Sitting back and just observing everyone who I have encountered while in prison, I would say one man comes to mind because he truly inspired me. Deauce is a true socialist and freedom fighter. Within the Arkansas Department of Corrections at the East Arkansas Regional Unit, we are housed in open barracks with about 75 prisoners to a barrack. Deuce looks out for everyone and helps anyone that he can assist. Regardless of your race he'll help you out. Whether it's help with writing a grievance, or you just need a radio to listen to the news or a movie, he'll make sure you even have food or coffee if you don't have money to buy commissary. Others call him hustle-man because he's always hustling up stuff for new prisoners or others in general. In my eyes he has demonstrated the true meaning of a freedom fighter. Watching him in action has encouraged me and allowed me to see how others react to a socialist in action.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This essay came in response to our call for people to write about the freedom fighters who have inspired them. And this is a good reminder that our actions every day have a big impact on others. Revolutionaries should strive to serve the people and demonstrate the principles of our ideology in practice. We can take people like Deuce as a good example of our starting point, but we need to go further and tie our work serving the people to our work educating the people about why we do this work, and why they should get involved too. Otherwise we can get bogged down by the charity aspect, leaving the revolutionary purpose behind.
A good example of this is the Black Panther Party's Serve the People Breakfast for Schoolchildren program. The BPP fed many children who otherwise were going to school hungry, a problem that interfered with their ability to learn. And while they were providing this food, the BPP also provided revolutionary education, turning these kids on to a way of thinking they weren't exposed to in public schools. Freedom fighters are found all around us, and we commend this comrade for calling out the value of the everyday work done by Deauce in serving the people.
Upon reading ULK 46 I was once again reminded of the difficulties that us prisoners face trying to have our grievances heard. I would like to share with ULK readers a remedy for this issue that I have discovered.
Pursuant to Powe v. Ennis, 177 F.3d 393 (5th Circuit 1999); and Lewis v. Washington, 300 F.3d 829 (7th Cir. 2002), if prison officials refuse to hear your grievance, your administrative remedies are exhausted. You do not need a response to your grievance to pursue your issue in the courts. You need only prove that you filed the respective grievance.
This can easily be done. First, after you have written your grievance fill out a Proof of Service form stating that on such-and-such date you sent so-and-so a grievance regarding such-and-such issue. After you have filled out the Proof of Service form get it notarized at your facility's law library. Secondly make sure to make copies of both your grievance and the Proof of Service form to keep in your files. Finally, repeat this process at every level of your state's grievance system.
For example: In Illinois there is a three-step grievance system. I have personally used this method in the past (successfully). First, I filed my grievance with my counselor; next I filed it with my institution's grievance office; then I filed it with the Administrative Review Board. Each time I filed my grievance I also filed a Proof of Service form. By doing so I was able to show the Court that I had attempted to resolve my claims through the grievance process. This resulted in the court siding with me and denying the State's Motion for Summary Judgement. I am enclosing proof of this method's success for MIM(Prisons) to verify.
Although this is not the ideal solution it is one that will allow prisoners to pursue their legal matters without being obstructed by the Capitalist swine.
Example Proof Of Service
Hereby comes [your name] to swear under penalty of perjury that on the date signed below I sent the [prison name] Grievance Officer a grievance dated [date] concerning the misplacement of my TV and Norelco Razor by prison authorities through the institutional level mail service.
Executed this ___ day of _____ [month] ________ [year]
[get this stamped and signed by a notary public.]
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a helpful update to the country-wide grievance campaign and likely is a tactic that can be used in states other than Illinois. How "easily" this tactic can be employed depends on the conditions of one's confinement. As some prisoners are held in 24-hour lockdown, with no access to a law library, and the only receipt offered for filing a grievance is another beating from prison guards, they might not be able to easily employ this tactic. But for many prisoners, this might be a stepping stone from having one's grievances altogether ignored, to getting one's foot in the door in the courts.
Many people have requested copies of our state-specific petitions to demand grievances be addressed after running into problems with the grievance system. From all the petitions we have sent out, we've heard few updates about the progress on this campaign. It's important that we sum up our political practice and learn from it. And through this summing up we can determine how to best modify our practice to improve it. We call this ongoing summing up and improving of our practice "dialectical materialism." This is a scientific approach to our political work that enables us to learn from doing, and when we do this summing up publicly, through a newspaper like Under Lock & Key, we can apply these lessons across a broad base of organizers and be far more effective in the work that we are all doing.
