The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
by Stanley Nelson
This film screened in major U.$. cities in the fall of 2015. I was planning to use my notes in an article for our 50th issue on the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party. However, in February 2016 the film was shown on PBS with much publicity. Knowing that our readers have now seen the film we wanted to put some commentary out sooner rather than later. But do make sure to check out Under Lock & Key Issue 50 for a more in-depth counter-narrative to this pop culture film.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is an eclectic collection of video and photography, along with contemporary commentary from some who played important roles in the Party. The producer clearly had no deep ideological understanding of the Black Panther Party, as critics on the left and the right have already noted. What ey was good at was picking out some good sound bites and emotionally moving clips. Yet, even still, as someone with extensive knowledge of Panther history, i often found the film boring. Most of the audience seemed to enjoy it based on the loud cheering at the end.
I have not watched Stanley Nelson's other films, but it seems that a film on the Panthers is within the realm of previous documentaries ey has produced (Jonestown, The Black Press, Freedom Riders and Freedom Summer). It is curious that ey takes on these topics, and then does such a shallow portrayal of the Panthers. Nelson says ey was 15 when the Panthers formed and was always fascinated with them, but was not a participant in the movement emself.(1)
In line with the lack of ideological understanding, the treatment of Panther leaders was dismissive. The most in-depth discussion of Huey P. Newton was related to eir downward spiral into drugs and crime after the Panthers had been well on their way to dissolving. Nelson features sound bites from interviews calling Newton a "maniac" and Eldridge Cleaver "insane." Eldridge Cleaver was cast as a misleader from the beginning in this film. While both story lines are based in reality, the story that is missed is the great leadership role that Huey played, both ideologically and in practice, in building the greatest anti-imperialist organization this country has seen. At that time Eldridge too played an important role ideologically and organizationally, even if he was less consistent than Huey. Fred Hampton was given a more favorable portrayal by the film, but he died a martyr just as he was getting started. (And despite the attention given to Hampton's assassination there is no mention of him being drugged beforehand, presumably by an FBI spy.) There is a pattern of character assassination in the film that does nothing to deepen our understanding of what the Panthers were, why they succeeded, and why they failed. It will turn some people off to the Panthers and push people towards an individualist or anarchist approach to struggle.
To get an accurate portrayal of the Panthers one is better off watching archival footage, as today you can find ex-Panthers of all stripes, and very very few who uphold the Maoist ideology of the Panthers at their height. Former chairman, Bobby Seale, who long ago stopped putting politics in command, was barely mentioned in the film, perhaps because he refused to be interviewed.(1) Elaine Brown, who took over the chairpersyn position after the party had already moved away from a Maoist political line, does appear but has written a scathing denunciation of the film and asked to be removed from it.(2)
As other critics have pointed out there is a lack of mention of national liberation, socialism, communism, and the international situation overall at the time. It is ironic for a film titled "Vanguard of the Revolution" to ignore the key ideological foundations of the vanguard. This reflects a clear effort to build a certain image of what the Panthers were that ignores the basis of their very existence. As such, this film contributes to the long effort to revise the history of the BPP, similar to the efforts to revise the history of other influential revolutionary communist movements in history. This only stresses the importance of building independent institutions of the oppressed to counter the institutions of the bourgeoisie in all aspects of life and culture.
In 1987, the Guajardo v. Estelle case, modifying the correspondence regulations in the Texas prison system, was finalized. One of the results of Guajardo was prisoners with less than $5.00 in their trust fund accounts were considered indigent, and thereby entitled to five one-ounce First Class correspondences per week, and unlimited legal and privileged correspondences.
Circa 1998, Jason Powers, attorney at law, with the firm Vinson & Elkins, contacted me informing me the state had filed a motion to vacate Guajardo pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Powers solicited my assistance in defending plaintiffs' objection to State's motion. Obviously, the plaintiffs failed to prevail.
My concern regarding recent constrictions in indigent correspondence procedures is: Since vacating of Guajardo, indigent prisoner correspondence has been reduced from the 5 personal letters a week and unlimited legal correspondence, to 5 personal and 5 legal correspondence per month. This, when the indigent requirement has remained less than $5.00 since 1978, never being adjusted per the inflated dollar.
