There are two important tasks which imprisoned revolutionaries need to carry out. The first is to build public opinion for revolution. The second is to survive their imprisonment long enough so as to ensure a lasting impact on the revolutionary movement long after their release. For those not getting out, it's important not to give up, as your contributions to oppressed peoples' movements are still very meaningful. It is from these concrete classrooms that some of the most dedicated revolutionaries emerge, returning to their communities after years in prison. Therefore the need for political instructors to train these students is dire. As such, survival pending revolution should be an important part of any comrade's focus while imprisoned.
Survival pending revolution can mean figuring out how to navigate everyday prison politics in a manner acceptable to the prison masses. At its most basic this can mean doing no harm in the masses' eyes. Ultimately, the prison movement is a mass movement. How can we lead a mass movement if the prison masses cannot trust us because we are actively working against their own righteous interests? How can we claim to stand for liberation if we are responsible for oppressing others? In our interactions with the prison masses we must be like fish swimming in the sea, not only blending in with our environment, but becoming one with our environment.
The anti-imperialist prison movement is a mass movement, but if we don't have the support of the masses then we don't have anything. This is an important point that real revolutionary organizations have understood from very early on. The Chinese Communist Party understood this and so they created an eight point program which helped to address the needs of both cadre and masses within the wider scope of revolutionary practice. Decades later the Black Panther Party would incorporate this same program into its organization, re-working the points to the BPP's specific conditions:
Pay fairly for what you buy.
Return everything you borrow.
Pay for anything you damage.
Do not hit or swear at people.
Do not damage property or crops of the poor, oppressed masses.
Do not take liberties with women.
If we ever have to take captives do not ill-treat them.
Because prison can be such a violent place and communists are supposed to stand against oppression, comrades associated with the prison movement should make it a point to be best known as peacemakers rather than agitators, unless of course they are dealing with injustice at the hand of the oppressors. As such, the likelihood of injury is significantly higher amongst prisoners when compared to people on the streets, with one report citing that more than a quarter of state and federal prisoners report being injured since admission to prison.(1) These figures however do not account for prisoners who do not report injuries, so the real number is definitely higher.
Another common cause of injury in prison, which is often overlooked and under-reported, is the violence associated with prison sexual assault. According to Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) reporting, more than 1 million people have been sexually assaulted in prison over the past 20 years.(1) That's an astonishing 50,000 people a year every year for the last 20 years! Again this estimation by PREA is likely under-reported. Prison rape is important to prevent, not only for the obvious reasons but because with sexual assault in prison comes "an increase in other types of violence, including murder, involving inmates and staff, and long lasting trauma which makes it even more difficult for people to succeed in the community after release."(1, 2)
When it comes to substance abuse virtually all prisoners are addicted to something. Statistics show that 80% of prisoners abuse drugs or alcohol and that nearly 50% of jail and prison inmates are clinically addicted.(3) "Four of every five children and teen arrestees in state and juvenile prisons are under the influence of alcohol and drugs while committing their crimes, test positive for drugs, are arrested for committing an alcohol or drug offense, admit having substance abuse and addiction problems or show some combination of these characteristics."(3) This last point is very relevant to the lumpen in prison and lumpen youth because most prisoners started doing drugs and alcohol at very early ages, generally around the same time they start breaking bourgeois laws and getting into trouble. A hundred and fifty years ago social scientists like Marx and Engels started theorizing that breaking bourgeois laws was just another way for oppressed people to rebel against their oppressive conditions. Needless to say that this form of rebellion was not very effective, but it is as Frederick Engels termed "revolution in embryo."
It is interesting that much of adolescence is spent in almost continuous rebellion, as this is generally the stage in humyn development when people begin to become conscious of the world around them in ways not experienced before. The fact that lumpen youth engage in criminal behavior at such an early age says a lot about the ways certain groups in society begin to exhibit early signs of what can only be described as an early group, or class, consciousness. This is important to note because it shows that the lumpen realize where their place in society under capitalist rule is, and they actively begin to figure out how to fit in it.
