MIM(Prisons) has very few comrades who continue work with us once released from prison. Recently one of these comrades offered to ask the wimmin ey organizes with on the outside to write up something for this issue of Under Lock & Key. We sent prompts but didn't hear anything back. When we checked in on the article submissions, our comrade gave us an update:
"The reason nothing has come out of the shelter is because of a sudden turnover in residents, many of the active wimmin are now gone or just can't be reached. I have not submitted due to constraints on my time. My fiancée was kicked out of the shelter and due to taking care of her as much as possible and my own parole and other issues, i simply have not had time to put anything to paper. I am sleeping about 3 hrs. a day and on the move the other 21. We are working on an awareness project to get some of the people mobilized. Currently there are only 3 of us working on all of this, a member of Blackstone from Chicago, my fiancée and myself. It is very slow and tiring work. I apologize for my silence, i have just been swamped with stuff every day."
We empathize with this comrade's difficulties in finding time to put pen to paper. It's extremely difficult to juggle the bureaucratic challenges of parole with the lack of resources available for basic survival. We need to build independent institutions so we can meet our basic survival needs, so we can focus on the political struggle for self-determination. There's a catch 22 where reformist struggles take time and energy to build, and our ultimate goal is liberation from the conditions that make these band-aid programs necessary.
I read some individuals voice their opinions regarding the SNY in unity for the Chicano liberation movement. I have stated before, I am not gang nor am I with gang. My decision to step away from GP was due to my differences in views and beliefs about gang against true revolutionary goals, of which were deemed "undisciplined," (uniting with all Raza North-South, seeing New Afrikans as revolutionary allies, etc.) and succumb to ostracism within a group claiming to be for the Raza.
As a true revolutionary I will not discriminate, isolate, or alienate anybody who is seeking education and displays interest to understand the tyranny of imperialism. Be GP or SNY, that is only prison mentality of which I believe should never resurface in a post-revolution liberated Aztlán, this is the greater cause for the national liberation of Aztlán. That is where the true revolutionaries distinguish from gang. My true enemy is imperialism and its many systematic vehicles of oppression against the Chicano lumpen. Always keeping aware of infiltrators and spies working to suppress any resistance, including so-called allies who in truth operate on a subjective ideology of fascism.
In the SNY there are many comrades who have developed a higher political interest and awareness. A personal higher calling for servitude seems present in many for a better future for our next generations. Those who are still with gang are very present as well, but it is those who seek a higher learning and understand of this phantom enemy, imperialism, who I would like to reach out to! This is the struggle to unite.
It is public consciousness what we aim for, not numbers. The calling for revolution is within each one. Many lumpen have perceived revolution solely as an armed struggle and cause for war to kill the oppressor. In part, yes that is a goal, but i would disagree to integrate individuals who are solely for war. That would be as uniting or recruiting mercenaries, as Reagan did against the Sandinistas and to extreme case, the Salvadorian government force enlisting children against the FMLN.
Those with true revolutionary interest take on study and self-development with eagerness. Those whose interests are not aligned, they simply walk away. Revisionist and other suppressive Raza are always present and that creates obstacles as well as a struggle to unite. Interacting, talking, and sharing our political lines are gateways to congregate and build study cells without risking our demise in a front by those wishing to suppress our efforts to unite.
No matter what another comrade's political maturity is, well-developed or first time knowing, the practice and persistence to learn is what I see. For I myself am still amateur to communism. The abolition of imperialism and the liberation for Aztlán is my goal, to live in equality for all.
Sharing ULK and other material is a minor step I take for now in order to broaden and spread that consciousness within the lumpen here in my environment. Sometimes referring to myself as being for the Chicano national liberation movement upon meeting fellows brings questions from some and ignites interest in others. With time I share my copy of [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán.
To comrades in SNY reading this, let's continue our struggle to unite. To comrades in the GP, struggle in solidarity and power to you all true revolutionaries.
In March 2016, I sent a letter to Representative Borris Miles about not having a law library at the Wheeler Unit. I also filed a grievance on the indigent mail getting 5 letters a month sent out instead of 5 per week. It was sent back saying that it was too old to file on.
