At this point Leavenworth Detention Center has no gang validation or step down program. Actually it seems that the administration does very little to address gang violence. This is a detention facility housing mainly pre-trial prisoners but it seems more like a war zone. No effort is made to separate rival gang members or to place people in a safe environment. For example it is common for the pigs to house a white supremacist with a Muslim.
They pit us against each other and sit back and enjoy the show. We must look beyond the tip of our noses and begin to see the bigger picture. United we stand, divided we fall.
Recently we had a major victory! The food here is substandard at best but the meatloaf in particular is undercooked and rancid. White, Black and Latino all stood together and refused to accept trays and refused to lockdown until we were fed. The pigs brought in tear gas canisters to try to intimidate us but we simply refused to go to sleep without food. Finally we were brought sack lunches and they took meatloaf off the menu. If we stick together and stand up for what's right peacefully anything is possible.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer reminds us that prisons can play lumpen organizations both ways. On the one side we oppose the validation of people as gang members because this is used to punish and isolate and it is used to target activists and leaders. On the other side we oppose prisons throwing rival organizations together to try to create conflict and violence, which is further used as justification to isolate and lockdown whoever is perceived as a leader, activist or troublemaker. None of these actions are for the purpose of promoting safety or security of the prison population.
It is good to hear about people coming together in spite of the pigs attempts to foment conflict. Winning one change in food is a small battle, but it gives people the chance to see what is possible through unity, and hopefully will lead to greater unity in the future. Those conscious comrades in Leavenworth should take this opportunity to spread political education, and try to unite all against the criminal injustice system. If everyone is on the yard together, this is a good opportunity to start study classes. Write to MIM(Prisons) for help getting a study group started in your prison.
"[A]s societal advancements have made being gay less stigmatized and gay people more visible — and as the Internet now allows kids to reach beyond their circumscribed social groups for acceptance and support — the average coming out age has dropped from post-college age in the 1990s to around 16 today, which means that more and more kids are coming out while they're still economically reliant on their families. The resulting flood of kids who end up on the street, kicked out by parents whose religious beliefs often make them feel compelled to cast out their own offspring, has been called a 'hidden epidemic.'"
According to the Equity Project, leaving home because of family rejection is the single greatest predictor of involvement with the juvenile-justice system for LGBT youth.
Research done by San Francisco State University's Family Acceptance Project, which studies and works to prevent health and mental health risks facing LGBT youth, empirically confirming what common sense would imply to be true: highly religious parents are significantly more likely than their less-religious counterparts to reject their children for being gay.
LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population in the U.$., overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless youth population — an estimation that may be far too low considering that many homeless youth may not openly identify themselves as LGBT when seeking services.
The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United $tates. The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children put the number of homeless youth at 1.7 million. (Across the country there are only 4,000 youth-shelter beds, overall). Approximately one in five LGBT youth are unable to secure short-term shelter, and 16 percent could not get assistance with longer-term housing — figures that are almost double those of their non-LGBT peers.
For LGBT kids who remain homeless, the stakes are clearly life and death: they are seven times more likely than their straight counterparts to be the victims of a crime; studies have shown they are more than three times more likely to engage in survival sex — for which shelter is the payment more often than cost. And every four hours a homeless LGBT youth dies in the streets, whether it be from freezing to death, a drug overdose, or assault.
The summer that marriage equality passed in New York, the number of homeless kids looking for shelter went up 40 percent, reported the Ali Forney Center — the nation's largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth. Tragically, every step forward for the gay rights movement creates a false hope of acceptance for certain youth, and therefore a swelling of the homeless youth population. Up to 40 percent of LGBT homeless youth leave home due to family rejection.
Amerikkka's homeless LGBT youth is its hidden epidemic. Of the $5 billion the U.$. government spends on homeless assistance programs every year, less than five percent of that is allocated for homeless children, specifically. Amerikkka's homeless youth, in general, is its next true plague.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides some useful data on homelessness and queer youth and exposes a tragic consequence of gender oppression for these youth. We do not, however, agree with the author's conclusion that homeless LGBT youth are a hidden epidemic in the United $tates. Especially not with the implication that the U.$. government should spend more money on homeless assistance, as if the imperialist government can help end a problem that they created.
We don't like to look at problems like homeless LGBT youth in isolation as a "hidden epidemic" because this encourages an analysis of such issues in isolation, and suggests that we should tackle them directly and Amerika will be able to find a solution if only the epidemic is exposed. While the United $tates certainly has enough money to eliminate homelessness, the reality of homelessness in the United $tates is a tragic byproduct of imperialist decadence and individualism. The imperialist system exists to enrich the oppressors, at the expense of the oppressed. And if a few citizens suffer or die in the process, that's not really a problem for the Amerikans in charge. While the vast majority of Amerikan citizens are benefiting as either oppressor nation (white) or beneficiary class (petty bourgeoisie), or both, there are those who society does not bother to help. Most homeless are cast off because they are part of oppressed groups: gender (including health status) and nation play a big role here, and this is what's behind much of the homelessness of LGBT people.
We should expose the vast problem of homelessness in the United $tates, as it is an embarrassing and clear example of a wealthy country that doesn't even care about the lives of its own citizens. Other less wealthy countries do a better job addressing homelessness (i.e western Europe, some Asian countries), so it could be solved within the structure of imperialism, but only for the citizens affected. The many people in the Third World who are permanently without home and living in poverty because of the exploitation and plunder of imperialist Amerika are the truly hidden homeless.
We should point out, as this author does, that gender oppression is playing a significant role in LGBT youth ability to survive, and this is something we must fight. Both of these elements of the homeless LGBT youth issue are symptomatic of imperialism. And so rather than rally people for more government attention to homelessness in Amerika, we should focus on the root cause of global homelessness and organized to overthrow imperialism.