As such, I intend to commence a petition campaign directed at State Senator John Whitmire, State Committee on Criminal Justice, demanding not only that the 5x5 weekly indigent correspondence regulations be reimplemented, but that the standard of indigence required be adjusted to reflect a realistic inflated dollar. So fly this by your grievance writers and gauge their thoughts on the matter.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The reduction in indigent prisoner correspondence envelopes has a direct impact on prisoners' ability to stay in contact with family, fight legal battles, and engage in political education and organizing. The criminal injustice system wants to curtail these activities as a part of the goal of social control. As revolutionaries we support campaigns to expand access to correspondence, as we know this is critical to our ability to reach our comrades behind bars. We look forward to input from other grievance campaign participants about this new tactic in Texas.
Another campaign that is active in Texas is the right to access to a law library. We also recently learned that the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook has been banned across the Texas Department of Criminal Injustice as of October 29, 2015. Texas is continuing a long history of assault on oppressed peoples in that state, and the only way we're going to be able to overcome the new (and old) tactics developed (and re-instituted) daily is to overthrow the state apparatus that makes it possible. Obviously Amerikkka's government system has got to go.
I am responding to your call for campaign updates concerning the grievance petition for this state that another very talented, gifted, and capable comrade put together to address all of our concerns and conditions in Florida. I, personally, think it is a very ingenious, adequate, and brilliant piece of legal work, and believe it sufficiently addresses all of Florida prisoners concerns and problems they might have been experiencing with the grievance procedure in this state. My hat goes off to the 'rade who established this and I offer or extend a firm, tight, and clenched fist salute for hooking this piece up.
The first time I put this petition into effect in Florida was at Dade Correctional Institution in March 2014, about the officials there not acknowledging, not sending me a receipt, trying to ignore or disregard, and not answering certain grievances. The Asstistant Warden for Programs, Mr. J. Williams, called me out personally to his office and told me if I ever had any of these kind of problems again, to just come up to his office personally and if any other staff member asked or tried to stop me just tell them that he sent for me or told me to come up there and he would cover for me - and then he would personally hand deliver to me a copy of the receipt and log number or account for whatever the discrepancy was to make sure that I got a copy of it and received a response to the grievance. Needless to say, I didn't have any more problems or didn't have to do this anymore and all of my grievances were responded to in a timely and legitimate manner.
I also received a letter from the Office of General Counsel, for the Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), acknowledging receipt of said grievance petition and informing me that he was looking into my allegations and directing the grievance coordinator in Central Office (Tallahassee, FL) to investigate it.
Since that time, I have also shared a copy of this petition with various other prisoners for their review and use to solve, initiate, investigate or inquire into their problems with positive results. However, as you know, I have also recently just re-filed this petition again at my present facility (Wakulla Correctional Institution) concerning another issue and am currently awaiting their reply, response or reaction. Will, again, keep you posted and updated.
So I would like to encourage, promote, motivate, inspire, and advise all prisoners in the state of Florida who are experiencing any kind of problems with the grievance procedure in this state, or who are not having their grievances acknowledged, receipted, accounted for, and answered to please send for their copy of this much-needed petition. A firm, tight, revolutionary clenched fist salute to the author of this grievance petition in Florida.
MIM(Prisons) responds: You can write to us for a copy of the Florida grievance petition, which is also formatted for many other states. We encourage everyone using these petitions to send us your feedback and experiences. We need to know how this campaign is evolving on the ground.
On 20 February 2016, one day before we would mourn the assassination of Brother Malcolm some fifty-one years ago, Stillwater Penitentiary, in honor of Black History Month, welcomed three of Minnesota's most prominent African American leaders. Bobby Champion Keith Ellison and Spike Moss took valuable time out of their busy schedules and spoke on the topic of how they became who they are today. An appropriate topic considering the month, and the current state of affairs Black men find themselves in today.
I think before I provide my opinion of each speech from the men of honor, I should include the fact per our overseers, the benevolent Department of Corrections, we were shown Twelve Years a Slave, and also Django. Of course I couldn't watch Django, but Twelve Years a Slave, I watched. After the movie I wondered if the kernel of truth in the movie was supposed to be: all white men aren't liars, or just wait on the white man because he's coming to save you. I think the hardest pill to swallow was watching a movie from within a failed system, and being subliminally told that a slave's belief in a system that makes the slave a slave will save him.