I filed some legal work with Rep. Borris Miles because the other unit where I was before didn't have a law library. The Wheeler Unit is only a few yards from here and they don't have access to the law library or access to the courts which is a Federal violation. Below is part of my letter to Rep. Miles.
"I am writing this complaint to state from the evidence that I have, which is some I-60s, inmate request slips, which I wrote requesting to go to the law library to do some legal work, and was denied twice because Ms. J. Lara stated that we didn't have law library sessions at this unit [Wheeler], because the law library which don't have NO BOOKS just a few stuff not enough that you could actually use to complete legal work with. To the other request, her response was that I was afforded with what they had, but every time a request is put in by somebody it is denied. We have a full size library about 300 yards from this Unit at Formby Unit. I have requested to be transferred over there where I can have legal access to the law library so that I can have access to the courts also."
You can print this, just leave my name out, because I would have trouble here and be retaliated against because of it. If you get this letter please write back and let me know that you got it because mail don't always make it to where it's supposed to go to. So please answer ASAP when you get this so I'll know that you received this.
If you have a grievance manual I would like to have one if possible. I am in the processing stage of writing Rep. Miles about the grievance process. They need to have grievances looked at by somebody outside TDCJ, besides the grievance investigator here, because we don't think the Warden even sees Step 1, because the same answer comes back on every Step 1, saying not warranted for further action. So this inital decision is all on it and it's been typed on every Step 1 and then Huntsville looks at Step 1, copies this answer on Step 2, and sends it back to us, agreeing with the answer on Step 1. And we use Texas Penal Codes on it and it states clearly that state law is being violated by employees and it's covered up within the Unit. So legal action can't be taken. Send me a few of the petitions and grievance manual and I'm filing with others about this also.
I also saw in ULK 51 that you said the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook is banned in Texas. I checked with the mailroom staff here [Formby Unit] and they said it is approved on this unit as far as they know. Please make this correction in ULK.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We've gotten confirmation from multiple sources that the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook is *not* banned in Texas at this time. Thanks to this contributor, and others, who help us to stay informed.
We wrote about the need to connect the battles this comrade is fighting with the larger picture of revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist economic system in our article "Texas Comrades Need to Step Up" in ULK 52. Reiterating that call, we also encourage this comrade to see how futile it is to call for an outside review board to oversee the grievance process. Even if a review board was put in place, it would be run by the criminal injustice system or their allies, because that is who has the power in this country. And the whole process will start all over again with lawsuit after lawsuit filed and dismissed, and won and reneged. Revolutionaries can't afford to bang our head against this wall while people are dying the world over, and their liberation is being stalled by Amerikkka's runaround.
We should struggle for some reforms, as that's all we can do right now at this stage in our struggle where we are too weak to struggle any other way. But we need to focus on reforms that will have the greatest impact on our organizing work, which centers around building independent institutions of the oppressed and building public opinion for socialism. Is an "outside" review board an independent institution of the oppressed? No, it would just be a facade of the state, and a false victory. If we want to have our grievances answered, we need to build unity, and come together to demand our grievances are answered. Of course there are many ways and many steps to unity, but this would be an independent institution of the oppressed to defend ourselves and build for the future where we're not begging prison administration to please treat us like humyn beings.
Few things are more dangerous and detrimental to a revolutionary movement than over- and underestimation, in particular underestimation. Battles have been lost, tides and balances of struggles have ebbed and flowed, and slide from one side to the other. And all because of this simple mistake. Whenever we underestimate someone, group, or thing, we commit this mistake of relegating that persyn, group, or thing to unimportance. Or we ignore it or them as being trivial. This is something no revolutionary can ever afford to do. Especially those in the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist movements.
Unfortunately, our movements, as so many others, can be plagued by machismo, a particular form of male chauvinism. In revolutionary circles this happens and wimmin are undervalued and most often underestimated. Wimmin are a force without equal in any movement. In the fight against capitalist and imperialist governments wimmin are an indispensable resource. A clear example of their worth can be found in recent Cuban history, the 26th of July movement.
