I'm responding to the articles by comrade Soso of MIM(Prisons) and the brother in Pensylvania in Under Lock & Key 41. This Security Threat Group (STG) label imposed on religious groups is a clear violation of established Constitutional law (i.e. freedom to speak and embrace religion as one chooses). Yet the First Amendment is being infringed upon daily under the guise that its members are gang bangers or gang-affiliated.
We gotta wake up because it's not about "security," "threats" or "groups." These imperialistic individuals are experimenting with tactics they can employ in an easy, yet draconian, way to violate the Constitution. Since when has embracing a religious organization become akin to joining a security threat group!? Do these asinine imbeciles know the purpose of religion is not only to serve their god, but to further organize themselves for righteousness!? It's networking with others. So where's the breach of security? Where's the threat? Where's the behavior of an unorganized belligerent group? We don't need binoculars to see what's going on. The picture is clear comrades. These imperialists are infringing upon a Constitutional right under the euphemism of "gang activity."
Look at the brother in Florida who wrote in ULK 41 "Fighting STG Label for Notes on Political History." Due to possessing notes on political history which the brother had taken on material he's been reading in his pursuit of learning and expanding his brain outside the box, he was inappropriately labeled STG.
Is the picture becoming clear?
Since when did the Constitution determine what political affiliations one can embrace and/or learn? Never! Or determine if one can possess notes on political history? Never! Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense knew the constitution and not only taught it to the poor, but also employed it in launching their move to arm themselves and the people with weapons (Second Amendment) while policing the police to prevent police brutality on the poor in oppressed communities.
Always remember, comrades, to succeed in any war, it's our duty to not only know who we're fighting, but we're obligated to have an aim. The only way we can ever become victorious in war is to know what we're fighting for, as our fight cannot be in vain.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises some important points about our battle against unjust gang validations that apply to all our work fighting oppression. We need to understand the bigger picture of who we are fighting and why the system of oppression exists if we hope to do anything more than make small changes. It is the system of imperialism that puts a few people with power and wealth in charge, and this system requires various structures to keep it in place. Globally this is why the imperialists are constantly engaging in wars and military actions. And in the United $tates this is the reason we have such a vast criminal injustice system: to control the oppressed nations and any who speak out against imperialism.
Gang validations are just one part of this broad system of oppression. Prisons actually help the oppressed to gain consciousness and organize to the extent that being locked up puts people in a position to clearly see the system as their enemy, and in general population prisoners can work together, educate one another, and organize. Validation justifies isolation which makes it much harder for activist prisoners to spread information and organize others. By criminalizing lumpen organizing, they try to legitimize their repression, even to the prisoners themselves.
We must study history and our current conditions while we fight these battles against validation and long-term isolation. Through study we will see that the gang validations are directly connected to the repression of the power movements of the 1960s, the red scare attacking communists, and the countless invasions and inteference in other countries, involving horrible massacres and torture. Today the oppressors have it harder because they cannot put you in isolation just because you're Black or Brown. So the system had to evolve and now we have gang validation being used to justify extra punishment and torture across the United $tates.
I was the vice president of an organization called the Long Term Offenders (LTO) which was making a lot of progress with the people and producing drastic change within the prison itself. Before my position with the LTO I was receiving material from numerous groups and corresponding with multiple movements, but as soon as I got into this position and the watchdogs saw how the prison as a whole embraced our platform and supported our cause, which was in the best interest of the prisoners, the watchdogs began to keep a close eye on us, specifically on me. I caught wind that the administration was inquiring about me and I'm sure they received more than a few tips that "he's radical" or "he's always talking about the Panthers," from their in-house snitches.
The watchdogs began to monitor my calls and mail and saw that I correspond with a lot of liberation movements which they've labeled as "terrorist" groups. Then they began confiscating our mail (things I've received for years) saying it's promoting radical ideas about overthrowing the government which is a "threat to security" and not allowed.
In August 2014, the Security Threat Group inspection committee summoned me to their office inquiring about the Black Panther Party and Maoist material MIM(Prisons) sent me. I explained to them that I'm a facilitator, therefore I have an obligation to be well versed on a multitude of subjects. Because they weren't satisfied with my response, they stripped me of my clothes and examined my tattoos. They falsely labeled me as a "Blood" because of a crown I have on top of the word "King." They knew they needed something to justify any further action they choose to take on me, and by me being labeled as a gang member, that's all they need.
