial/social bias along with violence against inmates by COs, and let's not forget one of the worst parole and release systems in the nation. With lopsided, unfair sentence structures even according to statute, and unnecessary parole denials and completely unilateral discretion left to the parole board, which is screaming for reform. This is a culture and a consciousness up here but it will be their undoing.
Oscar Velasquez, a prisoner in Lovelock Correctional Center, committed suicide a few months ago and it's under investigation, a very slow, quiet investigation. Negligence played a huge part in this situation by COs and medical staff. Oscar gave the COs a suicide note on a medical kite. But protocol was broken because Oscar never made it to suicide watch in the medical unit. The next day Oscar was found dead and cold. Which meant COs weren't doing their rounds in a timely manner. Word is the suicide kite never made it to administration. This is being looked at by some other independent group, but it's been very hush-hush. A lot of the population believes the COs were fired but they weren't. They're on leave and being supported by their reps and lawyers.
A personal friend of mine and a lot of other brothas, Johnny Jordan or J.J., died in the uncaring arms of the Nevada medical system. While in High Desert Prison on an appeal trip, he also had a serious medical condition and was not given proper medical treatment. Which I'm sure was not very complicated, but just simply ignored. And it stems from the whole "oh well, fuck 'em" attitude most staff here have for prisoners.
Two of the most recent serious attack/gross incompetence incidents happened at High Desert, which is really under the microscope for piling up bodies for years and sweeping it under the rug.
About two years ago a CTO, aka a "Cadet Trainee Officer" gunned a prisoner down and killed him while handcuffed. He has since been sentenced on two counts of manslaughter; not murder of course, that's for us. What happened was during showers in the hole two prisoners started to scuffle while handcuffed. Instead of pulling them away from each other, the CTO was ordered to shoot and he just unloaded on them, killing one with fatal wounds to his head and chest area.
At the same prison, a prisoner was stabbed while being escorted by COs, if you can believe that! This was more recent, but also little publicity was spread about this. There was more press involved in the shooting death.
Along with these incidents, blatant and unpunished racism and bias in this state is so open it's ridiculous. I'm talking about assemblymen and women, COs, Sgts and representatives alike, it's everywhere.
Keep an eye on Nevada, these mothafuckas fly so far under the radar you rarely hear about things like this. They rarely make the local news and almost never make national headlines no matter how gross or serious it is. The censorship in this state is designed to keep Nevada's public in constant fear and prejudice of convicts. Bulletins are always going up on TV about this or that wanted person, this murderer or that sex offender. "Call secret watch and turn this person in," they'll say. But you rarely ever hear or see in Nevada: this human being was murdered by a cop, by a CO, by this sadistic cowardly butcher who's been anticipating the chance to take a human life!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade reports on something we hear more and more these days: prisoners dying from negligence and abuse at the hands of prison employees. And of course these murders are covered up rather than punished. This is one of the reasons why an independent press like Under Lock & Key is so important. We need a way to spread this news and organize people to fight back. The mainstream media and politicians are all in service of the capitalist system that set up this criminal injustice system so, as this comrade points out, our appeals to them are going to be purposefully ignored. Send us your reports about abuse and neglect. Even if they don't make it into the print version of ULK we will publish them on our website.
At this time, in this place, I genuinely know why
(the caged bird sings)/
other than being falsely imprisoned,
ey's being called - N.I.G.G.E.R. of all things.
As I give perfect praise to the "most high",
I can only wonder how many more bullets have to fly?
How many more of my precious B.L.A.C.K. & [email protected] political prisoners must die
Before those of us who still dare to be free
can remove the blood-filled tearz from our eyes?
We've all been shackled by the same chainz,
victimized by the same pain/
So, in whose name doez death really blossom?
I can vividly recall being radically profiled as a juvenile,
because as a child,
"I refused to pledge my allegiance to a flag"
that forced many of my B.L.A.C.K. Panthers into exile.
This beautiful Black revolutionary love of mine is God'z design,
I speak from the perspective
of a soulja with an objective,
cause being black in this white manz world
justice is often selective.
On behalf of the collective,
I stand on the frontlines.
My message to the black man is to fight the power,
nourish the seedz, and restore the flowers.
This form of revolutionary love
will never be televized,
nor will it be glamorized/
because the very essence of this love affair
depicts us finally being unified!!
Let'z reflect back to the bird and the cage
back to the dehuminization that we endured
while naked on the auction blocks & stage
or picture the 25-50 million Africans that died
during the passage
that never made it to the grave!
Because it is only through those degrees of pain,
horror and torture,
can one truly understand the life of a slave.
On the strength of those whose lives were gave
that divine sacrifice in turn,
allowed countless other B.L.A.C.K.S. & others' lives to be saved!!
Queen D.I.V.A here, I want to speak on why LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/transexual, Queer) comrades are treated like shit. This is my second bid and I've seen a lot of love towards my community but to be totally honest I've seen more dislike and hate towards my community.
Comrades will rather be respectful to a kkkorektions officer than a homosexual, why? Comrades will rather say good morning with a smile on their faces to a kkkorektions officer, why? Don't you guys know these pigs are the ones throwing your mail away and then telling you that you didn't get any, that they will beat your ass and say you assaulted them and give you a new bid, and that they will deny your visit after your family just drove 7 hours to see you?
What have LGBTQ comrades done to you? Nothing. We were born different, that's it! What if your own flesh and blood son came to you one day and confessed that he's gay? Would you disown him? Would you treat him like you treat imprisoned gays, or would you put your ego, pride and fear to the side and embrace him?
We are all in this struggle together, let us say "screw what people think." A "unit" is something that works together. We're behind these walls and fences together so why can't we stand together? Stop disrespecting us and you'll see we're not your enemies.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade eloquently pushes the United Front for Peace in Prisons principle of Unity around the question of sexual orientation and gender identity, elements of the strand of oppression of gender. We need to look beyond petty differences, and beyond socialized prejudices around gender. Our movement cannot afford to be divided along these lines. Instead we need to judge people by their actions and their political line. Those who side with the pigs, who feed them information, and who help them by provoking fights and doing their bidding: those people are our enemies. People who stand up against the criminal injustice system are our friends. And those who don't stand up but refuse to work with the pigs are our friends in need of a little educating and leadership so that they too will join the struggle.
El 9 de Septiembre del 2016 fue el quinta día de demostración de Paz y Solidaridad anual en prisiones a lo largo de los Estados Unidos. Esta es una oportunidad para que reclusos conmemoren el aniversario de la insurrección en Attica y atraer atención a los abusos de presos por todo el país por medio de ayunos y paro de trabajo de 24 horas. La demostración anual fue iniciada en el 2012 por una organización en el Frente Unido para la Paz en las Prisiones (UFPP), y se ha tomado como un evento anual de la UFPP, con gente participando en prisiones por todo el país.