Everyone knows of Fidel, Raúl, Frank País and Abel Santamaría. But their fame and successes would have been unattainable save for the revolucionarias, wimmin revolutionaries. While there were many wimmin later in the movement, there were only two in key roles at the beginning: Haydée Santamaría Cuadrado and Melba Hernández Rodríguez de Rey. These two stood out as invaluable and the personifications of wimmin to a revolutionary movement. Together they were key to printing and distributing "History Will Absolve Me," the famous Castro speech. They also took up arms during the attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Although, triumph eluded them during the assault, their efforts spread the movement from the eastern provinces throughout all Cuba. Haydée and Melba were both imprisoned after the assault. But their efforts never stopped and they even became more active in overthrowing the U.$.-backed Batista regime. Their imprisonment, isolation, and cruelty suffered at the hands of a proxy of U.$. imperialism only served to strengthen their resolve and commitment. As the movement spread, so did support which finished in the triumph of the revolution in 1959. Without them the revolution may never have been achieved.
Wimmin are often undervalued, underestimated and ignored. Let us not commit such mistakes. While the capitalists and imperialists do, let us recognize this fault and exploit it, using their fallacy for our advantage to progress the movement. We need our wimmin to be involved because they are the life blood of any movement and an invaluable resource. As revolutionaries and persyns, wimmin are integral to the success of our movement.
Let us take note of this history lesson and put it to good use. We need wimmin, prisoners and captives, to exceed the examples of Haydée and Melba, leading other compañeras from behind the walls as they did. Directing others in constructive methods, organizing study groups and educating other wimmin about the present struggle, as well as how to champion it. Their efforts will give breath to our movement and once it has spread, triumph will shortly follow.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer gives a good historical example of wimmin who have overcome barriers of machismo to make significant contributions to the liberation of their nation. There are innumerable examples like this one that we can point to for anyone who is hung up on their sexism so much that they think only "men" can liberate the oppressed nations.
This author is advocating for a necessary first step: first, we must accept that anyone is perfectly capable of being a strong theorist, warrior, contributor, to the national struggles. We don't see many people writing in telling us wimmin are too weak or otherwise should be excluded from revolutionary organizing, so while this sexist indoctrination will ultimately affect how we approach organizing, at least on a conscious level we might be already doing good on step 1. So what's next?
If we continue to see wimmin as a resource, even for revolutionary aims, we are not going to get very far in resolving the gender contradictions that plague our struggle for unity and liberation. Rather than asking ourselves how can we mine this resource, we need to ask "what are the contradictions inhibiting this growth of our movement?" and "what can we do to help resolve these contradictions?" A study of dialectical materialism, including Mao's essay "On Contradiction" is imperative for this discussion.
Similarly, we can't fetishize organizing of any subgroup in our movement, lest we lose direction for the sake of getting some wimmin on board. That's the mistake made by people who believe who is saying it is more important than what is being said. It's the same trap that got Obama elected as a Black persyn, and Hilary campaigning on the platform of being a female. Even if the tokenization is of an oppressed group (queer/trans people of color appear to be the token of the day), identity politics is always dangerous and an antithesis to materialism.
Prisons in California have become one of the most active and organized areas of resistance behind bars in the United $tates. With the second largest prison population in the country, and some of the biggest long-term isolation units, this is perhaps not surprising. Out of this repression and resistance has come some strong organizing efforts over the past few years. And this has also raised contradictions that need to be resolved to advance the struggle. We use this issue of ULK to highlight the contradictions and challenge our comrades in California to think broadly about resolutions.
While SHU/Ad-Seg prisoners are about 6% of the California prison population, they were 35% of our readers according to our reader survey conducted a couple years ago. Special Needs Yards (SNY) are reported to be around 30% of the total population, but were about 40% of our reader responders. So while SHU/Ad-Seg are very over-represented, SNY also seems to be slightly over-represented among our readers. There is a big division between SHU/GP and SNY prisoners with distrust and anger on both sides. But comrades from both sides continue to do solid organizing work. One of the significant developments in Cali is the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH), a United Front that has made important strides forward but is also plagued by these divisions.