On 3 September 2014, I was placed in the hole under investigation because they confiscated the article I wrote for you all in another Ohio prison. They assumed it was me because of the content, but there were no names written or printed to confirm their allegations. The day they chose to label me falsely, they drew their weapons and aimed to kill mentally and physically, but I will not die a slave, I will live long as a revolutionary.
The watchdogs from Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation Center came to pay me a visit in the hole, hoping to scare me into submission by throwing threats about how they'd send me to another state if I kept "teaching/reading that bullshit" and they also claimed I was on the FBI terrorist watchlist because of my affiliation with "anti-government" groups.
After 2.5 months in the hole they transferred me again, claiming I was a "threat to the order of operations." I've been here almost a month and have already started where I left off and have begun building the movement! There are a lot of street tribes here (Bloods and Crips) but few know they come from the Black Liberation Movements (BLM) or their original goals and purposes. I need to be able to reach these cats on that level so if possible could you send me materials on gang history and their connection to the BLM. When I was in the hole, the watchdogs confiscated all my reading material so I need you to help me recuperate from my losses.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is experiencing the repression that so many prison (and street) organizers face when they start to become effective in educating and organizing the people for revolutionary change. This was the focus of our last issue of Under Lock & Key. As this example demonstrates, the gang validation system is a tool of repression. It often has nothing to do with the gangs they claim are security threats or with preventing crime or violence. This is because they are not allowed to throw you in the hole just for being Black anymore. The liberal left demands that the tools of oppression must evolve for those in power to stay in power under imperialism.
We condemn gang validations and long-term isolation aggressively because they are two of the biggest weapons being used against the imprisoned lumpen. And both of these weapons are contradictory to the principles of this country's founding documents. The government want to fool the public into thinking prisoners are criminals and that is why they are being treated this way. But this repression is directly related to how the state handled the BLM of the 1960s and 70s, and to how they handle oppressed people fighting for basic rights all over the world. It is all about maintaining the imperialist system, where a minority prospers.
Building a united front within prisons is not easy to do. It is a struggle that ebbs and flows. Sometimes one can be in a facility or yard where this work is easy and other times it may seem impossible. Like everything else in life that benefits the people, it is challenging to say the least. But the United Front for Peace in Prisons is a goal that is within our ability to obtain so we must make it happen.
As prisoners of the state we are all imprisoned by the same ruling class, so in that sense we are all on the same oppressed side in the U.S. dungeons. The class oppressors who construct these torture facilities are the real enemies. Amerikkka is what has had us, our parents, grandparents and ancestors colonized for so many years. It is the source of all our oppression. No prisoner should be in the dark when it comes to the true identity of oppressed people around the globe. In the world there are two sides, the enemies and us; everything else is trivial and must be ironed out.
Prisoners are not the only ones who struggle with understanding this elementary factor. Mao advised us of these two sides by saying:
"Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution. The basic reason why all previous revolutionary struggles in China achieved so little was their failure to unite with real friends in order to attack real enemies. A revolutionary party is the guide of the masses, and no revolution ever succeeds when the revolutionary party leads them astray. To ensure that we will definitely achieve success in our revolution and will not lead the masses astray, we must pay attention to uniting with our real friends in order to attack our real enemies. To distinguish real friends from real enemies, we must make a general analysis of the economic status of the various classes in Chinese society and of their respective attitudes towards the revolution."(1)
Mao described the conditions surrounding the Chinese revolution, yet like most lessons in Maoism, we can learn and apply them to our situation here in U.S. prisons. Our "revolution" at this time is transforming our environment and oppressive conditions, and bettering our way of life in these dungeons. But in order to do this we need to know our enemies from our friends. In our case, prisoners are our friends and the state is our enemy. The United Front for Peace in Prisons manifests our understanding of our friends and enemies in the material world.
How do we spread peace in prisons?
MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within created the United Front for Peace in Prisons as a basis for spreading peace. Although they provided the framework which later led to the peace accords that have spread within California prisons, they simply presented it to us prisoners with the understanding that it would depend on us to find a way to put this theory into practice. But peace cannot come from words alone. Growing peace in these hot houses will not arrive miraculously, it must be fertilized and fed, cultivated and harvested. That means revolutionary prisoners need to put in work for peace and get our hands dirty, stick them in the dirt and put our back into it.