Boby Champion, a Minnesota Democratic State Senator and fabulous orator, spoke about the obstacles he faced in graduating from Macalester College. Senator Champion's speech took us on a journey of perseverance and fatherhood. He based his success on staying out of trouble, and singing gospel in his group he established. It was Senator Champion's belief that serving the community completed the healing circle. I thought that was noble, and believed he was sincere in his belief that he served his community through assistance in our incarceration. Yet, I felt as I sat there he didn't talk about criminal justice, and avoided what I had on my mind, the death of unarmed Black men.
Next to hit the floor was the University of Minnesota graduate, Keith Ellison, Representative of the Fifth Congressional District of Minnesota in the U.S. House of Representatives, fresh off his endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders. U.S. House Rep. Ellison, with little talk of his life, stayed on topic with a Zinn-esque perspective on Black History. I can only speculate on the reason he didn't talk about his life. Perhaps if he had spoken on his profession as a defense attorney, in turn the defense and assistance in lengthy prison sentences for those in the gymnasium would have become the topic of conversation. Although House Rep. Ellison was not as energetic as Minnesota Senator Champion, his topic fit with the theme; however, I still wanted someone to speak about current relevant issues.
Finally, Spike Moss took the stage and he didn't disappoint. Within his Civil Rights history lesson he baptized the crowd in cultural appreciation, and pointed to the lack of cultural markers as one cause for black men losing their minds. At some point his message shifted form uplifting to victim-blaming Black Lives Matter, and African men for being complicit in the death of the black community.
I sat in my chair and tried to figure out where Moss had gone wrong. How did an event about the ascension of Black men, successful men, to relative success, turn into a selective history lesson on the Black community destruction being the sole responsibility of those who have destroyed? The connection between drugs and guns is forgotten. I didn't understand. It's true that Black men sold drugs, shot guns and murdered innocent people in the Black community. This is equivalent to white folks paying Black mercenaries to destroy the community in which Black mercenaries live; when the Panthers were imprisoned and murdered, the drug dealer was given the community under police protection. If Spike Moss is willing to accept the fact drugs were placed in our community, then why is he not willing to accept that guns were too?
Black people don't know a Black drug dealer who own cargo ships, and Black people don't know Black gunsmiths or a Black gun store owner. Moreover it's through the lens of these facts a capacity to destroy a city is severely minimized. The Uzi machine gun comes from Israel, yet in the 1990s it was the weapon of choice. How does it get to Los Angeles? The FBI and CIA are involved.
In defense of Spike Moss, because most, if not all of those persons in prison think he is a snitch for actively turning dealers and gang members in. It is only prison gossip and I have not verified it for the record, but in defense, not excuse of his "Negro of two minds position," I believe he's scared of the white man, and the unconscious mercenary Negro. I think his fear is justified. I am in prison with them, and from far off they resemble that thug that Jesse Jackson said "he was scared might run up behind him." But what must be understood, even a domesticated dog will bite his owner in the right conditions. Freud once said: "That which you fear, and are afraid of is that what you truly desire." In the case of Spike Moss, his double conscious mind actually inversed and he hates the thing he helped create; the incarcerated youth.
I am neither for Black Lives Matter, nor am I for Mr. Spike Moss, but believe they both represent positive activism, and have the betterment of Black people in mind, Therefore, I say "seize the time."
After the show I stopped House Rep. Keith Ellison and asked some of those relevant questions I thought the voiceless had a right to ask:
"Why did Hennipin County District Attorney Mike Freeman only charge the white boy who shot at the protesters with a single offense that at the end of the day will get dropped down to a misdemeanor offense? Because if that was some brothers, who done the same crime they'd be charged with a drive-by shooting, and reckless firing of a firearm in public place. They'd be charged not only with the victims that were shot, but with every potential victim, and every person in the area would have aiding and abetting charge. I know people right now in the gymnasium that Freeman charged and got a conviction with suspect evidence, and in the white boy's case Freeman gots the gun, witnesses, and him on Youtube."
I also told him: "It seems to me and a few of the brothers here that ever since Blacks started migrating from the south to northern cities, whites have saw fit to enact legislation, specifically to target our behavior and gave more time."