So if you use, or have used, the above tactic, be sure to tell ULK if it helped you, or what you did to improve it. That way we can all learn from each others' practice to improve our own.
In 2010 a comrade in California initiated a campaign to demand that grievances be addressed by the California prison system. This comrade created a petition that anyone behind bars could use. The campaign quickly took off in California and spread to other places where customized petitions were created for use in 14 different states.
We have reports from some states that are still actively fighting the corrupt and broken grievance systems using the petitions developed to demand grievances be addressed. But we also have a number of states for which we have petitions, but we haven't gotten an update in a long time. We still get requests for copies of these grievance petitions, but we're not sure if they are being put to use, or if the petition is entirely ineffective.
The goals of the grievance petition campaign are first to build unity amongst prisoners around a common goal, and second to try to resolve grievance problems, in order to help address some brutalities and injustices of the prison environment. An individual sending out one petition won't bring relief, but building with others in your facility around this campaign will help address at least one of these goals.
Here is the list of states for which we need updates on grievance campaign work: Arizona Colorado Kansas Montana North Carolina Nevada Oklahoma Oregon South Carolina
If you are in one of these states, let us know what you did with the grievance petition. Help us update the campaign, even if it's just to say that your work so far hasn't produced success. Tell us what grievances you are trying to fight, how you used the petition, and the participation of your fellow captives.
It is a critical part of the work of any political organization that we learn from our practice, and continue to improve our work. By reporting on your grievance campaign work, you are contributing to the dialectical materialist method of revolutionary struggle. Together we can improve our practice to be even more effective over time.
I would like to let you know of a situation that occurred on 1 December 2015, at Ely State Prison in Nevada. A white corrections officer (CO) was taking a Black prisoner to yard in handcuffs. CO Edwards is a known racist pig, and while taking this prisoner to yard he slammed his face against the sally port door. When the prisoner went to his knees, CO Edwards then slammed his face on the ground. The reason given was that the prisoner "turned his head too fast."
The prisoner was taken to the hole. But it caused us to unite. Nevada has become a highly individualized state. No one wants to get involved with any struggle. But yesterday a comrade and I pushed the issue, and we got a large number of prisoners to file grievances. We filed them as AR340 misconduct complaints against the pig Edwards, which are supposed to be sent to the Inspector General's office.
It was nice to see us united. I will keep you updated on this issue.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is doing the hard work necessary to build an anti-imperialist movement: repeatedly trying to inspire others to come together to fight injustices. Even if the action is small at first, the unity around this one incident helps to build unity around bigger issues. People learn through action, even if that lesson is that the oppressors are far more powerful than us right now. We still have to take the opportunity to offer information about the criminal injustice system, why we take on these battles, and how they fit in to our longer term goal of putting an end to the oppressive system of imperialism.
In 2001, reporters at the Boston Globe newspaper exposed widespread sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church and the long-running coverup of this abuse by Church leadership. Priests who were known to have molested children were moved to new parishes where they repeated the abuse, with full knowledge of Church leadership. The Globe printed a series of stories that led to the resignation of Cardinal Law and great embarrassment for the Church. Spotlight dramatizes the work done by the reporting team at the Globe to uncover the facts in this case, and the resistance they faced in a city dominated by the Catholic Church.
Overall Spotlight does a good job demonstrating the tremendous harm that the institution of the Catholic Church did to thousands (likely tens of thousands) of youth, and the pervasive influence and power of the Church in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. No attempt is made to justify the actions of the Church leadership who covered for the abusive priests, nor does the movie suggest that anything was changed by the newspaper stories, instead concluding with a list of hundreds of cities around the world where similar abuse scandals were uncovered.
It is outrageous and enraging to see the stories of abused children, the lucky ones who made it to adulthood, and hear about Church authorities who, upon learning about these cases, moved to silence the abused, promising it would never happen again, even while they knew the priests had a history of exactly this same abuse against other children. It is an interesting contrast that, while quick to believe that all Muslims are terrorists when a small minority of them fight back against imperialism, Amerikans presented with so much evidence would never consider calling all Catholics child molesters. Even non-Catholics in the United $tates are well indoctrinated to believe that the churches are forces for good and Christianity is a religion of good people.
In the end the movie lets the Catholic Church off the hook. By focusing on just this sex abuse scandal, Spotlight portrays the rest of the Church activities as generally benevolent. Further, it implies that the abusive priests are just psychologically impaired in some way, and so this has allowed the Catholic Church to say they've solved the problem by introducing psychological screening for those wanting to enter priesthood. We believe it is the very institution of the Catholic Church, along with the patriarchy that it so ardently supports, that leads priests to be indoctrinated into eroticizing power over helpless young kids. It's not a flaw in the individual, but rather the system itself that is flawed, and not in a way that can be fixed by psychological screenings. Religion has a long history of supporting the patriarchal dominance of male power and reinforcing gender inequality.
