Prison administrators here in State Correctional Institution (SCI) Huntingdon have recently begun to deny all of the programming textbooks that have come in the mail for me, stating that the books contain writings which advocate, assist or are evidence of criminal activity, or facility misconduct. I am unable to properly appeal the publication denials to the facility's superintendent, who told me in person "You're not getting your fucking books." He told me that the decision by the Inmate Publication Review Committee (IPRC) is final, and his responses to my attempts to appeal publication denials reflect this statement. I am unable to use the facility grievance system to file complaints about my mail and incoming publications, which are meant to be handled some other way. I am unable to ask exactly what misconducts or crimes the books advocate, assist in, or are evidence of, and facility staff have been unable to specify.
I am writing to your organization to respectfully request any assistance, or information you may be able to provide which could help to right this wrong. These books are purely educational, and as such are entirely neutral. Disallowing them could not serve any legitimate penological interest.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter shows that education can never be "entirely neutral" under imperialism. Educational textbooks, while generally devoid of any progressive political content, still present a threat to prisons because of the opportunity they provide for educational advancement. Through this education prisoners may become more aware of the basis of the criminal injustice system and their own oppression, and it could lead them to seek out more revolutionary education. Keeping prisoners uneducated is a good way for the oppressor nation to maintain its privileged position.
Denial of books can also be used as punishment for a prisoner who is seen as a trouble maker. The fact that this comrade knows how to file grievances and is working to gain education may be the cause of these denials. Part of the system of social control in prisons is the use of arbitrary rules to contain prisoners who might be a threat because of their understanding of legal rights and their ability to fight for these rights.
For both of these reasons, instead of arguing about what constitutes "legitimate penological interests" we point out that the penological interest really being served by the Amerikan criminal injustice system is social control. Censorship is a key tool the prisons use for this end. And for this reason we focus some of our limited time and resources fighting against censorship. For this comrade we have provided a copy of our guide to fighting censorship. But what we really need, in many states across the country, are lawyers who can help us bring censorship cases to court to establish legal precedent. Of particular priority to us are those cases where the censorship is of explicit political material. Textbook denials like the one described above do happen, but they are far less common than the denial of Under Lock & Key and other revolutionary literature.
14 August 2015 — The long-awaited autobiographical story of NWA, Straight Outta Compton (2015), hit theaters tonight. The action-packed movie glorifies the evolution, and quick dispersal of what they billed as "the world's most dangerous group." While this was part of their hype, there was certainly some truth to the image NWA portrayed and the long-term impact that they had on music and culture in the United $tates. Produced by Ice Cube, with help from Dr. Dre and Tomica Woods-Wright (widow of Eazy-E), the film portrays the history of NWA through their eyes. While generally an accurate history, there are artistic liberties taken in the portrayal of certain events and what is left out.
A key theme of the film is the role of police brutality in shaping the experience of New Afrikans in Compton, particularly young males. There are multiple run-ins with police brutality depicted, and attention is given to the infamous beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and the subsequent riots in Los Angeles that deeply affected all members of NWA. The strong anti-cop message of the movie will resonate with audiences who have been unable to avoid discussion of police murders of New Afrikans over the last year or so. As such, the movie will have a positive impact of pushing forward the contradiction between oppressed nations and the armed forces that occupy their neighborhoods.
Every New Afrikan rebellion in the past year has been triggered by police murders. Murders and attacks on New Afrikans by whites and their police have always been the most common trigger of rebellions since Black ghettos have existed.(1) This was true in the 1960s when the Black Panthers rose to prominence, it was true in the early 1990s after NWA rose to fame, and it's true today when "Black Lives Matter" is a daily topic on corporate and other media. This national contradiction, and how it is experienced in the ghetto, is portrayed in the film by the fact that there are no positive roles played by white characters.
A secondary theme, that surrounded a number of high-profile groups/rappers of the time, was the question of freedom of speech. NWA was part of a musical trend that brought condemnation from the White House and the birth of the "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" warning sticker. Ice Cube does a good job of portraying his character as righteous and politically astute, though he self-admittedly embellished from how events truly occurred.(2) We see the strong political stances Ice Cube took in his music after he left NWA, yet, only a glimpse. They do a montage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, but don't touch on Cube's extensive commentary before and after the riots through his music.
They also curiously leave out any mention of Dre's public feud with Eazy-E after Dre left Ruthless Records, though they do spend time on Ice Cube's feuds with Ruthless.
The movie concludes by glamorizing Dre's rise to fame and independence, after being screwed by Jerry Heller (and Eazy-E) while with NWA, and then by Suge Knight for The Chronic album. They portray his success in guiding new artists like Eminem and 50 Cent to successful careers and his marketing of Beats headphones, which were purchased by Apple, Inc. Ice Cube's great success as an actor and producer are also featured, as are a memorializing of Eazy-E and updates on DJ Yella and MC Ren.
While this ending is a logical wrap up of the story of these five artists and where they are today, the focus on the individuals leaves out much of their real legacy. NWA was part of a cultural shift. Like all historical events, what they did represented much bigger forces in society. The character of Ice Cube recognizes this in a press interview in the film when he says they didn't start a riot at a Detroit show, they were just representing the feelings of the youth of the day. As was stressed in that interview, and throughout their careers, NWA members were just reporters speaking on what they were experiencing. And it was an experience that until then was unknown to a majority of Amerikans. Today that experience has become popularized. It is both glamorized and feared, but it has become a prominent part of the Amerikan consciousness thanks to voices like NWA.
While reality rap has been used (and misconstrued) to reinforce racism by many, the real transformatative impact it has had is in bringing this reality to the forefront so that it could no longer be ignored by Amerikans. Again, this pushed the national contradiction in the United $tates, by making all people face reality and take positions on it.
One problem with the movie is the way it leaves the rebelliousness of NWA as something from the past, that has evolved into successful business sense. NWA was one of a number of greatly influential artists at the time that shaped the future of hip hop. When gangsta rap was breaking out, you had real voices leading the charge. Since then it has been reeled in, and there is generally a dichotomy between the studio garbage that gets corporate play and the countless popular artists who have taken rap to higher levels both artistically and ideologically. Today there is a greater breadth of politically astute artists who are quite influential, despite lacking access to the corporate outlets. A montage of the countless "fuck da police"-inspired songs that have been produced since NWA would be a better recognition of their legacy today, than the focus on mainstream success and lives of some of the individual members.
