Is there ever a time when we would unite with reactionary oppressor-nation lumpen organizations in a united front for peace in prisons?
This particular question is one that contains within itself a set of extremely complex issues concerning the ideology of these types of groups or organizations. It is only after we examine these issues that we can make an intelligent informed decision concerning this question of uniting with a reactionary-oppressor organization in prison.
We know that at their very core a large percentage of these groups are deeply rooted in their beliefs in Adolf Hitler and/or the Nordic Gods, or they are rooted in the distorted beliefs of so called "white Christianity"" (ie the KKK or the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian, etc.). All of their gods are considered to be extremely Aryan and will only deal with or help those who are white Aryan people unless it benefits them. Those who hold to the ideals of "white Christianity" have merely reconstructed the Holy Bible to fit their views of white supremacy. These white Christian organizations support those organizations who are neo-Nazi by nature.
The ideologies of both of these styles of organizations are centered around the philosophy of one being "white." Yet, you do find exceptions to this way of thinking. However, you generally discover that their mottos revolve around the principle of "if you ain't white, you ain't right." This ideology holds not only the connotation of the color of your skin is important, but likewise so are your ethical, moral, and religious beliefs. This, in itself implies that you are never going to be on an equal status with them.
These white nationalists live by a 14 word creed "we must secure the existence of our race and the future of white children." They likewise live by what they call the 88 precepts which create a vision of superiority for the white race.
Both morally and ethically the vast majority of white nationalist organizations find it extremely difficult to honestly and openly reach out to others with a spirit and agenda of true peace. This is due to the basic core of their beliefs that have been hammered into them since they were young. They have been taught to use other races, groups, organizations or individuals to gain their advantages for the betterment of themselves and once they are finished with them they simply jettison them and move on to their next victim.
Having presented the above to you the informed reader, I now remind you that we as individuals and a movement must never forget that the best method for change concerning these types of groups and organizations is to openly and honestly invite them to participate in the process for peace. If we diligently allow them to become actively involved in the process then perhaps their hearts and minds will be opened to the truth.
We must never let ourselves succumb to the way of thinking that we are better than others. We must steadfastly remain inclusive of everyone around us. Always remember that if we can affect one mind, just one heart, then indeed we have made a great step for all mankind.
Through slothfulness and unawareness we do surely die. Through strength, honor, courage and vigilance we surely do survive!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is an interesting commentary on uniting with white nationalist organizations because it comes to the same conclusion we have come to, but for different reasons. We agree that the United Front for Peace in Prisons can include reactionary organizations. It is true that sometimes through a united battle we can educate others and change their minds to a more progressive viewpoint. But we must be clear that we only unite with reactionary organizations when we have common goals and enemies, and when this unity might serve to push forward the battle with our principle enemy. Just as the Chinese communists allied with the Kuomindang in the war against the Japanese imperialists in spite of the Kuomindang previously attacking the communists and expressing significant disagreement, antagonism and aggression against the communists. At that time the principal task of the movement was to get the Japanese occupiers out of China. And the Kuomindang was an organization of Chinese nationals and so they shared this goal with the communists. Once that was accomplished the communists knew they would then need to fight the Kuomindang, but it did not make sense to divide the anti-Japanese forces and take on both battles at once.
Similarly we see our principal task being best advanced by building peace and unity among prisoner organizations so that we can all focus our fight on the criminal injustice system. This doesn't mean we expect white supremacist organizations to be won over to the side of the oppressed. But we can have principled unity with these organizations as we focus on a common enemy. We will not compromise our views or pretend to agree with them politically. And in this principled unity we may win over a few from the ranks of these white nationalist organizations who begin to see the correctness of our political positions.
To all comrades within the jurisdiction of the fifth circuit, there has been a victory ordering prison officials to maintain the temperature (heat index!) at or below 88 degrees in Angola's death row buildings. We have also filed to have our buildings cooled. The court has in so many words said that each prison must file separately in order to obtain relief.
Please read the case: Elzie Ball, et al. v. James M. Leblanc, et al. U.$. District Court for the Middle district of Louisiana, 988 F. Supp. 2d 639; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178557 Civil Action No.: 13-00368-BAJ-SCR. This is on order from Ball v. Leblanc, 792 F.3d 584, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 11769 (5th Cir. La. 2015).