It is unlikely anything we do or say will worsen the division between SHU/GP and SNY. Rather than fan the flames, we are airing these grievances as a step towards understanding and eventual reconciliation. We also want to challenge both sides. The revolutionary, anti-imperialist, pro-people forces are tiny in all sectors. Some argue that SNY is in a better position to unite, while others say only GP has potential. So we want to encourage a little friendly competition between the two sides to see who can do more. Practice has already demonstrated the leadership from SHU's ability to mobilize the masses for a progressive cause. But progressive forces on that side must continue to move forward in order to consolidate those gains, or risk them being lost. At the same time SNY comrades claim they gained the freedom to unite and organize with whoever they want, and so they need to use that position to unite others who dropped out. To both sides we say: if you're only seeking a comfortable way to do your time you're not helping advance the struggle and the revolution has no place for you.
We received a number of responses to the article in ULK 50, "[email protected] Power Book Tainted by AEH." One comrade in SNY wrote: "In my point of view it [the Agreement to End Hostilities] contradicts every aspect that they preach. Now everybody who died, who caught a life sentence for the struggle they believed in was all for nothing. Take a second and think about that. There are people who are in prison serving a life sentence for killing an individual who opposed his views and beliefs. Now they expect him to be the best of friends with these same people? How does that make sense?
"Now you guys reading this might say 'He is only saying that because he's SNY.' Well, for 4 years I was active and I have seen both sides of the fence. Not everybody over here is a snitch. There is more unity here than there is on the mainline. You see raza from North and South united where it doesn't matter what part of the state you're from."
Saying that the AEH is hypocritical based on the past goes against the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) principle of Growth. We must allow for growth and evolution of individuals and organizations if we want to see unity among the oppressed, because the old way didn't work. There are major contradictions between lumpen organizations (LOs) still, and between different housing units in California. But we see these as contradictions among the people. Which is why we stand behind the AEH, and think those old wounds can heal. It's been four years, and there's still a long way to go. But people are putting in the work, and in some locations we've seen real progress.
We understand the lack of trust that some have for those calling for the AEH in California. But we say to those people, the ones who truly want to end oppression as this comrade does, isn't the AEH a step towards what you want? Even if you don't trust certain individuals, the more we do to promote the spirit of the AEH, as well as the principles of the UFPP, the closer we get to replacing the old order with a new order based on unity of the oppressed.
This response comes from the comrade at Folsom (not SNY) who reported in ULK 50 on the progress of the AEH there, with Raza from north and south playing handball together on the same teams:
"It's a challenge educating people here, attempting to share and explain the current situation and contradiction of ideology, morals, politricks and capital. These factions seem to be following a textbook on capitalism. Yes, we have the AEH, which is a beautiful thing and can be used as a stepping stone for a more productive practice of commune. At the moment people are more concerned on exploiting the twisted habits of others and making their pockets fatter for self-interest. The 'chiefs' preach to confuse, saying that the ideology, morals and capital is framed around serve the people, united we are stronger and all that glitter. But i've not yet seen one cent invested in the people, books, education or basic needs. Too bizzy taxing the fellas for pickles out their store bags.
"Get your back straight my people, the AEH is being tainted by self-interest and is not being maximized to its full potential in a more revolutionary way. Serve the People.
"The great are only great because we are on our knees. If you don't have sycophantic attitudes towards the 'leader' and express your support they don't look great. Put some pressure, maybe then these individuals that abandoned the cause for self-interest can snap out of their pig ideology and step their game up and shape their minds and struggle towards national liberation. Resemble more a revolutionary internationalist and not the imperialist pigs that fucked us all in the first place, Tony Montana wanna-be mofo.
"I will continue to read, educate, practice and liberate regardless of the situation and this September 9 will be no different.”