One problem with focusing on the serious harm the Catholic Church does to Amerikkkans is the omission of the even greater harm the Church has done globally. Consistently a force for reaction, the Church at best has pretended neutrality while watching dictators murder, plunder, and oppress entire nations of people. Just as Spotlight shows the power and influence of the Catholic Church in all levels of Boston's city politics, in many cases there is documentation of this Church's support for and work with reactionary governments around the world.
As a strong centralized religious institution with a long history, the Catholic Church is an easy target for people looking to document the reactionary role of religious institutions. But they are just one example of the harm religious institutions have on society. After overthrowing the imperialists and putting a government in power that serves the interests of the oppressed (a dictatorship of the proletariat), the people will have the power to ban reactionary institutions. When we see the tremendous harm that the Catholic Church did to so many children over so many years, it should be obvious that this institution should be outlawed. And those who perpetuated and covered up the molestation should face the people's courts. There is no justification for allowing such dangerous institutions to continue.
Yet, we don't need to outlaw religion as a belief under the dictatorship of the proletariat. As Mao explained about their policy in China under socialism:
"The Communist Party has adopted a policy of protecting religions. Believers and non-believers, believers of one religion or another, are all similarly protected, and their faiths are respected. Today, we have adopted this policy of protecting religions, and in future we will still maintain this policy of protection." (Talk with Tibetan Delegates, October 8, 1952)
It is not that we want to force people to change their beliefs. Rather we think that once we eliminate reactionary culture and institutions and teach all people how to reason with dialectical materialist methodology they will give up old ideas and beliefs that are not based in science. Just as Confucianism was discarded by most Chinese so too will other religions be discarded by humynity as we advance towards a world without the oppression of groups of people.
Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with their grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here. If there is a state-wide petition developed, that one should be used instead of the country-wide petition, because it is more detailed. For a list of state-wide petitions that have already been developed, click here.
Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses listed on the petition, and to the MIM(Prisons) address below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.
United States Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB Washington, D.C. 20530
Office of Inspector General HOTLINE P.O. Box 9778 Arlington, Virginia 22219
And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!
MIM(Prisons), USW PO Box 40799 San Francisco, CA 94140
by a Pennsylvania prisoner December 2015 permalink
We, captives in the dungeon of the United Snakes of Amerikkka, have to realize that imperialism and religion were some of the main reasons many oppressed nations stay oppressed. I say this because religion instills false hope and cannot be trusted to bring an individual truth. Truth is within us. It's not some dogma that's external. A lot of us look for happiness in goods, money, fame, etc. But those things are illusions. What's real is our consciousness and attaining a higher realm of consciousness.
Imperialists use religions as a way to divide and conquer. Religion is also used to create racism and slavery. I am talking about mental enslavement. Militaries are built to protect the imperialist religions so that they can keep you in a daze and exploit you and control you. When the Europeans sailed to Africa they used religion as a tool to pacify. And in turn the Africans were turned into consumer goods used to work the lands taken from the First Nations. So we can see how religion is good and bad. But man must know thyself. And all superstitions should be thrown away.
Revolution will defeat imperialism before religion does. And not because of turning the other cheek. But realizing that this school of thought does nothing but enslave minds to support a corrupt system to oppress nations all over the world. So I conclude to say revolution will bring heaven here on this earth. But religion will bring hell and divide us all. Unite and fight imperialism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have a lot of unity with this comrade's comments on religion as a tool of national oppression. However, we do not agree that "What's real is our consciousness and attaining a higher realm of consciousness." Lenin wrote the book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism to refute the ideology of subjective idealism which remains popular to this day among those who want people to focus on raising their own consciousness while ignoring the external material world, as if self-improvement is a revolutionary act in and of itself. As Lenin explained, "the fundamental premise of materialism is the recognition of the external world, of the existence of things outside and independent of our mind..." Ey makes it clear that we must look at matter and not just consciousness as a part of the materialist method: "Matter is primary, and thought, consciousness, sensation are products of a very high development. Such is the materialist theory of knowledge, to which natural science instinctively subscribes." This is important because if we focus only on our own consciousness we will never be compelled to act to create material change in the world. This is essentially what religions tells people, but religion focuses the consciousness-raising on knowing a god or higher power. Both approaches will leave the suffering in the real world untouched.