The real take away here, however, is that many people who currently find themselves in prison first learned to survive and fit into their oppressive social environment by both developing and adapting many negative behaviors as a way of seeking positive reinforcement within negative situations. Unfortunately for the oppressed this positive reinforcement came at the expense of reinforcing negative behaviors which has of course landed them in prison. Learning to combat such negative behaviors means having to unlearn many of the traits that were previously thought socially acceptable and necessary. In essence, this means learning to undo and working against the lumpen lifestyle. A lifestyle that is not only characterized by violence, alcohol and drug abuse, but by anti-people activity in general. As dialectical materialists however we are confident that the oppressed nation lumpen can learn to combat such negative character traits using the methods of unity-struggle-transformation.(4) The hope of the oppressed internal nations depends on it.
From this end of the bend the only subject relevant to prisoners in regards to the early Black Panther Party (BPP) is the party as a Maoist organization and how prisoners should apply the teachings of the early Panthers to free themselves - resisting the foolishness of the late personality cliques capitalizing off of the party’s reputation. What is most important is getting to the truth between the legacy of the BPP and what it was that the founders were really getting at. What role, if any, do later groups play in keeping the vision alive? And how is it that prisoners should use these lessons in these later years of anti-imperialist prison organizing efforts?
Many New Afrikan lumpen organizations inside prison take their plays directly from the playbook of early BPP members while never truly crediting the party for its works. This in turn creates further confusions between the Lumpen Organization's (LO's) followers and former members of the authentic movement. Others within U.$. prisons are charismatic individuals working hand over hand with the bourgeois nationalist organizations, spreading misinformation about the BPP.
Recently PBS ran a piece on a program called Independent Lens that documented the history of the Black Panther Party. As expected it was as watered down as the bourgeois press and media felt it could get away with.(1) Several of the prisoners housed on this facility burst at their seems with inspiration of the works of the Black Panther Party. It was information that they felt they should have known, being they are Afrikans.
Other BPP images being portrayed on this 50th anniversary year include one specific article written by a charismatic imprisoned individual that went on and on about Huey P. Newton, a co-founder of the Black Panther Party, and not on how prisoners should learn from the early lessons of Newton, applying their lessons of political education in the struggles of today.(2) And probably the most noticed recent portrayal of the Panthers came in the form of sexual media, with Beyonce and eir Super Bowl 50 performance. Capitalizing off of the history of the Black power era, Beyonce adorned eirself and eir backup dancers with black leathers, black boots and black berets. Prisoners should question the significance of Black Panther costume jewelry and make-up versus scientific relevance inside U.$. prisons.(3)
Very few prisoners appreciate the political significance of the difference between the early BPP and the late BPP. This is the reason so many prisoners crowd towards movements that appear authentic and genuinely interested in liberation struggles. The masses are presented with ideas of Black, Brown, red, yellow and white power by superstar groups like #BlackLivesMatter, but prisoners have very few tools of independence to combat the misinformation spewed by these bourgeois nationalist organizations and their personalities. Movements built on single issue organizing, swabbing the support of the populations using identity politics, do a disservice to the oppressed, depriving them of the truth.
The Black Panther Party held the correct line in its early stages, and because of this it was rewarded with the support of the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates, the majority being lumpen youth. In its early years the BPP was truly independent, concentrating on its services to Blacks, at a time when the term Black was just as independent as the party. So the organization was able to operate in a loose way within the First World. The early party took its science from a variety of teachings, from the Pan-Afrikan movement to the Chinese communist movement, Lenin’s Russia, Stalin’s theory of nation, and Mao’s People’s War. Mao influenced much of the Black Panther Party’s position as a structured organization. The early members had a very real practice of materialist solutions provided to those in the same environment suffering under conditions of class indifferences, national isolation and gender extinction. They did not believe in struggling against a system while at the same time becoming liberated by the very same system they struggled against.