While being a longer movie, Straight Outta Compton seemed to end quickly. There are plenty of exciting musical moments to make NWA fans nod their heads, plenty of fight scenes, if you're into that, and many rebellious statements made by members of NWA that should make you smile. We look forward to the even longer director's cut, which promises to get deeper into some points that are only hinted at in the theatrical release.(3)
To the comrade who submitted the article "Texas Hides Grievance Manual" on a memo by Access to Courts Supervisor Frank Hoke, take these words of wisdom.
The grievance procedure was certified by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas and Southern District of Texas in 1989. In 1999 the Texas Board of Criminal Justice (TBCJ) and Agency officials approved the Offender Grievance Operations Manual (OGOM) and screening criteria. Pursuant to Board Policy (BP) 03.77,
"The resolution support manager shall establish and maintain the Offender Grievance Operations Manual (OGOM) to provide guidance to employees regarding the offender grievance procedure. ... Instructions on how to use the offender grievance procedure shall be established separately from the OGOM for distribution to offenders and employees. Provisions for training, education, and implementation of the offender grievance procedure shall be established in AD-03.82, 'Management of Offender Grievances' and the OGOM." Signed by Oliver J. Bell, Chairman TBCJ
Note the last part in BP-03.77 "shall be established in AD-03.82." In AD-03.82, the Resolution Support Manager is responsible for oversight of access to courts, offender grievance and Ombudsman. Section I of AD-03.82 establishes the set criterion of emergency and specialty grievance. Furthermore, AD-03.82 Section IV A states: "Copies of BP-03.77 ... and this directive, as well as instructions on how to use the offender grievance procedure shall be available at each unit, to include copies in the law library." AD-03.82 Section VI A states: "The resolution support manager shall direct, administer, supervise, and manage the implementation and operation of the offender grievance procedure without interference by any employee."
The memo you described was not issued by Texas Board of Criminal Justice (TBCJ). So it is null and void, being it amends AD-03.82 and BP-03.77. On Page 1 Chapter II of the OGOM titled "Authority" it states: "AD-03.82 'Management of Offender Grievances'. Establishes agency expectations and the fundamental groundwork for the effective operation of the Offender Grievance Program. The administrative directive is more specific than board policy and supports the grievance process by providing a basis for the offender grievance operations manual."
Notice that the Access to Courts is not the agency that is responsible or authorized to make policy or amendments to policy or revisions. The Access to Courts is violating the Liberty Interest Protections in AD-03.82, being that Frank Hoke is not authorized to amend oversight policy or the OGOM. These revisions unauthorized by Oliver J. Bell have not been tested for constitutionality and changes AD-03.82 in violation of Texas law and Texas constitution articles 1, 13, and 17. Please read the article titled "Right to Assist others with Legal Work" in ULK 42 and you will see why they are doing this. Law library staff violate privacy rights, copying letters, which they send to Access to Courts for review. An Access to Courts violation has occurred which impedes, hinders or denies these rights. There has been no change in AD-03.82 or BP-03.77. Hoke's memo will only go in effect if we allow it. This is an unauthorized confiscation of OGOM without reason of safety or security justification. See Corby v. Conboy, 457 F2d 251 (1972). Always keep the pigs within the "pen," or they will eat up your rights and liberty and defecate corruption, that will abolish the smell of peace, and make the path of unity impossible to walk.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The knowledge of the invalidity of this practice within Texas prisons is certainly something we can use in our fight to remedy this repression. Prisoners in Texas should take the information above and apply it to their struggle to get the grievance manual put back into facility law libraries across the state. If someone puts together a sample grievance, petition, or other organizing tool then we can distribute it as part of our Texas Activist Pack.
But we also know that just because something is illegal or invalid doesn't mean that the state will ever actually be held accountable, or be made to follow law. This is evidenced in prisons all across the country, and on a broader scale by the illegal settlement of Palestine by I$rael and the many illegal atrocities committed by the United $tates and imperialist corporations all across the world. Those with power will do whatever suits their interests. A grievance campaign might help us win small victories. But we can't be deluded into thinking that if we just point out to them that they are breaking the law they will change their behavior.
Mumia Abu-Jamal explains this well in the book Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A. In the Preface, Mumia hammers home the point that law is what a judge decides in the moment; that they make it up as they go along. In a discussion about what makes jailhouse lawyers go crazy, Delbert Africa explains to Mumia,
"It drives they ass crazy 'cuz they cain't handle the fact that the System just make and break they laws as it see fit! How many treaties they done signed with the Indians? Ain't a one of 'em they done kept! Some of 'em broke 'em befo' the ink was dry on 'em old treaties! Them the same folks who run this System today! If they couldn't keep a treaty with Indians when they first got here, what make you think they gonna keep they so-called law today, especially when it come to me and you, man?"
Mumia pushed Africa to explain further why this makes jailhouse lawyers go crazy, and Africa responded,
"They go crazy becuz, Mu, they really believe in the System, and this System always betray those that believe in it! That's what drive them out of they minds, man. They cain't handle that. It literally drives them out they mind. I see 'em around here, walkin' 'round here dazed, crazy as a bedbug!"
Mumia follows this conversation with an anecdote about a jailhouse lawyer he knew from death row who insisted his appeal would be granted because his argument was so "black and white" that the judge "gotta" go for it. But as Mumia explained to this brother,
"They do what they wanna do, man! Just 'cuz it says something in one case, they don't have to go by that case, man. I agree with you, that you got a damn good argument — and you should prevail — but I don't go for that 'gotta' rap!"
While we want to hold our oppressors publicly accountable as much as we can, these struggles are more about highlighting inadequacies of the injustice system and agitating for others to join our struggle against capitalism and imperialism. When we do win a legal battle, we take it as an opportunity to build space for more revolutionary organizing. We ultimately need to wage a protracted, long-term struggle (that eventually will be an armed struggle) against this oppressive legal and economic system under which we attempt to live. In the meantime, we agree with Mumia that "the law ain't nothing but whatta judge say the law is."
As of right now the konvicts here at U.S. Penetentiary (USP) Big Sandy are on lockdown due to a racial riot. This is what the pigs want. I blame the pigs for setting up this atmosphere by creating tension amongst the konvicts by applying oppression along with repressive tactics. Instead of the konvicts challenging the pigs, they attack each other. But I also blame us komrades here at Big Sandy for not agitating and mobilizing the masses.