After listening to three of the most prominent African American men in Minnesota, it was hard not to feel like I was Platt Epps in Twelve Years a Slave. With a voiceover Malcolm X narrates from a speech he performed some fifty-one years prior, called "Message to the Grassroots." As my voice, Malcolm attempts to argue that African American men should not be dependent on the white man:
"And if someone comes to you right now and says, 'Let's separate,' you say the same thing that the house Negro said on the plantation. 'What you mean, separate? From America? This good white man? Where you going to get a better job than you get here?' I mean, this is what you say. 'I ain’t left nothing in Africa,' that’s what you say. Why, you left your mind in Africa." (Malcolm X's speech "Message to the Grassroots," December 1963)
Since 2010, after the so-called "Arab Spring" that caused governments in North Africa and the Middle East to crumble, those regions have been in all-out war at the expense of the people who populate them.
Over here on this side of the world, people have prejudiced animosity towards the people who populate war-torn countries like Syria and Yemen. First World nationalists and the bourgeoisie, along with the petty-bourgeoisie, believe that the displaced people risking their lives to come to the United $tates or European Union threaten their First World lifestyle. What nerve these money hungry, war-mongers have. It's a fact that very few First Worlders have actually seen war, or experienced hunger, or had to give up everything and risk their lives taking a chance migrating to a new country, sometimes even a new continent, to have a so-called "better life" and partake in the "Amerikan dream" that everyone talks about.
600,000 people crossed into Europe this year, sometimes 10,000 a day.(1) This is a cycle that goes back centuries, but now that it's affecting the First World's backyard, the imperialists have no choice but to admit that it's gotten out of hand. Now the imperialists are calling it a "world crisis." My question to them would be, what world are you talking about? I doubt they're talking about the world as a whole.
In the European Union, right-wing parties that promote xenophobia were on the rise way before the displaced people started pushing through the borders.(1) Now protectionist E.U. governments are complaining that Europe will change for the worse because of the mass migration plaguing their countries. They complain that the displaced people will "take their jobs, get spoiled on government benefits, and worst of all change the identity of Europe."(1) Wow, I say fuck their identity, for centuries they've been destroying ours.
Thanks to globalization, smuggling displaced people has become a full-blown enterprise. Smugglers charge up to $1,200 a persyn and children at half that. This is big business with a lot of activity in the Mediterranean. So much so that 100 boats leave Turkey for Greece almost daily, each packed with over 40 people. All this adds up to over $5 million a day for the smugglers.(2) This is true capitalism, getting rich off the people of the Third World.
Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, is to blame for the wars in poor regions like the Middle East with the real victims being our children. Our youth are being poisoned with bourgeois culture, and parasitic class ideology. That type of mentality is everywhere: in books, magazines, TV, and the radio. No matter what part of the world you're in, all you hear about is how great Amerika is, the so-called land of the free where nobody's poor, or hungry, or cold. People, some still children, leave their home countries because they want to believe in a utopia where they are safe from bombs or stray bullets. Only thing is that the imperialist propaganda machine doesn't tell them that the "Amerikan dream" is for a chosen few. I know because I am one of them that risked it all at a young age for a piece of that "Amerikan dream" and now here I am locked away in a humyn warehouse. According to an ABC news report aired on Good Morning America, "5,000 children crossed the U.$./Mexico border alone in October."(3) Now they're in koncentration kamps being processed to be deported back to their poor, war-torn, inhumyn countries. Every one of them treated like an animal, locked away in so-called "refugee camps."
The imperialists call this "radical ideology," but as materialists and students of Maoism we point out the fact that the First World exploits the Third World for its cheap labor and resources. These bureaucratic pigs justify their imperialist policies by claiming to promote democracy and Liberal capitalism. But in reality they flex their muscles in the Third World to intimidate other nations for the purpose of exploiting their oil fields or mines that are rich in minerals, and any nation that resists is called "undemocratic" or "ruled with an iron fist," attacked by the imperialist propaganda machine. Now that some nations want some of that wealth (that was made off the oil or minerals) the imperialists stole, the imperialists push policies to block any of those nations from entering the empire and partaking in the benefits that the wealth provides. It's all in the hystory books for anyone to see. The First World exploits the Third World in the form of neo-colonialism.
As anti-imperialists we oppose U.$. and E.U. aggression in the Third World, and we put them on blast for their crimes against humanity. If NATO could stabilize the Middle East with their billions of dollars/euros they would have done it by now. Now the imperialists see that they have awakened a giant, not in the form of socialism, but still, in the form of anti-imperialism. The bourgeois media gives off this false perception of the people of the Third World as illiterates, uncivilized, and religious fanatics, but hystory is on our side and just like in China, Cuba, Vietnam, etc. the people of the Third World will prevail.