The prison personality contest conflicts become prominent, with prison identity politics valued above the peace that independence-building projects bring to a self-reliant and self-determined people's anti-imperialist prison movement. Too many prisoners and prison LOs see the end of their individual suffering at the expense of exploiting entire prison populations. MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within (USW) see it differently as we define in the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) principle of independence. Independence is building our own institutions and programs independent of the united states government and all its branches, right down to the local police, because this system does not serve us. By developing independent power through these institutions we do not need to compromise our goals.
The Black Panther Party prioritized the momentum of the people in its early years because of the line and position it had on Maoism. The BPP transitioned for some time to a level above many of the revisionist and liberal bourgeois nationalist organizations of the late sixties and was able to attract some of the most progressive members of the lower class, that many now refer to as the First World lumpen. The Panthers at this time studied history from the perspective of dialectical materialism, in contrast to the methods of metaphysics and idealism, and had a clear program that was being adopted by various sectors of the masses across the United $tates. They applied practices that included designing programs that required members to perform services for the community at large, from education to self defense. The services of the Black Panther Party reflected its line in such a way that it was mandatory that members knew the rules of the BPP, the 8 points of attention and the 3 main rules of discipline, off the top of their head. The early Panthers were really on point.
It is in the later stages of the party’s existence that things began to take a turn as a result of the organization shifting from its earlier positions on independence, self-determination and liberation in the interest of the oppressed. This shift occurred in 1970-71, and was marked by the development of the theory of “intercommunalism” by Huey P. Newton. With the added pressures of government-launched campaigns to destroy the Black Panther Party, the party became split on every level one possibly could imagine.
Walking in the Panther Legacy Today
Since the demise of the BPP, though the movement never actually died, a wide gap has grown between the generation of Huey, George, Bunchy, Fred, Kathleen and Geronimo and the generation of Freddie Gray, Mike Brown and Sandra Bland. Since the Panthers, many organizations became infected with a type of Pantherism/inter-communalism fervor. These organizations hold that they themselves keep the work of the Black Panther Party alive, all the while erasing the Maoist politics of the BPP. See our article on the Black Riders Liberation Party for a discussion of another group confusing this legacy today.(4)
United Struggle from Within (USW) is a mass organization led by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons for prisoners and former prisoners in the United $tates. USW is made up of various political prison activists struggling against their oppressive conditions. We are part of an ongoing struggle against the imperialist state to liberate ALL peoples, not only the select few who have made themselves popular at the expense of the people. While USW seeks immediate goals to improve prison conditions, it does not lose sight of the ultimate goal of national liberation and ending imperialism.
"There are two kinds of nationalism, revolutionary nationalism and reactionary nationalism. Revolutionary nationalism is first dependent upon a peoples revolution with the end goal being the people in power. Therefore to be revolutionary nationalist you would by necessity have to be a socialist. If you are a reactionary nationalist you are not a socialist and your end goal is the oppression of the people."(5)
Like their parent organization, many comrades of USW see the Black Panther Party developed by Huey P. Newton as the Maoist vanguard of the United States in the late 1960s. The Black Panther Party grew so rapidly at that time that many of the new recruits and larger memberships had very little opportunity to establish a deep understanding of the political objectives of the party. A lack of political education allows political movements to be co-opted, infiltrated, and run into the ground by enemy line.(6)
USW learns from the Black Panther Party, its good, bad and ugly. Parallel to the method practiced by our parent organization MIM(Prisons), USW comrades apply righteous actions by righteous studies of logic and these are some lessons we take:
No investigation, no right to speak. USW will not misrepresent or misinform the masses.
Correctness of ideas assessed independent of who says them. USW does not engage in the persynality contest so popular in the United $tates and its prisons.