Many times peace in prison is spread through people-to-people interactions. Creating relations with prisoners outside our nation and outside our circles or collectives helps spread peace. This builds bridges of communication with others. Of course peace should first be created amongst one's own circles, because it's hard to spread peace with other groups if you don't have peace amongst those closest to you.
Ensuring that peace takes root is largely dependent on educating the people. So many do not even know who their real enemy is and this is because political educators are in short supply within prisons. Passing someone a book is not the same as discussing what is in that book after the persyn has read it.
Peace means that people get used to the idea of us having the same captor and facing the same monster. People need to look at the big picture. When we look at the big picture and our young homies are taught to look at the big picture it alleviates many of the petty squabbles that are bound to arise in an intense prison environment.
Building peace really comes down to working together in ways which tackle our horrible conditions. As leaders, we can organize appeal events, spread information and publications on prison struggles, and help others who may need a helping hand whether it's a bar of soap, a stamped envelope or something to eat. Do what you can to help your fellow prisoner. Peace means thinking of other prisoners and extending humynity to one another.
What are the challenges of spreading peace?
We are deprived of peace by internal and external factors, and there are many things that get in our way. Sometimes those who are uneducated act or react in ways which are not conducive to propelling their own struggles forward. These behaviors often result from a colonial mentality which has been embedded in so many minds for so many generations.
So there is a combination of challenges which prevent peace. One main obstacle is of course that the state opposes peace, as a Georgia prisoner said in ULK 36:
"As of now, most of the leaders and the more influential participants are locked down in Ad-Seg and I don't find this a coincidence. The pigs hate the idea of us uniting in peace and not killing each other."(2)
This writer was describing a very real process of repression where those prisoners who are most influential and conscious and who have the ability and sway to enact peace are the very ones locked down in solitary confinement. This is a common tactic of the state. COINTELPRO used the same method, which we can study in books like FBI Files of Malcolm X, War Against the Panthers, and Agents of Repression, to name a few. Those who can electrify the movement or their people are targeted to be neutralized. Neutralizing something or someone means putting it out of commission, which can include death, prison or solitary.
The state creates these obstructions by watching the imprisoned captives, and when leaders arrive to a yard they kidnap them so that peace cannot be realized. They leave knuckleheads to create chaos because chaos between the captives means our captors can keep repressing us. Peace between the captives means the oppressor is in trouble.
Another challenge that we face is concealed in the crypto-Toms. These are the Uncle Toms of all nationalities who secretly work for the state, either in alerting the state when the masses are attempting to struggle against repression or in sabotaging peace efforts by stirring shit up and sparking crimes between prisoners. These inter-oppressed wars help strengthen the state, while setting back prisoner struggles by forcing us to spend years attempting to repair this chaos.
We should learn to identify these crypto-Toms who work for the pigs rather than for their nation. It's not just those who kick off anti-peace bullshit, but also those who partake in Tom language by spreading the ideas of anti-peace who are obstructionists.
Peace in California has been pushed by those who have been doing time for decades. It was not just a spontaneous event; this had been talked about for years. Building a united front for peace against a common enemy is the most logical action between any oppressed peoples anywhere in the world.
How should we proceed?
Peace between prisoners should not just be something that we read about or something prison intellectuals write about. Peace should be something that we live in our everyday lives. Individualism threatens peace the most because individualism keeps us blind to those who threaten peace ("it doesn't affect me, so i don't care"). We can only change our conditions for the better by struggling together.
The first step is in having the ability to think outside of ourselves and to realize what is best for us, our people, and our future homies that will be filling up these cells. Peace does not mean we have the same beliefs, it just means that we have the understanding that people with different beliefs do have shared interests and that the oppression that I face is faced by all U.$. prisoners in various forms by the same captor whose face changes from prison to prison, but whose actions for the most part do not.
They get mad at my thoughts But how can they get mad at the way I think? When they've placed me in this environment to do just this To think about the choices To think about the decisions To think about the past To think about the mistakes To think about the consequences To think about life To think about death! My thoughts seem too radical They seem too harsh They seem insensitive But they don't seem fake Because they are real Because my reality is real I think about the joy I think about the happiness I think about the love I think about the pain I think about the coldness I think about the hurt Because I was left alone to think. Can't cry because it hurts too much Can't laugh because it ain't funny Can't talk because I don't trust nobody to listen So what do I do? The only thing I'm used to doing, think Think about the future Think about the plans Think about revenge Don't be mad because this is what you wanted You wanted me to think But it didn't turn out like you wanted Because you created a smart, calculating righteous monster And its all your fault Because you didn't think Of all the possibilities That came with thinking!