Just like in Nazi Germany the United $tates is using white nationalism in the form of patriotism to use fascist-like tactics and policies to repress oppressed nations here in the United $tates. It's sad really, some actually believe that imperialist forces overseas are actually protecting their freedom. And to those who speak up on the crimes the state department commits against their own people, well just look at Edward Snowden. And if you're against the war crimes committed by the U.$. forces, well just look at Bowe Bergdahl. Both are considered traitors.
We must educate the youth that flashy cars and jewelry is not what life is really about. The reason that people have for coming to the United $tates is that they too want to get rich and own a mansion in Beverly Hills. This is what the United $tates preaches and then they complain when others flood their borders to partake in the "Amerikan dream." We must expose the real criminals. Down with the imperialists and their puppet regimes, all power to the people.
by an Ohio prisoner February 2016 permalinkWe were destined fa defeat
with the institution of enemy politics
causin our retreat
So we changed our stature
Realizin' cadre must be solid
then spread out to unite any
Checks and balances
scientific analysis at the onset
before any decided action
Not without total destruction
of the entire economic substructure
Then set about changing the culture
smashing out any lingering traces
of imperialism parisitic vultures
... on to our goal...
equality for humynkind...
Aristocrats will pay the toll
The name of our study group is Royal Descendant People Politically Intelligent Revolutionary Units. We encourage Peace and try to be problem solvers when it comes to New Afrikan on New Afrikan violence. We encourage people to think instead of just reacting. We get leaders to talk before violence starts.
We encourage Unity among different New Afrikan organizations. We will work with other organizations not New Afrikan for a common kause like going against Pork Khops (correctional officers) and their pig counterparts, the agents of the oppressive and exploitative state security and information gathering system. Our first duty is to campaign which is to spread our ancestors' and leaders' revolutionary kulture. We are democratic socialist chanting down capitalism and imperialism. When it's time to go against the real enemy we will unite with those who share a common enemy. We are working on bettering our communication system. People write but we have a hard time finding someone to print our zines and books. That's why I am reaching out networking to get support. Beside our education program we have a military training program which consists of eating right and exercise. We work mind and body.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are always happy to hear from groups building unity and independent institutions of the oppressed behind bars. And this comrade demonstrates an important aspect of these groups: study. This organization seems to be well aligned with the United Front for Peace in Prisons's points of unity, peace, growth, internationalism and independence. We look forward to studying and building with them in the future. Others who have groups, even just a few folks studying together, should get in touch with MIM(Prisons) so we can provide materials to support your studies. And get plugged in to the United Front for Peace in Prison.
MIM(Prisons) compiles and distributes study materials through our Free Books for Prisoners Program. We are open to printing pamphlets made by our subscribers so long as they fit into a revolutionary Maoist agenda.
We facilitate Maoist and anti-imperialist prisoner organizing through United Struggle from Within, and help writers develop their skills and politital line through our correspondence study courses. Our advanced study group, the ULK Writers Group, is where the vanguard of the Maoist anti-imperialist prison movement gathers to write articles, pamphlets, and even books. Work through these organizations to ensure your work is the most effective at fighting oppression.
You asked for updates regarding the grievance petition in Nevada. I have actively spread this petition (along with the food petition) around throughout the state, making well over 200 copies of this complaint and petition. However, from experience, only those who I personally engage, having in-depth discussions with, sign it. Out of the approximate 200 I mailed throughout the state, I received only 11 back.
I have had limited success with grievance campaigns, that is, getting fellow inmates to file grievances on particular issues, such as the inmate assault grievance I've enclosed. However, the response from any grievance is less than desirable.
Currently, it is taking more than 2 1/2 months to receive a response to an informal grievance, when per AR and OP they have only 30 days; 3-4 months for a first level grievance response when they have only 45 days; and up to 6 months for the second level grievance, when they have 60 days to respond. I am still waiting for a response to my security threat group (STG) grievance challenging the Nevada Department of Corrections's (NDOC) STG policies, which was due 18 December 2015.
No matter when the grievance is returned the response is the same. The grievance is denied. I and other comrades have actually been called liars in response to our grievances.
Our current stance, in provocation from the pigs here in Nevada is to simply follow the outdated illegal worthless grievance process only to reach the courts. Comrades in Nevada currently have grievances in on the following issues which they plan to take to court.