It is important to note that the heat index is always much higher than the actual temperature. Let us have the courts order the pigs to cool us off, while they are heated up by having to spend $$ from a strained budget; who likes bacon!!!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is following up on the battle comrades have been waging against some seriously dangerous conditions in Louisiana prisons. There was a hunger strike in July to protest the deadly heat. Another comrade reported on deaths and threats to prisoners attempting to expose the conditions:
"On the date of 12 June 2016 an offender by the name of Lawrence Goodeau committed suicide due to the confinement and heat issue being so harsh. Upon David Wade authorities doing their investigation they made multiple threats to offenders after their investigation about them letting investigators know about the confinement and heat issue that we are currently in court for. There have been other deaths here at David Wade at the hands of authority that have been swept under the rug multiple times.
"At this point in time David Wade is under investigation for the cruel and unusual punishment by the Dept. of Corrections and other sources behind all of the violations by authority of David Wade. Right now offenders are at risk of a heatstroke because of the heat issue. The head Warden, Jerry Goodwin, who is now the regional Warden, has totally disregarded these issues as well."
Another comrade wrote to us recently about conditions at David Wade in the control units:
"All prisoners are housed in their cells 24-7 and get only one outside a week. All cells are approx 8x7 which do not meet ACA standards of sixty-four square feet of unencumbered space for prisoners....We do not have TVs or radios, nor access to any educational programming etc. We are limited to three books, and we endure eighteen hours of continuous bright light in the cells everyday, no exceptions! We must endure the elements of both cold and heat, with temperatures often times reaching triple digits. We are not provided any ice, and are forced to wear a heavy linen cloth jumpsuit from 5am to 4pm. All prisoners suffer the effects of the chemical agents that are used on us on a daily basis. Many prisoners are also placed on (strip cell) in a thin see through paper gown for thirty-day periods. During the winter months this is beyond torture."
It's clear that conditions in Louisiana prisons are dangerous on many levels. The heat problem is serious and we applaud these comrades for their success in this battle. They demonstrate the value of taking on the criminal injustice system through various channels: legal battles can sometimes (rarely) be won, but protests behind bars and on the streets will always help with these fights. These comrades also demonstrate another important practice: using these battles to educate others. Several Louisiana prisoners have been writing to Under Lock & Key with these regular updates on the struggle, using their work to expose the criminal injustice system and as a tool of education behind bars. We can use these battles to build unity and educate others on the systematic nature of imperialist oppression and the use of prisons as tools of social control.
This is a plea for help from all prisoners housed in Louisiana at David Wade located in Homer. This plea is for advocacy against the cruel and unusual conditions. No one in their right mind should let this suffering and these inhumane living conditions go on. The unconstitutionally tortuous conditions need to be stopped. This is solitary torture.
We have been fighting with hunger strikes and cutting ourselves trying to make DOC make some changes here in our living conditions. We also have over 10 of us in court on all the confinement issues in the 19th District Court in BR. LA Case #647-104. We are trying to make this a class action but we need counsel representatives to help and to make our voice heard outside these walls.
All prisoners are housed in their cells 24-7 and get only one hour outside a week. All cells are approx. 8' x 7' which do not meet ACA standards of sixty-four square feet of unencumbered space for prisoners.
Many studies have been conducted showing these conditions to cause extreme psychological stress and trauma due to prolonged isolation periods. There has been much activism done in several states about the conditions of confinement. But not here in Louisiana where Albert Woodfox did 46 years at this jail in one cell, and he won a court case on the confinement issue but not a thing has changed here.
It is past due for Louisiana to be recognized for oppressive and tortuous conditions imposed upon prisoners in this state. I would like to point out some significant differences between Louisiana and other states. Besides the similarities of torture and indefinite time done by prisoners, with no determinate criteria or programs for release or to get out of lock-down, we are living in far worse conditions. We do not have TVs or radios, nor access to any educational programming, etc. We are limited to three books, and we endure eighteen hours of continuous bright light in the cells everyday, no exceptions!
We must endure the elements of both cold and heat, with temperatures often times reaching triple digits. We are not provided any ice, and are forced to wear a heavy linen jumpsuit from 5am to 4pm.
All prisoners suffer the effects of the chemical agents that are used on us on a daily basis. Many prisoners are also placed on "strip cell" in a thin see-through paper gown for thirty-day periods. During the winter months this is beyond torture.