I am a prisoner activist within the Colorado Department of Corrections, which sees me as a difficult, dangerous individual, and isolates and represses me in a police-style unit. Within the United States there is a response to prisoner activism of repression by prison administrators. This repression may involve some type of physical clash between prison staff and/or their prisoner stooges, and a prisoner activist. I put this forth as a counter to your point explicitly discouraging prisoners from engaging in any violence, as this position is not based on the reality of prisoner activism in U.$. prisons.
Prisoner activism here typically takes the form of formal institutional advocacy. Yet white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism have never reformed themselves. And the struggle against these forms of oppression is a struggle for survival and self-defense. The prisoner activist struggle in the United States is a struggle against genocide.
MIM(Prisons) and its publications explicitly oppose the use of armed struggle at this time in the imperialist countries (including the united states). But this is not based on the reality of prisoner activism in this country, where there is an ongoing protracted intractable race and class conflict. I look to Under Lock & Key for guidance in my individual/personal prisoner activism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer sets a good example of working with us in unity around prison struggles while debating our disagreements on questions of strategy. In this case the disagreement comes down to a question of the stage of struggle. We believe that violence will be necessary to overthrow imperialism, because, as this comrade says, "white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism have never reformed themselves." We will need to dismantle imperialism forcefully; those in power won't just step down peacefully.
But we can also see through many historic examples that revolutionaries who took up armed struggle too soon were quickly repressed, killed and/or imprisoned, and many times the movements lost more ground than they gained. We call this premature armed struggle "focoism," because it generally fails to first gain the support of the masses and build a strong revolutionary party and base. However, it is also possible for communist parties to make strategic errors in taking up armed struggle too soon before conditions are ready.
In prison we aren't really talking about taking up a military battle, but the analogy to violent engagement before conditions are ready is applicable in a general way. We see that prisoners who are quick to engage with their fists/weapons, end up in isolation, beaten, or even killed. These engagements don't generally win anything except possibly the respect of peers with whom the person no longer has contact.
This doesn't mean we tell prisoners to lie down and take abuse. Every situation is different and we can't possibly judge what each individual is facing and how they need to respond to survive. We can say that many people write to MIM(Prisons) talking about how they used to resort to their fists first and now they use their pen and voice and are much more effective with this new approach to fighting repression. It takes patience and discipline to make this change, and it's not easy when faced with both pigs and their lackeys provoking and even attacking.
Rather than debate the appropriate response to each dangerous situation, the broader point is agreement on our strategic stage of struggle, and the reality that we can't win a military/violent battle right now. We just don't have the strength yet. And so we need all of our comrades to stay alive and out of solitary to engage in education and organizing.
"The lumpen has no choice but to manifest its rebellion in the university of the streets. It's very important to recognize that the streets belong to the lumpen, and that it is in the streets that lumpen will make their rebellion." - On the Ideology of the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver 1970
The recent killing of two New York City (NYC) cops must be viewed as a conscious act of war taking place within the context of national oppression, just as the killing of Eric Garner and countless others from the oppressed internal nations of New Afrika, Aztlán and the various First Nations at the hands of filthy pigs were and will continue to be acts of war that the police wage against the oppressed for the dominant white nation known as Amerika. Yet if we listen to the politicians we hear them desperately trying to switch the narrative of these killings as having nothing to do with the wave of recent protests currently being directed against police brutality and police repression since the murder of Michael Brown in Missouri on 9 August 2014. Instead they tell us that these killings are the result of a depraved criminal element who the police have all along been trying to protect us from.
In a recent public address NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the deaths of these pigs to be "an attack on all of us" and asked that protesters put their demonstrations on hold as it was now time to "move forward and heal divisions." Others, including the pigs themselves, have called on protestors to "tone down their language." One reactionary on a CNN roundtable even went so far as to categorize the killing of those cops as "an attack on the very heart of democracy and the people that uphold that democracy"! And that is a very funny statement to make as i could've sworn that the heart of democracy lies with the people and not with the special bodies of armed men. Instead of democracy we have power arising from society which places itself above the people and becomes more and more alienated from them. These arms of the state have been tasked with managing the irreconcilability of both national and class antagonisms.