A religious equality complaint helping certain nature-based religions fight discrimination
Racial segregation within the NDOC
The diet and food preparation/service
The grievance process
The NDOC STG policies
The access to the law library
The treatment of transexuals
My cellmate and I, aiding many individuals in the fights mentioned above, as well as two separate complaints filed, one of which is for the STG policies, are now facing blatant retaliation. We have been denied access to the phone by unit pigs for almost 6 weeks despite regulation which says we should have access once a day; we have been denied showers and yard on multiple occasions; and our food portions have become so low as to be obviously meant to starve us. And our cell has been searched repeatedly with my communist materials being thrown away, posters/fliers/literature being ripped off the wall and thrown away, and all of our hobby craft being confiscated and disposed of. It has become so bad that we both have such a belief that we are being set up that all of our property is packed away and we are waiting to be moved to the hole. This is all in response to grievances being filed. But as I explained to the pigs in our last confrontation, no amount of harassment will stop me from standing against them.
The second issue my comrades and I have come up against is confused and misguided lumpen who are being led astray by a couple black supremacist capitalist who are claiming to be MIM members. These individuals are running a store where they are charging people time and a half for goods, and for whites and hispanics they are charging double time. So we have had to confront this issue, and while being clear that we do not speak for the MIM, that we as communists do not support any form of racism, be it white supremacy or black supremacy as all racism is a product of class society and leads only to divisiveness and distrust, and that no communist would ever run a store in which he charged time and a half or double time. And that drew racial lines as a means of determining rate of exploitation. Many people had become confused by these long-time "communist revolutionaries" who preached communist theory, but acted capitalist. We have since addressed it and most now see it for what it is. One is word, one is action, communists support word with action, while these individuals were playing at being communist revolutionaries while they were/are in fact the largest extorters in prison because even other stores here run by other inmates charge only time and a half. We took a very quick and decisive position against these extorters after giving them ample opportunity to explain their actions. And now their actions are being seen for what they are.
Anyway, comrades, I thank you for the three copies of MIM Theory. I have been passing them around to a number of individuals. I would also like to add, I applaud issue 48 of ULK. I have not seen a single issue of ULK or any article, book, etc. ever cause so many to debate and discuss issues. While this issue was dealing with religion, I saw those debating it discussing race relations, subjective and objective realities, the racial orientation of communist principles (i.e. why MIM and other communist groups focus so much on blacks and hispanics and discount, ignore, or openly hate whites), etc. So this is perhaps the greatest issue of ULK we have yet to see because it has given us so much to discuss and develop amongst ourselves. While it was meant as a "religious" issue, we found it to be so much more! Great work!
Enclosed is a grievance, and over 10 people filed the exact grievance. All of us received the same response. I started this campaign with another comrade, and both of us have now been threatened with hole time for "petitions."
Update from 2 March 2016: As I explained in my previous letter, the pigs are retaliating against me and my cell mate. I detailed how the pigs destroyed my cell, etc. Well less than a week after this incident, the pigs once again searched my cell. This time they were in the cell from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. while we remained handcuffed in the shower.
They broke much of our property ranging from my glasses to my TV, threw away thousands of our legal papers, photo albums from our friends/family/children, and threw a stack of legal work in the toilet. When we returned to our cell, all of our property was dumped on the floor, mixed together, etc. We demanded that the Sergeant be called with the camera; this was denied. We requested a grievance; this was denied. It took us 3 days to finally get the grievance.
This attack however only made us more determined in our struggle against these pigs. Enclosed is my response to the Prisoner-Led Study Group Questionnaire.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides a very good example of putting theory into practice, and adjusting for local conditions, by taking the grievance campaign and making it relevant for eir situation. Further, we commend the actions taken to clarify that people claiming to stand for communist ideals are fakers if they are not putting those ideals into practice. We do want to clarify that MIM(prisons) doesn't "hate" white people. Rather we hate the system of national oppression that puts the white nation in a position of power over other nations. But we embrace as comrades any white people who join the revolutionary struggle to overthrow white supremacy and global imperialism.
As each holiday season reminds us, there are certain tunes sung again and gain for generations. Perhaps a word or two is altered as language changes, but the message is the same.
A man named Carolus Linneaus is honored by most amerikkkans as "one of the greatest scientists of the Western world" for his message back in 1738.(1) While the terms aren't in use in today's language, let's see if we recognize the time.