We do not give out information that the pigs could use to assess or destroy our movement. Fishing is a favored method amongst the agent provocateurs and their drones inside the belly of the beast. USW comrades have a clear definition of what a snitch, a rat and a pig is. We don’t use the terms loosely and never false jacket individuals, as our pledge to the United Front for Peace in Prison principle of unity requires.
Anonymity isn’t just about security, it’s also about teaching prisoners to think scientifically rather than follow the person with specific skin tone or hair style. USW must struggle against identity politics and the way it shall go about confronting it as its membership crosses paths with the prison lumpen organization leaders, with their cult-like followings, is in the most peaceful way possible, Under Lock & Key. This issue of ULK is a further advancement into serious dialogues between politically conscious prisoners and the masses. Prisoners as a whole must take from this history, from a Maoist point of view and decide what side they are on. The side of half truths,or the always evolving side of deep study and materialist dialectics.
As Sukant Chandan of Sons of Malcom put it, identity politics is doing the imperialist divide and rule for the enemy, by "focusing purely on individualistic frameworks and issues of oppression which overshadow or totally obliterate understanding, learning and support for Resistance of peoples against imperialism."(7) So just as the Panthers were not about costume jewelry and black berets, they were not about petty beefing and slights towards small groups of people.
So why are there so many groups inside prisons who claim to identify with the Black Panther Party but do not uphold Maoism? Their class loyalty is to the bourgeoisie and they refuse to accept the most scientifically designed methods of discovering concrete practices that elevate the peoples. Study Maoism, study proletarian internationalism, study the actual words of the Black Panther Party from the late 1960s.
by Alfredo Mirandé University of Notre Dame Press, 1987, 261 pages
This book analyzes [email protected] under the U.S. criminal injustice system and exposes how the U.S. has used the kourts in order to solidify our national oppression.
This national oppression is traced from the 1800s and shows how the kourts have always been a major part of this oppression. Mirandé correctly notes how the difference between the "Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo" (which was supposed to codify [email protected]' rights to homes and lands which many held for hundreds of years) and treaties between tribal nations and Amerika is that [email protected] never acquired sovereignty as a nation.
Mirandé notes how in the 1800s when [email protected] resisted oppression they were called "bandits" whereas when the oppressor nation resisted they were called "heroes." I would add that today when [email protected] resist we are called "gang member", "prison gang member" or "street terrorist" rather than the correct word: "revolutionary."
I did learn some things, for example the [email protected] revolutionary Juan "Cheno" Cortina who rose up in Texas and occupied Brownsville actually proclaimed it the "Republic of the Rio Grande." The fact that even in the 1800s [email protected] saw the reality of a [email protected] nation is a beautiful thing.
Mirandé talks about the barrioization and how "through isolation Chicanos became almost invisible."(p. 29) Oddly even today some groups like RCP-USA continue this tradition where [email protected] are "invisible." Just take a look at their newspaper, where in the last ten years the word "Chicano" has graced their pages around two times!
Entire chapters discuss the mistreatment of [email protected] by law enforcement, and although [email protected] are targeted by the pigs, solidifying our oppression, this will not be educational nor enlightening to [email protected] who experience it first hand. Perhaps [email protected] will get more from reading about it, or maybe [email protected] who have not yet connected this oppression to our existence under a colonizing force will be helped to connect the dots.
There is mention of "Chicano gangs" out in the street and in U.S. prisons which I found interesting, but the best part of this book was on the [email protected] nation as an internal colony. Starting on page 219 Mirandé lists 8 tenets of internal colony theory. I thinktenet 6 is most felt by prisoners. It is as follows: "The subordination of internally colonized groups is not only economic and political but cultural as well. The dominant group seeks to render their culture dependent and to eradicate their language, thereby facilitating control of the colonized group."
The fact that in California prisons we can be validated as "prison gang members" for speaking certain Spanish words shows that prisons are a major tool in the internal colonization process.