These are only a few of the many conditions imposed by this prison administration. All continue to suffer and as many are illiterate and unable to express or articulate themselves, I speak on their behalf. We need help! We need change! We need publicity to expose this torture!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is documenting conditions in the long term isolation units in Louisiana. This battle is part of our fight to shut down prison control units across the country. As this writer explains, these cells are physical and mental torture. The long-term effects can be devastating. Our incomplete data from the state of Louisiana indicates that there are over 1000 long-term isolation units in that state. And we know that solitary confinement is used as a tool of control for political activists, as Louisiana infamously held the Angola 3 (who had formed a chapter of the Black Panthers) in such conditions longer than any other U.$. prisoner, as the comrade alludes to above. Join this comrade in our campaign to expose and put an end to this torture!
In April the U.$. Treasury announced that Harriet Tubman will replace former President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. But not to leave Jackson out entirely, they said ey will be moved to the back side of the bill, along with the image of the White House. The treasury also announced that the back of the $10 bill will be redesigned to feature leaders of the movement to gain wimmin the right to vote, while Alexander Hamilton will remain on the front of that bill. And the back of the $5 bill will change to incorporate historic moments that took place at the Lincoln Memorial. These design changes will be announced by 2020, so we can't expect to see any new currency for a few years.
There was much debate about making changes to the U.$. currency, with many people calling for incorporation of at least one womyn after a history of only men featured on the bills. Yet the bills are actually a good representation of Amerikan capitalism and we see the incorporation of wimmin on this currency similar to the incorporation of wimmin in the military. It is not a feminist victory to gain greater representation in the most destructive imperialist power in the world. This will not eliminate the patriarchy or gender oppression. Nonetheless, the selection of a former slave for the $20 bill and suffragettes for the $10 bill is interesting because many in the suffragette movement opportunistically played to white nationalism, arguing to white men that they needed to give white wimmin the right to vote to balance out the potential political power of Black voters.(1)
Harriet Tubman was born a slave in 1820 and escaped to Philadelphia in 1849, subsequently devoting eir life to fighting slavery and guiding other slaves to freedom. Tubman died in poverty in 1913. Ey was a fierce New Afrikan guerilla who played an important historical role in defense of the evolving New Afrikan nation.(2) Tubman was such an important figure that eir existence has to be acknowledged by the dominant Amerikan nation. Yet, as in the decision to put Tubman's image on U.$. currency, Amerikkka tries to whitewash the details of Tubman's life and claim em as a hero of this imperialist country.
Ironically, the flip side of the $20 bill will continue to celebrate former President Andrew Jackson, a slave holder who died just a few years before Tubman escaped to freedom. President Jackson, along with the U.$. Congress at that time, was a strong supporter of slavery, basically refusing to take up any proposals that would abolish slavery. Further, Jackson supported mobs and postal workers intercepting abolitionist anti-slavery organizing, referring to these actions as "wicked attempts" to incite slave rebellion.(2) In eir home life, Andrew Jackson built up the Hermitage Plantation, primarily growing cotton, with the labor of slaves. It is estimated that Jackson grew this plantation from a 9-slave operation to over 150 slaves by 1820.
Jackson's legacy of support for national oppression went beyond supporting slavery. Ey was a military leader in the fight against First Nations in the early 1800s. Later, as President, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, forcibly removing several indigenous nations from their lands. The forced relocations, known as the Trail of Tears, led to 46,000 indigenous people relocated during Jackson's term, many of whom died from disease and starvation on the way to the destination.
While sprinkled with anarchist tendencies typical to the author, we recommend Butch Lee's biography of Tubman to people interested in the true history of this revolutionary activist.(3) If the growing New Afrikan defense movement accepts Tubman on the $20 as a positive step, then the ideological war for Tubman is being lost and more integration is the order of the day. More integration with Amerikkka is in direct opposition to the well-being of the majority of the world's people who suffer under imperialism, including New Afrikans.
Changing the faces on Amerikan currency won't change the reality of Amerikan imperialism. But the willingness of the Amerikan government to do this does reflect the extent to which integrationism is being used to keep the oppressed internal nations loyal to the empire. Yet cultural integration does nothing to address the fundamental national oppression that keeps imperialism extracting wealth from oppressed nations in the Third World. These people who generate wealth for Amerikan imperialism can never expect to see their faces on the money that is coming from their labor. This just reinforces the divide between First World and Third World, which will likely result in a very difficult transition from capitalism to socialism for First World peoples. Giving up the wealth of hundreds of years of plunder, and re-integrating into global society as productive human beings will be a long and difficult task for First World bourgeois and petty bourgeois people. We fully anticipate a long period of dictatorship over the First World by the Third World, enforcing a hard fought cultural revolution of re-education for the First World peoples.