Those of us who are conscious with revolutionary theory should be educating others. Teach the konvicts why they exist in the condition that they are in. Help them to understand that they are victims of an economic system. All crimes can be traced to socio-economic conditions. We are at war politically, socially, economically and culturally. We must educate the prisoners so that they will understand the true function of the prison system and know why are we here. This is especially true for the New Afrikans.
Black men comprise over 40% of death row inmates. There are at least 2.5 million people in Amerika's institutions and over 50% are New Afrikans. 24.7% of New Afrikans live below poverty while only 11.4% of whites live below poverty. New Afrikans serve 20% more of their sentences with crimes similar to whites. Amerika is number one when it comes to the world's prison population, but is number forty-three when it comes to the world's education. Why is this?
We must figure out a way to reach the konvicts here so that we can begin to challenge the injustices that are being inflicted upon us. I've met komrades who use the excuse of getting sent to isolation if they take the initiative. The revolution is not a dinner party. It's supposed to be suffering. We are at war with a vicious paper tiger. This is why we call it a struggle. I understanding the meaning of a clandestine army but damn! We can't keep using this clandestine strategy as an excuse to action. That's some coward shit.
I understand being clandestine if you're doing the people's work, but sitting around playing chess, smoking weed, drinking, and just being idle and doing nothing isn't clandestine. Jumping on other konvicts isn't the peoples work. That's a form of individualism as well as being reactionary, unless it's in self-defense. That's why the Black Panther Party was first started: to defend themselves and the community. This prison is our community and it's our job as vanguards to defend the community. We cannot forget the legacy of George Jackson and the other komrades who fought and died for the people. Their spirit is in us and we must carry on the torch. The dragon has awaken. Can't stop! Won't stop!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides some important facts about the reality of national oppression within U.$. borders. The disproportionate lockup of oppressed nations is part of the system of imperialism that continues to oppress internal colonies within U.$. borders. And we echo this writer's call for the oppressed to stand up and take action. Even if it's just forming a study group, or sharing your Under Lock & Key with others. There is much education and organizing work to be done. MIM(Prisons) can support your work, write to us to get involved and put your time behind bars to good use.
MIM(Prisons)'s 2015 congress was marked by some major successes and growth in our work over the past year. We reached our goal from 2013 of doubling Under Lock & Key subscribers; helped write and edit [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán; and we took up the Strugglen Artists Association project and collected and distributed some great art both behind bars and on the streets. We have continued to support and build prisoner education, running both beginner and advanced correspondence study groups, sending in many political magazines and books, and supporting more than 30 prisoner-led study groups. Our focus in the coming year will be in building on these successes: printing and distributing the [email protected] Power book, expanding prisoner-led study groups, and building more United Struggle from Within (USW)-led campaigns.
All of this project-based work remains focused on our primary goal: serving the oppressed in prisons within the United $tates, while working from the vantage point of the Third World proletariat. We recognize that imperialism is the number one enemy of the majority of the world's people, and we are fighting from within the belly of the beast in the advanced stage of imperialism, where the majority of the people living within U.$. borders have been bought off with the spoils of capitalist profits. This petty-bourgeois population does not support our revolutionary organizing, and we cannot rely on them for the finances or labor needed to keep this struggle moving forward. So we focus our public opinion building on prisoners, who have a lot to gain from an end to Amerikkkan imperialism.
Growth and Finances
Over the past year we have seen a 70% growth in our Under Lock & Key (ULK) subscribers. But with this success comes the new challenge of paying for the increased printing and mailing costs. The overall cost to send out ULK is up 60% in July 2015 compared with July 2014. Subscriber funding of ULK increased by 64% over the same period, a very good trend, but all of that money went towards the cost of the 4 extra pages we printed in issues 39, 42, and the forthcoming ULK 46.
While we were able to print three issues of ULK with 4 extra pages of content, thanks to the funding from comrades behind bars, we will no longer be able to use donations for that purpose. Instead we need to focus all donations on the costs of printing and mailing to our greatly expanded distribution list. We want to see ULK expanded to 20 pages every issue, and we know readers are hungry for these additional pages, but first we will need to greatly expand funding for the publication. To answer the immediate need for more reading material, we offer activists behind bars lots of extra revolutionary lit to study in exchange for any sort of work they can contribute to the struggle. Ultimately this shift is necessary to continue to expand the reach of ULK as our subscriber list continues to grow. It was a difficult decision to stop printing the extra content, but we are doing it to prevent cutting down ULK content even more in the long term.
We need your help to keep up with new subscriptions! At the current rate of donations, prisoner funding for ULK covers only 4% of costs (printing a 16 page publication). In addition to spreading the word, sharing your ULK with others, and encouraging everyone to get their own subscription, we need donations of stamps and checks. We are setting a goal of funding 10% of each issue from subscriber donations. This is an aggressive goal based on our history, but we are confident that it is possible. To put it in perspective, we would meet the 10% funding goal if 1 in 5 subscribers sent in just one stamp a year! (Tell us if you want to send a check so we can send you instructions.)
"One important piece of our strategic orientation is the strategic confidence we have from our global class analysis. Basically, our analysis says that the vast majority of the world's people, a solid 80%, will benefit materially from an end to imperialism. This is why we believe anti-imperialism is destined for success. Subjectively, this can be important to keep in mind in an environment surrounded by class enemies or by those with bourgeois consciousness. ... One way i plan to expand the international connections we make is to have a section in each issue to print news snippets on events from the Third World that demonstrate determined resistance and a broad class consciousness that is opposed to imperialism. We hope that our readers find inspiration in this information that you probably aren't getting from other news sources."
In the course of writing these articles we realized that including information highlighting struggles in other parts of the world without going into details and analysis of the situation leads us towards opportunism. It is easy to put out information about people taking actions against their government, but if we fail to investigate the underlying situation in those countries we can end up supporting imperialism rather than national liberation. A good example of this is our article on Burkina Faso printed in ULK 41.(1) While we uphold the people's protests against exploitation and oppression, we can't superficially uphold their President's push into exile only to be replaced by a military leader. The situation is too complex to be summed up in a couple sentences, as it was in our Strategic Confidence feature as we prepared to go to print. Fortunately we caught this error and expanded the article before publication.