Modern imperialism was in its nascent stage back then. Powerful and power hungry Europeans were attempting to find a reasoned justification for dominating and destroying other people in order to take their resources. Good ol' Carolus Linneaus - brilliant scientist - had already classified the world into the various families, genus, types, etc. that we learn in biology. But most hystory books don't tell us he also made four classes of humyns:
Homo Europeans: people who are light, lively, inventive, ruled by rites
Homo Americanus: people who are tenacious, contented, free, ruled by custom
Homo Asiaticus: people who are stern, haughty, stingy, ruled by opinion
Homo Africanus: cunning, slow, ruled by caprice
This is a timeless tune, isn't it? I suppose we could add to this "Carolus" the jingle of Donald Kunt, er Trump kkklassifying Latinos as murderers, rapists, and criminals. I mean, if i classify you as not quite humyn then I can freely treat you as other than me. Like it's okay to steal a duck's eggs 'cause ducks don't have rights.
i grew up in the ghetto. The area in which i was raised isn't that much different than any other ghetto, barrio or First Nation reservation in this country. The youth in my 'hood saw the hustler's, players, gangstas and dope pushers as role models. Why? In simple terms, they were feeding the people. They were providing people with a way out of poverty, misery and suffering that was all around them.
Although from a scientific and political perspective, these people would be called social parasites and predators on their own people, one rule of humynity was in full effect — survival. Dialectically speaking, they were also the reason why many people were addicted to drugs, wimmin/boys selling their bodies, etc.
But we were born into this society, its system and culture. We didn't make it the way it is. The conditions of abject poverty, drug/alcohol addiction, prostitution, etc, were already here before we got here. So it is the cyst'm (system), the social, political, economic and cultural institutions that are controlled by this government and the people who really profit from our misery who are at fault for the problems that we see in our society.
The system of political economy that we and most people in the world today live under is called capitalism/imperialism. Malcolm X once stated, "you can't operate a capitalist system unless you are vulturistic; you have to have someone else's blood to suck to be a capitalist. You show me a capitalist and I'll show you a bloodsucker."
I want to quote extensively for a minute some things from the Draft Chapter of the Lumpen Handbook that MIM(Prisons), BORO, USW and some other groups are working on as part of a larger project.
"Power is the ability to define a phenomenon and make it act in a desired manner." - Huey P. Newton
"Marxist socialism is based in the idea that humyns, as a group, can take charge of the natural and economic laws that determine their ability to meet their material needs. Taking charge does not mean that they can decide these laws, but that they can utilize them. In doing so they develop a scientific understanding of the world around them.
"Under capitalism, the anarchy of production is the general rule. This is because capitalists only concern themselves with profit, while production and consumption of humyn needs is at the whim of the economic laws of capitalism. As a result people starve, wars are fought and the environment is degraded in ways that make humyn life more difficult or even impossible. Another result is that whole groups of people are excluded from the production system. Whereas in the past anyone could go out and produce the basic food and shelter that they needed to survive, capitalism is unique in keeping large groups of people from doing so.
"In the industrialized countries like the United States, the culture and structure of society has eliminated opportunities and knowledge to be self-sufficient as people were in the past. Production is done socially instead. Simplistically this might look like: one company produces bread, another produces shoes, and everyone working for each company gets paid and uses their pay to buy things from the other companies. Everyone gets what they need by being a productive member of the larger society.
"The problem is that there are not enough jobs. At first this might seem like a good thing; we are so advanced that we can get all the work done for the whole group with only a portion of us having to work. But under capitalism, not working means you do not get a share of the collective product. So when whole groups are not able to get jobs, they must find other ways of getting the goods that they need to survive. And we all know various ways that people do this.
"Some argue that the problem isn't too few jobs, the problem is too many people. But anyone can look around and see that there are enough incomplete tasks to keep humyns busy (repairing roads, providing medical care, maintenance of public space, etc.). There could be jobs for everyone, if we could get paid to do them. This is one of the inherent flaws in capitalism: humyns are only paid for tasks that create or actualize wealth and profit.
"So first capitalism has separated people from their need to provide everything for themselves. In doing so they alienate the worker from eir product, because it becomes the property of the capitalist. But those without jobs are also alienated from the whole production process. People often turn to the illegal service economy of selling drugs or sexual favors, or robbing and fencing stolen goods. Many also turn to the state for social services to get a distribution of the social product, without participating in production.