The deeply appreciated efforts of MIM inspire me to see with a different view the same circumstances. Let's look at the current election:
Both candidates have an utterly failed platform. The Amerikkkan elections are about Amerikkkan hegemony; keeping Amerikkka the richest and most militant/violent nation on earth.
There is no revolutionary voice or worthy candidate. Have we heard anyone say "All the wealth of the world belongs to all the people of the world?" That's the revolutionary voice.
Have we heard any candidate say "The goal of humynity, including politics, is to solve the problems of hunger, lack of shelter, cure diseases and end oppression across the globe. Politics is NOT meant to exploit people beyond national borders or to see that we have 'more and better.'" If you heard such a speech you heard a revolutionary voice.
Have you heard a candidate say "This is my plan to assist other nations to work in harmony with us to end world hunger, child mortality, lack of medicine and education, and dire poverty. Some candidates speak of the upper 1%, but I'm here to tell you that if you live in the United $tates you are the upper 13%. It's past time for us to see all people as our family. The Haitian in the slum is your sister, my sister. The Nepalese man living in the street is our father. The infant who died in Bangladesh from a treatable fever is our daughter, yes, one of us humyns."
When you hear that voice, then vote. Until then, ignore the candidates and work together for the day when your political power comes from the barrel of a gun.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade nicely summarizes where our priorities should be as world citizens: focused on ending oppression for people suffering under imperialism around the world. We know that the capitalists will not peacefully give up the power they use to generate great wealth from the majority of the world's people. In fact, even after a communist revolution that seizes the government for the interests of the world's oppressed, we can expect that the former bourgeoisie, and even some new bourgeois recruits, will attempt to take back their wealth and power and they will need to be kept down with force until they can be re-integrated as productive members of society.
We call this phase of the revolution the Dictatorship of the Proletariat because it still involves a government with power over people, but that government is acting in the interests of the proletariat, unlike our current government which is really a Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie. There will be a long period of socialism while we remould society and our culture to educate people in treating others humanely and working for the greater good rather than for individual gain at the expense of others. During this process we can expect to see a new bourgeoisie attempt to take power from the proletariat, as their goal and culture will not disappear overnight.
We learn much from looking at the histories of the Soviet Union and China under socialism, both about this bourgeois counterrevolution and the cultural revolutions necessary to build towards communism. In imperialist elections we recognize that changing the face of the government doesn't change the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and we stay focused insist on overthrowing this dictatorship rather than adjusting the makeup hiding its evil face.
I greatly regret to have to inform you that my Under Lock & Key No. 51 (July/August 2016) was denied and appealed here on the unit level on 14 September 2016. That said denial was upheld on 3 October 2016. I look forward to each issue of Under Lock & Key and I already miss this one dearly.
I would like to inform you that I have tried several things listed in the Texas Pack but to no avail. As for the Offender Grievance Program/Administrative Remedies, there are no such things in existence. But what we do have is Administrative Criminal Victimization. I have written the U.S. Department of Justice concerning many issues and I get the same response letter every time. No help.
I've also tried going through the ARRM Division Administrator concerning the denial of a Step 2 grievance but got no response. I have also written to several of the contacts that are listed in the Texas Pack and have gotten no response from them either. I have also filed a Sworn Complaint with the District Attorney here in Coryell County and got no response.
You have educated me a great deal on how to stand when nothing else I have tried seems to work, and these people are not open to reasoning of any type. I just wanted for you to know that I haven't been sitting in here doing nothing after requesting the information that you have sent me to date. I am one of the very few that are willing to stand up for themselves when his or her Rights are being violated and here is the situation that you just have to understand: today's inmate/offender is broken. The State has broken the spirit of those that had one to begin with and they are content with the way things are and the way that they are being treated. And that, I am sorry to say, is a cold, hard fact.
In Solidarity, Spark Plug
MIM(Prisons) responds: The U.$. prison system has been somewhat effective at breaking the fighting spirit of people it deems threatening to the status quo, as this writer and many others in Texas attest. But our present system just can't help pushing the limits of how much it abuses people. In response to this abuse, new people are turned into revolutionaries every day. And once you know, you can't unknow. Texas comrades need to be there to direct the discontent into productive projects as it arises, lest these potential comrades fall to defeatism.