One of the most damaging aspects of U.S. prisons today is the control units. Control units and solitary confinement are the state's biggest guns in their torturous arsenal. Control units are called SHU, SMU, CMU and a variety of other names depending on what state one is in, but they all work to employ torture on the captives held therein.
When we look to the history of the U.S. prison system we find that the oppressed nations held within have always suffered greatly at the hands of Amerikkka. Prisoners in the United $tates have suffered unpaid labor, lynchings, beatings, floggings and assassinations to name a few. Although much of this still continues — at times more concealed and shrouded than in the past — there are other new methods of national oppression which are employed in this new era of United States domination. I suspect that post-Obama (so-called "post-racial Amerikkka") we will continue to see more of these concealed forms of oppression which inflict the same harm, but which slip through under the radar of the average First World citizen. This makes liberals feel warm and cozy and allows them to believe "progress" is obtainable in the imperialist center.
One such method employed on prisoners in dungeons within the United Snakes is the use of the control unit. The control unit is a modern-day torture chamber, but it cannot be advertised as a lethal killer of mostly Brown or Black minds because the liberals might even turn their noses up at such a revelation. Instead the public must be told that control units are only used on incorrigibles, savages, foreigners, gang members or the sensationalized terrorists.
Who is Locked in Control Units?
Like our ancestors who may have been asked what got the shackle around their ankle, what got them branded with their owner's name on their face, or what got that noose wrapped around their necks, our answer, like theirs, is that it is the nature of our oppressor to seek to eliminate all rebels and revolutionaries who oppose the oppressor nation. This is ultimately what places one in a control unit.
Of course we are up against a sophisticated oppressor nation and the placement of prisoners in control units is wrapped in flowery language. We are told it is for "gang activity" or a "threat to the safety and security of the institution." I am sometimes given a chrono stating I'm "actively engaged in a criminal conspiracy that threatens the institution, staff and other prisoners." This to the untrained mind may sound like justification for torture. Not only is this character assassination not true, but nothing justifies torture, absolutely nothing!
It was only after I began to write articles that spoke up for prisoners, and began filing appeals and lawsuits on behalf of all prisoners, that I was targeted for placement in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU). In short, when I began to resist state repression was when I was isolated in solitary confinement. I was allowed by the state to commit minor crimes and fight other prisoners, until I started to become politically conscious. I am not alone.
Most who work to advance and organize their nation, speak up on behalf of others, or engage in jailhouse lawyering will end up in a control unit. This is a common practice in colonized society: those who resist and who are politically influential are imprisoned under a colonial oppressor.
Why Does the State Have a Validation Process?
Our oppressor must devise ways of placing us in control units, and in California it uses the validation process. The validation process attempts to lend a legal aura to torture and national oppression by claiming to undergo a fair and unbiased process to validate someone as a "gang affiliate." This process is about as unbiased as asking the fox to guard the henhouse.
The fact that the validation process continues to use things as ridiculous as a birthday card, an Aztec drawing, or a book written by George Jackson as evidence of gang activity proves that there is nothing unbiased about this validation process. The kourt cases which supposedly stopped the prison from using these items show how much of a joke the injustice system is and how much it really is an extension of an oppressive state. Our victories will never come from massa's kourthouse.
The validation system helps pacify prisoners into thinking that there is a legitimate process they are undergoing to end the torture. That somehow if we are patient and do as we are told that we might get out of the SHU. This of course is ludicrous. We will stay in SHU until our oppressor feels we no longer resist, until they feel we are broken. Sometimes they want to train their agents and attempt to capture all who associate with us out on the mainline, as if we were live bait. But so long as we remain resistant to their oppression, we will not be allowed to freely associate with others. The validation process only works to uphold our national oppression.
The Step Down Program is More Repression
When we go to committee in California SHUs we are given a form called the "CDCR Advisement of Expectations." This form gives a list of supposed STG behavior which includes "participating in STG group exercise, using gestures, handshakes, possession of artwork with STG symbols." Note that we are not informed what STG symbols are.
We basically cannot socialize with anyone, or we might be accused of STG behavior. We are not told who is validated as part of a STG or given any information about STG behavior. We are simply told we better not associate with STGs or engage in their behavior. The state will decide if we are behaving properly and allowed to proceed in the Step Down Program. They claim they are the experts.
I have heard of some being put on this "Step Down" Program, but the state is picking and choosing who they put in the program. In my opinion it is a pacification program and I am not going to participate in it. Participation masks the oppression of the state while also allowing them to attempt to coerce me and any participants of being guilty, of confessing guilt, even if only guilty of what they deem to be incorrect thoughts.
Recent news of a federal class action lawsuit challenging policies and conditions at the Pelican Bay SHU is welcome and something we all should be following. Ashker et al. v. Governor of California et al., No. C 09-05796 claims that being held for more than ten years in SHU is cruel and unusual punishment and that the validation process is a violation of due process.(1) But here's the kicker: if you have joined the Step Down Program you are not included in this class action. So already we see how the new Step Down Program is serving the state by making it more difficult for prisoners to challenge their conditions.
My behavior is no more incorrect today than it was the first day I was captured and housed in the SHU. The state will not be let off the hook and I refuse to step down from resisting oppression. The Step Down Program continues the same oppression that the validation process started: it attempts to justify what the state is doing to the oppressed nations.
What will End the Validation/Step Down Program?
The Step Down Program is not only similar to the validation process, but here in California many prisons are still using both methods, so we need to end them both.
From the beginning I saw the need to struggle for closing the SHU. From the first hunger strike I knew that if we don't close the SHU altogether, the state will just have us fighting the same problem under new names for decades via strikes/lawsuits. This will never accomplish our goal. We need to keep all justifications for the use of solitary confinement in our scope. No matter why someone is held in solitary confinement, it is always torture and it should always be opposed.