But why are the politicians so anxious to stop the masses from making the connection between the state-sanctioned murders of Eric Garner (and others) and NYC pigs? Because they know that context is everything regardless of what the pigs, the politicians or any other member of the liberal and conservative white media have to say. The killing of those pigs was carried out by a subjective revolutionary force outside of an objective revolutionary scenario. Therefore, the lesson for us to take away from this is that the killing of those two cops was undoubtedly political, just as sure as all prisoners are political.
Does this however mean that we support such a strategy of attacking the existing power structure absent a revolutionary situation? No, because that is not an effective way of advancing the needs of the oppressed, nor does it advance our own revolutionary agenda. What is for sure, however, is that the death of two of NYC's "finest" is sure to be used as another pretext to round up and spy on political activists as well as to further clamp down on "crime" in the big rotten apple, which directly translates into more repression for the lumpen.
In The Correct Handling of a Revolution by Dr. Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense for the Black Panther Party, Newton hit on the correct methods of both leadership and struggle within the New Afrikan community of his time. This analysis still holds good today and revolutionaries from the oppressed nations should take note:
The vanguard party must provide leadership for the people. It must teach the correct strategic methods of prolonged resistance through literature and activities. If the activities of the party are respected by the people, the people will follow the example. This is the primary job of the party. ...
There are basically three ways one can learn: through study, through observation, and through actual experience. The Black community is basically composed of activists. The community learned through activity, either through observation of or participation in the activity. To study and learn is good but the actual experience is the best means of learning. The party must engage in activities that will teach the people. The Black community is basically not a reading community. Therefore it is very significant that the vanguard group first be activists. Without this knowledge of the Black community one could not gain the fundamental knowledge of the Black revolution in racist America.
While leaving out some focoist rhetoric characteristic of the BPP which we fundamentally disagree with, this excerpt is part of the most correct aspect of the mass line and how we relate to the masses on a day-to-day and strategic level. V.I. Lenin, leader of the first socialist state, the Soviet Union, from 1917-1924, dealt with one aspect of the lumpen-proletariat in his time quite relevant at the present moment — their tendency to engage in spontaneous and disorganized armed struggle against the state and in "expropriation" of private property. Lenin vehemently condemned those Bolsheviks who disassociated themselves from this by proudly and smugly declaring that they themselves were not anarchists, thieves or robbers. He attacked "the usual appraisal" (2) which saw this struggle as merely "anarchism, Blanquism, the old terrorism, the act of individuals isolated from the masses, which demoralize the workers, repel wide strata of the population, disorganize the movement and injure the revolution."(3) Lenin drew the following keen lessons from the disorganized period of this struggle:
"It is not these actions which disorganize the movement, but the weakness of a party which is incapable of taking such actions under its control. The Bolsheviks (communists) must organize these spontaneous acts and must train and prepare their organizations to be really able to act as a belligerent side which does not miss a single opportunity of inflicting damage on the enemy's forces."(4)
In short, it's not necessarily that we disagree with the actions of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, rather his timing was off. It is exactly these types of actions by the oppressed nation lumpen which make them both the hope of the liberation movements of the internal semi-colonies, as well as the potential spearhead of the oppressed nations against a rising fascist threat here in the United $tates. In the end it doesn't matter whether these pigs wear cameras or not. What matters is how we respond, as that is the difference between liberation and more repression.
The decision not to try the pig in Ferguson, Missouri for the killing of Mike Brown has set the people off, and rightly so. It is a broken record of this injustice system and its real intention.
When i woke up and turned on the news that first morning and saw the reaction to the courts not charging the killer cop i was glad that the people were expressing their dissatisfaction with this system. i say this system because it is really this system that upholds the ability of the state to keep on slaughtering the people.
Then i saw that same killer cop in an interview and he straight up says that he regrets nothing. He is content with shooting a young man in the face and head who was simply resisting being murdered, resisting the killer. He was the face of Amerikkka and he offered a real portrait of what Amerikkka is all about.
The neighborhood that Mike Brown was murdered in was like the neighborhoods that prisoners come from, it is where most poor people in the United $tates come from. This is what we experience when we interact with the state.