We knew going into it that the tactics in the Texas Pack are likely ineffective on an individual level. But some people have seen some relief, even though it's sporadic. An important aspect of this project is that everyone who signs up for a Texas Pack also gets a subscription to this newsletter. While they are seeking remedy through the administrative and legal channels outlined in the Texas Pack, they also have the opportunity to learn more about the reasoning behind the project, and the other campaigns United Struggle from Within and MIM(Prisons) are working on. Then through the pages of ULK we can develop our struggle on a broader scale than just filing grievances and writing letters. Keep on struggling! Keep your input coming!
In 2016, actions on and around the 45th anniversary of the historic Attica prison uprising were the most widespread we've seen. For the last five years, September 9 has been a day when comrades in the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) come together to commemorate Attica by fasting, striking, studying and building peace and unity for the anti-imperialist movement. The UFPP was initiated by a number of prison-based lumpen organizations across the United $nakes in 2011, with dozens of organizations and cells signing on to the statement since then. This year's activity was so great because another protest was also underway on September 9th in prisons across the United $tates. This one, initiated by the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) and promoted by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a project of the Industrial Workers of the World, affected at least 57,000 prisoners in 31 prisons where lockdowns or strikes lasted at least 24 hours.(1)
All of this comes on the heels of a summer in which we reported on the hunger strikes in Wisconsin, Ohio and Louisiana calling for an end to the torturous practice of long-term solitary confinement. In addition, a North Carolina hunger strike gained some concessions around mail censorship. These impressive displays of unity and activism are a good sign for the prison movement.
Events this September 2016 have been historic in themselves. As we continue our reporting on the Day of Peace and Solidarity, here we will highlight some of the events not led by UFPP signatories. The work strike and peaceful protest at Kinross Correctional Facility in Michigan was the largest incident the Michigan Department of Corrections has seen since 1981.(2) We had received a report from Hiawatha Correctional Facility in Michigan, which was also locked down on 9 September, though there were no actions there:
"Ever since 9am we have been on a lockdown. The comrades in Level II [most of the prisoners] in Kinross have done a protest because of the living conditions, the food, and no fans and heat, and this actually started on September 9. Prisoners walked out of their job assignments, so the unsecured Level I prisoners who work in the kitchen served the Level II prisoners brown bag meals."(3)
The action at Kinross started as a peaceful march of 500 people protesting conditions. After the prisoners had returned to their housing, 100 pigs attacked them with shotguns firing pepper spray.(4) This led to substantial property damage and Michigan DOC are now moving about 250 activists to higher security prisons to repress their protests.(5)
Holman Correctional Facility in Alabama was the origin of the work strike against "slave labor," initiated by the Free Alabama Movement. MIM(Prisons) has been cut off (censored) from Holman for some years now, despite attempts to reach comrades there. On September 1st a pig at Holman was murdered by a prisoner in an act of rebellion. The unsafe conditions led to staff going on strike while the prisoners were still on strike in late September. Many guards have since quit, leaving the camp short-staffed to manage the population. We have often pointed out that if there is one thing that pigs and prisoners might have unity on it would be safety. While often times the staff takes up the state's position that pitting the prisoners against each other is a good management strategy, this does take a toll on the sadistic pigs who do such things and sometimes the violence is turned on them. The CO must ask emself, do i really want to die over a plate of food? This is exactly what happened at Holman, where it is reported that striking COs notified FAM ahead of time and expressed support for their peaceful demonstrations against human rights violations at the prison.(6) This is a rare occurrence in the United $tates and speaks to the disfunctional status of the Alabama prison system.
In South Carolina, prisoners at Turbeville Correctional Institution reportedly fought back, gaining control of the prison for some hours. Triggered by an uppity pig, it came the day after a prisoner was murdered by staff.(6)
In California it's reported that, "Over 100 prisoners have gone on hunger-strike starting September 9th, demanding the firing of a brutal guard, access to basic food, and an end to solitary confinement at two county jail facilities in Merced, CA."(6) We do not have any contacts at either Merced County Jail. In recent years California has decentralized its prison system due to overcrowding in the state prisons, sending many people to local county jails. Overall, this has reduced the connectedness of the California prison population and made accountability more difficult. As these facilities are often less prepared to house the growing populations of long-term prisoners, we might expect conflicts there to continue to increase.
We are currently fighting an apparent ban on all mail from MIM(Prisons) to prisoners held at Chuckwalla Valley State Prison. The CDCR has not yet acknowledged an official ban, but rumors there are that it is a result of September 9th organizing.