At the same time we have made improvements in many prisoners' lives and some have gotten out of SHU, and I am happy for this. However validation and Step Down Programs will keep us locked in the SHUs until we can make resistance to oppression a hip and common thing. When hunger strikes occur more often than once every ten years, and peaceful protests are as frequent as spring cleaning, then maybe we will finally end validation/step down programs.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Most civilians would say that controlling gang violence is a good thing, and that perspective is exactly what the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is relying on for its gang validation and Step Down Programs. The assumption is that all groups classified as gangs are engaged in criminal activity, and anyone in contact with the gang must be a member.
Let's put aside for now the reality that the U.$. military and police force is the biggest gang in world history. If anyone is organized in criminal activity and terrorism, it's them. That any U.$. government agency claims to be against gang activity without being critical of itself is just a joke.
Lumpen organizations that are not necessarily revolutionary are also targeted as gangs, whether or not they break U.$. laws. The real threat is not the activities that the lumpen are engaged in, but that they have any level of unity and organization. STG labels and Step Down Programs criminialize the association, not actual crime.
The U.$. government will do everything it can to protect its international hegemony. Controlling any potentially subversive population within its borders, especially the internal semi-colonies, is a high priority, no matter how much they dress it up with fancy titles and administrative process.
Fort Collins Colorado - a 25-year old Chicano lumpen was killed by a cop today after what appears to be a robbery gone awry. The details are still unclear and prison censorship interferes with information gathering, but the news has sent shock waves reverberating throughout the Chicano lumpen prison population. One question comes to my mind, if being in prison isn't enough, since we are under a new brutally authoritative system in Colorado prisons, and now kkkops are killing us, where do we find relief?
And to the fact that Chicanos use violence against one another with the factions of various different lumpen groups, how do we use this new murder to bring revolution to the forefront in Colorado? With the minds and consciences in sadness, how do we really use this situation to unite?
Violence between all Chicano lumpen only justifies violence against us by the cops. My last article revolving around Mike Brown now pushes the genocide both external and internal to the forefront and should be used to remind us that our conditions are our responsibility.
Aztlán and the social responsibility for its liberation begins with peace between all lumpen Chicano groups. However shocking this incident is at the moment, I would like to take this time to express my deep condolences, sadness and solidarity to the homies, family and loved ones of this young comrade in the struggle.
Captive Chicanos: don't react with focoism, premature acts of violence against any guard will only continue to justify the use of force and violence against us by the state apparatus.
Revolution is our only option. To turn our pain into a force of revolutionary education, that will save our children and our comrades in arms.
Understand how the police state and the overall imperialist class holds an imaginative sway over us, by its use of things like patriotism and calls to social responsibility to our government. This is not our duty, our duty is to smash the internal divisions and unite. If we don't we all will not be safe. It is time to live for something more. Fight Back!
In New York what you call "gang validation" is called "gang intelligence" and every prison has at least one sergeant who works on it full time.
Alleged gang members are very often self-identified by foolish displays of colors, flags, and wacky writings found on cell searches. Sadly, many are not real gang members in any substantive sense, but foolish young wannabes who are horribly manipulated by "gang leaders." In New York, and likely everywhere, nearly all "gang leaders" are really collaborators of the worst, most manipulative kind, and they are nearly all rats. It's pretty easy for the "gang intelligence sergeant" to look good when the leader gives him a written membership list! Which doesn't have to be at all accurate, of course.
The biggest gang intelligence tool is the phones — New York State prisons record 100% of phone calls on digital hard drives. Obviously, there are not enough ears to listen to 80,000+ prisoners all the time, so they just sample or review a particular prisoner's calls. Or they may review calls to a certain phone number by multiple different prisoners. And the authorities are very careful. They rarely make direct use of recorded calls to nail minor offenders. I know about the extent of the monitoring because I double-bunked with a guy whose ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend was beaten up very badly. My bunky was questioned harshly and almost charged based on calls going back two years. Another man, who I worked with, a defrocked politician, got six months in the box, when "they" had it in for him, based on year-old recorded conversations.
A technical note: hard drive voice recording costs about 1 cent per hour once the system is set up. Put another way, it would cost more to have someone periodically erase old recordings than it costs them to keep them indefinitely.
From snippets of phone conversations I've overheard while making my own calls, nearly all prisoners are lulled into complacency and extreme carelessness by the authorities letting little transgressions slip by while they wait for the really useful information.
In New York, men identified as gang affiliates go to the most miserable prisons which have the fewest educational and remedial programs (nearly zero). Young, generally terrified, totally uneducated men get no help. I call them "five centers," just empty recyclable cans. Recidivism is good for job security. Just like a hotel or restaurant, prison employees make real money on repeat customers.
Another method is to record the information on the outside of mail. I happen to know Green Haven Correctional Facility was doing that big time (probably related to Muslim prisoners). Authorities look for multiple prisoners written from or writing to the same address. Same game with phone numbers. It's not likely ten guys have the same wife or grandma.
Regarding the petitions advertised on page 12 of Under Lock & Key, please be very careful. Petitions from prisoners are completely illegal in New York. A clear constitutional violation which has, unfortunately, been allowed by every level of New York and federal courts. Please find another word, at least, and please don't encourage more than one signature on any piece of paper, or multiple letters mailed together. Anything considered a petition in New York is a quick bus ride to a six-month box stay.
I do not mention anything in New York out of admiration. It's the worst and sometimes the best because they spend (waste and steal) the most. The real fixes are real pay, real freedom, not the phony kindness of the dictator. The most distressed prisoners must get the most help, not the least. The gangs exist mostly as a tool of domination and manipulation — in the larger view they are created by and for the system, not combated by the prison system. The only usefulness to my mind of somewhat better practices in New York prisons or elsewhere is that New York's practices may temporarily help men's arguments in other states.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There are people out for themselves in all prisons, who will sell out their fellow prisoners to the guards. But we would not categorize all so-called "gang leaders" as collaborators. No doubt some are, but some are working with lumpen organizations that have a genuine interest in the anti-imperialist fight. We need to judge each individual for their own actions and political line. Similarly we judge each organization in the same way.