"All of these solutions are even more alienating than working for the capitalists. Being a shoemaker or a baker are productive tasks that people can find pleasure in, even if they do not have a say in how the product of their labor is then distributed. No one wants to poison their community, deal with the threat of violence every day, sell their body, steal from people or even take handouts without being able to participate in producing. All of these endeavors require the individual to justify actions that they know are wrong, to dehumanize other people and themselves, and to just live under a lot of stress.
"These activities, and the justifications that come with them, contribute to what then becomes the consciousness of this group of people excluded from the economy. Marx wrote about the alienation of the proletariat resulting from them not having a say in how the product of their labor is utilized. But there is a deeper level of alienation among the lumpen in that they must alienate themselves from other humyn beings, even those who are in similar situations to themselves. Capitalism promotes a dog-eat-dog mentality for all people because we are encouraged to look out for ourselves and not trust others. But this is most pronounced for the lumpen, who are in turn demonized for their disregard for other people.
"The demonization that the lumpen faces by the rest of society is one reason that none of these endeavors have futures. You can't sell dope forever. You certainly can't be a prostitute forever. Robbing and scamming is dangerous to say the least. And there are strong policies today to keep people form being on public assistance for too long unless one is disabled or elderly. So there is a strong interest among the lumpen class to choose another path, one that addresses the alienation and lack of control they have over their lives, including a limited ability to meet their needs.
"The Marxist solution to the anarchy of production provided a way out of this by overthrowing the bourgeoisie in power, and replacing them with rule by those who have nothing, and an economic system structured on public ownership and meeting humyn needs. Rather than letting the market determine production and consumption, the people themselves would decide what to produce, how much, what techniques to use and how to distribute the product.
"This was immediately seen as a threat by the bourgeoisie, who developed two possible alternatives to the Marxist solution that would allow them to remain in power and to keep exploiting the masses of the world. Similar to socialism, both alternatives required humyns to do more to consciously determine the economy they live in. The first was Keynesian economics, which is essentially a large-scale effort to tweak the capitalist economic system when it gets out of whack. The second was fascism, which was the openly terroristic dictatorship by finance capitalists, where the ideas of bourgeois democracy and free market economics were pushed out of the way. Neither addresses the inherent contradictions in the capitalist production system identified by Marx. This book is part of developing the analysis behind our solution to the problems of capitalism — the communist solution.
"The communist solution involves the organizing of the oppressed to carry out the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. A key element of revolutionary organizing is identifying who are our friends and who are our enemies. At a general level this must be about objective interests of groups of people. When Marx conducted an analysis of classes, fundamentally he was identifying the classes with an interest in the existing unequal structure (slavery, feudalism or capitalism) and those with an interest in overthrowing the unequal structure."(1)
I said all of this to say that those of us at the bottom are victims of a viscous system that must be overturned. We are not alone in this in that 50% of the world's people are living on $2 a day or less, and 80% of the world's people own only 5% of the world's wealth. In fact, it is those brothers and sisters in the Third World whom we must give more support to because it is they who are suffering the most at this time.
Capitalism/imperialism is a system and culture that produces junkies, whores, dope pushers and social predators of all sorts. Without the necessary tools for survival, people are pushed into lives that they would not normally choose for themselves.
The trick that they're playin' on us is that we're somehow responsible for all of the bullshit that goes down in society. Your choices were not wholly yours no matter what you think because you were never given the full context of the information and knowledge to otherwise be in control of your own destiny. And only a criminal can come up with complex "criminal codes" (laws) to socially control millions of people by force of arms — police, armies, courts.
Did you know that the United $tates locks up more people for drug crimes than the European Union does for all crimes and the European Union has 200 million more people? This shit ain't by accident, coincidence or happenstance! It is by design and plan!!
The solution to these problems can be found in a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. While we may not have created the fucked-up conditions, we are dedicating ourselves to solving them. This piece is meant to spark conversation around these issues and more. For anyone with any questions or who'd like to polemicize with regard to what is offered here or other pressing social or political issues, write to MIM(Prisons), PO Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140 and we'll get back at you at our earliest convenience. MIM(Prisons) also offers free books to prisoners and runs several study groups. Write to them if these things are of interest to you.
You are now responsible, because you know better. You an either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Be a catalyst for progressive development in your community.