Mirandé addresses Marxism, which relies on all the working class or "all workers against the capitalist class." Ey states that Marxists oppose the "internal-colony" thesis. While this is certainly true for pseudo-Marxists and revisionists, Maoists today in the belly of the beast see national liberation as a necessary component in liberating today's [email protected] nation. And even back in 1987, the most advanced Maoists already understood that the vast majority of workers within U.S. borders are not revolutionary. Perhaps Mirandé should check out contemporary Maoists within U.S. borders and see how it's not just possible to uphold national liberation struggles and be communist but it's necessary for today's internal semi-colonies.
Those just learning about [email protected] national oppression will learn from this book and it will be enjoyable to others in making that link of oppression between the kourts and our nation.
I received the information on the study group/cells which I go over several times a night, then engage my neighbor here in Ad-Seg/SHU in good conversation. At times others quit talking, and conversation don't resume until directly after I am forced to sit down after standing on cold hard concrete a few hours. I have severe nerve damage from diabetes as well as this cement box environment. But I do hit the door at least 4 times a day to continue or expand the topics I read in past issues of ULK I have, or the more recent materials you have sent like "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" and "Commitment is the Key." I have got two young men reading many of my past issues of ULK that I have received from you and inherited from others over the years.
Forming an actual study cell on this 14-man section of the pod is hit and miss. The Security Threat Group Office has a very broad but vague description of who and what constitutes an STG member/group. And this being a highly militarized zone in central texa$ with Ft. Hood and an Air Force base nearby; many who discharged or were drummed out come to work here, with severe cases of hate toward prisoners in general. A few target anyone deemed anti-american or anti-capitalist.
What I see are quite a few who support the xenophobic racist Trump, even a few people one would not expect such as several black and mexican officers! I do not capitalize their race/color or call them New Afrikans or [email protected] because they are not to me, supporting a vile individual like Trump. I have attempted to find out why they support him. It's the rhetoric he spews that they believe in. More jobs, make america great, stronger military presence overseas, etc. Because of my reaction and comments I have lost meal trays come slop time, or been "forgotten" for medical lay in, rec or even shower time. Even my mail gets misplaced for days or given to the wrong person on another section!
Oh, an update on medical co-payment in texa$ and University of Texas Medical Board (UTMB) Healthcare. As of 1 February 2016 TDC prisoners are not charged medical copay for the dentist UNLESS it is for teeth cleaning. So texas comrades let it be known on your facilities. This came directly out of the mouth of UTMB Dentist of the Year for 2016 quoting the director of texas healthcare in TDC and the director of TDC dentistry.
As of April 2016, I am currently battling a new TDC move on medical copay. If you do win your initial grievance Step 1 or Step 2, they now go back on your records previous 24 months and look for things to charge for that were overlooked the first time. I have a grievance filed specifically countering that. When I hear a response I will inform all my comrades at MIM(Prisons).
MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this comrade updating us on the medical copay campaign, and we are not surprised that TDCJ is going back thru medical records to see what they can charge for. It's just another example of the eternal dead end of reformism. As revolutionaries, we work on reforms presently so we can lay the groundwork for our more broad political organizing. We recognize the need for a complete change in the system that capitalizes off of humyn suffering, and we are always striving toward this goal.
Subscribers should keep sending us updates on the several campaigns we are supporting all across the United $nakes.
Peace from the Gods! We salute the world with universal greetings of peace. We recognize the need for unity-criticism-unity. We only want to build upon the "actual facts" Wiawimawo built upon concerning Islam and New Afrikans. We have found that concerning so-called revolutionaries scientific approach towards New Afrikans and Islam one must first define, then science out the rest for the sake of peace and the absence of confusion. A New Afrikan is a young, poorly educated, superstitious, disillusioned Black person fed up with the slow legal process, who takes up a militant stance against the lack of equality of opportunity and treatment in the United States according to E. David Cronon, a Marcus Garvey biographer who wrote Black Moses. Islam is and always will be peace. There is no "I" in Arabic, so Islam is As-Slaam, root word slm, which is peace. A deaf dumb and blind would use the so-called translation of submission to the will of Allah as the defining of Islam. These are the Facts! Peace is one of the reasons we salute Under Lock & Key.