Esta demostración esta alineada con los principios de la UFPP de formar unidad entre prisioneros que tengan el interés común de pelear la opresión del sistema criminal injusto. Presos están tomando las 24 horas de manifestación para empeñarse en educación y construcción de solidaridad; cesando toda hostilidad entre prisionero contra prisionero. Este es un pequeño pero significativo paso en formar un Frente Unido entre organizaciones de prisioneros e individuos cometidos al movimiento anti-imperialista. Es una oportunidad para juntarse, publicar el UFPP y estimar nuestro progreso. Para estar de pie en un frente unido, no necesitamos estar de acuerdo en cada tema político, pero tenemos que unirnos alrededor de principios centrales para componernos y estar de pie como uno. La construcción de unidad comienza mucho antes del 9 de Septiembre para esos que están engranando a otros para participar en la protesta. Es un largo y lento proceso de educación y organización para construir el movimiento anti-imperialista.
Recientemente hemos aprendido de otro llamado de acción para el 9 de Septiembre, un "Llamado de Acción Contra esclavitud en America."(1) La gente que hizo este llamado escribió: "En el 9 de Septiembre del 2016 comenzamos una acción para el cierre de prisiones en todo el país. No solo demandaremos el fin de esclavitud prisionera, la acabaremos nosotros mismos cesando de ser esclavos." Este llamado nacional de paro de trabajo en las prisiones coincide con la demostración en solidaridad de la UFPP y tomamos esta oportunidad para comentar en las similares y diferencias.
Antes queremos decir que siempre estamos contentos al ver gente tomar organización y tratar de comenzar unidad detrás de las rejas. Hay muy buenos puntos traídos en este llamado a la acción, particularmente en el reconocimiento de las crecientes protestas en las prisiones por todo el país y la importancia de esta resistencia. Con nuestro enfoque en construir un Frente Unido entre presos, esperamos trabajar con esta gente para ampliar nuestro movimiento. No estamos seguros si los organizadores están enterados del trabajo que la UFPP ha estado haciendo por cinco años en las protestas del 9 de Septiembre, a si decidieron intencionalmente iniciar una acción aparte por los desacuerdos con la UFPP. Nuestros intentos de contactar a los organizadores siguen sin ser contestados.
Tácticamente, ambos estamos promoviendo una huelga de trabajo en este día. Mientras una huelga de un solo día es más simbólica que cualquier cosa, vemos poder en la habilidad de presos para "el cierre" de facilidades sin hacer el trabajo para mantenerlas operando por un periodo potencialmente largo. Sin embargo, los organizadores detrás de este recién llamado están tomando la huelga de trabajo al nivel de una cuestión de linea, a lo cual le tenemos fuertes desacuerdos. Se enfocan en una huelga de trabajo porque están enfocados en eliminar lo que ellos ven como "esclavitud" en las prisiones de los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, para las Marxistas, esclavitud es un sistema económico específico que envuelve a gente como propiedad para explotar de sus labores. Esclavos tienen valor de canje, igual como otros objetos que son vendidos y comprados. Este valor de canje de gente es la base de un sistema horrible que consiste en la captura y compra de humanos. Gente confunde el labor de prisiones con esclavitud porque hay unas significantes igualdades: el labor en las prisiones envuelve que trabajadores reciban un pago muy poco o nada, y como esclavos, prisioneros tienen dado vivienda, comida y otras necesidades básicas mientras están en cautividad. Pero podemos ver claramente que no hay un cambio valorar en presos por que los estados tienen que pagarle a otros estados para que reciban a sus prisioneros. Esto es lo opuesto de esclavitud donde gente paga por la compra de esclavos.
Más aun, para poder llamar el labor de prisioneros esclavitud, debe de haber explotación. Podemos ver que esta explotación (prisiones teniendo ganancias del labor de los presos) solo existe para una pequeña porción de los presos en EE.UU.(2) Estados como Texas y Louisiana tienen industrias significativamente productivas que recuerdan a los días de esclavitud. Para la mayoría esta no es la realidad. Prisiones requieren grandes infusiones de fondos federales y estatales para poder operar. Si estuvieran haciendo ganancias de los labores de presos, este desagüe de los fondos públicos no serian requeridos. En su lugar el labor de presos esta solamente compensado en una pequeña porción del costo de operación.
Unas personas nos dicen que esto solo es semántica, alegando la definición de un significado antes de hablar del verdadero problema que las prisiones están torturando a seres humanos mientras permiten a los verdaderos criminales dirigir el gobierno y corporaciones capitalistas. Pero esta reciente llamada de protesta contra la esclavitud prisionera, desvalora porqué éstas definiciones son tan importantes. Los organizadores de esta protesta del 9 de Septiembre contra esclavitud escribieron lo siguiente: "Cuando eliminemos la esclavitud, perderán mucho de sus incentivos para encarcelar a nuestros hijos, pararán de construir trampas para volver a jalar a los que han liberado. Cuando removamos el motivo económico y la grasa de nuestra labor forzado del sistema prisionero de los E.U, la estructura entera de cortes y policías, de control y casería de esclavos deberá de cambiar para acomodarnos como humanos, en vez de como esclavos." Esta declaración no es cierta, e ignora la verdadera economía de las prisiones cuales reciben sobre $60 billones de dólares al año en fondos estatales y federales para cubrir el costo de operación. ¿Porque funcionaría al gobierno un negocio donde pierde dinero? Ciertamente no para una ganancia económica!
El motivo económico de la esclavitud no es la fuerza guía detrás de las prisiones. Y aunque no lo llamemos esclavitud, economía no es la razón de las prisiones. Aunque es cierto que bastante gente gana muy buenos salarios, y muchas compañías hacen montones de dinero por servir al sistema prisionero, esto solo es la redistribución de ganancias tomadas de la explotación de trabajadores del Tercer Mundo. Es por eso que tiene que venir de lo que el gobierno asigna hacia las prisiones. Y que los $60 mil millones de dólares pueden ser vertidos hacia cualquier otro proyecto que suministra empleos para la aristocracia laboral Amerikana igual de fácil y todos esos guardias y otros que trabajan en las prisiones estarán felices al igual. Prisiones son una conveniente ruta para redistribuir super ganancias imperialistas a la aristocracia laboral dentro las fronteras de los EE.UU., pero no son definitivamente la única opción si la economía fuera la única consideración.
Es critico que activistas y revolucionarios entiendan que Amerika ha construido un enorme sistema criminal injusto como instrumento para el control social. Las prisiones son usadas para encerrar naciones oprimidas y activistas. La historia de prisiones en este país claramente demuestra esto. Miramos una grande crecida de encarcelamientos comenzando desde 1974 después que los movimientos revolucionarios de esos tiempos fueron puestos en la mira por el gobierno. Hasta ese tiempo había una relativamente baja y estable razón de encarcelamiento en éste país. Después la velocidad de encarcelamiento de las Primeras Naciones, Nuevo [email protected], [email protected] subió a un número enormemente desproporcionado relacionado con los blancos, comenzando en los 1970s. Estos eventos históricos y hechos económicos ponen en claro que prisiones Amerikkkanas son usadas para el control social, no para ganancias.