A comrade in Corcoran (not SNY) is skeptical of the AEH, but echoes the refrain from many in SHU/GP that there can never be unity with SNY:
"The AEH is a godsend to all the souljas who have been held captive in the concrete tombs for 10, 15, 20+ years. The AEH is the tool CDCR is going to try and use to 1) gain more funds to build more prisons, and 2) justify the need for indeterminate SHU sentences. The current shape/mindset of prison and prisoners is not what it was back in the days that the souljas remember it being. This is going to create problems. These newly released souljas are going to be dealing with 18, 19, 20 year olds sentenced to 50, 60, 100 years.
"The AEH is going to create old-school versus new-school. That about sums it up. There's more to it. Like say the both schools are getting along there's also a snake on the police side ready to cause dissension amongst the community. Bottom line, CDCR cannot afford for the AEH to work, so they will see that it doesn't and when it doesn't they'll try to capitalize off its failure.
"They are now selling e-tablets, but only for SNY yards. There's mp3 players only for SNYs. The list goes on. Even with the trades there on SNY yards, the GP level prisoners aren't being afforded an opportunity to utilize programs that would rehabilitate them and better their lives and chances of staying out of prison. The message is clear: if you level four prisoners want to better your life you got to go SNY.
"Oh, there won't ever be a united front between GPs and SNY. You're better off trying to get a united front between convicts and pigz. See how crazy that sounds?! While there are solid souljas on the SNY yard, who became tired of the twisted prison politics. They're far outnumbered by pieces of shit, ie. child molesters, rapists, snitches, cowards, people running from drug debts, etc."
This last point is an important one that requires comment. Yes, prisoners are more likely to unite with pigz than they are with SNY because they are currently led by the criminally-minded. And it's hard to do serious money-making behind bars without working with some criminal pigz. This is a challenge and a contradiction we face trying to organize the First World lumpen. Not only are they criminal-minded, they can often make a fair amount from that crime, even some in prison are happy and prefer that over uniting New Afrika and Aztlán to fight imperialism. This is echoed by the Folsom comrade above.
All of these struggles in the California prisons remind us of how far we have to go, as humynity, to achieve a society where all people can live together in peace, in a society where no group of people has power over any other group. That long-term goal is communism. But to get there we will need to radically change our culture and the education people get from schools and society. Divisions are built into imperialism, people are pitted against each other based on class, nation, and gender generally and more specifically feuds are fostered by the imperialists to pit the oppressed against each other. This culture won't disappear overnight.
We learn from the revolutionary history of China that cultural revolutions will be needed after the oppressed take power, to re-educate everyone and build a truly revolutionary culture and society. It's a long road, and our comrades behind bars in California shouldn't be discouraged by divisions that have been created over many years of capitalist cultural indoctrination. Keep the big picture in mind and build for the revolutionary united front that serves the oppressed of the world.
I would like to address the question that was presented in ULK issue #49: Where are the revolutionary women at? How can we reach and organize with our female comrades?
There are many female soldiers out there who would love to join the revolution. And there are many ways in which we can bring these sisters into the revolution. One way is via the pen pal process. Many male prisoners have prison pen pals who they can write, educate and/or bring into the fight. The same can also be done with female pen pals who are not incarcerated. They can also sign up the sisters they know or write for a subscription of ULK.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade offers a fine suggest that can apply regardless of gender. Any pen pal who might be interested in the struggle against imperialism and oppression should be cultivated on that level. We always need more help from supporters on the outside, so if your pen pals need an org to hook up with they can seek out MIM(Prisons) via our contact info on page 1.
We know many of our subscribers already follow this comrades's suggestion by sharing what they learn from ULK with their people on the streets. If you have reason to believe your pen pal might be interested in anti-imperialist politics, send an article cut out of the newsletter to see how they react. If they are interested you can suggest they check out our website and you can start raising political questions in your letters. This could help build a solid base of political support on the streets for when you're released. But it's important to always be cautious, and not expose your political views and organizing work to folks who might (even if just accidentally) expose you to the cops.