Wiawimawo has taken a few fragments of information and stretched them to fit a particular line. In the article when he [sic] uses citation 10 from Knight's book, he leaves out the part that states "in turn some[emphasis ours - Legion] Five Percenters replace 'understand' with York's 'overstand' (itself grafted from Rastafari) in regular conversation..." We feel as if to make a point the comrade can't defend a poorly constructed argument, so a blanket statement is made. That's like us saying the Maoist let the Black Panther Party get massacred and laid it down during the COINTELPRO stings.
In citation 11 about the Gods, Black Muslims and Rastafarians in cahoots to kill suspected dope dealers was a cover-up the NYPD manifested to cover up the fact they had ten unsolved murders on the books along with the assassinations of various so-called Black messiahs. On pages 248-252 of In the Name of Allah Vol. 1 you'll find the full history of the situation. The NYCPD, NYPD and FBI tried to cause yet another "civil war" between the Gods and Black Muslims. The NOI was cleared and NYC Mayor Lindsay put Barry Gottehrer to the task of clearing up the confusion.
Five Percenters are doing what no other LO or nation has the ability to do with regard to citation 13, and have been since before 1970. ["In the later 1970s the Five Percenters recruited whole street gangs into their fold whose members accounted for a significant portion of the arrests in Brooklyn during those years.(13)" - Wiawimawo] We are nation builders. It's what we do.
This line about civic duty and spirituality is another stretch. The Five Percenters main brain function is pulling people out of the mud with proper knowledge of self. Spirit as defined in Funk and Wagnalls dictionary is the part of the human being characterized by intelligence, personality, self-consciousness, and will; the mind. We live on actual facts every day in every way. No spook in the sky is ever going to feed us or you. It's in the lessons.
We must point out that Allah (the Father) was never close friends with Malcolm X. The Father stayed away from the beef between X and Elijah. The people come first. The strength of a nation before money is the youth. Malcolm X let the lime light get himself killed. We respect the intent, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. People also seem to forget Malcolm X was a UNIA Mason before Elijah, before his brother told him about Islam. So his ability to do for self was in his political make up anyways.
The difference between allegory and myth are exponential. A myth is used to explain a natural phenomenon, while allegory is used to represent characters and events as ideals and princples. To discount the Yacub theory is to discredit any and all efforts made by Maoists, whom use dialectical materialism to present solutions to problems faced by the masses. We are tasked with learning the science of everything in life. So we tend to look listen and observe through an independent lense. If one is a scientist then you are a religionist. If you are not then you really aren't living the life of a scientist (i.e. devoted).
Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: Thanks to Legion for eir feedback and corrections. Legion pointed me in the right direction for research on this topic, but is much more knowledgeable on the history than i. There is an interesting problem that we face as we attempt to lay out the history of most LOs when there is little documentation, and primary sources are mostly stories and the (subjective) memories of certain individuals. Much of the research in Knight's book is admittedly unverified and presented in a very loose form.
My citation 10, on Rastafari's influence on the NGE was flimsy on it's own. But i do believe the influence is greater than the use of one word, for example in terms of diet and dress (of some Five Percenters, not all). And the bigger point i was making still stands, that the NGE is a uniquely New Afrikan organization that reflects the history of the nation via movements including Rastafari, UNIA, MSTA, NOI, hip hop and lumpen street organizations.
We agree with Legion that the allegory of the white man as the devil is useful. However, it seems clear that it was taught as historical scripture by many. As a white researcher of the history of these organizations, perhaps Michael Knight gave it special attention. But it is at least one of the major issues that caused Malcolm X and Wallace Muhammad to split with Elijah Muhammad. So its unscientific aspect has made it divisive among New Afrikans at times, and the story of Yacub has never been the mythology of the majority of the nation.