To correct this error we are re-orienting the international content in ULK to include at least one internationally-focused article in each issue, which includes more depth of analysis about the situation/region. In these international articles we will favor topics that lend themselves to strategic confidence by highlighting resistance struggles against imperialism. It should also be noted that the international content in ULK was of higher quantity and quality over the previous year largely thanks to a number of United Struggle from Within writers. So we call on their continued efforts to help us meet this goal.
United Struggle from Within
This year we saw tremendous growth in our Texas subscribers, many of whom learned about MIM(Prisons) through the Texas Activist Pack that was created by comrades behind bars. The Texas Activist Pack was put together to help prisoners in that state fight a variety of abuses including the medical co-pay, the indigent mail restrictions and the baseless denials of grievances. This shows us that concretely addressing prisoners' day-to-day struggles is an important way to expand our audience while getting vital organizing tools into the hands of folks who need them. People who get in touch for these resources are staying active with MIM(Prisons) at almost the same rate as those who write directly to get ULK or otherwise get involved in our work.
We want to take this lesson from Texas and apply it to other states by working with USW comrades to build activism packs specific to the needs of prisoners in each state. This will require knowledge about the local struggles and challenges, and work to create resources to help address these problems. In some states like Florida this might be focused on censorship as one of the biggest problems we are fighting there, while in Georgia we know the tier system is a problem that overshadows the lives of everyone locked up in that state. However, we want to be careful not to assume that the biggest problem in a state is the one that we can target with activism packs. These should be potentially winnable battles, around which, through education and distribution of resources, we can have a real impact on the lives of our comrades. Get in touch with us if you have ideas about or can help create a campaign for your state.
MIM(Prisons) disagrees with the organizational model of a single ideological leader (or privileged clique) providing all the instructions and theory for its membership, with the masses submitting to this guidance. This is part of why we are an anonymous organization — to help people overcome the cultural tendency of hero worship. We want everyone to take the ideological development of our movement into their own hands. As we've seen countless times throughout history, raising everyone's political consciousness, as the Chinese Communist Party did under Mao, is essential to ensuring that our revolutionary movement is not usurped by our enemies or our mistakes.
To this end, we run correspondence study courses, and we encourage prisoners to run their own study groups where they're at. Malcolm X, George Jackson, Stanley Tookie Williams, and countless other leaders developed their revolutionary analysis using their time behind bars in U.$. prisons. We follow their example and aim to push forward the political development of all U.$. prisoners; supporting prisoner-led study groups (SGs) is one way we do this.
We help support over 30 SGs in 16 states and the Federal system. Since the SGs are prisoner-run and led, we primarily provide support by sending study materials, including books, magazines, newspapers and study packs. Some of the study packs are collections of essays or source material on a particular topic, and others are questions that go with a magazine or book. With this issue of ULK and our letters to SG leaders, we also aim to provide tactical guidance and suggestions.
In February we sent out a questionnaire to get a better sense of how these SGs are run, their scope, their successes, challenges and needs. About one-third of the SGs we support responded, and here we summarize what we learned.
The number of participants ranges between 1 and 25 people, and most groups have less than 10 regular participants. Some groups are single-nation, but most are mixed-nation, with a mixture of lumpen organization (LO) and ex-LO membership. We see SGs as a good place for building the United Front for Peace in Prisons through practice. One respondent told us:
“The three core members have all had gang affiliations in the past. The two brothers were in the Gangster Disciples or Vice Lords, and the Chicano was in the Latin Kings. But behind bars we have found out who the real enemy is: the U.$. racist imperialist oppressor pigs who run this joint. So we have put our racial differences and gang affiliations aside to fight our common enemy.”
The average time an SG has been together is 2 years, with a range of 2.5 months to 6 years. Most go through study material at similar rates: either one ULK per week, a few chapters of a book every two weeks, or a magazine/book per month. The SGs that have been going the longest reported that individual members teach what they are familiar with, or have assigned areas to become expert. Other groups report that one persyn or a core group will lead the entire study.
SGs have a wide range of structure. The structure of your group should be based on the conditions where you're at, but it should be a universal goal to get a variety of participants engaging in leading the group. Raising the leadership skills of the participants is one way to raise their political level. And since people are moved around all the time, a follower in one SG might need to become the leader in a different facility. If they already have some practice generating study questions, acquiring reading material, and recruiting participants, then the new SG is more likely to be successful. In this way we can use a disruption, such as transfers, to our advantage.
The frequency and reliability of meeting to go over study materials also varies widely. For groups who are in different facilities, or who are in isolation, they “meet” by passing lit and sharing essays they write analyzing the reading material. Most groups reported they meet once a week, some 3 or 5 days a week, and one group said they meet daily. Some reported they meet creatively under the guise of religious services or a tutoring program.
Of course one huge barrier to SGs and revolutionary development generally is literacy — your ability to read and write. We know that a significant portion of prisoners are illiterate. Most of our SGs reported they do not spend much energy teaching literacy, and most participants have GEDs or higher. One group even reported that a GED is a minimum requirement to participate. With the abhorrent lack of programming in U.$. prisons, the responsibility of teaching literacy rests primarily on prisoners themselves — each one teach one.
Challenges reported include:
Imprisonment problems: infiltration, SHU time, validation
“Imprisonment problems” will always affect our SGs just because of the fact that they are running inside prisons. But these issues can be addressed somewhat by having good security practices. At least one SG recruits participants by being blatant and open about its politics, receiving criticism from other prisoners (which they then engage through discussion) but not repression from staff (at least not yet). In our limited experience, this is an uncommon scenario, and definitely varies by facility and state. We are creating a security study pack to add to our list of available study materials, so if you have any recommendations of security practices that have worked for your group, please share them with us.
“Lumpen problems” are those which are prominent among the lumpen class as a whole, which we need to address on a mass scale. We can start working on these problems within our SGs. The institutionalization of the daily routine in prisons leads many to rely on others (their captors) to determine what they do at any given moment. This prevents us from developing the necessary skills of time management and self-discipline. When moved to a less structured environment (e.g, from SHU to general population, or from prison to the outside) it is difficult to stay committed to projects and it can be as if one is just following the wind. Encouraging self-discipline with work reports and planning in advance is one way to tackle this problem.