To be clear, we don't have any evidence that overall males are at a higher level of political consciousness than females. At least historical political movements within U.$. borders don't suggest this is the case, but it is possible the dramatic recent imprisonment rate is driving a politicization of males in a way never before seen in this country. Regardless, we need to get the word out to everyone who might be interested in anti-imperialism, and if our political line is correct the oppressed will see this and get involved.
We'd like to hear from others about successes or failures you have had bringing up politics with folks in letters to the streets. Is this a tactic that we can build on in a more intentional way?
On Sept 9th, we open, as usual, upon the United Front for Peace in Prisons Statement of Principles. Our comrade did spoken word: "Frustrated" and "Black Angel" (our comrade is working on a CD of spoken word).
Another comrade spoke on revolutionary consciousness — what it means, how it applies to us and our conditions (open discussion). A third comrade introduced the ten point agenda (we recently sent you a copy of the 10 point agenda). We are ready to accept responsibility/accountability for ourselves and our conditions — we will have our marching orders (the basic point that Marx emphasized is profoundly true: "If the masses don't fight back and resist their oppression, even short of revolution, they will be crushed and reduced to a broken mass and will be incapable of rising up for any higher thing."). Our attendance was 32 people.
On September 15th we spoke on "Building Prison Study Groups" from ULK 45 (July/August 2015). Numerous articles within, and questions/comments were given. The discussion was moderated by two comrades and 41 people attended. We want to assure ourselves, we are working towards effective grouping/organizing, keeping the political line, and keeping the pigz out of our planning. We wish to be peaceful, organized, and most important, as effective as possible.
We are organizing for the Grievance campaign - we've received the sample sheet from MIM(Prisons). This has been an issue, here at Sussex I and throughout Virginia DOC. I recently sent you an article titled "Suppression the Grievance Procedure".
My comrades, we are working. We've got support from Bloods (over 200), GDs (over 25), MS-13 (20) and Muslims, Christians and 5%ers. I can only say we will work and work for results!
Interest of the wealthy always precedes those who aren’t heard.
Power to the people who stand their ground.
No more broken promises and we won’t back down.
The fruits of our labor will be handed around.
What must it mean to be truly free?
Should we settle for something less, fuck it don’t agree.
This war scattered us into refugees, blame those in power
Who claim to represent you and me.
No matter what you say and claim to be, dig your roots
And nourish what you seek.
Be part of the solution, organize and fight together.
We have to devise a plan, a common ground in which
A idea won’t fall into one hand.
No doubt freedom fighters will get gunned down.
The rebel with the knowledge is the child born in the trenches.
Who will carry the torch of resistance for the next seven generation.
Learn from mistakes and apply to the whole.
We can never separate the people from the struggle.
This issue of ULK is being mailed to 48 states, yet over one third are going to Texas prisons. This can be attributed in large part to the void we've been filling with our Texas Campaign Pack, which has led to a huge influx of subscribers in that state. TDCJ has hidden its own grievance manual from prisoners since 2014, and more recently has effectively eliminated all access to the law library in many facilities. The MIM(Prisons) TX Pack helps people fight back and provides needed resources and information.
Yet when looking through the incoming mail, we notice some themes:
Most people are focused only on their individual struggles.
The end goal for most writers is prison reform.
There is a huge lack of engagement with politics.
Of course there are a number of exceptions to these themes, but the quantity of letters without political content is overwhelming. The vast majority of writers are only interested in getting the Texas Pack from us. Their engagement with the rest of our projects (even reading ULK, which is sent automatically to everyone who writes us) is a relative rarity. Those who report receiving the TX Pack and thank us for how helpful it is are mostly only using it to work on their own grievances. Some share it with others, but most don't seem to be using it on campaigns together. Of the huge number of people who have been invited to our intro study group across the state, very few actually participated.
If our subscribers in Texas want everything they learned in the Texas Campaign Pack to actually be put to the best possible use, there are a few key points that have to be considered:
Individual actions are small. The impact of a single successful grievance may feel huge to one persyn for at least a small period of time. But we must think bigger than our individual struggles. Especially when most of these struggles are unsuccessful.