We are given shoes - and the cement to walk on jacket and pants - and the gum to chew on unwrap the plastic - open the box Let's see just how much money we can blow on socks symbols stitched outward - seams pink and frilly made in amerikkan sweatshops - made in Vichy Chile Teresa Marie is nine and has worked here years fifty cents a day for her blood sweat and tears she lives in a mud hut with her family's chickens and old rusty barrel - a couple flat rocks home sweet home - here's Teresa's kitchen her father shot by a U.$.-backed dictator her mother raped by a drunken U.$. soldier the baby's half white and starving to death fifty pennies a day - eight mouths - no milk left you walk into the store - air conditioned - complaining she walks in the mud shoeless - sharp rocks - daily you are proud as apple pie to be an amerikkkan she has nightmares: "U.$. soldiers are coming to get me" bigger fatter stitched corporate brand name socks skinnier jumpier malnourished children walking on rocks you're depressed - on medication but at least you don't stink powdered. deoderized - pampered. christianized you want Jesus to save you - LOL - ya right behind her hut in an old tree knot a penny a week out of the several she's got a smile lights her face as she turns to cook dinner her brother needs ammo - revolutionary clandestine U.$. pig killer
Resolutions on Gender Pronouns and Secure Communications
A couple resolutions passed at our 2015 Congress in July. One was focused on clarifying our policy on securing our communications outside of prisons. The full policy remains internal, but it reads in part, "Our policy is that we do not have cell relations over the internet if the other cell will not use PGP or equivalent encryption." This clarifies our existing practice.
The second resolution was proposed to change our use of pronouns to reflect the non-binary reality of biological sex categories. This proposal was taken as a task for further research as comrades were not well enough informed on the topic to put it to a vote at that time. Below is our final resolution on this question, as a result of further research and discussion.
Distinguishing Biology from Gender
As revolutionaries committed to fighting gender oppression, we distinguish between the biology/physiology of sex (male/female), and the socially constructed categories of gender (men/wimmin).
Our definition of gender places it firmly within leisure-time:
"Historically reproductive status was very important to gender, but today the dynamics of leisure-time and humyn biological development are the material basis of gender. For example, children are the oppressed gender regardless of genitalia, as they face the bulk of sexual oppression independent of class and national oppression.
"People of biologically superior health-status are better workers, and that's a class thing, but if they have leisure-time, they are also better sexually privileged. We might think of models or prostitutes, but professional athletes of any kind also walk this fine line. Athletes, models and well-paid prostitutes are not oppressed as 'objects,' but in fact they hold sexual privilege. Older and disabled people as well as the very sick are at a disadvantage, not just at work but in leisure-time. For that matter there are some people with health statuses perfectly suited for work but not for leisure-time."(1)
Our definition of gender has not changed. But with our growing understanding of the artificially binary definition of biological sex, MIM(Prisons) is changing our use of language to better reflect the reality of biology.
A Bit of History on Biology
In the past MIM line has treated the biology of sex as basically binary: males and females. But humyn biology has never been entirely binary with relation to sex characteristics. There are a range of interactions between chromosomes, hormone expressions and sexual organ development. The resulting variation in anatomical and reproductive characteristics include a lot of people who do not fit the standard binary expectation. Studies suggest that as many as 1 in 100 births deviate from the standard physical expectations of sex biology.(2) To this day anything deviating from the "normal" binary of distinct male or female is seen by mainstream society as a disorder to be corrected or covered up. Genital surgeries are conducted on newborn babies causing lifelong pain and suffering just to "correct" a body part that is seen as too large or small, or even just because a baby identified by doctors to be a boy might grow up unable to pee standing up.(3)
People who are born with variations in sex and reproductive organs that don't fit the typical binary are termed intersex. This term encompasses a wide range of biological expressions, including people entirely indistinguishable from society's definition of males and females without a chromosomal test or other invasive physical examination. There are even instances where someone would be identified female by a certain set of criteria (such as an external physical examination) but male by another set (such as a chromosome test).
The Value of Removing Biologically-determined Pronouns
From studying the history of humyn biology we learn that it's not possible to easily identify the biological sex of an individual. In fact, there's nothing wrong with having a spectrum of biological characteristics that we don't have to fit into two neat categories. Further, we do not generally see value in identifying biological sex unless it is the specific topic of discussion. We are committed to fighting gender oppression. And part of this fight involves teaching people not to be concerned with the biology of others, and instead to judge them for their work and the correctness of their political ideas.