As discussed in the original article, idealist philosophies usually differentiate between the material world and the spiritual one. Such philosophies are "dualist." Communists are monists, as we do not believe there is a mind or spirit that is separate from our material bodies. By working to transform society we address both the material and the so-called spiritual needs of the people. Above Legion seems to see the NGE similarly. Even the NOI has in its founding ideology a "do-for-self in this world" line, yet the NOI philosophy is clearly religious. As i argue in the original article, the NGE represents a move towards materialism (and therefore monism), but certainly in its founding ideas there are many parallels to the NOI. Finally, we do not agree that a scientist is a practitioner of religion; as we define in my original article, religion "is idealism with organized rituals." Legion's insistence on merging science and religion seem to demonstrate that there is still some level of disagreement between us there.
by a California prisoner March 2016 permalink[In January 2016, MIM(Prisons) received a report from a comrade in Kern Valley State Prison stating that the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) had been broken there. The incident included an attack by one group, and retaliation by another group against others not necessarily involved in the original attack. The original attackers reportedly ran to the state for protection. The prospects for peaceful resolution were not great. In response to this report, a comrade now working as part of the Free Speech Society sent us this update on efforts to reconcile the conflict in line with the AEH.]
All power to the people who do not fear real freedom!!!
In the aftermath of two small-scale race-based "isolated" incidents that occurred on B-facility in January of 2016 at Kern Valley State Prison, the Free Speech Society was able to successfully initiate a conflict resolution committee as a part of the inmate advisory council (IAC) that has been established at this prison.
The conflict resolution committee ensures the de-escalation of potential conflicts between various groups/formations on B-facility. As it constitutes a body of like-minded individuals that is both representative of the totality of the various groups/formations on B-facility, but also capable of resolving potential or actual conflicts in a responsible, positive, and expeditious fashion. In the past, Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) administrators, which is inclusive of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) headquarters in Sacramento, California have made errors in one form or another, by failing to ensure the engagement of the primary stakeholders that are representative of those groups/formations actually engaged in a conflict, nor has there been a body of "like-minded" individuals specifically tasked with resolving potential conflicts before they mature into actual hostile-based conflicts, whereby unnecessary disturbances become manifest, which jeopardize the safety and security of both prisoners and staff.
Per Departmental Operations Manual (DOM) 53120.5.3 (viz. "Special Concern Sub-Committee") the KVSP B-facility Men's Advisory Council will enact the Conflict Resolution Committee (CRC). The CRC is convened for the sole purpose of resolving potential and actual conflicts on B-facility whenever and wherever they occur, and effectively articulating these resolutions to the entire prisoner population, with special attention given to the groups/formations in conjunction with the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH).
Because appropriate representation is essential to the resolution of conflicts in an effective and responsible manner, the composition of the CRC will reflect prisoner representation from each specific group/formation who will in turn be responsible for engaging and positively resolving any subdivisions in these groups.
A basic outline of the CRC representative body will consist of a representative from each of the following groups/formations:
Bay area Blacks
Because of the sensitive nature of this special concern sub-committee, the CRC must have access to the units on B-facility, per approval of the facility captain. The daily activities of the CRC are designed to increase dialogue across cultural lines of every formation/group to promote a stronger foundation upon which issues can be put forward and resolved in a constructive manner. Communication and timing are essential components to preventing conflicts before they mature into hostile-based conflict. Therefore, CRC members must be able to talk to who they need to, when they need to. Our objective is to be proactive in resolving potential and/or actual conflicts within the general population. All prisoners are encouraged to relay any and all potential conflicts to the CRC so they can be resolved in an expeditious manner. The function and activities of this committee shall be to ensure equal and effective representation of the entire general population in the resolution of potential and actual conflicts on B-facility. The entire CRC body will abide by the by-laws of the Inmate Advisory Council (IAC).