Reformism is very limited. Those in power stall at every opportunity. So while we might see a few victories, it'll always be just enough to keep us motivated to bark up the same wrong tree for another several decades. In order to end what makes oppression possible and profitable, we need to put an end to the capitalist economic system. We've tried reforming it for hundreds of years. Is this what you expect it should look like by now?
Apply principles of revolutionary theory for an end to oppression. The only way to achieve an end to this ongoing oppression is to learn some principles about revolutionary science. We need to know what has worked in the past, and what hasn't. We need to learn lessons from history for how we can build our present-day movement to be as successful as possible at putting a quick end to capitalism and all its atrocities the world over. This takes hard work and dedication, and is the only way for future generations to come out from under the boot of the oppressors.
Once we learn some revolutionary theory, the next step is to put it into practice in our organizing work. Tons of people write to us about how difficult it is to find people in Texas who are interested in politics or coming together to protect themselves from abuses by staff. This is because, despite all the atrocities in TDCJ facilities, TDCJ achieved a delicate balance between privileges and punishment, that keeps the population complacent but not so repressed that they are inspired to step up and do something about it. This dynamic has been going on for eons. The perfect example of this is people who have given up filing grievances because the grievances go unanswered, and instead they just watch TV. If not for the TV or other distractions/privileges, unanswered grievances should lead someone to want to take further action to protect their humynity. By restricting indigent mail and eliminating law libraries in many facilities, TDCJ is signing itself up for some contempt amongst its wards, but only if those who are politically conscious take the next steps to educate and organize.
The most basic organizing steps to try:
Share the TX Pack with others, and have them write to MIM(Prisons) to get on our mailing list.
Write grievances together. Even if for individual issues, build your collective knowledge about what makes a grievance successful. Don't let the administration give you the runaround.
Unsuccessful grievances are part of the process. We don't expect to actually have victories with these grievances, but we file them to go through the process of administrative remedies, and build unity through action. When the grievances come back rejected, use them as tools to show how backward the administration is, and how the grievance system is set up to fail.
Meanwhile, build political consciousness: Study articles in ULK, and broaden your perspective of how the prison struggle fits in with the struggle of the internal semi-colonies, and oppressed nations worldwide.
MIM(Prisons) offers a multitude of ways we can support you in your organizing. We can provide lit and study guides if you want to start a study group. We also recently revamped our Prisoners' Legal Clinic, and you can use your legal expertise to help others with their cases and help them learn some revolutionary theory. Our literacy program is coming up too, so maybe tutoring others in how to read and write in a Serve the People Program is a role you can play. Or if you're an artist or writer you can contribute articles for ULK, which then gets mailed to people all across the country. If you have access to funds, send us a donation so we can continue sending the TX Pack and ULK in to the large number of subscribers in Texas.
In sum, Texas prisoners need to step up. We all already know that filing individual grievances is a joke. The Texas Campaign Pack has info for how to make the most of individual grievances, so we can have a few more successes, but the administration can still just toss out or ignore whatever they don't feel like dealing with. TDCJ headquarters in Huntsville is no better. We hope our comrades in Texas who have been so diligently putting the Texas campaign info to good use will make this connection to the bigger picture and adjust accordingly.
The recent attention to murder and brutality of New Afrikan men by Amerikan police, and the shooting of police officers in Dallas, Texas by Micah X, apparently in retaliation for this brutality, inspired a lot of thoughtful letters from across the country. Many commented on the need to take up the gun to fight those with guns.
A contributor in Florida asked:
"So, my question is this: how effective and appropriate was the brother's actions (or sacrifice) at this point in time, or what do we, you and the readers make of all this? Are there any lessons, a message, or information to be learned from all of this? Or, ultimately, is there perhaps any more room, space, or a vacuum for more of this kind of self-defense at this point in time? And if so, how does one go about or start preparing, alleviating, educating, demonstrating or organizing for such right now from this example (or lesson) at this point in time? Like Micah X, are we ready to effectively exercise or address any more of this yet - or continue to keep the conversation going?"