Many languages are relatively gender neutral compared to english. Chinese is just one example. These languages do not suffer from confusion about the identity of people, and they are arguably much easier to learn and use in this regard. In Spanish, the transition to a gender neutral language has already begun with the use of @ in place of o/a in gendered words. While English does not offer us a similar gender-neutral option, we have a history of modifying the language to suit our revolutionary purposes. We have changed America to Amerikkka to identify the domination of national oppression in this country. And we have changed woman to womyn to remove the implication that a "woman" is just an appendage to a "man."
Building on MIM's Legacy
For most of MIM's history, it used gender-neutral pronouns of "h" instead of his, her, him, hers; and "s/he" instead of she or he. Ten years ago at MIM's 2005 Congress, a resolution was passed on gender-neutral pronouns, which read:
"MIM hereby extends its policy on anti-patriarchal language (including such spellings as 'womyn,' 'wimmin,' 'persyn,' and 'humyn') to cover the use of gender-neutral third-person singular pronouns. Henceforth feminine pronouns will be used for persyns of unknown sex who are friends of the international proletariat and masculine pronouns will be used for enemies of unknown sex.
"Examples: 'From each according to her abilities, to each according to her needs.' 'A true comrade devotes her life to serving the people.' 'The enemy will not perish of himself.' 'A labor aristocrat derives much of his income from superprofits.'
"This rule applies only to the otherwise ambiguous cases when sex is not stated. Accordingly, George Bu$h is still 'he' and Madeleine Albright is 'she,' although both are enemies. All MCs, HCs, and others close to MIM are 'she' at this time, since their real sex cannot be revealed, for security reasons.
"Traditional patriarchal grammar maintains that 'he' is the only correct 'gender-neutral' pronoun in all of the examples above. MIM's realignment of the pronouns along the lines of 'Who are our friends? Who are our enemies?' is more egalitarian and corresponds fairly well to the facts at this point in history."
While we see great value in the above resolution, in applying it to our practical work we ran into many problems. Regular readers of ULK may recognize that MIM(Prisons) has defaulted to the old MIM practice of using "h" and "s/he" pronouns.
The vast majority of MIM(Prisons)'s subscribers are cis-males, meaning they were classified as male at birth and they self-identify as male today. (Note that these criteria are not material tests of one's sex.) Much of our subscribers' reasons for being imprisoned in the first place is related to this male classification. And they are held in facilities that are "male only." Prison is an environment which heightens all of society's contradictions, and this environment tends to be even more violent in reinforcing social codes of conduct (including "male" and "female" social markers) than the outside world.
In our practice of running a prisoner support organization with our organizing resting heavily on the written word, we have seen it as too confusing to use "she" pronouns for our cis-male comrades. Further, the 2005 resolution is not clear on whether prisoners as a whole, who are of the lumpen class, should be referred to as "she" or "he." Historically the lumpen is a vacillating class, which is in a tug-of-war between bourgeois and proletarian influence. Determining if the lumpen are "friends of the international proletariat" is sometimes unclear. Thus the use of "h" and "s/he" was much more useful in our specific work.
We believe this new writing policy will have a positive impact for our transgender, transexual, and genderqueer subscribers and contributors as well. The preferred pronouns of these groups are often individually self-selected, as is how they present their gender identification. (Note that preferred pronouns and gender identification are not material definitions of one's sex or gender.) Defaulting everyone's pronouns to a singular set of gender-neutral pronouns reduces the subjectivism inherent in this type of identity politics. We hope our new writing policy will draw this movement into a more materialist and internationalist direction.
New Writing Policy
When referring to an individual in the third persyn, we will use either their name or the neutral pronouns of ey, em, and eir to replace s/he and h. Ey, em, and eir are singularized versions of they, them, and their and we believe these more accurately reflect the biological sex of humyns, in that they downplay the inaccurate binary which has developed over thousands of years of patriarchal history. We also think ey/em/eir will have the greatest ease of use, from the wide selection of gender neutral pronoun sets which have been proposed in the past.(5)
We define men and wimmin as those who are oppressors in leisure time and those who are oppressed in leisure time, respectively, and regardless of biological genitalia or reproductive capacity.(4) This is the strand of oppression called gender. When referring to people or individuals when gender is relevant, we will refer to them as men or wimmin and use he or she pronouns. (Similarly, we don't always reference other defining characteristics of our correspondents, but we do refer to someone as "New Afrikan" or "clean-shaven" when relevant.)