Los organizadores de la protesta anti-esclavitud están desviando a la gente a creer que al cerrar trabajos en las prisiones cerrarán los prisiones. Causará dificultades, y es una táctica muy válida para ejercer poder como un grupo. Pero el labor de presos mismo no es la contradicción principal en prisión. Garantizamos que si fuéramos a alcanzar una unidad para hacer una huelga extendida de trabajo en las prisiones sobre los Estados Unidos, que Amerika descifrara como mantener a los oprimidos encarcelados.
Nosotros llamamos esto una falla a reconocer la contradicción principal. En este caso estamos hablando de la cosa que mejor empujara hacia adelante la lucha de prisioneros contra la opresión. Peleando contra algo que no existe (la esclavitud) ciertamente no es la mejor manera hacia adelante. Aunque no lo llamemos esclavitud, peleando contra el labor de presos como si esto pondrá un fin a las prisiones, también es incorrecto, y nos llevará a un callejón sin salida. Vemos la necesidad de unidad entre grupos de prisioneros e individuos como algo crítico para construir un movimiento anti-imperialista sólido. Nosotros creemos que esto consigna la verdadera contradicción principal que el movimiento de prisiones enfrenta, entre intereses colectivos de los lumpen encarcelados y las tendencias individualistas actualmente dominantes entre esa clase. Esto es porque nos organizamos el 9 de Septiembre, para construir un día de paz y solidaridad. Envuelva en este día! Escribanos para conseguir el paquete organizador del 9 de septiembre y empezar a establecerse en tu prisión.
Brothas and Sistas, as freedom fighters we must stay ready every day to act, for we might be called to duty to support and protect our brothas and sistas in our struggle. In the revolutionary units it's mandatory we get our military on. Getting our military on is exercising because we are units with a People's Army.
We must train our body for endurance, stamina and strength. Run long distance and sprints around a track. Do pushups, pull ups, sit ups, squats, lunges and cardio like burpies, windmills, jumping jacks, etc. When getting our military on work out at least 30 min to 1 hour every day. Then during the day do little 5 to 15 minute workouts to keep heart rate up. Sometimes I do a routine every time a commercial comes on TV if I'm watching a program or when I'm ready I will do a routine after I read a page. This is how I stay war ready.
We must not only watch what we feed our mind we must watch what we feed our body and the food portion size we put in our body. We encourage people not to eat pork. People can eat beef, lamb, fish and chicken. We recommend eating fruit and vegetables. Cut back or limit pasta, white bread, white rice, candy and cake intake. Eat plenty of nuts like peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews.
The revolutionary must build revolutionary minds by studying history and resistance movements, study our environment as in how people act, their different characters, study or pay attention to world events and we study our ancestors' and leaders' legacies, which are instructions we use to benefit us in this day and time. We build off of them. We study our experiences on what works and don't work for certain situations, times and places. This way we know how to continue to move forward and not get stagnated. We focus on actions, building programs and kampaigning to spread the revolutionary kulture. Actions speak louder than words so let our actions speak for us whenever we see oppression being done to us by our common enemy.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good follow up to Under Lock & Key 49, which focused on survival and stamina. This writer has some good suggestions for building a strong body and mind. Using activities like television and reading to provide timed exercise breaks, and maintaining a healthy diet are very good suggestions. Of course we know that many comrades in prison have little control over their diet, but when possible it is always good to eat the healthiest foods available.
We are not in agreement with the position that people should not eat pork but should eat other meats. There is no scientific evidence that pork is less healthy than beef and lamb, for instance. Perhaps this suggestion is related to a religious belief, but as materialists we focus on material benefit of foods rather than spiritual doctrines.
All revolutionary comrades should build their own routine of exercise and diet to help maintain the strongest possible mind and body behind bars. This is part of our responsibility to survive and stay active during this protracted battle against imperialism.
As we reflect on the legacy of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), we are reminded that the struggle for national liberation continues. Fifty years ago, the Panthers emerged from similar conditions of national oppression to what we face today. Armed with Maoism and the gun, Panther leaders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale set out to organize their Oakland community against police brutality and other social inequalities. And what they accomplished distinguished the BPP as the greatest revolutionary organization in the hystory of the New Afrikan/Black liberation struggle.
During its height, the BPP established itself as the vanguard of the revolutionary movement in the United $tates. Revisionists try to paint the Panthers as simple nationalists who only wanted to improve their community. But hystory proves otherwise, because the Panthers’ revolutionary work went beyond the Serve the People programs they implemented. The BPP was a Maoist party which criticized the bankrupt ideas of cultural nationalism and Black capitalist reforms. They attacked revisionism in the Soviet Union, while offering troops to support the Vietnamese in their struggle to push out the Amerikan invaders, and upholding the progress of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. It understood that the relationship between the Euro-Amerikan settler nation and the many oppressed nations internal to the United $tates was (as it still is today) defined by semi-colonialism, and that national liberation was the only path forward. To this end, the Panthers formed strategic alliances and coalitions that broadened their mass base of support and unity. Eventually they succeeded in forming Panther chapters in virtually every major city, precipitating a revolutionary movement of North American oppressed nations vying for national liberation.
Despite this progress the BPP made serious mistakes, mistakes that arguably set the movement for national liberation back tremendously. Even though the Panther leadership adhered to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), they failed to assess the changing landscape of social and political conditions, which inevitably led them to take up focoist positions. This error in analysis resulted in security issues as repression from the U.$. reactionary forces intensified. With J. Edgar Hoover's plan to destabilize and neutralize the revolutionary movement underway, the Panther leadership continued to promote a "cult of persynality" around Newton instead of democratic centralism. Consequently, these mistakes placed such intense pressure on the party that it was unable to overcome the tide of repression.
Ultimately, the point of this article is to honor the revolutionary legacy of the BPP by demonstrating how the Panther practice is relevant to our current struggle. For our national liberation struggles to gain traction we must learn from the successes and failures of the most advanced revolutionary organization in U.$. hystory.
Fuck the Police!
"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 with impunity."(1) — Huey P. Newton
There is no greater tragedy for the oppressed nation community than the unjust murder of one of its own at the hands of the pigs. The impact is two-fold. On one hand, police brutality demonstrates to members of the oppressed nation community that there are two sets of rules governing society, one for the oppressor and one for the oppressed. On the other hand, it removes all doubt from the minds of oppressed nationals that their lives are virtually worthless in the eyes of the white power structure.