If Micah were trying to spark a revolution, this would be a good example of what we call focoism:
The belief that small cells of armed revolutionaries can create the conditions for revolution through their actions. Demonstrated revolutionary victories, the successes of the foci, are supposed to lead the masses to revolution. Focoism often places great emphasis on armed struggle and the immediacy this brings to class warfare. Focoism is different from people's war in that it doesn't promote the mass line as part of guerrilla operations.
It is difficult for us to know Micah's goals and intents without having been there and spoken with em. Regardless of eir intents, the outcome of the actions ey took serve as ammunition for the oppressors to continue oppressing. For them, it is much easier to gain (even more) public opinion and sympathy when they are able to point at specific incidents of a member of a movement "mercilessly" gunning down pigs. Remember that the majority of people in power are already on their side.
While revolutionaries and many in the oppressed nations know that Micah's actions were an act of self-defense, white politicians and leaders will never see it that way. As a Federal prisoner wrote to us: "President Obama called what happened in Dallas Texas 'A Vicious, Calculated, Despicable ATTACK!'" In their eyes, violent actions taken against a pig (or pigs) can never be considered self-defense, especially when the "offender" in question is non-white.
At this point, standalone violent actions such as this one serve to incite the government to act with more urgency against those who they perceive threaten them, and allow them to place themselves ever more in the role of "victim," and to place the oppressed in the role of "aggressor."
Violence is a very necessary part of effecting any kind of true change that puts an end to imperialism, but there is a time for it, and that time is not now. Our focus now is on educating and organizing ourselves, so that we are better able to organize those who already see things as we do. It is important to consider what someone with a drive like this could achieve over a lifetime of work.
A contributor in Maryland wrote:
"One of the DJs said one of the solutions was for us to just comply with the pigs no matter what when confronted in the streets by them. Basically, don't dare challenge master. But there can be no change without challenge. Why do we continue to lay down?... The white supremacists of this land have taken up refuge behind the badge. They can never be rooted out. Not by Obama, or anyone else. Remember they got a 200 year head start on us."
While it is true that there can be no change without challenge, it is also important to remember that not all challenge enacts change. The pigs in no way deserve respect, compliance or gratitude. And it's true that they won't be rooted out without taking down all of the imperialists first. However, to challenge them now militarily serves to get the wrong people killed and give more instances for the oppressors to point at and say "Look! Look at how irrational and violent they are! We need to give the police more power, for our protection!" The oppressors will always try to paint the oppressed as the villian; we can never avoid this accusation altogether. But we need to look at the balance of forces and ask, in spite of this rhetoric, if we have enough public opinion in our favor that our armed struggle will have enough support to be successful. Suicide missions like Micah's make armed struggle look futile, so we should avoid them until we know we wan win. Even those who have reverence for what Micah did probably wouldn't do it themselves.
Look at the Black Panther Party, and what happened with them. The BPP openly carried guns as a demonstration of potential power, without engaging in focoist actions. But still the Amerikkkan imperialists struck back agressively with guns, drugs and imprisonment, leading to the eventual downfall of the group. We can only expect even more agressive attacks in response to use of the gun. The time for armed struggle is when the fight can be won. Right now, we're not close to that point.
This battle is a good example of why we need a vanguard party to lead the revolutionary struggle, including the armed struggle to take down the imperialists. It also provides some insight into just how hard the bourgeoisie will fight to maintain their position of power. Even after they are defeated militarily by the majority of the world's people we can anticipate that former bourgeois individuals and their lackeys in the police and military, as well as new people who aspire to wealth and power, will not immediately become cooperative and productive members of society serving the people. For this reason we need to think beyond the military battle and into the structure of society after capitalism is overthrown. This is why communists believe we must have a dictatorship of the proletariat under socialism while we undertake the long transition to a society where no groups of people have power over other groups of people. It is tempting to take up the gun now and fight back a death for a death, but we want to build a world where all people contribute productively to the betterment of humynity, and that will take a lot more than the death of a few cops.