A comrade in Pelican Bay State Prison in California sent documentation of censorship of mail from the IWOC because it included "Plans to disrupt the order." This comrade, along with others, began a hunger strike on September 9th. They submitted a list of demands signed by 12 prisoners on B-yard including oversight of rules violations, a wage increase, and a number of demands to improve conditions of the oppressed nations outside of prisons.
We should also mention a series of actions on the outside, in many cities, organized by those supporting the prison-led strikes to both attract attention to the strikes and to pressure the administrations to listen to the reasonable demands of the prisoners.(6)
In the last issue of ULK we discussed our lack of interaction with those in wimmin's prisons. It is worth pointing out that the one state-run prison in California that has reported participating in the work strike was the wimmin's prison at Chowchilla where a strike with full participation was carried out. Events over the last month point out that wimmin's facilities are not our only gap in coverage. We have long been aware of our lack of access in prisons that hold migrants because they are so segregated from the general population, often face more repressive conditions, and face a language barrier. On top of that there are whole segments of the men's prisons that we are not plugged into. Sometimes repression and censorship, like at Holman, can cut us off. And if mail is cut off to us, then people can fall off our mailing list quietly. This demonstrates the need for more volunteers to work with MIM(Prisons) to better focus our efforts regionally so censorship isn't allowed to persist due to lack of administrative capacity.
In California where county jails have suddenly become long-term prison facilities, and they are institutionally separated, USW comrades working on the inside to spread ULK and other materials can play an important role in reaching more populations.
While there are common threads that connect the whole criminal injustice system in this country, conditions vary from state-to-state and prison-to-prison. Because of how the government is structured, focusing on statewide organizing is important. That means identifying the principal contradiction within your state and developing campaigns that will mobilize the masses there. We expect states to have similar campaigns, but as we can see from the list of actions above, some populations are motivated by ending solitary confinement, others see a need to focus on breaking down divisions between prison organizations, others over mail censorship, and others over wages. We must assess what will move the masses, as well as what battles are strategic in gaining ground towards liberation.
We have great unity with those trying to demonstrate the continued national oppression of New Afrikans by Amerikkkans today, and demonstrating the historic linkages with slavery. However, when FAM says "The State and the [Alabama] DOC are profiting hundreds of millions of dollars off over the approximately 10,000 free labors who report to work each day inside of their prisons, to jobs in the kitchen, maintenance, runners, road squads, laundry, libraries and gyms, to stores and sandwich shops, yard crews, infirmaries and dorm cleaners etc." we have to disagree. How can the state profit off of prisoners preparing food for other prisoners when no money is exchanged for that food; when the food is paid for by the state itself?
It can be a good tactic for prisoners to engage in work strikes as that will impact the operations of the prisons: many do rely on prison workers to keep things running. And it certainly would increase the cost of incarceration if prisons could no longer use free (or super cheap) prisoner labor. But we shouldn't mislead people to think that prisons are profitable. They are a huge waste of government money! Money that the imperialists and the Amerikan people have agreed for decades now is well-spent. If we fool ourselves into thinking this is just about economics and not about national oppression and population control, we will end up on the wrong path.
We did not get much first-hand reporting on the actions inspired by FAM's call to end prison slavery. But it is inspiring to hear of all the organizing that has been happening lately. There's more going on than we can keep tabs on. This reinforces the need to expand the number of people working with USW and MIM(Prisons)! We need our volunteers to continue to step up. We need our released comrades to come out and support those left behind. We need comrades behind the walls to build independent institutions of the oppressed, and reach the broad masses so that all of these struggles can be better connected and we can continue to strategize to win!
by a North Carolina prisoner October 2016 permalink
As the comrade whom recently filed an civil case against NCDPS stated “there are no rights, only power struggles.” Currently a prisoner entrapped in the cages of North Carolina, I testify his comment as truth. Censorship within NC prisons has been expanded from safety examination to harassing and illegal.
Censorship has become as a tool to cover up the corruption, tyranny, and oppression. Not only outgoing and incoming mail, but also phone calls. When an incident of corruption occurs, these facilities will not allow prisoners to utilize commissionary to purchase stamps, envelopes, or paper. Following the stoppage of canteens, warehouse officers will cease the issuance of paper and envelopes for those of us who are indigent.
The continuous banning of ULK, and similar publications is a problem, but not our only problem. Those of us who are experiencing these conditions, we have to create a vanguard. And the comrades in Texas, California, and the like, we must create a voice. Where is the unity? Where is the solidarity. We have to construct a united front. It doesn’t only occur in North Carolina. Maltreatment of prisoners occurs all across Amerika. We must step up to cease these problems. Our sons, daughters, the future generations, we must fight so they aren’t subjected to these circumstances.