This comrade correctly points out the many difficulties prisoners face with secure communications and general security of self-preservation. As we've written in the past, secure communications are a critical part of self-defense at this stage in the struggle. Everyone needs to be conscious of the many ways the imperialist state can monitor our work and communications. The Amerikan public knows that all its communications are being monitored now, and prisoners should be under no illusion about theirs.
Along those lines, comrades in New York should take heed of this warning about petitions. At the same time, we should not be scared into complacency. Petitioning the government is a basic right guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which reads, "the right of the people... to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." So while we should be strategic about using petitions in conditions where they have been used as an excuse for political repression, we must fight these battles for basic civil rights for the imprisoned population in this country. MIM(Prisons) will work with comrades in New York to push this battle further.
Literature Review: Maoism and the Black Panther Party 1992
There is one thing in particular I'd like to write about in regards to what interests are and what I've learned from the above subject matter. MIM refers to as "the cult of individual personality", when it comes to the leadership of the 3 highest ranking Panthers of the late 1960s - early 1970s. Particularly Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver. I understand what MIM is getting at when suggesting that the dominant personalities of these two men is basically what led to the BPPs downfall. Mostly due to the fact that the majority of its membership chose to follow in the leadership of either Newton or Cleaver, which ultimately led to the split and the FBI's ability to infiltrate and corrupt the BPP from the inside out.
However, without Newton's leadership and personality to begin with, the BPP would never have made the revolutionary impact on the movement that it did. In my opinion, it takes great leadership to support change. Many of the BPP's successes and accomplishments would not have been achieved without the strength of character provided by Newton.
Of course, there were mistakes, flaws that allowed the party to be exploited and manipulated by its enrollees. Which we can see in hindsight. But the reality is, at that time, it took great individual courage and audacity in the face of a very powerful and dangerous adversary to be able to inspire and to get so many to come together and to present a strong coordinated force willing to fight and to challenge, not only the police themselves, but an entire system.
Nothing inspires people more than the willingness to stand up and to die for what you believe in and Huey Newton was the epitome of courage. It's easy to claim "I would die for you." However, it's a whole different story when you're actually put under the gun. Although many people want to be brave and courageous, the majority of people are overcome by their fears.
It was Huey's courage that inspired Eldridge Cleaver to join the party. Individual practices and personal agendas created a division amongst them. Nevertheless, it does not take away from the unique quality of what drove people to come together and to follow the BPP in the first place.
So yes, I agree leadership needs to be established on all levels from top to bottom. Teaching and training our brothers to understand the importance of both individual and collective leadership. So that everyone has the ability to lead and to take charge when it is called upon. While at the same time recognizing and acknowledging that it requires a certain amount of knowledge and experience to be ready and prepared to accept a position or role of leadership. Especially one that places the lives of our people under your care.
When looking back at the BPP a lot of people, including MIM, seem to place the bulk of the responsibility on Newton and Cleaver. Therefore, laying blame on these two individuals above everyone else. Which is reasonable to a point. They chose to insist on placing themselves in the position of authority. Hence, accountability falls directly on their shoulders. However, the BPP produced many great leaders including but not limited to: George Jackson, Geronimo Pratt, Fred Hampton, Sekou Odinga, Mutolu Shakur, etc. Each of whom established a following of their own. They all also suffered at the hands of their enemies. But the point I want to make is, when the opportunity presented itself, even though they were part of the BPP, they each created their own agendas, based not solely on what Newton and Cleaver directed, but on the practices and objectives they felt best served the movement.
I don't believe it is right to throw Huey under the bus for what happened. He did his best and unfortunately in the end succumbed to the circumstances that stopped him.
I think to succeed, we have to all come together and to unite under a common force. Our leaders need to put aside their egos and humble themselves to the fact that we all have a place. It is up to us as individuals to understand that place. Those who are best fit to lead us should lead us. Those who have proven over time, through correct practice and sacrifice, who have the leadership skills, abilities and qualities, as well as the knowledge, training and experience.
Just as the representatives of the Pelican Bay short Corridor Collective came together in solidarity to build a movement that was at one time unimaginable. So should those who claim to be the vanguards of the revolutionary movement on the outside. There are always going to be differences in ideologies, philosophies, and perspectives. Our goal should be to put our differences to the side and to find our common ground. Our common goals and interests. Focusing and directing our efforts and energies towards striving for what we all have in common.
I have noticed the lines that have been drawn between groups such as MIM, RCP, SWP, etc. Imagine how much can be done if only each of these groups came together to build around and upon a common goal? Creating a courageous leadership with representatives from each group. Agreeing to prioritize those things that are important to everyone. While at the same time each group respectively accepting their own individual purposes.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This commentary is on the pamphlet produced by the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) called Maoism and the Black Panther Party. There are two main points here we want to address: the personality cult and the call for unity between various organizations.
There is a contradiction around the question of the cult of personality. As this comrade points out, figures like Huey Newton and Fred Hampton were responsible for some of the quick gains in membership of the Panthers. There is a contradiction between the leaders and the masses based on the law of uneven development, which leaves the masses needing leaders in the first place. Communist practice has answered this problem with democratic centralism, including the use of the mass line. We've criticized the Panther organizing strategy for its failure to distinguish between the Party and mass organizations. By not recognizing the different roles of the two, the Party suffered and charismatic individuals had too much power, which broke down democratic centralism.
This comrade is correct that Huey's actions, based in his correct understanding, played a significant role in the Panthers early rise to success. Yet, we must temper this with a disciplined organizational structure that recognizes the important roles of the everyone in the Party. Once the Party reached a certain size, democratic centralism would have decreased the ability of the pigs to influence individuals to split the Party. And this was a major failure of the Panthers.