This point was just as much a sobering reality during the Panther era as it is for us today. In The Black Panthers Speak, Phillip S. Foner cites a 1969 report that captured a snapshot of the police relations with the Oakland community. It read in part:
"...for the black citizens, the policeman has long since ceased to be — if indeed he ever was — a neutral symbol of law and order...in the ghetto disorders of the past few years, blacks have often been exposed to indiscriminate police assaults and, not infrequently, to gratuitous brutality...Many ghetto blacks see the police as an occupying army..."(2)
Under these circumstances, the BPP was formed and began to transform the Oakland community in a revolutionary manner.(3) Newton and Seale understood that the terrorist actions by the pigs undermined the oppressed nation community’s ability to improve its conditions. So they organized armed patrols to observe and discourage improper police behavior. These unprecedented actions by the Panthers gave them credibility within the community, particularly as community members experienced the positive effects brought about by the patrols. Therefore, when the Panthers engaged in mass activities, such as the Free Breakfast for Children program, they did so with the full support of the community.
Naturally, the BPP met resistance from the local and state reactionary forces. Challenging the Gestapo tactics of the pigs and building institutions that served the needs of the oppressed was seen as too much of a threat by and to the white power structure. But the revolutionary movement had already picked up steam, and, given the momentous energy and support from the anti-war movement, it was not about to be derailed. It was upon this platform that the BPP spoke to the oppressed nations across the United $tates and saw its message resonate and take root within the consciousness of all oppressed peoples.
Today, we face the same challenge. Whether it’s the pig murder of Denzil Dowell that mobilized the Panthers into action fifty years ago, or the more recent pig murder of Jamar Clark this past November, there has been no significant change in the conditions of national oppression that U.$. internal semi-colonies are subjected to.
Police brutality continues to keep the oppressed nations from addressing a system of national oppression and semi-colonialism. But there is an even more sinister dynamic involved today. Mass incarceration, and the "War on Drugs” and "War on Crime” rhetoric and policies that fuel it, further divides the oppressed nation community against itself. With the lumpen section of these oppressed nation communities criminalized and incarcerated so too is the revolutionary potential for national liberation neutralized and restrained. Here, the Panther practice provides a blueprint for our current struggle in respect to revolutionary organizing.
Recently, we have seen the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement come into being in response to the unbridled pig terrorism that occurs across U.$. oppressed nation communities. So the basis for revolutionary organizing against the current system exists. Nonetheless, BLM is a reformist organization that advocates for integration and not liberation. What we need are Maoist revolutionary organizations — organizations that seek to build the political consciousness of oppressed nationals through mass activities and proletarian leadership similar to the Panther practice.
Maoism, not Focoism
Maoism demands that in determining correct revolutionary practice we must first proceed from an analysis of contradictions. This means that we must identify the contradiction that is principal to our situation, and then assess its internal aspects as well as its external relationships. In contrast, focoism "places great emphasis on armed struggle and the immediacy this brings to class warfare!"(4) Where Maoism takes account of the national question in its entirety and pushes the struggle for national liberation forward according to the prevailing conditions, focoism seeks to bring about favorable conditions for national liberation (or revolution) through the actions of a small band of armed individuals. To date Maoism has informed many successful people’s wars; focoism, on the other hand, has mostly made the prospect for revolution much less likely.
In this regard, Newton, in developing the Panther practice, saw the international situation of the time as favorable to revolutionary organizing within the United $tates. Given the hystoric Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China representing the furthest advancement toward communism to this day, the national liberation wars of Afrika and Asia dealing blows to imperialism, and the Vietnam War stoking the fire of discontent and rebellion among sections of the white oppressor nation, Newton was correct in organizing and politicizing U.$. oppressed nation communities for liberation.
Bloom and Martin explain in their book, Black Against Empire, that these conditions, in particular the anti-war movement, assisted the Panthers' organizing efforts greatly.(5) This coalition between the Panthers and the Peace movement was so dynamic that U.$. veterans returning from Vietnam joined the BPP and other revolutionary organizations. The link between Vietnamese liberation and New Afrikan liberation (and other U.$. oppressed nation liberation struggles) became a central point in building political consciousness.
Nonetheless, Newton took eir analysis too far. It is clear that ey believed the armed struggles abroad were inextricably tied to the U.$. national liberation struggles. Newton maintained, "As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalates the repression of Black people throughout the ghettos of America."(6) From this standpoint, Newton assumed that the police brutality in U.$. oppressed communities created a military situation, to which a military response from the U.$. revolutionary movement was appropriate.
Newton’s error was mistaking the weakness of imperialism abroad as indicative of a weak U.$. imperialist state. Instead of assessing the changing landscape of social and political conditions, created by a period of concessions by U.$. imperialists, the Panthers continued to organize as if the stage of struggle was an armed one.(7) Even when Newton recognized the dramatic changes and began to adapt, a split occurred within the Party, as a faction held that revolution was imminent.(8)
With respect to our current struggle, we are in the stage of building public opinion and independent institutions of the oppressed. In this work we must establish a united front of all those who can be united against imperialism.
Therefore, when we see the Ferguson or Baltimore protests against pig terrorism descend into scenes of mayhem and senseless violence we must criticize these methods of resistance. Many of the individuals who engage in these spontaneous uprisings mistakenly believe that this will bring about some change or vindicate the wrongs done to them and their community. The only thing these focoist actions change, however, is the focus from pig terrorism to people terrorizing their own community. This basically undermines our ability to organize and build public opinion in this stage of struggle.
Part of this problem lies in the fact that there is no revolutionary organization at this time representing these oppressed nation communities. There is no BPP or Young Lords Party going into these communities and doing agitation and organizing work. As a result, a lack of political consciousness prevails among these communities, underscoring the need for a revolutionary organization.
A Maoist party would guide the U.$. oppressed nations with a concrete revolutionary practice and strategy. This revolutionary organization would use MLM study and analysis to determine the correct actions and methods to take in order to liberate those oppressed nations and avoid the pitfalls of focoism.
Ultimately, this lesson can be summed up in one sentence: "Maoism warns that taking up the gun too soon, without the proper support of the masses, will result in fighting losing battles.”(9)
On the Necessity of Security Culture
Furthermore, the Panthers’ incorrect analysis of conditions that led to focoist positions eventually compromised the security of the Party as well. Once the period of concessions began to sap support for the BPP’s militant posture, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover was able to ratchet up repression against the Panthers. This was seen most clearly when agent provocateurs were able to infiltrate and exploit the focoist tendencies held by some Panthers. Undercover FBI agents would literally join the BPP and begin to incite other members to engage in criminal activities or "make revolution." These repressive measures, their ever-increasing frequency and intensity, began to take a detrimental toll on the Panthers.
Make no mistake, since day one of the BPP’s organizing efforts it faced repression. Armed New Afrikan men and wimmin organizing their community toward revolutionary ends was intolerable for the white power structure. However, the anti-war movement created such a favorable climate for revolutionary organizing that the more reactionary forces attacked the BPP, the more support the Panthers received, the more its membership grew and its chapters spread throughout the country.