MIM(Prisons) responds: What started as a report on the breaking of the AEH at one of the largest California state prisons, has been turned around to a testament of the practical work of the AEH. The release of comrades from SHU is at play here in ensuring that the AEH is upheld by the prison masses in a way that addresses the needs of the masses.
In short order, comrades at KVSP have put to work the tools at hand to address the contradictions among the people there in a practical way. This is an example that should be followed and repeated throughout the state and the country. All that said, in the long run we must caution against depending on institutions of the state to meet the needs of the oppressed. Conflict is not the natural state of the oppressed, it is created. And the history of CDCR is one of utilizing, encouraging and even creating divisions among the prison masses for its own interests.
When the Short Corridor Collective asked the CDCR to distribute the statement calling for an Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH), that was a correct tactical approach to working with the state. When the CDCR refused, it still strengthened the cause of peace and unity among the oppressed. In a recent essay a USW comrade lays out the history and current reality of the MAC/IACs in California prisons.(1) While their formation was based in the strength of the prison movement, they have since been used to undermine the movement, as the comrade argues, as a sort of neo-colonial force akin to U.$. foreign policy abroad. Meanwhile, another comrade in Pelican Bay who has been struggling to build peace reports that attempts to work within the MAC and within an approved Inmate Leisure Time Activity Group have both resulted in increased harrassment by staff who see unity as a threat.
Again, we commend the comrades at KVSP who have utilized the tools available to them to address a very dangerous situation, and we offer our support in those continued efforts. But we recommend that all those attempting to build peace in prisons study the 5 principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Independence is one of those principles, because without independence the masses do not have the ability to make decisions for themselves and provide real solutions.
An incarcerated mind is a waste
If all you do is watch TV and take up space
Open your mind that the real rat race
Is believing in something wrong
If society can't seem to get along
With those of us who choose to stand strong?
Take pride if you don't fit in
Now you are ready so let's begin
Allow me to introduce you to this struggle
This campaign against capitalism
One can't do it alone
We must come together
And build the corner stone
Of this new order
Complete with revolutionary tones
We must become equal
The conflict between our people
Is a mistake
This separation is what "they" count on to keep us oppressed
The continuation of our suffering only persists
If we don't resist
So I ask the reader to take a stand
And see things for what they truly are
And not this fantasy land
We can have our own weapon so stop being complacent
Seek and find
The potential of a unified people
What we can create from these ruins of a slave nation
Unlock, break the binds
Of an incarcerated mind
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 $5.00 since 1978, never being adjusted per the inflated dollar.
As such, I intend to commence a petition campaign directed at State Senator John Whitmire, State Committee on Criminal Justice, demanding not only that the 5x5 weekly indigent correspondence regulations be reimplemented, but that the standard of indigence required be adjusted to reflect a realistic inflated dollar. So fly this by your grievance writers and gauge their thoughts on the matter.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The reduction in indigent prisoner correspondence envelopes has a direct impact on prisoners' ability to stay in contact with family, fight legal battles, and engage in political education and organizing. The criminal injustice system wants to curtail these activities as a part of the goal of social control. As revolutionaries we support campaigns to expand access to correspondence, as we know this is critical to our ability to reach our comrades behind bars. We look forward to input from other grievance campaign participants about this new tactic in Texas.
Another campaign that is active in Texas is the right to access to a law library. We also recently learned that the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook has been banned across the Texas Department of Criminal Injustice as of October 29, 2015. Texas is continuing a long history of assault on oppressed peoples in that state, and the only way we're going to be able to overcome the new (and old) tactics developed (and re-instituted) daily is to overthrow the state apparatus that makes it possible. Obviously Amerikkka's government system has got to go.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
by Stanley Nelson
This film screened in major U.$. 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.
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.