Notwithstanding this criticism, the pamphlet does not throw Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver under the bus. Rather, the principal message is to hold up the BPP, and its leaders, as the best example we have of Maoist organizing within U.$. borders. In fact, MIM later published an article in 1999 "Huey Newton: North Amerikan of the Century?" advocating this position. But in analyzing historical movements that failed to achieve their goals, we have a responsibility to figure out what errors were made so that we can improve on that practice.
The second question raised by this writer is that of whether all organizations such as MIM, RCP and SWP should "put our differences to the side and find our common ground." We ask the author whether s/he would also call on the Black Panther Party to unite with the US organization, a group that killed one of the great leaders, Bunchy Carter, and proved to be a tool of the imperialist government. We do not take this question lightly. It is very important for us to identify who are our friends and who are our enemies. And we have a duty to unite all who can be united in the fight against imperialism. However, we should not attempt to build unity with those who mislead the masses and actually serve the imperialists, whether consciously or unconsciously. Organizations like the RCP and SWP, who work to rally the white nation within U.$. borders for greater benefits to themselves, are objectively working against the interests of the international proletariat. If we were to "put our differences to the side" with these groups, we would be putting our anti-imperialism to the side. That is not a compromise we are willing to make. We do seek to unite all in the anti-imperialist battle, through a principled United Front against imperialism. But this United Front will never include pro-imperialist forces.
Correction May 2015
The author responded to our response to argue that the assassination of Bunchy was instigated by those who were trying to split the Black liberation movement, and even those close to Bunchy do not blame those who pulled the trigger as they were just following orders.
Perhaps that was a poor example we used with the BPP and US as it could easily be interpreted to mean that you should not try to unite with any group that has used violence against your group. We strongly support the end to hostilities in California and the United Front for Peace in Prisons and are aware that one of the major barriers to that is the history of bloodshed. But the difference is the reasons for the bloodshed. With L.O.s it is generally "petty differences" as the author describes in h letter. But with political organizations it is often about core political differences. The implication above was that the US murder of Bunchy was due to such deep political differences. Perhaps a good argument could be made that that was not the case. But either way, the reason we would not ally with SWP or RCP is because of where their politics lead. At the group level it is against the interests of the oppressed. For example, the RCP line on Iran leads to the suffering and death of Iranians as a group at the hands of U.$. imperialism. So this is a bigger picture question. And the reason we are so adamant about not working with RCP is that most people cannot see the difference between us. So to do so would be to confuse the masses, potentially leading to more people following the RCP and working against the interests of the oppressed.
A lot of these differences are deep, historical debates that were settled in the communist movement a long time ago, but confused people, or people who chauvinistically support the interests of Amerikans, keep bringing these issues up and taking the wrong side. You can check out our RCP study pack for discussion of many of these issues. And we thank the author for pointing out this correction.
Comrades, consider all the murders of people of oppressed nations in Amerika: the Trayvon Martins, Andy Lopezes, Renisha McBrides, and Michael Browns. Now consider the media attention and the fact that even though some attention was given to the racist security guards and police officers who were involved in these heinous acts, was justice rendered?
In Texas, finally we have woken up to the fact that attempting to ask the closed loop fraternity of oppressors to fix this corrupt grievance program is not the proper strategy to fix the problem.
In the mean time, numerous prisoners have been beat and murdered by Texas Department of Criminal inJustice (TDCJ) pigs hiding under the blanket of qualified immunity. The Office of Inspector General has been a willing conspirator in the cover-up of abuses of prisoners and Senator John Whitmire, the Chairman of the Texas State Legislatures Criminal Justice Committee, is the Chief of culpability when it comes to murders being un-investigated and obstruction of justice tactics made the status quo! Senator John Whitmire is a closet racist and cast in the same mold as the Dixiecrats of the South circa 1960 and 1970.
It is true, Texas State Representative Dr. Alma Allen from Houston fought hard to have House Bill 877 (HB877) passed during the 83rd legislative session in 2013. This is the TDCJ Independent Oversight Committee bill which Whitmire wouldn't support stating that “We already have policies and committees in place that do that.” Bull shit Whitmire!
Comrades, we must make a concerted effort to expose TDCJ prison employees and hucksters like Whitmire in the media. Let the public see exactly what is going on up in here and let the public decide whether the system is just or corrupt. What we do is start drafting brief, informative, and concise e-mails and blog postings and ask a family member, friend, or fellow comrade to post or send emails to particular sites and addresses.
For instance, Huntsville, Texas is the home of numerous TDCJ prisons and modern day slave camps and gulags. Huntsville has a newspaper called The Huntsville Item which occasionally reports on issues that take place within TDCJ. I've started to send short news clips and blog blasts to the Huntsville Item detailing abuse that I've witnessed or been victim to: [email protected], attn: news room. Put their ass on blast right in their own back yard!
But there's more!
The Houston Chronicle is the largest most circulated newspaper in the state of Texas. Chronicle staff writers Mike Ward, Anita Hasson, and Dan Schiller all focus on criminal justice issues and have exposed many instances of abuse inside TDCJ but they are or seem to be protectors of the pigs! Nevertheless, they are opportunistic journalists and love a juicy tale of murder, intrigue, and corruption, all salient subjects present inside the Texas Department of Criminal Injustice. I encourage you strongly to have brief but informative packed emails sent to them also! Houston Chronicle staff writer email addresses: [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected]
The Texas Observer is a left leaning “Journal of Free Voices” which publishes a monthly magazine. I've also been developing a rapport with them.
The prison show on KPFT 90.1 FM actually has a Facebook page which I highly recommend you have your friends, family and comrades visit and post short messages that detail abuse and the inadequacy of this important and useless grievance program!
Murders but no accountability
Comrades, too many prisoners are being killed by TDCJ employees and the murders are being justified as necessary use of excessive force by sadistic, brutal, and criminal TDCJ employees. As I said earlier, the Office of Inspector General is condoning and sanctioning these murders of the lumpen, so on top of our media strategy we must start contacting the Texas Rangers and the Public Integrity Unit in Austin, Texas.