Censorship in North Carolina has risen to the point where it’s an impossibility for my loved ones to receive a letter. Censorship in North Carolina has elevated to the plane where legal documents are not reaching their intended destinations. NCPDS has become so oppressive to where there isn’t a law library in any correctional facility throughout the state.
NCPDS attempts to counter-attack, more appropriately worded as prevent, a rise of consciousness. The preventative measures began with stripping us of the tools which was used to enslave us: politics, economics, and jurisprudence. As the historic figure Fredrick Douglass wrote to Gerril Smith, the abolitionist, in his letter entitled "No Progress Without Struggle":
"The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions, yet made to the august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle, there is no progress."
Mr. Fredrick Douglass continues:
"Those who profess freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are he who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; it may be a physical one, or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand."
Is the prison industrial complex not the contemporary plantations? Are those of us who are locked away in the penal systems of Amerika, denounced, then deprived of their rights? Dr. John S. Rock, an accomplished physician and lawyer, who was the first New-Afrikan attorney admitted to the bar of the United $tates Supreme Court said, "The greatest battles which they have fought have been upon paper."
We are stripped of our rights according to their principles, laws, and constitution. North Carolina this is the time to support each other, to unite and form organizations, on the inside and outside to voice against the oppression. You are not alone. For all of those whom are oppressed, we have one common objective: to end it! Comrades, please aid your assistance by advice.
The first step is organizing!
One for all, all for one!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We previously reported in ULK 52 on a former prisoner's lawsuit against North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) for censoring Under Lock & Key. Since that article we have not seen any updates on this front.
In the meantime, Director of Rehabilitative Programs and Services Nicole E. Sullivan recently responded to our appeal of the censorship of ULK 51. In eir response, Director Sullivan acknowledges that ULK has a policy against violence and insurrection in our newsletter, ey still says peaceful protest when no other administrative avenue has provided any relief is a threat to safety and order. The real threat to safety and order is the deplorable conditions of confinement that prisoners in North Carolina and across the country are forced to live in. It seems Director Sullivan sees prisoners as inanimate objects rather than people.
As ridiculous as this response is, we need a lawsuit to get NCDPS to budge on its censorship of ULK in the short-term. Getting ULK into the hands of prisoners is one major way we work toward addressing the long-term problems of oppression that NCDPS is able to operate under.
Also as part of our long-term strategy, we need to go beyond Frederick Douglass and the "prison industrial complex" analysis. While Douglass did provide inspiration for many, when it was time to decide between New Afrikan self-determination and integration with Amerikkka, Douglass affirmed eir loyalty to empire and was even appointed U.S. Marshall of the District of Columbia. This was at a time when others, including Harriet Tubman, were organizing separatist movements and independent institutions for New Afrikans, post-Civil War.(1)
We oppose the line that prisons are set up for profit (the analysis of the "prison industrial complex") because not only is it simply not true that the prison boom is motivated by profit from prisoner labor, it also glosses over the primary purpose of prisons: to control oppressed populations.(2) When we have our historical analysis ironed out, we will be better able to take on our oppressors and win!
by a South Carolina prisoner October 2016 permalink
Within the last six months at this institution there has been at least one riot in the unit where I was housed, and several assaults by officers upon prisoners, which resulted in officers getting stabbed and/or beat up.
This particular institution has a long history of racism, oppression, and repression directed towards Blacks. In the past, it was basically one-sided, as far as the violence - only officers assaulting prisoners. However, that dynamic has changed drastically.
Needless to say, these people have been shipping prisoners to different institutions throughout the state. I haven't been shipped, but I've been moved a couple of times.
A little over a week ago there was almost a lumpen-on-lumpen situation, but some of the elders were able to obtain peace, since that particular situation I made it my personal responsibility to hold some classes to help educate these youthful lumpen on what it means to have unity.
I am also sad to inform you that on the September 9th Day of Peace & Solidarity there were several prisoners who stabbed each other up - thankfully none of them were killed. Since then, we have been mending the different fractures that exist among the lumpen organizations here; we've been using the ULK newsletters as tools to teach, education, and unite the various groups.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This was one of a couple disturbances that occurred in South Carolina on or around September 9th that were not actually part of either of the major countrywide organizing efforts made for that day. This goes to show how hostile conditions in the state are. We commend this comrade for making the most of the difficult situation. It is in times of strife that change can often come.