Study material being censored and confiscated can possibly be dealt with using the appeal and grievance process, but we also need to assume repression will always come from our oppressor whenever we try to educate ourselves. Since you can't rely on having articles or notes to refer back to, try to read the material multiple times before passing it on. Writing a summary or analysis on the material, even if it's just a few sentences reflecting on an article in ULK, will help you remember it better and think about it more critically. And discussing your reflections with another comrade if possible will help you develop your overall political analysis. So even if the material is stomped on and torn up and "lost" forever, you will have done your best to hold on to it and can hopefully teach those principles to others even without the written words to refer to.
If the main problem in your SG is having material to study, you're in luck, because that's probably the easiest problem to solve! Barring complete censorship of our materials, MIM Distributors can send you literature on a wide range of topics. Send us reports on what questions are coming up in your SG, what conclusions you are drawing from the material you are studying, and how those conclusions can be applied to the struggles in your prison, and we'll hook you up. Encourage your SG participants to sign up for ULK and send us work-trades for lit, such as articles, art, or poetry for the newsletter. You can even pool together your financial resources to purchase books outright.
One of our goals coming from our annual congress is to be supporting 50 SGs across the United $nakes by this time next year. Since the initiative of our subscribers (YOU!) is what determines how many SGs we can support, we are trying to up the support on our end by addressing some of the main challenges identified in responses to our questionnaire. Please share experiences with us that others might be able to apply to their own SGs.
We hope with this issue of ULK to spark some inspiration among our readers to take their usual “I read and love this newsletter, and pass it on!” to step up and sit down with their fellow captives to study. It is not only important for our own immediate tasks of building unity and increasing our knowledge, but it is important so that our actions will have the greatest impact on liberating the majority of the world's people.
I went back to ULK issue 42 to sort out some disputes with the other prisoners and gangs housed in this institution. The problem is that we can't seem to get it together. Mainly those claiming to be a part of an organized entity. Some members say they are for the cause to unite and fight against oppression (within the prison). What drew me back to this issue was the topic of the issue Building Peace with the United Front which speaks about the base of bringing the misled and disorganized together. Yet, in my situation, it's a constant contradiction. Nobody wants to play their part or abide by the agenda and constitutions set out for them. So I am asking you: as a current member of the contradictory organization, do I stay, proclaiming my loyalty, or do I move on? Please help me with this issue. The only thing that I can see me staying for is the true comrades, but I didn't become what I am for the few individuals. I chose my way of life because of the movement. Now I am stuck deciding what is best for me. Well it's been nice sharing my issues with you. I just ask that you give me your best opinion from what you have read.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is an important question that many folks who are part of lumpen organizations raise as their political consciousness grows. There is often the possibility of educating and building from within an organization, helping to bring the level of political knowledge and organizing work up for the whole group. But sometimes this is not possible, and you find yourself inside an organization that refuses to advance whether this is because of mis-leadership or the conflicting goals of the members. When this happens it may be time to leave the organization and start something new. We should not hold on to blind loyalty when this binds us to reactionary organizations.
This is the difference between scientific leadership and cult leadership. A cult demands blind loyalty and creates a situation that allows for abuse and oppression within the group. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) would tell people they should leave our organization if they believe it has taken a reactionary path. Of course, one should only do so after struggling within the organization to correct its errors. In other words, push the contradictions within the organization to conclusion before just giving up. And while doing so you might study Mao's "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People."
This comrade asks "what is best for me?" But we would instead ask "what is best for the oppressed people of the world?" If you are in an organization that is not fighting on the side of the oppressed, and is not willing to listen to you when you push them in this direction, then you are wasting your time with this group. If you take action and break with the organization in order to take up the revolutionary struggle, any other progressive individuals inside of this group might be inspired to join you. It's important that you be clear that is it not lack of loyalty that causes you to break with the group, but rather the importance of your goals to serve the people.
I first became exposed to revolutionary theory in prison, although I had been a reader my whole life. Prison has become my classroom for revolutionary knowledge, not because the state ensures this, but because I came in contact with politically conscious prisoners who helped instill a consciousness in me. Groups like MIM helped to fuel my early cultivation through liberatory literature and I was able to engage in study groups throughout my prison journey, facility to facility and yard to yard. Study groups were the key to my own development.
It is a fact that U.S. prisons are used for social control of prisoners, who are mostly from the internal semi-colonies. Colonized people have always been subjected to brutal prison conditions but dialectical materialism teaches us that we can transform our environment, including prisons. In order to revolutionize these modern day slave kamps we need to study to revolutionize ourselves.
How Study Groups Help People
People are social beings, and as strong-minded and determined as we think we are, the truth is we learn best through interacting with our environment and especially other people. We learn best by discussion and debate. Asking questions helps us get answers, and when we are having trouble grasping a concept, studying with others allows us to learn. Teaching others also helps the teacher to learn themselves. The study group facilitates all of this.
In my own experience with study groups within U.$. prisons I have found that besides developing one's own political thought, study groups also teach one how to interact with others and what are the best ways to translate or explain our social reality to the people. We should understand that in many ways those of us who study political science and engage in study groups within prisons operate like political organizations out in society that do outreach to the masses, only our fellow prisoners are the masses.
Just as our counterparts outside prison walls constantly attempt to learn from the masses in order to better help the masses, we should do the same with our study groups. As prisoners, those of us who are conscious must revolutionize these dungeons. We have boots on the ground, and study groups within prisons should develop programs which help educate all of the prison masses, not just those involved in a study group. In this sense a study group can serve as the vanguard in their facility.
Study groups have helped me understand my oppression and the oppression of Aztlán, and through them I have become a better persyn. Understanding politics and theory has given me purpose and has helped me to help other prisoners to better their existence. In short I have not just learned about hystory, as when I study alone, but I have learned different methods of using the lessons of hystory to revolutionize the future.
How do study groups operate?
Depending on one's facility, study groups take on various formations. I have experienced many, from formal groups studying political science while on the mainline where one can meet face to face on the yard and discuss different aspects of society, to yelling through an air vent to people I couldn't see.
I was in one spot where every few days someone picked a different country and we discussed all of the uprisings in that country. People would search old magazines, books or newspapers to find anything on that country.
Another study group I participated in was in a facility that was highly restrictive with revolutionary literature. Since none of us was too politically educated we got whatever newspapers or progressive magazines we could, and we would discuss the articles, and attempt to apply them to other aspects of society.