The Texas Rangers are one of the oldest most advanced law enforcement agencies in Texas. Outside of the FBI the Rangers are the top pig organization in Texas. When we coordinate our efforts in such a manner as contacting the media and these Rangers, playing it out in the public domain, I promise you we will get some action right out of the chief imperialist pig oppressor Brad Livingston, TDCJ Executive director.
The public integrity unit in Austin investigates corruption of those who hold public office. So all those board of pardon and parole officials who've been taking bribery money from so-called parole lawyers in Texas watch out! All those Texas correction industries employees who have been engaged in deceptive business practices stealing tax payer dollars and promoting the slave plantation system in Texas – watch out!
Comrades, please understand that this info I am giving you has the potential to create a major disturbance in the corrupt practices of TDCJ. The oppressors don't want you to utilize this information but if we can get a significant number of comrades to embrace this strategy it will strengthen our position.
MIM(Prisons) is correct when it says the TDCJ independent oversight committee would bring progress for our fight against abuse and injustice. But remember this is a long protracted struggle that will go on for years. The key is to unify behind this strategy. We need actors not rappers.
Address: The Texas Rangers, PO Box 4087, Austin, Texas 78773-0600 The Public Integrity Unit, PO Box 1748, Austin, Texas 78767
MIM(Prisons) responds: We print this letter because it gives us a chance to address the question of how to build public opinion. We agree with this comrade that it can be useful to send information to various media outlets to expose injustice. Sometimes they will cover our struggles, if not for the reason of actually supporting these struggles. But we do need to be very aware that media is not unbiased. Mainstream media is beholden to advertisers and so very much biased in favor of capitalism and the criminal injustice system. This means that when this media does cover our struggles, it will usually be with a slant or perspective that is counter to ours. Is it useful to have the media cover a prisoner hunger strike over bad conditions by interviewing the warden and letting him have a forum to tell the public how the prisoners are wrong and conditions are good? Of course, getting our side of the story in the hands of this media may get the struggle covered with at least a bit of our perspective. That is a good thing, but we cannot rely on mainstream media. This is why MIM(Prisons) publishes Under Lock & Key. The oppressed need our own media reporting from our perspective. USW88 left out ULK as a place where people should send their stories, but we must always keep this in the front of our minds: any story or news worth sending to the mainstream media should be sent to ULK first. ULK is the most likely place it will get printed!
Ultimately we need to distinguish between our short-term goal of achieving reforms to improve the living conditions of our comrades behind bars, and our long-term goal of eliminating the criminal injustice system. The first goal may sometimes be aided by broad publicity brought to the atrocities going on behind bars. The second goal will only be accomplished with an organized communist movement with solid anti-imperialist principles. We will never get anti-imperialist education printed in mainstream media. And so we can use these avenues tactically for short term battles, but we should not rely on them for anything more. And all of our work needs to be in the context of our long-term goals: even reforms should serve as educational tools for our comrades and potential comrades to explain why we will never be able to reform away imperialism.
As for the strategy of contacting the Texas Rangers, this is a historically very reactionary arm of the law enforcement with roots in the repression and murder of [email protected] We definitely don't expect them to take action on behalf of the oppressed . Exposing the criminal injustice system actions to this criminal “law enforcement” agency is a bit like reporting a corrupt pig to the pigs. Action is almost never taken. And further, those reporting the information to the Texas Rangers have now given over their name and contact info for future repression. Rather than encourage people to put their energy into this tactic, we suggest more work writing articles about what's going on behind bars and in the streets, from the perspective of the anti-imperialist movement.
"We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of New Afrikan people. We believe that the police of the colonial government acts as an occupation force to maintain control and order for the benefit of the colonial government. We believe that the motives are in the best interest of the capitalist class who have businesses and own property in the New Afrikan community. We call for the immediate withdrawal of the occupation police-army from Our communities, and for New Afrikans to establish Our Own security system. We also maintain the right of self-defense against racist police repression and brutality, to bear arms and to organize self-defense groups to preserve the security of the New Afrikan community and Nation." - #7 What We Want – What We Believe, Ten-Point Platform & Program, Black Order Revolutionary Organization
Once again, we see the scene playin' out before our very eyes: killer kkkop slays un-armed New Afrikan teen. The violence of the state is not a coincidence or accident. It is a direct result of Our colonization in this country.
The people are outraged and are asking, "Why did this happen? Why does this continue to happen?" The Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO) asks, "How soon before it happens again? And when will we take the necessary steps to ensure that it never happens again?"
The violence of the oppressor never ceases until it is stopped with violent force. Am I advocating or promoting random, unorganized violence and looting? No, I am not. I am simply stating an hystorical fact. Never in the hystory of humynkind has an oppressor ever stopped oppressing until those who were being oppressed stopped them, using structured and protracted violence aimed at replacing the powers that be and totally changing the system before them.
If New Afrikan people and all poor and nationally oppressed people want to see an end to police brutality and murder, then we must be disciplined, conscious and organized. We must demand and fight for complete freedom and total liberation. This starts with first controlling the communities that we live in.
The type of organization that we need is not simply to organize a rally to have a killer kkkop fired and arrested. It is the entire system that must be changed. Violence against and murder of our people is as amerikan as apple pie. It is part of the culture of this society.
Organization means commitment to a long, protracted struggle against this system of oppression. As you have learned from your current experience, change won't happen overnight. It will take time and many mistakes will be made. Some of our own will betray us like they did Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner. But we must handle our own.
If you are ready to commit to this struggle, then take up the Ten-Point Platform & Program of the Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO), and become a material force capable of changing society and the world.
To the youth in the streets: you are the future of our nation. You are the lifeblood of the movement we are building. You must overstand that at the heart of every great social revolutionary movement is the urgent need to transform people into a new and more advanced humyn being by means of struggle.
The u.s. doesn't want New Afrikan and other oppressed people to recognize that we can count on Ourselves – and Ourselves alone – for solutions to the problems of violence, inadequate housing, inadequate health care, unemployment, etc.