But when those favorable conditions shifted, the BPP’s strategy didn’t. The Panthers continued to operate above ground, maintaining the same militant posture that initially placed them in the crosshairs of Hoover’s COINTELPRO. Ironically, Newton was well versed in the role of the Leninist vanguard party. Ey explained that "All real revolutionary movements are driven underground."(10) Though, by the time Newton put this principle into action and attempted to adapt to the changing situation the Party as a whole was thoroughly divided and beaten down by wave after wave of relentless repression.
For us, the important point to draw from this lesson is the assessment of conditions for revolutionary organizing. Because we live in a point in time where we consume our daily social lives openly through various social media, it is easy to forget that the reactionaries are observing. We must therefore place a high priority on security culture as it pertains to our organizing efforts going forward. In addition, we must strongly emphasize the importance of avoiding death and prison. A robust security culture will protect our organizing efforts and dull the blows of repression that are certain to come.
Currently, we face a strong imperialist state that is more than capable of disrupting a potential revolutionary movement. This point is evidenced by the fact that Hoover’s repressive practices are "mirrored in the far-reaching high-tech surveillance of the US National Security Agency."(11) Maintaining a strong revolutionary organization thus requires us to maintain strong security practices informed by MLM theory and practice.
Party Discipline over Party Disciple
Hystory is a testament that some revolutionary organizations and movements have fallen victim to the "cult of persynality." This is more true in an imperialist society as bourgeois individualism nurtures a response in people to associate or reduce organizations and movements to the characteristics of one persyn. And the BPP was no exception in this regard.
Newton was very intelligent, charismatic, and embodied qualities of a true leader. In truth, ey was a symbol of black power and strength that had been missing from the New Afrikan nation for centuries. The militant image that Newton projected was undeniably magnetic and a source of inspiration for U.$. oppressed nations.
Yet, the BPP relied too heavily on Newton as an individual leader and not enough on the party as a whole. Eir ideological insights and theoretical contributions were unmatched within the party. And to a certain extent this was a weakness of the party. Newton was the primary source of oxygen to the party whereas other members of leadership didn’t meet the demands that the revolutionary movement required of the party.
Bloom and Martin hint at this cult of persynality around Newton, arguing "In late 1971... Hilliard recalls that Newton was surrounded by loyalists who applauded Newton’s every action, challenged nothing, and would do anything to win his approval."(12) For example, when Newton was imprisoned on the bogus pig murder charges, the BPP adapted its struggle and practice toward the "Free Huey” movement. Even Eldridge Cleaver, who was one of those members of leadership that reneged on eir revolutionary principles, criticized this move that ultimately confused mass work with party work. The oppressed masses began to associate the party and the Panthers with freeing Newton and not liberating themselves. The BPP had let its practice become dictated by Newton who was for the most part disconnected from the people and community because of eir imprisonment.
The Panthers should have developed a strong party discipline, one based on democratic centralism. Democratic centralism means that any decisions that the party makes is debated and discussed through a democratic process. Even if party members do not agree with the decisions, they must support them in public. This ensures that the party maintains unity in the face of reactionary forces. Those party members who are still in disagreement with the decision have the opportunity to utilize the democratic process of the party and make their case. Overall, this strengthens the theoretical basis of the party and does not allow one persyn to hijack it or undermine it.
The thrust of this lesson is not to discourage party members from developing leadership. The revolutionary movement will certainly need all the leaders, in whatever role or capacity, which the struggle for national liberation demands. But the point is the importance of party discipline. Because as we see with the Panther practice many of the major mistakes stemmed from not maintaining party discipline. Democratic centralism would have promoted the space and opportunity for members to challenge and question decisions by Newton. And as members engaged in this process they would have developed their theoretical practice, shouldering some of the load that Newton, even while imprisoned, had to bear.
This is not to say that the Panthers would not have made mistakes. But with the same party discipline that saw the Bolsheviks lead the successful Russian Revolution of 1917 or the Chinese Communist Party execute at a high level throughout the many stages of its liberation struggle, surely the Panthers could have avoided the divisions that were largely fomented by FBI interference. In addition, proper application of democratic centralism should have led to the distinction between party cadre and mass organizations to take on campaigns like "Free Huey" and doing the support work to run Panther programs. Such a distinction would have helped prevent the decline of the Oakland-based party into reformism as conditions changed.
What our current struggle does not need is a party disciple or some demagogue who is proclaimed our savior. What will liberate the U.$. oppressed nation is a Maoist revolutionary organization connected and related to the masses. Consolidating the mass line is a necessary part of applying democratic centralism within the Party.
We are at a critical point in the hystory of U.$. national liberation struggles. No longer can we continue to allow the police to murder us with impunity or for our communities to exist merely as pathways to imprisonment. Revolutionary nationalism is needed. And that begins with relating the thought and struggle of the most advanced revolutionary organization in U.$. hystory to our current struggle.
This article has highlighted a few mistakes of the BPP. But in no way does this discard the Panther practice overall. On the contrary, our path to national liberation has been illumined by the lessons drawn from the revolutionary legacy of the BPP. It is in this spirit that this article honors the Black Panther Party, and represents a theoretical step on that path to liberation.
Uhuru of the Black Riders Liberation Party - Prison Chapter: 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) by Dr. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Black Riders Liberation Party, the New Generation Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, under the leadership of General T.A.C.O. (Taking All Capitalists Out).
The original BPP arose out of an immediate need to organize and defend the New Afrikan (Black) nation against vicious pig brutality that was taking place during the 1960s and 70s; while at the same time teaching and showing us through practice how to liberate ourselves from the death grip of Amerikkkan-style oppression, colonialism and genocide through its various Serve the People programs.
The Black Riders Liberation Party (BRLP) came about in 1996 when former Bloods and Crips came together in peace and unity while at the Youth Training School (a youth gang prison) in Los Angeles. The BRLP, which follows the historic example set by the original BPP, is a true United Lumpen Front against pig brutality, capitalism, and all its systems of oppression.
The political line of the BRLP, as taught by our General, is Revolutionary Afrikan Inter-communalism, which is an upgraded version of Huey's Revolutionary Intercommunalism developed later in the party. Revolutionary Afrikan Intercommunalism is a form of Pan-Afrikanism and socialism. This line allows us to link the struggles of New Afrikans here in the Empire with Afrikans on the continent and in the diaspora. Thus Revolutionary Afrikan Intercommunalism is, in essence, revolutionary internationalism as it guides us towards building a United Front with Afrikan people abroad to overthrow capitalist oppression here in the United $tates and imperialism around the globe.