There is no excuse for what is occurring in the poor people's streets. It is a never ending fusillade of despair unleashed on oppressed people. And yet we still have so many prisoners who are oblivious to what is occurring, even though it is occurring in their streets. It's almost like folks have blinders on and do not see what is occurring all around them, not once or twice but daily throughout the United $tates.
Prisoners need to connect the dots and realize that what occurs out in those streets does pertain to you because these are your people out there being slaughtered, this is a one sided war that needs to be turned around. The uprising in Furguson is a response to this and it's a good response but people need to respond in so many different ways in order to declare that these killer cops must stop slaughtering the people.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We join this comrade's call for more uprisings like in Ferguson. The people have a right to be outraged at the system of national oppression in the United $tates. And we must call out this system clearly for what it is: there is not just a mass of generic poor people in this country, the poor are disproportionately concentrated in the oppressed nations. These groups, New Afrikans, [email protected], First Nations, along with national minorities like [email protected], live in a country where their neighborhoods are occupied by the imperialist police force and where they can face death for the crime of walking down the street.
Connecting the dots for prisoners includes recognizing that it is the same criminal injustice system that locks up oppressed nations that is killing people in the streets. The cops, the courts, and the prisons are all part of this same systematic social control. And so prisoner's protesting abuses behind the bars are a part of the larger struggle against imperialism on the streets. We must make these connections and keep in mind the broader goals while we fight against day-to-day oppression behind bars.
Marcus Garvey: Black Nationalist Leader by Mary Lawler Holloway House Books 1990
I had the chance to borrow this book from a New Afrikan prisoner in order to check out this cat who many believe to have been a main influence to the Black liberation struggle of the 20th century. One thing that stood out is almost every other page had a photograph, including everything from Jamaican slaves, "race riots," the klan and Malcolm X.
This book traces the life of Marcus Garvey from his birth on August 17, 1887 in Saint Ann's Bay, Jamaica. Out of 11 brothers and sisters, only he and a sister lived past childhood. His stonemason father was known to be a voracious reader and well respected in the village; his mother was a farmer who sold what she grew along with baked goods to contribute to the family. Early on the family owned several properties, but after legal disputes the family was left with the single property they lived in.
Garvey's father was what Lawler described as "A descendant of the maroons, escaped Jamaican slaves who banded together during the 17th and 18th centuries to fight the island's British colonial rulers."(p. 23)
Garvey descended from a line of anti-colonial struggle. The British slaves killed off all the indigenous Arawak natives and then kidnapped Africans and used them as slave labor in their plantations all over Jamaica. Garvey's relatives were among those who resisted the oppressor.
Because of his father's profession and his family being landowners, Garvey was educated in public school as well as by tutors, and took advantage of his father's private library which was well stocked with books, newspapers, and magazines. This was at a time when most Black people in Jamaica received little to no education. At the age of 15 Garvey went on to work as a printer's apprentice, and by age 20 he was a master printer, a skill which he would put to use later in his propaganda efforts.
Garvey became politicized after moving to Kingston and seeing the inequality and oppression of Blacks. It was in Kingston where he joined his first workers' strike at the print shop where he worked to protest low wages. At age 22 Garvey joined a group called the "National Club" that strove for better treatment of Blacks and agitated against British colonialism. He immediately began working on the national club's organ Our Own, which led him to launch his own publication called Garvey's Watchman. Garvey's Watchman didn't last very long, but made clear his real purpose and increased his interest in political organizing.
With big plans and little money Garvey became a migrant worker and set off for Costa Rica in 1910. Garvey's thoughts were on Blacks in Jamaica, but in Costa Rica he saw horrible treatment of Black workers in his first job for United Fruit. United Fruit is a U.$.-controlled company that has long wreaked havoc on Latin America. It has left a bloody trail in its support of brutal dictators while ensuring workers' rights are silenced with often deadly results.
The book explains how Garvey's first job at a banana plantation quickly led him to fight for workers, even launching a newspaper called La Nacionale (The National) that expressed workers' rights. It wasn't too effective as most of the workers were illiterate, so these efforts did not get very far.
After traveling to several Latin American nations and returning to Jamaica, at age 23, Garvey set sail to England. In England, he again faced poor work conditions and discrimination. Garvey finally realized that everywhere he went, regardless of the country, Blacks experienced oppression. In England he attended college where he met other Blacks who promoted Pan-Africanism. The Pan-African Movement was created in the 1800s. This was a time when British colonialism held many Black nations as colonies and the Pan-African movement sought to create Black nations that were governed by Blacks. The idea was to take Africa back for Africans.