"The police and those that they truly serve and protect, do not want us to glimpse through our youth, the power that lies within each of us. If the Crips and Bloods can bring peace to our communities, and the police can't or won't, then why do we need the police? If the Disciples, Vice Lords, Cobras, Latin Kings and other street organizations can serve and protect Our children and Our elders, and the state demonstrates that it can't or won't, then why should we continue to depend upon it and profess loyalty to it? If the power to end violence exists within our communities, then We should be looking for ways to increase Our power, and We should be looking for ways to exercise it."
Ours is a fight to become masters of Our Own destiny. We struggle so that We can seize the power to freely determine and fully benefit from Our productive capacities, and to shape all productive and social relations in Our Own society.
The onus is on Us if We want to solve any problem in Our communities. It ain't on Our enemy to solve Our problems – even though they created them! So by appealing to the Mayor, Governor, and President with the belief they will satisfy Our needs, We end up hampering the development of the self-confidence of Our people. When We call upon the oppressive state to solve Our problems, We promote the idea that it is not necessary to struggle against it to replace it. However, none of this is to say that demands should not be made upon the state. It is only to say that we should have no illusions, and We should allow none to be cast.
In order to gain the power that We need – we must first respect each other, love each other, educate each other, protect one another and allow no harm to come to any member of our community – whether that harm be from inside or outside of our community.
Be smart. Be strong. But most of all during these intense days of struggle, be safe. Intensify the struggle for self-respect, self-determination and self-defense. This is your brotha and comrade from inside the belly of the Amerikkkan beast.
Unite or Perish!!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade lays out correctly the importance of self-reliance and organizing for independence to liberate the oppressed nations. We cannot rely on the state for salvation; the state is our enemy. We agree with this comrade on the ultimate need for force to take power back from the imperialists who control the state: they will not give up their power peacefully. This is why communists call for armed revolution, and also why we go further and say that after taking power we will need a dictatorship of the proletariat for a period of time. This is a government acting in the interests of the proletariat (the formerly exploited class), and using force to keep the bourgeoisie from returning to power. In the case of the United $tates we recognize the need for a joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations over the oppressor Amerikan nation.
The capitalists won't just go away after a revolution, and the culture of capitalism that is deeply ingrained in Amerikans won't disappear overnight either. We have seen in countries where revolutions happened that this government of force, the dictatorship of the proletariat, is an essential tool. Further, we require a revolution in the culture to change the education and indoctrination we have all endured under capitalism, which teaches individualism, greed, racism, sexism and white supremacy. This Cultural Revolution, as they called it in China, will not only re-educate people in a way of thinking that serves the people, but also empower the masses to criticize their leaders and guard against restoration of capitalism.
All this starts with organizing ourselves now, under capitalism, under the banner of a communist movement. BORO, along with MIM(Prisons), is one of many small organizations doing this in the belly of the beast. BORO is also a part of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, working closely with MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within, the MIM(Prisons)-led mass organization. Existing prisoner organizations should join and work within the UFPP, individuals should join USW, and experienced comrades should work to build vanguard organizations in their areas. Get organized!
The Black Blood Brotha and Sistahood known as the 3BKingdom is a government of guerrilla revolutionary freedom fighters whose long-term objective is to be Black leaders over our destinies. With this objective in mind we know and understand this cannot be done without a revolution. The 3BKingdom uses knowledge of self and people to recruit people who were known for gang banging, educating them in order for them to become revolutionarily conscious, and making them true revolutionaries fighting for a true cause instead of being puppets for the establishment, killing and beefing with one another for nothing at all. As we continue to grow we understand that it is important that we make alliances with organizations who stand on similar principles in hopes to network and broaden our views to strengthen our solidarity amongst the masses so we can succeed in the revolution. We are against the establishment and we pledge our alliance to the united front to turn these concentration camps into guerrilla revolutionary freedom fighter training camps. I hope that you all accept the 3Bkingdom into the United Front for Peace in Prisons.
There are a few of my brothers here who have participated in your study group and it has received great reviews, so it is our decision to make all our members, once they pass a certain level of their studies, join MIM study groups.
MIM(Prisons) adds:We want to team up with United Front members to develop educational programs. We need local comrades to teach basic reading and writing first. Literate comrades can join our correspondence courses to develop their political studies. Once there is someone with some political background to lead local study groups, we can provide study guides and books. Your group can also develop its own study guides around what topics you are studying and submit them to us for possible distribution to other study groups. Let's grow together.
I've been at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution for a relatively short time and since landing here I've been pretty amazed at the level of abuses carried out by the swine. They make up totally fictitious claims in order to write prisoners up for rule violations and throw them in isolation. In the past four months I've experienced this twice. Both times costing me visits with my family and broken or stolen property by the pigs. Once I was given a fine of $100. Others have been given fines plus 180 days in isolation and moved to extended isolation units called Intensive Management Unit where prisoners will spend at least a year in isolation.
In the regular housing units the swine routinely berate prisoners, threaten us with isolation and violence, put us in potentially harmful situations involving other prisoners, and they use any small rule violation committed by a single or two prisoners to throw whole groups of people in isolation. Most recently I've seen people get shoved into the isolation units for having the tongue of their shoe poking outside of their pants cuff or refusing to sit at chow hall tables belonging to other groups. I'm not arguing the "right or wrong" about divisive grouping or "ownership", I'm only pointing out the fact that pigs are purposely trying to manipulate us into harmful, potentially violent situations. If we refuse, we get shoved into isolation and given fines.
Because of the swine insisting on pushing us into conflict scenarios with each other at constantly escalating levels, people are beginning to lash out under the pressure. Unfortunately, for the extreme majority of prisoners, we really have no education in organizational strategy or structure; we've never been taught proper modes of function and effective progress. Unfortunately we've got this idea that taking lessons and direction from those more qualified than ourselves somehow diminishes us as individuals or makes us somehow inferior. Instead of making positive steps to educate ourselves and to apply ourselves productively, we fall right into the trap and lash out at each other.