Our Black Commune Program is an upgraded version of the original BPP's Ten-Point Platform and Program, which includes the demand for treatment for AIDS victims and an end to white capitalists smuggling drugs into our communities. [The Black Commune Program also adds a point on ecological destruction as it relates to the oppressed. -MIM(Prisons)]
Mao recognized, as did Che, that every revolutionary organization should have its own political organ — a newspaper — to counter the psychological warfare campaign waged by the enemy through corporate media, and to inform, educate and organize the people. Like the original BPP newspaper, The Black Panther, the BRLP established its own political organ, The Afrikan Intercommunal News Service, and took it a step further by creating the "Panther Power Radio" station to "discuss topics relative to armed self-defense against pig police terrorism and the corrupt prison-industrial complex," among other topics.
Like the original BPP, the BRLP have actual Serve the People programs. When Huey would come across other Black radical (mostly cultural nationalist) organizations, he would often ask them what kind of programs they had to serve the needs of the people because he understood that revolution is not an act, but a process, and that most oppressed people learn from seeing and doing (actual experience). The BRLP's programs consist of our Watch-A-Pig Program, Kourt Watch Program, George Jackson Freedom After-school Program, Squeeze the Slumlord project, BOSS Black-on-Black violence prevention and intervention program, gang truce football games, and Health Organizing Project, to name just a few. These lumpen tribal elements consciously eschew lumpen-on-lumpen reactionary violence and become revolutionaries and true servants of the people!
Finally, the BRLP continues the example set by the original BPP by actively building alliances and coalitions with other radical/revolutionary organizations. George Jackson stated that "unitary conduct implies a ‘search' for those elements in our present situation which can become the basis for joint action." (1) In keeping with this view and the BPP vision of a United Front Against Fascism, in 2012 the BRLP launched the Intercommunal Solidarity Committee as a mechanism for building a United Front across ideological, religious, national and ethnic/racial lines.
While I recognize that the white/euro-Amerikkkan nation in the United $tates is not an oppressed nation, but in fact represents a "privileged" class that benefits from the oppression and exploitation of the urban lumpen class here in the United $tates and Third World people, there exist a "dynamic sector" of radical, anti-racist, anti-imperialist white allies willing to commit "class suicide" and aid oppressed and exploited people in our national liberation struggles. And on that note I say "Black Power" and "All Power to the People."
Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: For this issue of Under Lock & Key we received letters attempting to feature the BRLP (like this one) as well as to critique them. For years, MIM(Prisons) and the readers of ULK have been watching this group with interest. We made a few attempts to dialogue directly with them, but the most concerted effort happened to coincide with the release of an attack on us by Turning the Tide, a newsletter that has done a lot to popularize the work of the BRLP. No direct dialogue occurred. We thank this BRLP comrade for the article above. The following is a response not directly to the above, but to the many statements that we have come across by the BRLP and what we've seen of their work on the streets.
On the surface the BRLP does have a lot similarities to the original BPP. It models its platform after the BPPs 10 point platform, which was modeled after Malcolm X's. The BRLP members don all black as they confront the police and other state actors and racist forces. They speak to the poor inner-city youth and came out of lumpen street organizations. They have worked to build a number of Serve the People programs. And they have inspired a cadre of young New Afrikans across the gender line. In order to see the differences between MIM, the BRLP, and other organizations claiming the Panther legacy today, we need to look more deeply at the different phases of the Black Panther Party and how their political line changed.
APSP, AAPRP, NBPP
The BRLP regularly presents itself with the tagline, "the New Generation Black Panther Party for Self-Defense." And it is not the first, or the only organization, to claim this mantel. The African Peoples' Socialist Party (APSP) was perhaps the first, having worked with Huey P. Newton himself at the end of his life. That is why in discussing the Panther legacy, we need to specify exactly what legacy that is. For MIM, the period of 1966 to 1969 represented the Maoist phase of the BPP, and therefore the period we hold up as an example to follow and build on. Since the time that Huey was alive, the APSP has shifted focus into building an African Socialist International in the Third World. We see this as paralleling some of the incipient errors in the BRLP and the NABPP that we discuss below.
While the APSP goes back to the 1980s, we can trace another contemporary organization, the All-African People's Revolutionary Party, to the 1960s.(1) The brain-child of Ghanan President Kwame Nkrumah, the AAPRP in the United $tates was led by Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael. The AAPRP came to embody much of the cultural and spiritual tendencies that the Panthers rejected. The BPP built on the Black Power and draft resistance movements that Carmichael was key in developing while leading the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).(2) Carmichael left SNCC, joining the BPP for a time, and tried to unite the two groups. But the Panthers later split with SNCC because of SNCC's rejection of alliances with white revolutionaries, their promotion of pan-Afrikanism and Black capitalism. Carmichael's allies were purged from the BPP for being a "bunch of cultural nationalist fools" trying "to undermine the people's revolution..." "talking about some madness he called Pan-Africanism."(3)
In the 1990s, we saw a surge in Black Panther revivalism. MIM played a role in this, being the first to digitize many articles from The Black Panther newspaper for the internet and promoting their legacy in fliers and public events. MIM did not seem to have any awareness of the Black Riders Liberation Party at this time. There was a short-lived Ghetto Liberation Party within MIM that attempted to follow in Panther footsteps. Then the New Black Panther Party began to display Panther regalia at public rallies in different cities. While initially optimistic, MIM later printed a critique of the NBPP for its promotion of Black capitalism and mysticism, via its close connection to the Nation of Islam.(4) Later the NBPP became a darling of Fox News, helping them to distort the true legacy of the BPP. Last year the NBPP further alienated themselves by brutalizing former Black Panther Dhoruba bin Wahad and others from the Nation of Gods and Earths and the Free the People Movement. While there is little doubt that the NBPP continues to recruit well-intentioned New Afrikans who want to build a vanguard for the nation, it is evident that the leadership was encapsulated by the state long ago.
Readers of Under Lock & Key will certainly be familiar with the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, which was originally an independent prison chapter of the NBPP. Their promotion of Maoism and New Afrikan nationalism was refreshing, but they quickly sided with Mao and the Progressive Labor Party against the BPP and more extreme SNCC lines on the white oppressor nation of Amerikkka. They went on to reject the nationalist goals of the BPP, embracing Huey's theory of intercommunalism. The NABPP and the BRLP both embrace forms of "intercommunalism" as leading concepts in their ideological foundations. And while we disagree with both of them, there are many differences between them as well. This is not too surprising as the theory was never very coherent and really marked Newton's departure from the original Maoist line of the Party. As a student of David Hilliard, former BPP Chief of Staff, pointed out around 2005, Hilliard used intercommunalism as a way to avoid ever mentioning communism in a semester-long class on the BPP.(5) In the early 1970s, Huey seemed to be using "intercommunalism" in an attempt to address changing conditions in the United $tates and confusion caused by the failure of international forces to combat revisionism in many cases.(6)
Probably the most important implication of Huey's new line was that he rejected the idea that nations could liberate themselves under imperialism. In other words he said Stalin's promotion of building socialism in one country was no longer valid, and Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution was now true. This was in 1970, when China had just developed socialism to the highest form we've seen to date through the struggles of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which also began 50 years ago this year. Huey P. Newton's visit to China in 1971 was sandwiched by visits from war criminal Henry Kissinger and U.$. President Richard Nixon. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, who would go on to foster normalized relations with the U.$. imperialists, stated that China was ready to negotiate or fight the United $tates in 1971.(7) The Panther visit was a signal of their development of the second option. But after 1971, Chinese support for the Panthers dissipated as negotiations with the imperialists developed.