For the second time in about one month over 900 prisoners at River North Correctional Center were given piss tests. Now if a prisoner is causing problems that indicate drug abuse, it's perhaps reasonable to test him. But testing the entire prisoner population is a fishing expedition just hoping to catch someone.
Do the prison pigs have some admirable goal? No. They just catch people to make lives miserable by taking jobs, suspending visits, confining in seg, etc. If each test and lab fee is just $30 then the pigs spent over $54,000 in a month on the off chance they might get to punish someone for using drugs that were not prescribed.
For thousands of years humans have used mind altering substances. The "soma" of ancient India, the mushrooms of the Incas, peyote, opium, reefer, and alcohol are but a few examples. Only recently — within 100 years — have governments made the "drugs" illegal. What have these laws done to stop drug use and abuse? Nothing, as we see drug abuse at an all time high. These imperialist laws only target people, ruining lives with jail/prison while lining the pockets of the pigs with money for funding of the "war on drugs."
A few generations ago a community had cobblers and tailors, blacksmiths and silversmiths, lamp makers and other craftspeople. The cobbler knew the people and knew the kids had warm, dry feet due to his skill. The lamp maker knew she gave them light. Today, how many of our household items are made by people we know? Our shoes are made in a factory by a kid operating a machine at exploited wages. The store with neighbors who called us by name was an imperialist casualty, destroyed by greed.
Imperialism, with its global capitalism has destroyed us. Drug abuse is merely a convulsion before death. But you can be revived. You can join us in re-structuring our communities, our form of government, our lives. That's the call of revolution. Are you willing to die in order to feel alive? Let us use the things you make and let us make the things you need. In revolution every person has an essential part and there's no time for addiction or drug abuse.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We like this author's point about the waste of time that is drug abuse, and the reality that this abuse comes from the alienation fostered by capitalist culture. We sent some feedback to this author on eir first draft of this article because it took up an anti-corporate line that seemed to promote small scale capitalism rather than anti-imperialism. We know that we have much unity with this author and so suggested ey rewrite it. This rewritten version is an improvement but still we want to clarify that small scale capitalism is still capitalism. It is true that huge corporations are a product of imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. But we don't want to promote nostalgia for petty bourgeois businesses because that's a reactionary approach; trying to go back to another time. Another time that of course never really existed, since even the early days of capitalism were full of war, oppression, slavery and land grabbing. As this comrade explained, we need a revolution to restructure society, and when that happens we will be able to build a new society where people engage in productive labor, which benefits their community. But it will not look like the capitalism of a few generations ago. We will eliminate the system of profit-driven work, instead allowing all people to work for the betterment of society.
In the course of our discussion with this author over eir article ey correctly noted that Walmart will die when imperialism dies in North America: "Walmart exploits laborers around the globe and is a foundation of Amerikkkan imperialism with revenue that exceeds the gross national product of many small oppressed nations. Yet its foreign laborers are paid pennies per hour. Most of their products are from India (semi-fascist regime) and China (state sponsored kapitalism) where workers are exploited. Not patronizing Walmart and not purchasing products manufactured by exploited workers is an 'attack' or at least a 'stand' against imperialism. ... The corner deli or the local mom/pop shop isn't exploiting workers in any nation."
While this comrade is right that big corporations like Walmart are doing far more exploitation of Third World workers than small shops, we don't agree that the corner shop isn't exploiting workers in any nation. They are selling the same products or using the same raw materials that everyone else in the United $tates is selling/using: most of it comes from Third World labor at base. Most products in Amerikan stores are manufactured in other countries. So we shouldn't mislead people into thinking the stuff they buy in a smaller store is exploitation-free. Further, the companies that promote "Made in America" products are not off the hook. Many of them are still buying raw materials and machinery from labor in Third World countries and just assembling products in the United $tates. Finally, most of the U.$. economy is not even productive industries. The service and financial sectors employ most Amerikans, distributing the wealth within U.$. borders, exploited from other nations via trade and extraction of real goods. There is no way to escape participating in the economy of exploitation.
So we don't tell people to boycott Walmart because we don't want to mislead people into thinking that they are going to make a difference under imperialism by favoring one type of exploitation over another. If the exploited workers in another country initiated an action against Walmart (or any other corporation) and asked for our support with a boycott, that would be a different story because that is not Amerikan consumerism feeling good about itself by switching where we spend our ridiculous wealth. That would be internationalist solidarity for exploited people rising up against imperialism.