Prison Study Groups in Maoist China
If we look to Mao's China, and specifically to the time of the Cultural Revolution, we will see that every level of society was touched by Maoism, even the prisons. When I read about prisons in Mao's China I learn why it is that Maoism is considered the highest stage that socialism has developed so far.
Though frequently badmouthed in the imperialist media for their re-education practice, these prisons focused on the political education of inmates. Most people behind bars had committed serious crimes against the people (landlords who murdered peasants, people who spied for Amerika, government officials who abused their power), and so this education helped prisoners understand how their actions affected others and why they should want to work towards a society where people do not have the power to oppress and exploit others.(1)
The study groups developed by prisoners during the Cultural Revolution involved thought reform. This means understanding why one has particular thoughts and finding ways of correcting incorrect ideas. This was reforming one's errors on levels that many of us cannot even imagine. It was a process of dialectics where prisoners would study the essence of their actions and behaviors. They would also engage in criticism-self-criticism where they would look into their own errors or the errors of others so that they all learned and evolved as a group.
The prison study groups in Maoist China did not conduct criticism-self-criticisms in order to ridicule or bully people; instead it was done to really point out the error and get the persyn to understand their error. One cannot change a behavior if one does not know or truly believe that they are committing an error in the first place. What we must understand is every prison in Mao's China had these daily study groups, which were fully supported by the people's government. In this way prisoners learned and became better people because of the study groups. They became people who went on to help build the revolution.
In contrast to Mao's China, here in U.$. prisons we are simply warehoused. We are placed in a cell where we are taught nothing, and this is done for years and decades. If we are lucky we are released and come out the same or worse than we went in. We don't learn from the state because under capitalism they don't have any use for us other than filling a cell. And when we try to form study groups we are punished and our studies are falsely labeled as gang activity or security threat activities. This is the difference between a Maoist society and a capitalist society; one heals people, the other destroys people.
All of this was part of the political line of China under Mao which put into practice the theory that people can learn from their mistakes and become productive members of society if they take study and self-criticism seriously. In Amerika's prisons today we find the oppressed rather than the oppressors, but there is still an important role for self-criticism in the anti-people actions of many lumpen. And the study of political theory is especially criticial to the oppressed as we hone our understanding of how to fight back against the oppressors.
When speaking about education Mao stressed: "Our educational policy must enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually and physically and become a worker with both socialist consciousness and culture."(2)
Mao reminds us that education is to make us better people. In the above quote he describes education being used to help people become workers. Although we are lumpen, education can help us become lumpen with socialist consciousness and culture.
What are the difficulties?
Forming or participating in study groups is not easy. There are many obstructions we have to deal with. As most know, U.$. prisons unleash political repression in the guise of upholding their laws. They criminalize political organizing and revolutionary activity of the imprisoned captives by labeling it "gang activity" or "security threat group activity."
There were times when I would get a good group of people together and we would have a good study group going and then the prison, out of nowhere, would move people out of the building or section, scrambling the housing population and dismantling the study group. The study group is disrupted, but this only means that we need to start over.
Sometimes I would be somewhere and gather lots of notes on political articles or uprisings and I would use these for groups, only to have my cell searched and all of my notes trashed, with a guard noting "gang notes." Likewise I would acquire a good selection of revolutionary books only to be transferred to another prison and in the process all of my political books would be "lost."
Once I was in a control unit where the prison put me and a New Afrikan next to each other and everyone else in the unit was juiced up on psyche meds kicking their door all day. The prison did this to further isolate us from our nations. So we formed a study group together and discussed ULK and other books. When things get repressive we need to keep studying and educating each other, no matter how hard it is.
Study groups can also be done through the mail. MIM(prisons) facilitates some of the best study groups I have encountered. But this invites censorship and sometimes harassment from the prison staff. We have to understand that learning about our own repression and about communist theory is something the state seeks to prevent. Prisoners learning about revolutionary theory scares the state because it means we will learn and turn theory into practice, against them.
What's it all for?
We should understand that repression will happen regularly. This is why studying is so important, so that when our mail is censored we have books and literature to fuel our study groups. And when our lit and books are "lost" we can remember our lessons and teach others key concepts like dialectical and historical materialism. We can help other prisoners understand why we need a united front or how the oppressed within U.$. borders developed as nations. We will know all of this and what kind of program we will need to liberate the people because of what we learned in our study groups.
What we do today and how we spend our time in these dungeons will determine what the future of these dungeons will look like. At the same time study groups should produce theory and theory should produce practice. We are not studying to be armchair revolutionaries, we are studying in order to ultimately join the oppressed of the world in smashing imperialism.
I am doing time and slave labor on the Wynne Unit in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). This is an industry unit. Millions of dollars worth of commodities are mass produced by prisoners who receive no type of worthwhile compensation. These items consist of vehicle registration stickers, license plates, mattresses that range from Sealy Posturepedic to college dorm and prisoner beds. Signs are produced for a wide range of functions, and there's a computer recovery warehouse that refurbishes used and discarded units to be sent to high schools and hospitals.
It goes without saying that if everyone decided to lay it down the powers that be would have a serious problem. Yet sadly enough out of the 2,200 prisoners housed here, the number would more than likely be in the double digits only. You have those who don't want to lose their clerk job where they might get a few perks every now and then. Some in the craft shop would put the craft shop first. I do understand why people want to protect their "jobs," but how much longer are we going to stand by and be forced to witness the constant abuse of power?
I have been locked up in segregation unjustly. I've seen my brothers lose their lives which may have been prevented if the COs acted as if they gave a damn. Although we all know they don't. So, we rise early every morning, we are told to work "or else", and god forbid you try to utilize the option to go to school because you are expected to be at work before sunrise even if you are trying to educate your mind and work on your attitude.
It's no secret that the TDCJ's main concern all the way around is money. Ironically our "great state's" prison system is in the negative on funds but will not hesitate to lock someone up over a bullshit parole violation or something nonviolent like theft. And we are being punished daily by the COs and administration who use their position as an opportunity to abuse other human beings and get away with it. Our so-called grievance system is a laugh-out-loud joke, just like TDCJ's good time and work time fiascos.