A bigger problem with Huey's intercommunalism was how do we address the Amerikkkan oppressor nation when ey claims there are no more states, there are no more nations? In eir "speech at Boston College" in 1970 ey specifically refers to Eldridge Cleaver's "On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party" in order to depart from it. Newton rejects the analysis of the Black nation as a colony of Amerikkka that must be liberated. That Cleaver essay from 1969 has great unity with MIM line and is where we depart with the NABPP and BRLP who uphold the 1970-1 intercommunalism line of Huey's.(8)
Black Riders and NABPP Interpret Intercommunalism
To take a closer look at the BRLP itself, let us start with General T.A.C.O.'s essay "African Intercommunalism I." Tom Big Warrior of the NABPP camp has already written a review of it, which makes a number of critiques that we agree with. He calls out the BRLP for accepting "race" as a real framework to analyze society, yet the NABPP line also rejects nation based on Huey's intercommunalism. At times, the NABPP and BRLP still use the term nation and colony to refer to New Afrika. This seems contradictory in both cases. Tom Big Warrior is also very critical of the BRLP's claim to update Huey's theory by adding African cultural and spiritual elements to it. This is something the Panthers very adamantly fought against, learning from Fanon who wrote in Wretched of the Earth, one of the Panthers' favorite books: "The desire to attach oneself to tradition or bring abandoned traditions to life again does not only mean going against the current of history but also opposing one's own people".(9) This revision of intercommunalism is one sign of the BRLPs conservatism relative to the original BPP who worked to create the new man/womyn, new revolutionary culture and ultimately a new society in the spirit of Mao and Che.
The NABPP is really the more consistent proponent of "revolutionary intercommunalism." In their analysis a worldwide revolution must occur to overthrow U.$. imperialism. This differs from the MIM view in that we see the periphery peeling off from imperialism little-by-little, weakening the imperialist countries, until the oppressed are strong enough to impose some kind of international dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations over the oppressor nations. The NABPP says we "must cast off nationalism and embrace a globalized revolutionary proletarian world view."(10) They propose "building a global United Panther Movement." These are not really new ideas, reflecting a new reality as they present it. These are the ideas of Trotsky, and at times of most of the Bolsheviks leading up to the Russian revolution.
Even stranger is the BRLP suggestion that, "once we overthrow the Amerikkkan ruling class, there will be a critical need to still liberate Africa."(11) The idea that the imperialists would somehow be overthrown before the neo-colonial puppets of the Third World is completely backwards. Like the APSP, the NABPP and the BRLP seem to echo this idea of a New Afrikan vanguard of the African or World revolution. MIM(Prisons) disagrees with all these parties in that we see New Afrika as being closer to Amerika in its relation to the Third World, despite its position as a semi-colony within the United $tates.(12)
The NABPP claims that "Huey was right! Not a single national liberation struggle produced a free and independent state."(13) And they use this "fact" to justify support for "Revolutionary Intercommunalism." Yet this new theory has not proven effective in any real world revolutions, whereas the national liberation struggle in China succeeded in building the most advanced socialist system known to history. Even the Panthers saw steep declines in their own success after the shift towards intercommunalism. So where is the practice to back up this theory?
We also warn our readers that both the NABPP and BRLP make some outlandishly false statistical claims in order to back up their positions. For example, the NABPP tries to validate Huey's predictions by stating, "rapid advances in technology and automation over the past several decades have caused the ranks of the unemployed to grow exponentially."(13) It is not clear if they are speaking globally or within the United $tates. But neither have consistent upward trends in unemployment, and certainly not exponential trends! Meanwhile, in an essay on the crisis of generational divides and tribal warfare in New Afrika the BRLP claims that the latter "has caused more deaths in just Los Angeles than all the casualties in the Yankee imperialist Vietnam war combined!!!"(14) There were somewhere between 1 million and 3 million deaths in the U.$. war against Vietnamese self-determination. [EDIT: Nick Turse cites Vietnam official statistics closer to 4 million] Los Angeles sees hundreds of deaths from gang shootings in a year. We must see things as they are, and not distort facts to fit our propaganda purposes if we hope to be effective in changing the world.
We will conclude with our assessment of the BRLP based on what we have read and seen from them. While we dissect our disagreements with some of their higher level analysis above, many of their articles and statements are quite agreeable, echoing our own analysis. And we are inspired by their activity focusing on serving and organizing the New Afrikan lumpen on the streets. In a time when New Afrikan youth are mobilizing against police brutality in large numbers again, the BRLP is a more radical force at the forefront of that struggle. Again, much of this work echoes that of the original BPP, but some of the bigger picture analysis is missing.
In our interactions with BRLP members we've seen them promote anarchism and the 99% line, saying that most white Amerikkkans are exploited by capitalism. BRLP, in line with cultural nationalism, stresses the importance of "race," disagreeing with Newton who, even in 1972, was correctly criticizing in the face of rampant neo-colonialism: "If we define the prime character of the oppression of blacks as racial, then the situation of economic exploitation of human beings by human being can be continued if performed by blacks against blacks or blacks against whites."(15) Newton says we must unite the oppressed "in eliminating exploitation and oppression" not fight "racism" as the BRLP and their comrades in People Against Racist Terror focus on.
This leads us to a difference with the BRLP in the realm of strategy. It is true that the original BPP got into the limelight with armed confrontations with the pigs. More importantly, it was serving the people in doing so. So it is hard to say that the BPP was wrong to do this. While Huey concluded that it got ahead of the people and alienated itself from the people, the BRLP seems to disagree by taking on an even more aggressive front. This has seemingly succeeded in attracting the ultra-left, some of whom are dedicated warriors, but has already alienated potential allies. While BRLP's analysis of the BPPs failure to separate the underground from the aboveground is valuable, it seems to imply a need for an underground insurgency at this time. In contrast, MIM line agrees with Mao that the stage of struggle in the imperialist countries is one of long legal battles until the imperialists become so overextended by armed struggles in the periphery that the state begins to weaken. It is harder to condemn Huey Newton for seeing that as the situation in the early years of the Panthers, but it is clearly not the situation today. In that context, engaging in street confrontations with racists seems to offer more risk than reward in terms of changing the system.