Falling into that trap and lashing out at each other is actually the most counter-productive thing we could possibly do. Aside from reaffirming to ourselves that gang and race divisions are necessary for self-protection against our peers, it also confirms and justifies the pigs' assertion that we need to be constantly repressed, punished, abused — essentially victimized. They treat us like animals, so because of our refusal to take productive direction or self-educate, we resort to reactionary, self-inflicting outbursts. By reacting in these ways all we're doing is contributing to our own escalating repression.
Possibly the worst part of all this is all the fucking snitchery goin' on. Ben Franklin said "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." I whole heartedly agree. In the context of this environment here. The "temporary safety" these coward rats are seeking is safety from the pigs who would otherwise make their lives even more hellish than it already is. If you don't tell on your peers, the swine will target you, write you up, take you shit, or put you in the hole. But if you do tell, they let you be.
The reason I can say these cowards are not interested in safety from other prisoners, but from the pigs themselves is because the rats are mostly those so-called "good dudes." It makes sense too. It's the "good dudes" who are always in the loop, who know shit. The meek among us simply want to be left alone for the most part.
So there you have it. The pigs crack down on us, we talk about doing something about it, we get snitched on and the snitches get less cracked down on than the rest of us while the pigs crack down harder. Those of us who chose to retain our sense of dignity and self-respect in the face of all this while also valuing our sense of self-preservation are left with the recourse of keeping our mouths shut, our eyes shut, our ears shut and trying to attract as little attention to ourselves as possible while we all get crushed together — even the coward rats.
Well, yesterday things took to a new level. On 29 August, a Friday morning, two friends of mine got into a simple minor fist fight. Instead of firing a warning shot, the pig fired into the chest of one of them. I watched him fall and as he rolled on the ground another pig came up and sprayed him then jumped on him. I watched my friend struggle to get a pig off of him while he choked to death on his own blood.
It took several minutes for the medical staff to even get to the yard. While waiting, I looked at the proud pig standing like Captain Morgan with his rifle laid across his arm. When he saw me looking at him as I lay on the ground, he put his rifle up to his eye and pointed it at me. Hopefully he saw my mouth say "fuck you" through his scope.
Finally, when the medical staff showed up to the yard, they walked slowly, across a basketball court, while a nurse was giving my friend chest suppressions and mouth-to-mouth. They shuffled across the track, while we all yelled for them to run, to hurry, they moseyed across the soccer field. The swine cleared everyone off the yard before the medical swine would do anything to save my friend. By then he was already gone. He was a young kid in his early 20s, and a phenomenal artist in any medium you could imagine. He applied himself to his own personal development and excellence with passion and he studied hard and made a point of constantly improving himself on a daily basis. He was funny and brilliant and had an endless depth of potential. And he was the victim of an ignorant murderer whose only purpose in life is to maintain a system built on the misery of us and our families.
Now the whole institution is locked down. All of us — white, black, brown, red — have been slammed down in our cells, and they say we'll be slammed for at least a week. Why? Because one of them killed one of us. We'll be eating sack lunches. Our family visits will be canceled. They've been pulling people out for "interviews" all night. I watched the ambulance pull out of the parking lot from my cell window. It was driving slowly. No rush.
Sure, I blame the pigs. But even more, I blame all you slimy little rats who do the pigs work for them. You little worms who deceive your friends and inflict them with isolation at the hands of your enemies in exchange for scraps and pats on the head. As much as you fuckers disgust me, I'll also say though that it's not too late for you to stop informing on your friends and peers. The moment we can create a real and true structure of unity — even a disorganized one at first — will be the moment we have the power to shape our own communities.
Update: I was pulled out for an "interview" last night. It was a detective from the Oregon state police. They interviewed every prisoner who was on the yard when my friend was murdered. The detective told me I was the last one he would be interviewing, which I found interesting and a bit suspicious. He informed me that as a matter of protocol it's his duty to read me my Miranda rights before the actual recorded interview. He read it to everyone, just a routine, ya know. Okay, I said. Go ahead. Let me stress certain points of what he said: He said anything I say will be used against me. He also said I have the right to remain silent, and that I also in fact have the right to an attorney. When he finished reading me this list of my so-called "rights" what I said in response was: "I have no problem speaking with you, but I'd like to invoke my right to an attorney before we begin." He looked at me in surprise and said "well...okay then" and shut off the tape recorder. After it was off, he said "Wow, I've interviewed almost 200 people today and you're the only one who asked for a lawyer." I asked if anyone chose to remain silent and he said only about four or five people. I said "imagine that."
Thanks to you all in solidarity.
MIM(prisons) responds: We share this writer's call for unity among prisoners. The pigs will try to turn people against one another, and will take advantage of those who want a few privileges in exchange for snitching. Building unity is one of the key principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons: "We strive to unite with those facing the same struggles as us for our common interests. To maintain unity we have to keep an open line of networking and communication, and ensure we address any situation with true facts. This is needed because of how the pigs utilize tactics such as rumors, snitches and fake communications to divide and keep division among the oppressed. The pigs see the end of their control within our unity." It is not enough for us to criticize the snitches. We need to build unity with all who can be won to the side of anti-imperialism, and by solidifying this core we will isolate the snitches and make their jobs harder.
The existence of snitches underscores the importance of a solid security practice. You can't be sure that someone overhearing your conversation won't run to the pigs with what they learn. As one of our USW comrades wrote recently: "So often we hear prisoners commenting on how great the power of snitches and provocateurs are, and it bothers me that we are able to concentrate so much energy on them instead of on the tactics of countering their elementary crosses, and their state." Security is a key part of self-defense for the revolutionary movement at this time. We cannot predict what tactics you need to use where you're at, but we urge all serious about revolutionary organizing to think carefully about security and communications.