The reality is that if just one third of our prison population would spend some of those phone minutes on educating our outside support rather than crying about more money for holiday packs and new shoes every 6 months, we might see some difference. Let people know how they can help, without making TDCJ's commissary richer. I like candy and sodas as much as the next guy. What I don't like is getting treated like dog shit just because I'm trying to resolve a problem. The indigent mail issue, the medical copay, the good time, work time and assaults on inmates by guards are but a few of our long list of issues that are not just going to disappear. We will not go quietly into that good night, and we will not back down without a fight.
El movimiento de ciudadanos soberanos ha llegado a estar a la cabeza en la lista del FBI como grupo domestico-terrorista en los Estados Unidos por rehusarse a cooperar con el gobierno. Las personas de este movimiento adoptan una independencia artificial como una nación y se rehusan a presentar impuestos, llevar cualquier tipo de licencia, o tener una tarjeta del seguro social. La pregunta es, ¿Donde coloca el movimiento anti-imperialista a estos individuos y como se compara su planteamiento de liberación a el del Marxismo-Leninismo-Maoismo?
Esta reportado que más de 300,000 personas se declaran ciudadanos soberanos en los Estados Unidos, y está pronosticado a ser uno de los movimientos con más rápido crecimiento en la historia de E.E.U.U. (1) Así que esta es una cuestión razonable el preguntar si estas personas se dirigen a algo o no.
Parece que el movimiento de ciudadanos soberanos es actualmente una mezcla de grupos oprimidos de la nación, burgueses nacionalistas, y mezquinas organizaciones burguesas a través de los Estados Unidos. Por ejemplo, las organizaciones que afirman ser ciudadanos soberanos están los grupos New Afrika, como la nación Moro, la nación Mawshakh de Nuurs, y la nación Washitaw, ambas Islámicas y Hebraicas. Luego están allí los Blancos nacionalistas, responsables por publicaciones y transmisiones de programas para el movimiento: desde la Embajada del Heaven, el Grupo Aware, La Republica de Texas, Rightway Law, Freedom Bound International, Y Amen-Ra BTO Inc.; y personalidades como David W. Miller, Charles Weisman, Alfred Adask, George Gordon, y Brent Johnson.
La Clase Torpe en Búsqueda de Respuestas
El rumor de ciudadanos soberanos en prisión fue escuchado primero por el autor en el 2009, promovida por una variedad de torpes prisioneros pretendiendo ser poseedores de carnet y miembros de abogados encarcelados y del Gremio Nacional de Abogados. Ellos afirman poseer el misterioso conocimiento, el cuál utilizado en cortes de E.E.U.U. resultaría en riquezas de acuerdos financieros, también como el potencial de una salida prematura para prisioneros quienes hayan aprendido el oficio para descifrar el código descrito como redención.
Los torpes en los Estados Unidos, por lo general siempre están buscando un surgimiento, pero raramente consideran a que costo resurgirán. Éllos, en general creen que si pueden aumentar su economía clandestina pueden liberarse a si mismos. Este punto de vista es producto de la relación del capitalismo de los torpes perteneciendo a semicolonias internas. Los torpes están excluidos de la próspera economía imperialista global, dando todavía pruebas de esa riqueza por estas economías clandestinas que además proporcionan una ilusión actuando afuera del sistema. Parece que la popularidad del movimiento de ciudadanos soberanos en las prisiones pueden ser explicadas de esta manera; con la diferencia de que esta, actualmente pretende estar basada en la ley.
Con estas promesas de riquezas, estatus, independencia y dominio de sí mismo, torpes prisioneros no son culpados por ponerse en fila para recibir lo que ellos han sido mentalizados a saber, así siendo liberados. Sin embargo, ellos son advertidos que no todo lo que brilla es oro. Lo que vemos en juego, es la principal contradicción que define la clase torpe en nuestra sociedad: las tendencias individualistas surgen a costas de otros que son requeridos de una clase excluida dentro de una economía capitalista, y la necesidad de una acción colectiva para vencer estas condiciones y alcanzar una libertad verdadera. Aún vemos organizaciones como New Afrika promoviendo las ideas de ciudadanía soberana apropiandose de las ideas de movimientos de liberación nacional también. Pero en vez de que peleen por liberación nacional de New Afrika, ellos definen su nación en maneras oportunistas como si una nación es algo que cualquier grupo de gente puede crear solo de aire ligero. Reconocemos naciones como fenómeno científico, que existe en el mundo real y son definidos como un grupo de personas con una cultura, territorio, lenguaje y economía común.
Es importante que torpes prisioneros empiecen a escoger las cosas correctas, las cuáles ellos personalmente hayan analizado examinado, investigado, y reverenciado en realidad en el método de materialismo dialéctico. Torpes prisioneros tienen una problema en las áreas de estas ultimas cuatro palabras claves: analizado, examinado, investigado y reverenciado. Este fracaso es la causa principal de las circunstancias materiales que lleva a las divisiones entre torpes prisioneros individualistas contra comunidades de prisioneros auto suficientes luchando por liberación dentro del movimiento a la independencia nacional. Además, con frecuencia los torpes prisioneros consiguen algo, o se enteran de algo por otro prisionero y ellos solo corren esto propagando algo que ellos desconocen y mal informan a otros. El movimiento de ciudadanos soberanos se ha beneficiado de esta tendencia.
¿De qué se trata ciudadanos soberanos?
Torpes prisioneros en la nación opresora de origen blanco, probablemente pueden describir una historia más clara de este movimiento, comenzando en algún lugar en los años 60s para desafiar la legitimidad de las leyes de impuestos y del mismo gobierno de E.E.U.U. Esto es incierto si la mayoría de prisioneros oprimidos en la nación pueden describir los grupos fundados de Oregon y California, como el Posee Comitatus, el cuál esta basado en una rigurosa y absurda supremacía blanca.
La filosofía del movimiento de ciudadanos soberanos está basada en la teoría de que el gobierno de E.E.U.U. está operando una fraudulenta entidad comercial que esta insolentada y endeudada con naciones extranjeras. Muchos grupos del movimiento de ciudadanos soberanos están de acuerdo con esta idea en que el gobierno original de E.E.U.U. de la America Colonial estaba basado en la ley común Británica como un gobierno de ley. Después de la Guerra Civil supuestamente se desarrollo un gobierno de facto secundario a estos gobiernos anteriores de colonizadores, comunes en el estado.