While the BRLP doesn't really tackle how these strategic issues may have affected the success and/or demise of the BPP, it also does not make any case for how a lack of cultural and spiritual nationalism were a shortcoming that set back the Panthers. BRLP also spends an inordinate amount of their limited number of articles building a cult of persynality around General T.A.C.O. So despite its claims of learning from the past, we see its analysis of the BPP legacy lacking in both its critiques and emulations of BPP practices.
While physical training is good, and hand-to-hand combat is a potentially useful skill for anyone who might get in difficult situations, there should be no illusions about such things being strategic questions for the success of revolutionary organizations in the United $tates today. When your people can all clean their rifle blind-folded but they don't even know how to encrypt their email, you've already lost the battle before it's started.
Finally, the BRLP has tackled the youth vs. adult contradiction head on. Its analysis of how that plays out in oppressed nations today parallels our own. And among the O.G. Panthers themselves they have been very critical as well, and with good cause. It is clear that we will need a new generation Black Panthers that is formed of and led by the New Afrikan youth of today. But Huey was known to quote Mao that with the correct political line will come support and weapons, and as conditions remain much less revolutionary than the late 1960s, consolidation of cadre around correct and clear political lines is important preparatory work for building a new vanguard party in the future.
I have on my cell wall, "Afghan Girl," Steve McCurry's photograph that graced the cover of a 1985 National Geographic. I'm sure MIM is familiar with "Afghan Girl." It's one of my favorite selections of photo journalism/art.
2010, NG again dispatched McCurry to Afghanistan in search of "Afghan Girl" in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the famous photo. McCurry found "Afghan Girl," just as before - still living in the dirt. I would wager McCurry has made tens of thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds from "Afghan Girl." Obviously, McCurry's subject didn't receive squat.
My question to MIM is: Should "Afghan Girl" be compensated for McCurry's photo commensurate to revenue generated, even though said revenue is derived form superprofits? After all, "Afghan Girl" was McCurry's model.
Extrapolating form the above, if prisoners are thrown nickels an dimes by the prisoncrats, are prisoners then feeding at the imperialist trough? I, myself, don't give 2 hoots if Texas prisoners are paid or not. That would just bequeath the man more authoritative leverage to be used against us. I don't give a fuck 'bout commissary, unless you're talking about boycotting or looting it. And the Texas so-called "good-time" scheme is a farcical sham.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There is some value, in a world where the government and its structures are actually serving the interests of the majority of the world's people, to superstructure systems of media and arts that also serve the people. But in the case of a photo exposing conditions of poverty and suffering, these should be used to identify problems and inspire action to change, not to generate wealth for the photographer.
The imperialists have come up with a myriad of ways to make money off the backs of Third World people. It is true that revenue for a photo is just a shifting around of superprofits; obviously there is no actual value or profit created from the taking of a photograph, or from being photographed. But instead this shows how the privileged in the First World share the wealth stolen from the Third World, to First World workers who are mostly engaged in unproductive labor. Rather than ask whether the Afghan girl in the photo should be compensated for the photo, instead we say that the entire situation is wrong and demonstrates how imperialism is more interested in profit than the welfare of human beings. This is just one small example further demonstrating that capitalism is a dead end system and must be replaced with a system that serves the interests of the majority, not the profit of the minority.
The real task before us is to convince prisoners that struggling for pecuniary aims solely is to struggle for nothing more than a piece of the imperialist pig pie. I myself don't give a fuck as to whether prisoners get paid or not, just as I was not concerned with the whining "Occupy Wall Street" labor aristocracy complaining when their opulent pig lifestyles were compromised by the "Great Recession" of '08. Good! But I am encouraged there are some stirrings of dissent from Texas prisoners regarding conditions of confinement. It is before us now to harness and direct this dissent into revolutionary channels.
Since beginning this letter I have been approached by a prisoner housed in my wing. This prisoner, "Ivo," avowed themselves to be communist. Ivo receives ULK. Ivo was born in Honduras, but raised in the United $tates. Ivo is a Guevarista. I have initiated and opened a channel of dialog with Ivo and a Black prisoner, "Mississippi." Mississippi has preferred access to the MLM - MIM materials I have available. I have broached the subject of forming a study group with these two. The idea was received rather coolly by both. The three of us are to meet this weekend to discuss it. Ivo says they have serious reservations concerning the MIM line. When we meet I will inquire of their position regarding MIM's 3 main principles. As for me, as it is for MIM, these principles are fundamentally decisive.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We print this letter as an example of the hard work required to build unity. This comrade demonstrates how to build common ground with others, and then studying together to discover areas of disagreement and build greater unity. Of course there will be times when we find that we have disagreements too significant to continue working together. For us (and for this writer) those questions are summarized in our dividing line questions. Any other differences we consider to be non-divisive and things we can struggle through or put to the side in the interests of united action and the greater anti-imperialist movement. We also need to keep in mind that those who disagree with these dividing line questions are not enemies just because of that disagreement. At this stage in the anti-imperialist struggle these folks are still potentially valuable allies in the united front against imperialism, even if they are not communists.
The Guerilla Elite Family, is a family of brothers who stand on your 5 principles and struggle to apply them to everyday life, being in such a chaotic environment caused not by prisoners, but the COs themselves.
The Michigan prison system is built on lies and injustice. There are no real rehabilitation programs, everything that is practiced is to punish and to create chaos. Since being in prison for the past 12 years, I had to teach myself how to read and write. I was given natural life at the age of 17. I was thrown into an environment where the blind is leading the blind. I'm not allowed to go to school, because I have natural life. Yeah, where's the rehabilitation in that?
The Guerilla Elite Family was born to unify brothers within and outside these walls. We stand on peace, but I learned that there can be no peace nor unity as a whole, until each individual that makes the whole, has a sense of peace among self to bring to the whole.
We understand that we're not each others enemy, and our aim is to expose our oppressors, while unifying and bringing peace among each other.
We believe unity and peace is found through true mentors. People that the whole can trust and believe in to do right by them. We all have been misled in our lives and used by people we thought had our best interest at heart. So this is part of what makes it difficult to bring everyone together for peace and unity.
It's easy to bring guys together to go to war with each other. But twice as hard to bring guys together to stand on peace and unity to fight against oppression and the ones thats our open oppressor.
The Guerilla Elite Family will keep teaching and mentoring comrades and passing on reading material to help educate guys in hopes to bring about peace and unity.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It's good to hear from more comrades working in prisons across the country to build on the principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. As this writer points out, the prisons work to keep captives from education and knowledge, and so it is our task to bring education to prisoners. This is particularly challenging when so many folks behind bars can't even read and write. We can't just send them books and encourage them to study, we have to start out where they are at, and help them learn to read. MIM(Prisons) can only do so much from the outside, so we are working with our USW comrades to build a literacy program that focuses on revolutionary education. Write to us if you can contribute to this program with ideas or resources we can use.