In 1913 Garvey began work for Duse Mohammed Ali, publisher of African Times which promoted the rights of Black people. This, Lawler explains, allowed Garvey to mingle with the movers and shakers of the Pan-African movement, as most of them wrote for African Times.
The author writes that after reading Booker T. Washington's book Up From Slavery Garvey "found his purpose." Washington was a known integrationist who believed Black people should not protest racism, and instead that eventually the white nation would accept Black people. Many of the more progressive Black leaders of this period denounced Booker T. as an Uncle Tom.
In this book we read about Garvey creating the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1914. UNIA was to work to unite and improve Jamaican Black people's socio-economic conditions while promoting the anti-colonial struggles of Africa.
The author states about Garvey, "Like Booker T. Washington, he believed that until the Black workers became committed to self improvement, they would be looked down upon by whites."(p. 57)
The author implies that Black people can work within the oppressor nation's systems, and claims this will resolve racism from the oppressor. This system of thinking misses identifying the root of one's oppression. To blame the oppressed is to be an apologist for the oppressor nation and this thinking will never lead to the liberation that Garvey was lookiing for.
I also found it surprising that Garvey seemed to rely on religion as a savior. For instance, the author quotes Garvey as speaking on what helped to better himself, "Nobody helped me toward that objective except my own mind and God's good will."(p. 59) Garvey was also known to organize religious meetings as the author reminds us. The book suffers in that the author offers many quotes from Garvey and others but gives no footnotes as to where these quotes are coming from; this makes many of the quotes seem suspect.
In 1916 Garvey arrived in Amerika and found in Harlem a more receptive audience to UNIA than in Jamaica where UNIA only gained under 100 members and financially was unable to launch any independent institutions.
Garvey soon helped form a New York chapter of UNIA along with a newspaper Negro World, which served as UNIA's platform. The UNIA's motto was "One God, One Aim, One Destiny," thus it was steeped in a metaphysical approach about what would free Black people.
In 1919 Garvey founded a shipping company called "Black Star Line." This was created with the intent to obtain Black "economic independence." Garvey said, with regard to the Black Star line, "Our economic condition seems, to a great extent, to affect our general status... be not deceived wealth is strength, wealth is power, wealth is justice, is liberty, is real human rights."(p. 112) Spoken like a true capitalist.
It becomes apparent in this book that Garvey believed Black capitalism would liberate Black people from the hardships he had witnessed worldwide. He believed creating and then monopolizing on "Black industries," UNIA could supply Black people with furniture and other goods in South and Central America, as well as the West Indies and beyond. Garvey encouraged all Black people to invest in UNIA as a step toward liberating themselves from racism.
In 1922 Garvey was arrested for mail fraud in soliciting investors for the Black Star Line which had begun to lose business as ships were lost and investors became suspicious. Garvey was convicted and sent to prison for a couple of years. Upon release he was deported back to Jamaica where he attempted to rebuild UNIA. After poor results he moved back to England to start up a UNIA chapter and it was during this time that a rift was created between the New York chapter and Garvey himself, which helped to tarnish UNIA more. Garvey died in England on June 10, 1940 at age 53. Although he died in poverty his death would bring him a renewed notoriety in Jamaica and worldwide.
Throughout the book neither socialism nor communism was mentioned once! I found this odd as this was a time when Russia had just been liberated under Lenin's leadership, but then Garvey was not a socialist. Without socialism a people will continue to be oppressed even if governed by one's own people. The masses of people will simply be people oppressed by their own bourgeoisie. This is bourgeois nationalism, or as Huey Newton coined it, pork chop nationalism. Revolutionary nationalism which install socialism once a nation is liberated, thus ensuring the bourgeois and other capitalist roaders do not get the chance to derail the revolution.
Garvey did leave a lasting impression on the Black nation in Amerika. Malcolm X's father was a Garveyite so Malcolm obviously grew up in Garvey thought. On the end it can be said Garvey helped to develop more progressive thought than his own. This book is worth reading as a basic intro to Marcus Garvey's political work, but it is important to note it does not include Garvey's own writings. Those researching the historical development of New Afrikans will find some value in this book.