Cuando ellos dicen de ley, ellos quieren decir legales y por lo tanto legítimos. En contraste, de facto significa que existe, pero este no es oficial. Esto es común, referirse a un gobierno de facto después de una guerra civil para implicar que las cosas no han sido solucionadas, ni el orden ha sido restaurado. Lo que esa orden es por supuesto, es una cuestión política en símisma. La dictadura sobre los capitalistas en el sur, por los capitalistas de los estados norteños después de la guerra civil fue una era progresiva que marcó el fin de la esclavitud y forzó la integración de colonizadores blancos, aunque mucho del progreso en integración fue más tarde regresada al pasado por la fuerzas reaccionarias y demostró un total fracaso. Por lo tanto, la cuestión de legitimidad del gobierno de la post-guerra civil en los Estados Unidos tenía una clara conexión a este movimiento reaccionario en desarrollo por la supremacía blanca en Norteamérica. Mientras estas fuerzas ven los derechos de independencia y estado como un medio para mantener su privilegio nacional, las semi-colonías internas son atraídas a luchas de liberación nacional (y por lo tanto otras políticas de control local) como medio para terminar la opresión nacional que es el otro lado de la moneda dialéctica. Para tener una nación opresora, tu tienes que tener al menos una nación oprimida.
Muchos soberanos proponentes, como los Whitten Printers, violan la Decimocuarta Enmienda hasta el más mínimo común denominador. Ellos argumentan que ésta fue creada por el gobierno de facto en orden para nacionalizar esclavos negros con derechos comparables a los derechos constitucionales inalienables de colonizadores blancos y ciudadanos del estado, llevándonos a la pregunta de que si ellos están leyendo los mismos libros de historia como el resto de nosotros, luchando por autodeterminación. Estos ciudadanos soberanos afirman que ellos no están sujetos al proceso de nacionalización para llegar a ser ciudadanos federales bajo le Decimocuarta Enmienda del gobierno de facto, porque ellos no fueron esclavos, ellos no son negros y ellos nunca firmaron algún acuerdo o contrato con el gobierno de facto. Básicamente, ellos son reales ciudadanos sujetándose a los tiempos pasados de las colonias Británicas. Eso no es inteligente!
Críticos de la teoría de ciudadanos soberanos afirman que esto fracasa suficientemente para examinar el contexto de la jurisprudencia de la cual ellos citan e ignoran la desfavorable evidencia, tal como la Federalista #15, donde Alexander Hamilton expresó la opinión de que la constitución puso a cada uno personalmente bajo la autoridad federal. Y como la Decimocuarta Enmienda misma dice, en parte:
"Todas las personas nacidas o naturalizadas en los Estados Unidos, y sujetas a su jurisdicción, serán ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos, y sujetas a su jurisdicción, serán ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos y del estado en que residan. Ningún estado aprobará o hará cumplir la ley que restrinja los privilegios o inmunidades de los ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos; ni ningún estado privará a persona alguna de su vida, de sus libertades o de su propiedad sin el debido procedimiento de ley; ni negará a alguna persona dentro de su jurisdicción, la igual protección de las leyes.(2)"
La validez de la deuda publica de los Estados Unidos, autorizada por la ley, incluyendo deudas contraídas por el pago de pensiones y recompensas por servicios prestados para sofocar insurrecciones o rebeliones, no serán cuestionadas.(3)
Todos los prisioneros oprimidos en la nación tienen que estar enterados de estos hechos antes de que ellos mismos permitan ser reunidos en apoyo para un movimiento como el de ciudadanos soberanos. El movimiento de ciudadanos soberanos es un movimiento de la nación blanca opresora cuyo interés esta directamente en conflicto con ellos mismos. Ellos quieren preservar el imperialismo a costa de tu independencia y tu autonomía. Liberación nacional de los estados imperialistas esta en el interés de todos los torpes prisioneros, y la mejor manera de llevar a cabo este objetivo es el que todas la semi-colonias de los Estados Unidos apoyen las luchas de liberación nacional de los oprimidos.
Tenemos además que recordar camaradas, que el movimiento fascista en Italia y el movimiento Nazi en Alemania estaban atrayendo principalmente la mezquina burguesía como también a grupos y parte proletaria con retórica contra el estado, los banqueros y grandes negocios y a la vez con algunas absurdas ideas religiosas que son mezcladas y confundidas con mucho patriotería. En el evento de más crisis imperialista, si los imperialistas son presionadas a tomar un enfoque fascista para dirigir a la gente y a la economía, los ciudadanos soberanos y movimientos similares estarán listos para hacer masivos movimientos que suministra soldados de pie para tal proyecto. Las personas oprimidas del mundo tienen que combatir esto con internacionalismo proletario y materialismo dialéctico y salir libre de la ignorancia que nos permite ser absorbidos por las falsas pretensiones de tales grupos.
MIM(Prisons) agrega: Queremos dar a Loco1, apoyo por trabajar en esta critica del movimiento de ciudadanos soberanos (El o Ella) fue uno de un número de compañeros quienes nos han escrito acerca de esto. Y como un líder muy activo en USW le pedimos al principio por falta de información y conocimiento por donde empezar.
Aunque limitando el acceso a información ayuda a prevenir unidad ideológica a través de grupos encarcelados, este articulo va a mostrar gran importancia en el sistema. Loco1 fue capaz de encabezar esta critica recursos limitados al alcance de sus dedos, pero usando un enfoque analítico.
Algunos de los recursos de los ciudadanos soberanos y movimientos similares de anti-gobiernos derechistas están basados en un recurso de autoridad, donde ellos citan un montón de casos de ley en un esfuerzo para convencerte de que ellos saben de lo que están hablando. Pero esta dependencia en jurisprudencia misma es idealismo. Esto es similar a quienes buscan respuestas en antiguas religiones, como si hay un secreto allí que justo necesita ser encontrado y que resolverá todos nuestros problemas. Esto es tentador, es un tema que vende muchas películas y libros, pero esto no es realidad, las contradicciones que hacen esto y como las cosas están en movimiento, es así como podemos entender la realidad. Ninguno ha sido liberado por el papeleo de los ciudadanos soberanos, porque esto son solo palabras sobre el papel, y palabras en papel no pueden liberarte mágicamente de un sistema real que esta hecho de millones de personas.